In Tom Godwin's science fiction story “The Cold Equations,” a young girl makes the fateful decision to stow away on a spaceship, hoping to visit her brother on a galactic outpost. She doesn't realize that her extra weight, as small as it might be, will cause the supply ship to run out of fuel and crash, necessitating the fatal need to force her off the ship and into the certain death of outer space.
Students usually say that the theme of this story is something along the lines of “the universe is a cold and uncaring place—its laws cannot be avoided.” While this is obviously true, we also have to look at how the human beings in the story react to what is happening. The pilot, whose life was endangered by the girl's thoughtless behavior, goes out of his way to help her speak to her brother one last time.
By the end of the story the girl is able to face her situation, walking into the air lock seconds before her death with “her head up,” instead of being emotionally broken.
With this in mind, the theme has to include something of the better side of human nature. It should be something like: even when events and circumstances are tragically beyond their control, human beings still have the ability to care for each other and find value in life.