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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

On the surface, the themes of Jack of Newbery appear to be largely comedic. And to be sure, there’s a strong comedic tone and theme to the story. In your assignment, you can write about the themes of trickery in the book, such as when Jack’s first wife asks him to help her with many things after her husband, Jack’s master, dies.

One of the things that she gets him to help her with is marrying a man. This turns out to actually be Jack and not someone else. Characters such as Jack’s first wife use subterfuge often in the story, another example being when one of Jack’s workers, Joan, is used in a scheme to trick an Italian man into bed with a pig for the purpose of scaring him off.

Other, serious themes that you can explore in your essay include the subtext of the importance of the merchant class. Obviously, it was less important at the time of the story, in the 1590s, than it would be later on. Many stories focus on nobles instead, such as many of Shakespeare’s plays, for example. You can focus on Jack himself for this point, since he actually declines a knighthood in favor of staying a weaver, which is just about the opposite of many period portrayals. The theme of honest and clever work being important is definitely highlighted.

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Critical Essays