If You Come Softly Themes
If You Come Softly is a novel by Jacqueline Woodson. The overall theme of the novel is the perceived complexities of interracial relationships by both the main characters and the society around them. The two fateful lovers in the story are an African American boy named Miah and a white Jewish girl named Ellie. They both attend a predominantly white, affluent school in New York City. The other theme of the novel—which both main characters experience—is the negative effects of a broken family on youth.
Despite being different races, having different religions, and coming from different socioeconomic classes, both Miah and Ellie have troubled relations with their respective parents. This common bond—which illustrates the universality of pain—helps bring the two lovers together. A sub-theme of the novel are the stereotypes certain segments of society have towards African American males, especially those who come from an inner-city area.
This is why Ellie is hesitant in introducing Miah to her family. Little does Ellie or her family know (as well as their peers at school and other people in society who disapprove of their interracial relationship) that Miah's father is a successful filmmaker and that his mother is a critically-acclaimed writer.
The labeling of inner-city African American males as dangerous or undesirable is tragically illustrated in the ending of the book, in which Miah is mistaken for a black suspect being chased by the police. The social, economic, and racial divide in the United States decapitates a young, blooming love, and Miah becomes a martyr because of it.
Themes and Meanings
The theme at the core of the book is that when love presents itself, one should seize it, for one never knows how long it will last. Any challenges along the way will be best met and overcome together. The thoughtful, nervous way that Ellie and Miah approach each other speaks to the pervasive truth that society often cannot accept difference. By coming together, these characters prove that it is better to take the risk and brave the consequences than to squander a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Woodson...
(The entire section is 531 words.)