3. What it is NOT
• One word
• These are subjects, not themes
4. What it IS
• The author’s opinion on a subject
• Love ruins (“Romeo & Juliet”)
• Death is not the end (“The 5 PeopleYou Meet in Heaven”)
• Jealousy kills (“Othello”)
• Greed corrupts (“The Pardoner’sTale”)
5. Note that…
• A story can have many different themes, sometimes even conflicting ones.
• Since a theme is based on an opinion, you can’t really be wrong about a
theme, as long as it is well-supported by evidence from the text.
6. For example:
• You and your friend could both read “Death of a Salesman” and you could
say that a theme is “Success is measured by how much money you have,”
while your friend might say that a theme is that “Success is measured by
how happy you are.”
• Who is right?You could BOTH be, as long as you find strong evidence from
the text to support your opinion.
13. How to Find aTheme
1. Look at what happens to the main character
1. Does s/he change in a major way? How?
1. Does s/he die? Save the day?
2. Does s/he succeed or fail?
14. • If the main character changes in a POSITIVE way, the message might be to
try to be like him/her
• I would posit that the more Elsa believes in herself, the more trustworthy
• If that is true of people in general, then the audience should want to become more like
15. • If the main character changes in a NEGATIVE way, the message might be to
avoid making the choices the main character made.
• Hamlet—and a lot of people he cares about—dies by the end of his play.
• We can assume that Shakespeare DOESN’T want us to end up like Hamlet, so we
shouldn’t repeat his mistakes—revenge, anger, procrastination, etc.
16. A quick word on main characters and symbols…
• In some (or even many) stories, the main characters are meant to symbolize
mankind as a whole.
• One example is Arthur C. Clarke’s short story “If I ForgetThee, O Earth.”The main
characters of this story are stranded on the Moon because the Earth has been
destroyed by nuclear war.
• We would likely NOT want to end up like these characters so we should avoid their
• A theme of this story might be “Mankind should try to settle his problems peacefully,
without violence or war.”
• This is a common theme in Science Fiction stories.
17. AnotherWay to FindTheme
2 .Watch for statements of theme.
• Sometimes, the author will simply state the theme of the story, often near the end of
• For example, one character might say to another, “Life is like that sometimes, you know.
Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. But you’ve got to play the game.”
• In this case, a theme could be that whether things turn out good or bad, some risks are
18. FindingTheme, Part 3
3. Analyze the title for clues.
• For this to work, think about what was going on in the book when the title was
mentioned or referred to.
• Was it something positive or negative?
• Did the main character(s) learn something when the title of the story was relayed to them?
• Of Mice and Men
• To Kill a Mockingbird
• The Call of theWild
• Brave New World
• The Grapes ofWrath
19. Examples ofThemes Based onTitles
• Of Mice and Men—”The best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry
• To Kill a Mockingbird—”It’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”
• Think about whom the mockingbird represents.
20. A FinalWay to Find aTheme
4. Consider the main conflict.
• Look at this in an abstract way:
• Could you categorize it as “man v. nature,” “man v. man,” “man v. self”?
• If the story were Moby Dick, rather than Capt. Ahab’s search for the massive, white whale,
this might translate to man’s inability to control the forces of nature.
21. Some Practice
• Try to determine a theme for the following stories.
• If you’re unfamiliar with any of the stories, look to SparkNotes for a synopsis
(summary) orYouTube for a movie trailer.
• TheWizard ofOz (this one should be pretty easy)
• SnowWhite and the Seven Dwarves
• TheThree Little Pigs
22. • Special thanks to @mistersato411. Watch his video onYouTube: