Neil Gaiman

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What is the theme in Neil Gaiman's "How to Talk to Girls at Parties"?

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The short story "How to Talk to Girls at Parties" by Neil Gaiman tells of two 15-year-old teenage boys who are looking for a party where they can meet girls. Vic is the more confident and experienced of the two, while the narrator, named Enn, is more insecure and has a difficult time even talking to girls. After a long search down dark streets, they find a house in which a party is going on. It seems that it may not be the party they were looking for, but at the invitation of a girl named Stella they go in anyway.

Vic quickly starts to put the make on Stella, while Enn attempts to talk with several girls who tell him fantastic, otherworldly tales. It soon becomes obvious to readers, if not to Enn, that the girls are not human, but rather alien tourists who are temporarily visiting Earth. Enn's desire to become intimate with a girl seems to blind him to the realization of how strange these girls really are. Vic had gone upstairs with Stella, but he suddenly reappears, frantic and frightened, and drags Enn out of the house. As he leaves, Enn sees that Stella is so angry that "an angry universe would look at you with eyes like that." Together Vic and Enn run away as fast as they can. Vic is terrified and can't wait to get away, while Enn, the narrator, is still somewhat wistful.

The theme of a story is its main idea or underlying message. Science fiction and fantasy are often used as a means of exaggerating circumstances to put themes in sharp perspective. The broad theme of "How to Talk to Girls at Parties" is coming of age. This refers to a child or teen striving to attain to maturity; in the context of the story it refers to Enn's efforts to engage with the opposite sex. However, Gaiman uses the science fiction element to particularly focus on the alienation that young teen boys feel when they become interested in and attracted to girls.

Another theme that Gaiman explores in this story is appearance versus reality. The boys think that they are going to a normal party to pick up girls, but the truth turns out to be weirdly and horrifyingly different.

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