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Literature Theme

13,363 views
Teacher/Instructor Katie Aquino
Katie Aquino

Writing, Grammar, Literature, ACT Prep
Education: M.Ed.,Stanford University

Katie is an enthusiastic teacher who strives to make connections between literature and student’s every day lives.

Theme is often defined as an author's attitude about a particular issue in a piece of literature. Issues are universal problems that characters deal with in a piece of literature and by identifying how an author addresses issues, we are able to identify the theme. Pieces of literature can have several different themes, but it's important to remember that themes are not the main idea of the story

Let's talk about theme. Now I think it's one of the most important literary concepts out there because it really gets at author's attention and why writers actually write books and it's not to make money, maybe because it's fun, but generally authors write books in order to communicate something or an idea or a belief that they have. So when it comes to themes, there are some steps in identifying them and I found the easiest way to identify theme is to first identify issues that are coming up in the text that you are reading. And issues are universal problems that characters deal with in a piece of literature and that word universal mean, there are problems that exist in that piece of literature but there are also problems that exist in the real word. So if we think about Finding Nemo, let's talk about some issues that come up in Finding Nemo. So there is courage, that something that Nemo has to discover, there's over-protection that Merlin struggles with, there is trust and friendship. So all of these are things that come up in Finding Nemo. And once you've got a list of your issues, it's really easy to move on to start identifying different themes in a piece of literature.
So a theme then, is an author's attitude about a particular issue in a piece of literature. So let's take over protection for example, after watching Finding Nemo what do we think the author is trying to communicate to us about over protection? Well it seems like the author is trying to say based on the event, that if a parent protects a child too much, it will eventually push him away. So that could be something that we could then go into the play and find or into the movie and find examples and prove. So a theme statement then would look like, 'The creators of Finding Nemo; we'll abbreviate; believe that if a parent is too protective over a child, the child will be pushed away'. And of course, if we were going to put this into a paper, we could work on refining it, making a little bit more detailed language wise, but that's the basic just anyone could argue that that is something that the authors or the creators are trying to communicate with the movie. But a couple of tips when you are taking about theme, a lot of times your teachers will ask you to do a theme analysis, what is the point of this piece of literature? Make sure that you are aware that you don't have to agree with the author's things. So if I don't agree that over protecting a child will push them away, that's okay. I can still write about how the makers of Finding Nemo, think that that is true or communicate that with Finding Nemo.
Themes belong to authors and they relate to intent. So you'll notice in that example theme statement, I started with the creators of Finding Nemo to make sure that I attributed that idea to them and then themes are not the main idea of the story. So often times when I ask students, "What is the theme of a story?" they say, "Oh it's the main idea." Well the main idea of Finding Nemo is about a fish that runs away and then it gets captured and it get's returned home. That's not really the theme. Remember theme goes back to intent, what's the author trying to communicate to his or her readers or viewers? And then finally be aware that texts can and will have several different things. So as many issues as you can define, there will be themes in a piece of literature, so you are not narrowed down to just one. So hopefully this will help you in identifying the reason that authors write certain pieces and look at the different pieces that add up to theme.