Power in Literature Short Stories: Part 3

This video defines theme and investigates how it’s used in literature—is it intentional? In this video, we discuss the difference between themes and symbols and how to talk about themes in a novel (specificity is key).

LanguageEnglish Language
LiteratureShort Stories

Transcript

00:15

begins to get us toward the concept of a theme.

00:19

So tell us, what is a theme and how does it apply contextually here?

00:24

What is theme?

00:25

Great, a theme is an abstract or philosophical viewpoint [light bulb turns on]

00:30

that runs throughout a work of literature

00:34

and usually runs throughout all of literature.

00:37

So, for instance, very broadly, love, might be a theme [hearts raining down, symbols instrument clashes]

00:40

that's an abstract idea, vs. symbols which are these kind of tangible concrete things.

00:46

A theme is always abstract.

00:48

So, we start with love, let’s say in the Great Gatsby

00:51

but then we want to narrow it down, and we want to talk about

00:55

what the author's attitude is toward love [man at typewriter with hearts floating around]

00:59

and that’s where the theme really comes out, so Fitzgerald might say:

01:03

"Love is pointless, it’s not real, you’ll never attain it," [man presents flowers to girl, she runs away]

01:08

There are other stories where the theme might be

01:10

"love is blind," etc., or "love is all you need"

01:14

Whatever the case is, and then we kind of want to focus in and see

01:18

what is the author’s attitude toward this, you don’t wanna just say:

01:21

“love is the theme” you wanna say, "here's how the book embodies that theme"

01:25

Got it, so drill down for us [drill goes through David's ear]

01:28

how the author uses a theme, meaning do they consciously create the theme

01:31

here's the story, the morals that I want to present,

01:34

or is that incidental to the story that they then tell?

01:38

I would say it’s more the latter,

01:41

usually a story will begin with

01:43

the characters or the plot and then [characters drop through sky]

01:46

through those the theme kind of comes out. I’m sure many authors

01:50

are surprised by what they get out of the story at the end [ man at typewriter, monster hands snatch him]

01:54

But there are certain aspects to stories that will follow through all literature,

02:00

patterns that we just see coming out of every single book.

02:07

What is theme?