What is the moral theme of the novel Anna and the King of Siam?

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scarletpimpernel | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The book's theme is most certainly equality.  As the Civil War rages in America, Anna Leonowens, a British widow, travels to Siam (Thailand) to teach English as a language and British customs to the king's children.

Because the author, Margaret Landon, portrays the king as a forward-thinking individual who cares enough about "modernizing" his family and court so that they can be recognized in the world, she is able to stress the strange dichotomy between that way of thinking and the king's initial refusal to latch on to the civilized idea of equality for everyone in his country.

In the novel, Anna and the king discuss Abraham Lincoln and Lincoln's goal to bring equality to America and England's earlier abolition of slavery.

In the novel, the king eventually comes to realize that he cannot fully promote Western ideas if he wants to hold onto certain unequal aspects of his culture (owning slaves, etc.).

While the truth in the novel which is based on two memoirs by the real Anna has often been brought into question, it is interesting that all versions of the story discuss the idea of equality and that shortly after the king (who is really King Mongkut) dies, his prime minister frees all Siamese slaves and prohibits visitors from falling prostrate in front of the king.  So, even in the real-life accounts of the "King of Siam," the idea of equality is significant.

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