Theme Benchmark: I can describe how an author's use of words create meaning and tone in a literary text.
Theme: Life lesson, meaning, moral, or message about life or human nature that is communicated by a literary work. • In other words… • Theme is what the story teaches readers.
A theme is not a word, it is a sentence. • You don’t have to agree with the theme to identify it. • Examples • Money can’t buy happiness. • Don’t judge people based on the surface. • It is better to die free than live under tyranny.
Jenny Puchovier was so excited. She had a pack of Starburst in her lunch and she had been looking forward to eating them all morning. Lunch finally came and Jenny sat down to eat her Starbursts when her friend Yudy sat next to her. “Let me get the pink ones,” asked Yudy. Jenny liked the pink ones best, but she thought Yudy was funny and Jenny wanted Yudy to like her, so Jenny gave Yudy all of her pink Starbursts. Before Jenny was done giving Yudy the pink ones, Carrie sat on the other side of Jenny. “Let me get the red and the orange ones, Jenny. Remember when I gave you that Snickers?” Jenny didn’t remember that, though she did remember when Carrie ate a whole Snickers in front of her, but Jenny thought Carrie was cool, so she gave her the red and the orange Starbursts. Now that she only had the yellow ones, Jenny wasn’t so excited about eating starbursts anymore. What is the theme?
Themesare not explicit (clearly stated). Themesare implied (through the story). Themes are bigger than the story. IdentifyingThemes Big World of the Theme. Applies to the “Real”World. Small World of the Story
Not“Yellow Starbursts taste bad” Not “Yudy and Carrie are bad friends.” Think BIGGER. Find “Real” World advice. Themes are about the big picture. Big World of the Theme. Applies to the “Real”World. Small World of the Story
Theme is what we can learn from a story. Themes must be inferred. Themes are about the BIG world. Review
Once there was a mean little boy who lived in a small village. This mean little boy loved to mess with people, so one day he ran up to a sheep herder and shouted, “WOLF! WOLF! A wolf is attacking the town!” The sheep herder grabbed his staff and ran to defend the town, but realized he had been fooled when the boy started pointing and laughing at him. “Ha ha! I made you jump,” said the boy. Then the boy ran up to a farmer and shouted, “WOLF! WOLF! A wolf is attacking the town!” The farmer grabbed his pitchfork and ran to defend the town, but when the boy started pointing and laughing at him, he realized he had been tricked. As the boy went back to his family’s farm laughing about the funny trick he played, he saw a real wolf in his father’s chicken coop. As the wolf ate all of his father’s chickens, the boy screamed over and over again, “WOLF! WOLF! Please help us!” But nobody came to help him.
Word Choice Cartoon • “A good writer will sometimes search hours for just the right word.”Snoopy
Word Choice • natural • active, energetic verbs • precise, concrete nouns and modifiers • simple language used well • accuracy of expression • paint pictures • creative combinations of words • minimal redundancy • new twists on everyday words
Word Choice Key Question: Do the words and phrases create vivid pictures and linger in your mind?
Word Choice “I do not choose the right word. I get rid of the wrong one.” A.E. Houseman
The Bus Stop Each morning I ride the bus to school. I wait along with the other people who ride my bus. Sometimes the bus is late and we get angry. Some guys start fights and stuff just to have something to do. I’m always glad when the bus finally comes.
The Bus Stop (published) A bus arrived. It discharged its passengers, closed its doors with a hiss and disappeared over the crest of a hill. Not one of the people waiting at the bus stop had attempted to board. One woman wore a sweater that was too small, a long skirt, white sweater socks, and house slippers. One man was in his undershirt.
The Bus Stop (published) Another man wore shoes with the toes cut out, a soiled blue serge jacket and brown pants. There was something wrong with these people. They made faces. A mouth smiled at nothing and unsmiled, smiled and unsmiled. A head shook in vehement denial. Most of them carried brown paper bags rolled tight against their stomachs. E.L. Doctrow, The Book of Daniel (New York: Random House, 1971), p. 15.
What is an author's tone? Tone indicates the writer's attitude. Often an author's tone is described by adjectives, such as: cynical, depressed, sympathetic, cheerful, outraged, positive, angry, sarcastic, ironic, solemn, vindictive, intense, excited.
Tone is not an action. It is an attitude.
Real-Life Example You can say the same phrase in different ways, each showing a different attitude or tone. Try saying, "Come here, Sally" using the following tones: • Commanding or bossy • Secretive • Loving • Angry • Excited • Playful
A reader must "read between the lines" to feel the author's attitude and identify the tone.
Tone is the author's own attitude toward the subject. Mood is the emotion the author wanted the readers to feel while reading about the subject.
Leads To Story's Atmosphere & Mood Author's Tone
Example: An author writes a horror story using a serious and sinister tone. That tone helps create a scary atmosphere and a nervous, frightened mood for the readers.
Sarcastic "Just look at the Titanic. The captain said, 'Even God can't sink this ship.' Then, on the first voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, boom, it hit an iceberg and sank. And as soon as a daredevil utters the words 'piece of cake' before attempting a stunt, he is doomed. 'Piece of cake' becomes his 'famous last words.'..." My Brother's Arm p. 111-112 This author's sarcastic tone inspires a slightly humorous atmosphere in spite of tragedy. This puts the reader in a cynical mood.
Humorous "When he realized he was still in one piece, he knew that at the very least he must be completely flat, with his face peering out of his own bottom and his brains leaking out of his ear. ..." Toad Heaven p. 64 This author's humorous tone inspires a comic atmosphere. This leads to a playful mood in the reader. (It also helps the reader identify with and care about the characters.
Examples of Tone • Cautious • Humorous • Affectionate • Hostile • Critical • Objective • Personal • Violent • Solemn / Serious • Sarcastic • Disapproving • Enthusiastic • Desperate • Pleading • Indifferent
The next time you read a passage, try to identify the author's tone. It will help you "get the message" of the text.
Meaning comes from the interface between… Text Reader The text allows the reader to create personal meaning from what was read.