Notes on “Theme”

These are the notes for the questions to be looked at as you respond to the story “Joseph Bryant”.

Six Things You Need to Know About Themes

THEME- is the important human concept the author wants you to think about during the story.

It is connected to the messageThe message is what the author believes about this theme. Their opinion- the moral/ the understanding about what people are like/ what society is like/ what you should or shouldn’t do in life.                               eg- loss can be a theme. The message about this theme might be- we all need to experience loss to help us understand each other OR loss can make you cautious

Read through the six facts, then read the story together, then answer the questions one a time for this story.

  1. When you discuss the questions below, make sure you share some quotes/passages from the story that support what you say.- Themes are abstract nouns. Themes are nouns, just things really. But they aren’t the kinds of things one can easily observe with the five senses. They are ideas and concepts and feelings. You can’t see loneliness, for example, you can only see examples of it. Which ideas and concepts and feelings does this story help you understand? What are some parts of the story where you can most clearly see them?


  1. Themes are important human issues. People don’t write fiction just to kill time or make a living, they write it to talk about important truths in a unique way. Many ideas in human existence are best explored through examples. Stories can be seen as examples that represent ideas a writer wants to talk about. What does the author want you to talk about after reading this story? What is the author saying about what people are/should be like? What are the examples of this in the story?


  1. Stories apply to many readers. Ideas like envy, loneliness, and greed enter into all of our lives at one time or another. The best stories are those that speak to the most readers in the most powerful way. What sort of people might get the most from this story? Can you think of a few different sorts of people with experiences that would mean this story has an important message for them? What parts of the story make you think this?


  1. Events represent ideas. It’s not always easy to realise that stories carry both literal and figurative meaning and that the author is choosing specific events to convey specific messages. What’s the event(s) in this that have a figurative meaning? What might it mean? What might it be representing about humans and what we do or expect? Are there ‘things’ in the story that might have a figurative meaning and represent an idea or concept linked to the theme?


  1. Experience evolves in patterns. All beings are, to some extent, creatures of habit. Because of this, the same things seem to show up in our lives at different points in time. If an author chooses to use repetition in a story it is usually because they want to emphasise this. There’s often a thread of similarity that ties together the important events in their lives.  What is a repeating pattern or event in this story? What might it be representing about humans and what we do or expect?


  1. Fiction is instructional. As a genre, fiction exists to entertain us, but it also exists to teach us valuable lessons, often the kind that are not easy to learn unless we’re wrapped up in a good yarn. We’re supposed to think about them, to identify the author’s opinion of them, and to see if we agree. It’s not enough to just identify the theme, we have to uncover what the story has to say about that theme. The answer to this is the message or moral that the author has chosen to share. What does the author say about the themes in this story? What would they like changed? Do you agree? Would other people disagree? Why?

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