The Thorn Birds Questions and Answers
by Colleen McCullough

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What is the theme of the novel The Thorn Birds as expressed through the imagery, plot, and point of view?

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Lynn Ramsson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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The Thorn Birds is a complex and deeply emotional novel. Several themes can be identified, but one theme stands out from the rest: the pursuit of something you want, with the knowledge that you cannot have it, is utterly futile; such striving can only lead to misery.

A theme can be understood as a message or a life lesson that can be gleaned from the events of the plot and the experiences of the characters in a novel. From the events and the characters in The Thorn Birds, a reader learns that inappropriate desires, like both Meggie's and Mary Carson's desires for Ralph, only lead to heartache and misery. Ralph, as a man of the cloth, is completely unattainable, but his faith and his commitment to God does not deter either Meggie nor Mary Carson in feeling the way they do about the charismatic and handsome priest; ultimately, both women suffer greatly for their desires.

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The overarching theme in The Thorn Birds is the conflict between love and ambition.

In the story, at least four characters...

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