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A theme is not a specific statement about a particular book.

A theme is a generalization about life, not individual characters, but it can be developed
and/or illustrated through characters.

o Think Cinderella Man: It takes courage for a character to stand alone when faced with
much adversity in life.

A theme cannot be so general as to be near meaningless - Ex. Friendship is the theme of the
book. OR The theme of the book is greed.

A theme is not a topic. Love is a topic, not a theme.

Avoid sweeping generalizations like always, every, never and all.

Rather, use words like often, usually, sometimes, and rarely.

A theme must not be a clich: Dont judge a book by its cover or Money is the root of all

Most longer works usually have more than one topic and therefore, more than one possible

Theme Statements in Literature Good and Bad

Faulty = Bad Correct = Good

The theme in Green Eggs and Ham is fear. The theme in Green Eggs and Ham is that fear of
experiencing new things can lead to missed
The theme of Macbeth is ambition. The theme of Macbeth is that excessive
ambition can bring about a persons downfall.
Conrad develops the theme of death when he In Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad shows that
shows us the dying members of the chain gang. colonial exploitation has a devastating
influence, not only on native people, but also on
those who are the exploiters.
In King Lear, Shakespeare shows us that With Lears foolish test of love, his series of
everybody gets too old to make wise decisions. unwise decisions and the treachery of his
daughters, Shakespeare helps readers realize
that rash and reckless decisions can breed
violence and destruction.
The following charts have some helpful hints for writing theme statements.

Do Well-written theme statement

express theme as a general comment on the People with realistic goals tend to be more
subject. successful than those who put little thought into
their futures.
express the theme in your own words. People who commit crimes may be punished in
unexpected ways.
express the theme as an insight into life. Gossip can cause serious damage to a persons
use qualifying words in a theme statement Poverty may transform honest people into
such as: sometimes, may, and often. criminals.

Do Not Poorly Written Statements

express the theme as a subject or a topic. The theme is goals for the future.
express the theme as a clich or familiar Crime doesnt pay.
express the theme as a moral. It is wrong to gossip about people.
make a thematic statement too general. Poverty always causes crime.
Avoid broad generalizations with words such
as: everyone, always, never, and all.
refer to specific characters in a theme Montag learned not to trust others around him.
Resilience Innocence
Empathy Adult authority
Family Capacity to reason
Freedom; Lack of
Insensitivity; Lack
Survival of compassion
Capacity for good
Capacity for evil
Violence; Anarchy

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