Monday, March 17, 2008

What is theme?

Before diving into the book, let us define one important term: THEME

A theme is a main idea or concept that an author writes about in a book. The theme of a fable is its moral. The theme of a parable is its teaching. The theme of a piece of fiction is its view about life and how people behave.

The Outsiders was about a group of boys, but it was also about Identity and about seeing beyond appearance and other superficial elements of people to understand the similarities we all have. Those ideas are themes.

The book we are about to read is about a girl named Maleeka, a 7th grader in an inner city school. But, the book is also about ideas. It is about the search for identity and about developing healthy self-esteem or a healthy self-image.

While reading this book I want you all to look for evidence of this theme. Be prepared to compare thematic elements of this book to other books we have read this year, too, like The Outsiders.

In fiction, the theme is not intended to teach or preach. In fact, it is not presented directly at all. You extract it from the characters, action, and setting that make up the story. In other words, you must figure out the theme yourself.

The writer's task is to communicate on a common ground with the reader. Although the particulars of your experience may be different from the details of the story, the general underlying truths behind the story may be just the connection that both you and the writer are seeking.

Finding the Theme

Here are some ways to uncover the theme in a story:

1) Check out the title. Sometimes it tells you a lot about the theme.

2) Notice repeating patterns and symbols. Sometimes these lead you to the theme.

3) Ask yourself: What allusions are made throughout the story?

4) What are the details and particulars in the story? What greater meaning may they have?

Remember that theme, plot, and structure are inseparable, all helping to inform and reflect back on each other. Also, be aware that a theme we determine from a story never completely explains the story. It is simply one of the elements that make up the whole.