The theme of a novel - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 06-21-2009, 09:30 PM - Thread Starter
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Particularly, my novel. How do I know what the theme is.

Silly question, but I've always struggled with plot vs theme. The plot of mine is solid, but I'm afraid the theme is shaky. Any good sites, books or advice on themes?
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#2 of 6 Old 06-21-2009, 09:54 PM
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My seventh grade English teacher had this *thing* about theme. Theme isn't a moral, she'd tell us, but the overarching idea of the story. When translated into "what does Mrs. DuVall want me to say on my book report?" it seemed to actually mean the moral.

But here's the thing - three different people reading the same text will come up with three different themes. This is what makes majoring in English interesting enough for anyone to bother with. (And I'm speaking as an English major here, as a reader and a critic, because I've never managed to write a novel.)

Most of novel writing is telling a story. Most of the rest is making it interesting to read. If you read it over at the end and come up with a theme you dislike, revise, but I wouldn't worry about it during the initial writing process.
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#3 of 6 Old 06-21-2009, 11:49 PM
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I wouldn't worry about a theme. Often, you will hear many writers aren't intentional about any kind of themes and sometimes even imagery. It happens in the telling of stories. Kind of like the whole Carl Jung ideas of collective unconscious. There will be one as the pp said whether you intentionally put one in or not. I think thinking about it too much can stifle a story.

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#4 of 6 Old 06-22-2009, 02:28 PM
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ITA with not worrying about a theme. Readers will come up with it on their own. (Which, honestly, is the main reason I'm not an English major--the constant insistence that we extract deeper meaning from works that may well have been written without any.)

My English Lit class this past semeter read Alias Grace. I read a Salon interview with Margaret Atwood, and they spent some time talking about how in many ways it's a novel about laundry. Laundry is a recurring symbol in the book. The act of doing laundry was very important. Et cetera. Know what? Not one person in class (or, from what I gather, in any of the professor's other classes) picked up on laundry. Nor did the professor introduce it in our discussion of symbolism. It's something that was important to the author, purposely emphasized...and then completely missed by a large group of readers.

So, don't worry about it.

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#5 of 6 Old 06-25-2009, 04:48 AM
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Isn't the theme just the main character's ultimate goal - such as forgiveness, redemption, emancipation etc? You can include symbolism that touches on those themes but overall, the theme is inherent to the story, and no something that must be consciously defined by the author.
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#6 of 6 Old 06-25-2009, 10:28 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks, that's what I needed to know. I was afraid I needed to be taking care of it, and I'm afraid isn't going to be what people expect.

Than again, things never are.
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