Writing Thematic Statements

Writing Thematic Statements

Theme is the central message of a literary work. It is not the same as a subject, which can be expressed in a word or two: courage, survival, war, pride, etc. The theme is the idea the author wishes to convey about that subject. It is expressed as a sentence or general statement about life or human nature. A literary work can have more than one theme, and most themes are not directly stated but are implied. The reader must think about all the elements of the work and use them to make inferences, or reasonable guesses, as to which themes seem to be implied.” (from Laying the Foundation series of books published by AP Strategies in Dallas)

For example, if love is a topic/subject of two novels, a major theme in one of the novels could be “Love, if taken to extremes, can be negative rather than positive,” while in the other novel, the theme might be “Love can conquer even the greatest evil.” Notice that the topic/subject is the same, but the messages about that topic/subject are different in different works.

Consider this:

A theme is a meaning of a work. (Yes, there can be more than one “meaning.”) Can the meaning of a work be love? hate? greed? No—that makes no sense! Those are just topics, not themes. The theme is the statement an author is making about a topic.

Stating the theme of a work of literature

  • Begin by using several abstract words to state the principal ideas of the work (topics that the piece is really about). Abstract words describe concepts or ideas that exist only in our minds like alienation, prejudice, ambition, freedom, love, loyalty, passion, etc.
    For this assignment, you will
  • Combine those abstract ideas with comments that reflect the author’s observations about human nature, the human condition, or human motivation. In other words, what is the author saying about the abstract idea? Is he/she, for example, saying something about the qualities of people and/or commenting on society?

  • A theme is NOT a moral, a directive, or an order. A moral/directive/order tells us how to behave or what to do. A theme observes, weighs, and considers actions and ideas, but it avoids judging what people should or should not do; therefore, words like “should” and “ought” are not appropriate in a thematic statement. Also not appropriate is an order/directive such as “Be nice to elderly people” or “Love like there’s no tomorrow.”
  • Themes are NOT trite sayings (clichés, maxims, or aphorisms) such as “Actions speak louder than words,” “Love hurts,” or “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”
  • Themes do NOT refer to the specific names or events of a particular literary piece. A theme does not summarize a work, but it does reflect what happens in the work. A theme drops character names and uses more general terms like “parents,” “leaders,” “society,” or “young people” in a general observation about the human experience.
  • Themes avoid absolute terms such as “all,” “none,” “everything,” or “always” because they indicate sloppy thinking; they are categorical, no exceptions. Terms like “we,” “sometimes,” or “often” suggest a more realistic view of the variety of human experiences.

Writing Thematic Statements

What is Theme? Theme is what a text implies about life or human nature.

A text can have more than one theme.

Theme is the “main” idea of a work; in other words, everything in the text should work together to help communicate that idea. Nothing in the work should logically contradict the theme.

How do I write a thematic statement?

Start by listing some of the topics of the text; for example, alienation, prejudice, ambition, freedom, love, loyalty, passion, etc.). The topic can also be a longer phrase, however, such as the relationship between love and hate.

Combine those topics with comments that reflect the author’s observations about human nature. What is the author saying about those topics? What does the author believe to be true about those topics?

DO…Well-written Statements:
…draw a general insight from a character’s behaviorFriends are not always trustworthy.
…use qualifying words in a thematic statement, such as sometimes, can, may, and oftenPoverty may transform honest people into criminals.
…express the theme as an insight into lifeGossip can cause serious damage to a person’s reputation.
…express the theme in your own wordsEvil deeds are punished in ways you might not expect.
…express the theme as a general comment on a subjectPeople with realistic goals tend to be more successful than those who put little thought into their futures.
DO NOT…Poorly written Statements:
…express the theme as a subject or topicCrime doesn’t pay.
…express the theme as a moralIt’s wrong to gossip about people.
…make a thematic statement too general.
…Avoid broad generalizations with words such as everyone, always, never, and all
Poverty causes crime.
…refer to specific characters in a thematic statementHolden learned not to trust others around him.

Example Thematic Statements:

The Hunger Games: Love can make you care more about others than you do about your own life when put to the test.

Trust: Trust in yourself is just as important as trust in others.

Family: A family supports you even when the rest of the world doubts you.

Love:

  • Love taken to extremes can become dangerous.
  • Loving yourself, despite your flaws, can lead to a happier life.

Identity: Your identity isn’t static but grows with you as you discover more about yourself.

A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry

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Over the last few weeks, you all have been doing a great job analyzing poetry from different perspectives across America. This week, we will start with one more analysis of a Langston Hughes poem before diving in to Lorraine Hansberry’s play, A Raisin in the Sun. Moving forward and especially between now and the September break, please do your best to be on time and present each day. It is particularly difficult to read a play and get caught up by yourself. We will also be discussing a great deal, and you won’t want to miss out!

Click here for a copy of the play.

 

“Harlem” by Langston Hughes: SIFT Analysis

Happy Wednesday! Today, we will read and analyze Langston Hughes’s poem, “Harlem.” The play we are about to start, A Raisin in the Sun, includes this poem on the title page. We will use the SIFT method to analyze our poem for symbolism, imagery, figurative language, tone, and theme.

Please see the presentation below if you were not in class:

Please be sure to watch the class recording on CTLS if you are out! All recordings can be found under “resources” and are dated.

American Perspectives OPTIC Analysis

Today, we will complete an OPTIC analysis on two pieces of visual text. Analyzing a visual text means that whatever you’re analyzing is a visual medium – think photographs, political cartoons, book covers, paintings, sculptures, posters, and even TV, movies, and documentaries.

For the purposes of your assignment, please choose one of the visual texts below. Use the guiding questions within your graphic organizer to answer each question in the corresponding boxes of the OPTIC.

Overview: When you look at the cartoon, what is the first impression you receive? What do you think is happening in this cartoon?

Parts: ​What are the different parts or pieces of this cartoon? Break the cartoon into small pieces using artistic terms to explain what you see.

Theme: What is the theme of this cartoon? What is the message that is being conveyed through the visual?  What is the artist trying to “tell” you about their piece?  Be very specific with your explanation.

Interrelationships: How do all of the pieces in the cartoon relate to each other? What is the relationship between the central figures and the foreground/ background? What symbolism is present? What is the overall mood of the cartoon?

Conclusions: When searching for the conclusion of this cartoon, look for the artist’s purpose.  Why was this cartoon designed in this way?  Be specific.

Click here for the assignment sheet: OPTIC Graphic Organizer

Political Cartoon Options (please number on your paper):

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1. by Mike Luckovich

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2. by Steve Greenberg

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3. by Monte Wolverton

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4. by David Horsey

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5. by Ed Stein (hint: consider what year this cartoon was drawn)

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6. by Andy Singer

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7. by Mike Luckovich

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8. by David Horsey

Warm-up: Writing Wednesday

Today’s Writing Wednesday prompt comes from author Chuck Klosterman’s Hypertheticals.

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You are offered a Brain Pill. If you swallow this pill, you will become 10 percent more intelligent than you currently are; you will be more adept at reading comprehension, logic, and critical thinking. However, to all other people you know (and to all future people you meet), you will seem 20 percent less intelligent. In other words, you will immediately become smarter, but the rest of the world will perceive you as dumber (and there is no way you can alter the universality of that perception).

Do you take this pill? Please answer in a minimum of 8-10 sentences.

TUESDAY, AUGUST 17, 2021: WHAT AM I DOING TODAY?

Good afternoon and thank you for being on your best behavior while Ms. Antonacci is out at a yearbook conference today! 🙂

Please see your assignments for the day below.

  1. Complete your Lit. Term Tuesday log, using the link here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1sIearweG96dyYbo4CsVUPMOk5VmwoTwc/view?usp=sharing
  2. Get out your poems from yesterday, as well as your “Poetry Comparison/Contrast Graphic Organizer.”
  3. Using your annotations, respond to the questions in the “Categories” column. Per the directions, please make sure all of your responses are in complete sentences! This sheet is front and back.
  4. You will complete one column for Hughes’s “I, Too” and the second column for Alvarez’s “I, Too, Sing America.” Please analyze each poem one at a time (do all boxes for Hughes, then all boxes for Alvarez, rather than switching back and forth).
  5. See my example below for “Audience” for Alvarez’s poem. You may use this for your chart if you wish, but please make sure your responses are as thorough as mine below.
Categories“I, Too, Sing America” by Julia Alvarez
Audience: Who is the speaker speaking to? How do you know?In “I, Too, Sing America,” the speaker is speaking directly to Spanish-speaking Americans. This is evident in her use of “Spanglish,” a mix of both Spanish and English words.

Tips for each:

  • Setting: Remember that setting is both time and place!
  • Speaker: What can we infer about the speaker? The poet is NOT always the speaker, so please do not use Langston Hughes or Julia Alvarez for your chart. Using the clues from the poem, how can we describe the speaker?
  • Audience: Who is the poet writing this for? Who needs to hear this?
  • Tone: Use your Lit. Term Tuesday notes from last week! Put yourself in the shoes of the speaker — what attitude does he or she exhibit, and how? Use examples from the text.
  • Poetic Techniques: Look for figurative language here. Consider the structure of the poem, any similes or metaphors, use of imagery, and the allusions to Whitman’s “I Hear America Singing.” What does this figurative language add to the poem?
  • Theme: Arguably the most important! As a result of reading this poem, what do the poets want the audience to think, do, understand, or believe? What is the message or lesson here?

6. Once you are finished, please scroll down for instructions on how to sign up for USA Test Prep. Add yourself to our class and complete your assignment for this week.

The American Dream Timeline

Welcome to the second week of school! I hope you had a great first week back!

Today, we will start on our M.U.G. Monday log; M.U.G. stands for Mechanics, Usage, and Grammar. Every Monday, we will start class with some grammar exercises and practice. You MUST complete the warm-up; that is, every entry (sentences) must include corrections using editing marks and additional notes.

If you were absent, please be sure to get the sentences and corrections from a classmate!


american-immigrants-fate-is-everyonesThe American Dream: we’ve all heard of it, but is it the same for everyone? We’ll start class today by creating a working definition of the American Dream, its history, how it has changed, and barriers one may face when pursuing their Dream.


Today, you will start on your American Dream timeline project!

  1. You will create a timeline with a starting point of your current grade/age and an ending point of ten years from now. You should be between the ages of 26-27 depending on your current age. What does YOUR American Dream include? Be specific and make sure you have a place for every age (10 spots/years, 3 bullets each).
  2. What are your plans and what will you do to be successful between now and then? Please remember everyone’s idea of what the “American Dream” looks like is different. Some may include going to college, getting married and starting a family, while others may only include doing what is necessary to ensure they are financially stable. Please make sure you are considering EACH step in your journey. For example, if you would like to attend college, make sure that taking the SAT/ACT is on your timeline, as it is a requirement for college admission.
  3. Your timeline should be colorful, creative and detailed.
  4. A 3-4 paragraph response that describes what’s included your “American Dream” is mandatory. This should be an extension of your bullet points.

We will work on this in class today, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Please make sure to take advantage of class time and work diligently. Your project with the writing component is due on Thursday, August 12th at the BEGINNING of class. 

Attitudes on English

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Please complete this assignment on a sheet of notebook paper; each response (each question) should be a minimum of 6-8 sentences. Please refrain from “fluff sentences” such as “This is why I like English class.” If you’re stuck, provide additional details!

  1. Describe an experience that has shaped your attitude about English class. This can be positive or negative, but make sure you think of a specific example.
  2. Describe a success that you have had. This can be ANY success, even if it may not seem like a big deal to someone else. Please include how you felt about it.
  3. Finally, explain what your FAVORITE thing is about English and why. Think hard; I want each of you to have at least one.

Welcome to American Literature!

Welcome to another school year and welcome to Ms. Antonacci’s American Literature course! Things will certainly look and feel very different this year, but I look forward to having you in a somewhat “normal” class! My blog will be updated frequently with what we do in class, as well as additional resources. Please be sure to bookmark this page so you can access it easily throughout the semester.

HLThEPnA few things you must do in order to set yourself up for success this semester:

  1. Visit this blog daily, especially if you miss class – getting missed work due to absences is the responsibility of the student (you)!
  2. Sign up for Remind! PLEASE! Life gets busy and we all need reminders. Download the app or text the following code (including @) to 810-10
    1. Fourth period: @msaamlit
  3. Come to school! Seriously. According to the Indiana Partnerships Center, missing only two days of school per month lowers both your test scores and your chances of graduating high school.
  4. One of the requirements of American Literature is to complete USA Test Prep practice activities weekly. These are due by 11:59pm EVERY Sunday and are completed OUTSIDE of school. Go ahead and put it in your iCal, planner, reminders list, whatever works for you! Follow the steps below to create a USA Test Prep account and add our class:
    1. Go to http://www.usatestprep.com to create an account, or log in to an existing account. If you’ve created an account at Pebblebrook, I can look up your username and password.
    2. Use the information below if you’re creating a new account:
      Access ID: pebblebrook
      Student activation code: stu1223
    3. Once you have entered this information, create your personal user ID and password. Make sure you remember this information – write it down!
    4. Once you log in, click “Join a Class” (orange button on home page – NOT “Join Class Party”).
    5. Find my name: Mariko Antonacci and add yourself to your class. Make sure you’re adding the correct class period!
  5. I typically tutor on Tuesdays and Thursdays after school. We can also arrange another time if that doesn’t work for you; however, you must give me at least 24 hours notice if you plan to stay.
  6. There is ONE – and only one – way to earn extra credit in this class, which is through PocketPoints. Download the app and use the join code below to start earning points and rewards for staying off your phone!
    1. 4th period: 42903

I look forward to a great semester of reading, writing, learning, and fun! Don’t forget – you have until Friday, September 3, 2021 to turn in your summer reading assignments. Check the PHS Summer Reading Blog for details (link on this blog).