How a theme in Alistair McLeod’s “As Birds Bring Forth the Sun” shapes a role in the story will depend on the theme in question. If the theme is family, it’s possible to claim that theme plays an expansive role. The family element in the story supplies it with a scope that it would otherwise lack. If McLeod sidelined the family theme, the story would be limited to the man and his immediate family. Alas, family would still be present, but it wouldn't be as big. The family theme makes it possible to cover generations. The theme’s role shapes the idea that the haunting isn't limited to one generation but to all ensuing generations.
For another theme that shapes a role in the story, consider the twin themes of harshness and unpredictability. The theme of harshness is evinced in the big grey dog. After the man saves the dog’s life twice, the dog’s new family repays it by killing it. The dog’s unforeseen change of circumstance also plays into the theme that it’s not easy to tabulate an outcome. The man thinks his reunion with his dog will be a kind one. Little does he know that the dog has her own family now, who thinks that the man is a threat. Life is filled with errors and mistakes, which can result in lethal violence. Minus the themes of accident and ferocity, McLeod’s story would likely take on a less sinister shape.