What are the main themes in Casablanca

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You could examine several themes in the film.  One overwhelming theme is the conflict between desire and duty.  Rick Blaine must decide between his own self interests and the interests of the greater community.  In many respects, such a theme can be applicable to the isolationists who felt that the conflicts in Europe were "their problems."  Another theme that is present can be seen in the political context, suggesting that repressive regimes have to go to extraordinary lengths to maintain power.  General Strasser and the Nazis are only able to survive by eliminating everyone who stands in their way.  While this is something that they were able to do for a while, eventually, Laszlo finds a way out and the Resistance gains strength, and undermines the Nazis.  The last theme might be an explorative one that comes from Rick's last words to Ilsa:  "The problems of two people don't amount to a hill of beans in this world."  The idea here is that the private concerns fade in comparison to the public issues.  While this might be true with the ending of the film, the reality is that the entire movie is motivated because of the private desires of individuals.  Ilsa and Laszlo, Ilsa and Rick, Rick and Louis, and Rick and all of the people at Cafe Americain help us understand the political climate of the time.  Yet, we only know this configuration through individual interactions and "the problems of two people."  While Rick's statement might be true and valid, there is an equal amount of evidence to suggest that the problems of two people do amount "to a hill of beans."