Themes

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 182

The Human Comedy is a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age novel by William Saroyan. The overall theme of the book is the examination of family dynamics; it specifically focuses on the relationship between an adolescent child and his family members when he has to assume the responsibilities of his deceased father.

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The novel doesn't have a central plot or strong focused message; it is a collection of vignettes based on Saroyan's youth that are interwoven together to create a literary mural. Military or martial affairs are subtly persistent throughout the novel and could be considered a theme or sub-theme. The protagonist's brother is in the army, and midway through the narrative, the protagonist's life is interrupted by World War II.

While it was perhaps not intended to be a reflection on war, one can apply the title to how humans deal with the great forces of global warfare, especially as civilians who live their daily lives in safe American suburbs. The "human comedy" is a mirror image of the human condition, and the vignettes of daily life are simply episodes in a much larger play.

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