Presentation on theme: "Terms often confused! Plot? Issue? Theme?. What’s the difference? some people use the term “ theme ” very loosely, as if it is synonymous with."— Presentation transcript:
What’s the difference? some people use the term “ theme ” very loosely, as if it is synonymous with plot or subject. it is not! Students must express a theme of a work far more precisely in their own writing.
What is a theme? A theme is a sort of “ life-lesson, ” that is, a generalization about life implied in a work which can be supported (proven) by specific details in that work. you do not have to agree with what the author is implying about life, but you do need to be able to understand and express it.
What is plot? Plot simply means what actually happens. Another term is “story line.” Some related terms: foreshadowing, suspense, conflict, climax, all of which move the plot or story line forward.
Theme or Topic? (or Issue?) You are probably comfortable discussing plot. But what is the difference between a theme and a subject (or topic or issue)?
And try this exercise: We ’ ll practise with The Titanic.
Discuss and make brief notes under these headings: PLOT: summarize what happens as briefly as you can -- if possible, in 1- 3 sentences. SUBJECT(S): (if you prefer, you can use the term “ topic ”, which is slightly more general, or “ issue ” which is more sharply focused) one or more THEMES
PLOT (i.e., what actually happens) A young woman is about to be trapped in a loveless marriage to a wealthy young man. She loses him and the working-class lover she meets on board the famous ship, who prevents her suicide, in the sinking of the ship. She survives.
SUBJECTS or ISSUES (what it is about): the sinking of the famous ship love death and grief the class system
THEMES: the ideas implied about the subjects Pride (or class-based arrogance) can lead to disaster. Class differences should not be a barrier to love. Love grows when it encounters obstacles or challenges. Love endures beyond death. Notice that “ love ” itself is NOT a theme; it ’ s only a subject until you decide what the “ message ” or idea ABOUT love is.
Can you see the difference? The ISSUES or SUBJECT(S) of a story can be expressed in a word or phrase (grief, love, betrayal, war, revenge etc.) PLOT detail (wealthy boyfriend treats fiancee badly) A real THEME statement always implies an attitude toward that subject and which must be expressed in a complete sentence.
Now try it yourself with your group: Take 10 minutes and identify the plot (be brief -- 1-3 sentences), 2-3 subjects (topics/issues) and 1 or 2 themes Use any movie you think most of the class has seen.
Question: Can you see why “ The power of the media ” is not really a theme statement but “ A free press is essential so that the truth can be told ” is ?
Answer: The phrase “ the power of the media ’’ doesn ’ t actually give a specific idea ABOUT the power of the media – it is not a sentence. It actually doesn ’ t even make clear whether the media has a great deal of power or only a little. The other one, “ A free press is essential so that the truth can be told, ” is a generalization telling you WHY the media matters; it is a generalization about life which could be supported by specific references to the novel.
Look again at the difference: “ the power of the media ’’ this is just a topic/subject/ issue “ A free press is essential so that the truth can be told. ” notice that this gives a specific idea ABOUT the power of the media
Ready for a quiz? By now you should be able to tell the difference between a real theme statement and one which is really about plot or subject, even if it says “theme.” Some of these “real” theme statements are not necessarily brilliant, but they are, at least, attitudes about the subjects, not merely subjects.
Try these sample quiz questions. Statement Subject Plot Theme The theme is love._______________ The theme is the quest for self-knowledge in a confusing world. _______________ Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. _______________ The theme is that she tried to recapture the past and failed. _______________ A crisis can bring out the best in some people and the worst in others. _______________ You can’t recapture the past. _______________ The theme of the movie is that even though he betrayed his brother, the brother forgave him. _______________ The theme is good versus evil. _______________ The theme is revenge. _______________
“The theme is love.” No; this is only a subject. No single word can ever be a theme.
“The theme is the quest for self-knowledge in a confusing world.” This could be plot (because of the word “quest”) or subject, but definitely not theme. There is no attitude expressed to that quest. It is too neutral.
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Yes, this is a theme. It’s a cliché, but it does express a particular generalization about beauty, that it is subjective. There is a real idea here ABOUT beauty.
“The theme is that she tried to recapture the past and failed.” This is merely plot!
“The theme is good versus evil.” Absolutely not.. This is only a subject or topic or, if you prefer, an issue. But there is no idea expressed ABOUT good and evil, so it is not a theme statement.
“The theme of the movie is that even though he betrayed his brother, the brother forgave him.” Whoops -- this one is only a statement about plot.
“You can’t recapture the past.” This one isn’t brilliant, and the diction is too informal for most essays, but it does express an idea, a generalization, ABOUT the past; so yes, it is a theme.
“A crisis can bring out the best in some people and the worst in others.” Definitely a theme... Something is being said ABOUT the effects of a crisis on people.
“The theme is revenge.” “Revenge” is only a subject, not a theme. Are you ready for a real quiz now? Can you write confidently about themes in literature?