Theme Collection 4 Notes
Theme Terms • Subject - The topic of a work of literature. The subject can usually be stated in a single word or phrase, such as love, war, childhood, growing up, aging. • Theme - The general idea or insight about human life that a work of literature reveals. The theme can be stated in one or more sentences. A theme on the subject of love might be: True love survives all obstacles. A theme on the subject of war might be: War destroys the good along with the bad. • Generalization - A broad statement that applies to many individuals, experiences, situations, or observations. A generalization is a kind of conclusion that is drawn after considering as many facts as possible. Themes are expressed as generalizations.
Theme Terms (continued) • Genres - The different forms of literature. Genres include short stories, novels, plays, and poems. • Universal themes - Themes that can be found in literature from different times, countries, and cultures. Universal themes cross genres as well as national boundaries, languages, customs, and historic periods. An example of a universal theme is: A hero often must sacrifice something precious inorder to reach a goal. • Conflict - A struggle between opposing characters or opposing forces. • external conflict - a character struggles against an opposing force such as another character, society as a whole, or a force of nature. • internal conflict - takes place within a character’s own mind. It is a struggle between opposing needs, desires, or emotions.
How to find a theme • Subject: Remember that the theme is not the subject of a work. The theme teaches us something about a subject, and it should always be able to be expressed in one sentence. • Character: Think about the main character and how they change or what they realize throughout the work. • Conflict: How is the conflict resolved? It’s resolution usually indicates theme. • Title: Does it have a special meaning? Does it point to the theme? • Test: Test your statement/theme. Does it apply to the whole work? • State Your Theme: Express your theme in one strong sentence
Pre-Reading Guide: “The Sniper” by Liam O’flaherty • Describe the most stressful situation you’ve ever been in – one where you were very afraid or stressed and didn’t know how you were going to get out. • What types of situations make people very fearful or stressed? • What qualities allow people to perform well when facing heart-pounding fear or stress? Think about your own experiences or those of someone you know, as well as news stories or fiction you’ve read. Then jot down your thoughts about people taking action when the stakes are high. What qualities do people have at those times?
Historical Background • This story is set in Dublin, Ireland, in the 1920’s, during a time of bitter civil war. On one side were the Republicans; they wanted all of Ireland to become a republic, totally free from British rule. On the other side were the Free Staters; they had compromised with Britain and agreed to allow the English to continue to rule six counties in the northern province of Ulster. • Like all civil wars, this one tore families apart. It pitted children against parents, sister against sister, brother against brother. As the story opens, the writer immediately puts you into the war – high on a Dublin rooftop.