Theme (narrative)

In contemporary literary studies, a theme is a central topic a text treats.[1] Themes can be divided into two categories: a work's thematic concept is what readers "think the work is about" and its thematic statement being "what the work says about the subject".[2]

The most common contemporary understanding of theme is an idea or point that is central to a story, which can often be summed in a single word (for example, love, death, betrayal). Typical examples of themes of this type are conflict between the individual and society; coming of age; humans in conflict with technology; nostalgia; and the dangers of unchecked ambition.[3] A theme may be exemplified by the actions, utterances, or thoughts of a character in a novel. An example of this would be the thematic idea of loneliness in John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, wherein many of the characters seem to be lonely. It may differ from the thesis—the text's or author's implied worldview.[4]

A story may have several themes. Themes often explore historically common or cross-culturally recognizable ideas, such as ethical questions, and are usually implied rather than stated explicitly. An example of this would be whether one should live a seemingly better life, at the price of giving up parts of one's humanity, which is a theme in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Along with plot, character, setting, and style, theme is considered one of the components of fiction.[5]

Techniques

Various techniques may be used to express many more themes.

Leitwortstil

Leitwortstil is the repetition of a wording, often with a theme, in a narrative to make sure it catches the reader's attention.[6] An example of a leitwortstil is the recurring phrase, "So it goes", in Kurt Vonnegut's novel Slaughterhouse-Five. Its seeming message is that the world is deterministic: that things only could have happened in one way, and that the future already is predetermined. But given the anti-war tone of the story, the message perhaps is on the contrary, that things could have been different. A non-fictional example of leitwortstil is in the book Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart: Thirty True Things You Need to Know Now written by Gordon Livingston, which is an anthology of personal anecdotes multiple times interjected by the phrases "Don't do the same thing and expect different results", "It is a bad idea to lie to yourself", and "No one likes to be told what to do".

Thematic patterning

Thematic patterning means the insertion of a recurring motif in a narrative.[7] For example, various scenes in John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men are about loneliness.[8] Thematic patterning is evident in One Thousand and One Nights,[9] an example being the story of "The City of Brass". According to David Pinault, the overarching theme of that tale, in which a group of travelers roam the desert in search of ancient brass artifacts, is that "riches and pomp tempt one away from God".[10] The narrative is interrupted several times by stories within the story. These include a tale recorded in an inscription found in the palace of Kush ibh Shaddad; a story told by a prisoner about Solomon; and an episode involving Queen Tadmur's corpse. According to Pinault, "each of these minor narratives introduces a character who confesses that he once proudly enjoyed worldly prosperity: subsequently, we learn, the given character has been brought low by God ... These minor tales ultimately reinforce the theme of the major narrative".[10]

Examples

Some common themes in literature are "love," "war," "revenge," "betrayal,"[11] "patriotism," "grace," "isolation," "motherhood," "forgiveness," "wartime loss,"[12] "treachery," "rich versus poor," "appearance versus reality," and "help from other-worldly powers."[13]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, retrieved January 26, 2012
  2. ^ Griffith, Kelley (2010), Writing Essays about Literature (8 ed.), Cengage Learning, p. 40, ISBN 1428290419, retrieved February 10, 2013
  3. ^ Kirszner, Laura G.; Mandell, Stephen R. (1994), Fiction: Reading, Reacting, Writing, Paulinas, pp. 3–4, ISBN 015501014X, retrieved February 11, 2013
  4. ^ Weitz, Morris (2002), "Literature Without Philosophy: "Antony and Cleopatra"", Shakespeare Survey, 28, Cambridge University Press, p. 30, ISBN 0521523656, retrieved February 10, 2013
  5. ^ Obstfeld (2002, pp. 1,65,115,171)
  6. ^ Pinault, David (1992), Story Telling Techniques in the "Arabian Nights", Studies in Arabic Literature, 15, Brill, p. 18, ISBN 9004095306, retrieved February 10, 2013
  7. ^ Pinault, David. 1992. Story-telling techniques in the Arabian nights. Leiden: Brill. p. 22. ISBN 9004095306
  8. ^ Scalia, Joseph E.; Shamblin, Lena T. & Research and Education Association (2001), John Steinbeck's Of mice and men, Piscataway, N.J: Research & Education Association, p. 13, ISBN 087891997X, retrieved February 11, 2013
  9. ^ Heath, Peter (May 1994), "Reviewed work(s) Story-Telling Techniques in the Arabian Nights by David Pinault", International Journal of Middle East Studies, Cambridge University Press, 26 (2): 358–360 [359–60], doi:10.1017/s0020743800060633
  10. ^ a b Pinault, David. 1992. Story-telling techniques in the Arabian nights. Leiden: Brill. p. 23. ISBN 9004095306
  11. ^ Baldick (2004)
  12. ^ Carey & Snodgrass (1999)
  13. ^ Brown & Rosenberg (1998)

References

  • Baldick, Chris (2004), The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms, Oxford: Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-860883-7
  • Brown, Mary Ellen; Rosenberg, Bruce A., eds. (1998), Encyclopedia of Folklore and Literature, Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, ISBN 1-57607-003-4
  • Carey, Gary; Snodgrass, Mary Ellen (1999), A Multicultural Dictionary of Literary Terms, Jefferson: McFarland & Company, ISBN 0-7864-0552-X
  • Obstfeld, Raymond (2002), Fiction First Aid: Instant Remedies for Novels, Stories and Scripts, Cincinnati, OH: Writer's Digest Books, ISBN 1-58297-117-X
Conflict (narrative)

In works of narrative, conflict is the challenge main characters need to solve to achieve their goals.

Traditionally, conflict is a major literary element that creates challenges in a story by adding uncertainty to if the goal would be achieved. A narrative is not limited to a single conflict. While conflicts may not always resolve in narrative, the resolution of a conflict creates closure or fulfillment, which may or may not occur at a story's end.

Text (literary theory)

In literary theory, a text is any object that can be "read", whether this object is a work of literature, a street sign, an arrangement of buildings on a city block, or styles of clothing. It is a coherent set of signs that transmits some kind of informative message. This set of symbols is considered in terms of the informative message's content, rather than in terms of its physical form or the medium in which it is represented.

Within the field of literary criticism, "text" also refers to the original information content of a particular piece of writing; that is, the "text" of a work is that primal symbolic arrangement of letters as originally composed, apart from later alterations, deterioration, commentary, translations, paratext, etc. Therefore, when literary criticism is concerned with the determination of a "text", it is concerned with the distinguishing of the original information content from whatever has been added to or subtracted from that content as it appears in a given textual document (that is, a physical representation of text).

Since the history of writing predates the concept of the "text", most texts were not written with this concept in mind. Most written works fall within a narrow range of the types described by text theory. The concept of "text" becomes relevant if and when a "coherent written message is completed and needs to be referred to independently of the circumstances in which it was created."

Theme

Theme or themes may refer to:

Theme (arts), the unifying subject or idea of the type of visual work

Theme (Byzantine district), an administrative girth district in the Byzantine Empire governed by a Strategos

Theme (computing), a custom graphical appearance for certain software.

Theme (linguistics), topic

Theme (narrative)

Theme Building, a landmark building in the Los Angeles International Airport

Theme music, a piece often written specifically for a radio program, television program, video game or film, and usually played during the intro, opening credits or ending credits

Theme vowel or thematic vowel, a vowel placed before the word ending in certain Proto-Indo-European words

Subject (music), sometimes called theme, a musical idea, usually a recognizable melody, upon which part or all of a composition is based

Theme (arts)

In art, theme is usually about life, society or human nature, but can be any other subject. Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a work. Themes are usually implied rather than explicitly stated. Deep thematic content is not required in a work, but the great majority of works have some kind of thematic content, not always intended by the author. Analysis of changes (or implied change) in dynamic characteristics of the work can provide insight into a particular theme.

A theme is not the same as the subject of a work. For example, the subject of Star Wars is "the battle for control of the galaxy between the Galactic Empire and the Rebel Alliance". The themes explored in the films might be "moral ambiguity" or "the conflict between technology and nature".

Themes differ from motifs in the visual arts in that themes are ideas conveyed by the visual experience as a whole, while motifs are elements of the content. In the same way, a literary story with repeated symbolism related to chess does not make the story's theme the similarity of life to chess. Themes arise from the interplay of the plot, the characters, and the attitude the author takes to them, and the same story can be given very different themes in the hands of different authors.

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