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juergems eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would say that the major theme of Ethan Canin's Star Food is the clash between practicality and dreaming when it comes to thinking of the future. 

While the young Dade doesn't really know what he wants for himself and does want to help his parents and make them proud, he is pretty sure that he doesn't want to inherit the Star Food grocery store and work there for the rest of his life. We can see that Dade's inner struggle between practicality and the possibility of achieving his dreams stems from his parents. Dade's father, while sensitive to his son's feelings, is efficient, hard-working, and down-to-earth. On the other hand, Dade's mother romanticizes the possibilities for her son's life, thinking that he could become famous like da Vinci or Thomas Edison. 

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The theme of the short story “Star Food” is that you cannot create ambition.  Not everyone is ambitious.  Another theme is the conflict between parents’ expectations of their child and children’s success.

In the story, young Dade never seems to be able to amount to much.  Even when he sets out to try to be more ambitious and catch the shoplifters, he ends up letting one go.  He simply does not have the passion, ambition, and drive that his parents have.

The difference between Dade’s views of himself and his parents’ are the key here.  Dade wants to please his parents, but he cannot find himself on the roof of their grocery store.  When he tries to settles with himself and become the person they want him to be, he fails miserably.