Themes! - Page 2


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Thread: Themes!

  1. #11
    I am always conscious of themes and include them in my stories. Most of the time the theme is included deliberately - a story or character is built around it - but sometimes they evolve from the story itself.
    The beauty of writing is in the well crafted sentence.

  2. #12
    So, is a theme of The Scarlet Letter that people shouldn't commit adultery?

    From the internet (
    http://fictionwriting.about.com/od/glossary/g/theme.htm): A theme is the central idea or ideas explored by a literary work. John Gardner puts it this way: "By theme here we mean not a message -- a word no good writer likes applied to his work -- but the general subject...

    So the theme of The Scarlet Letter is the consequences of committing adultery?

    I admit that doesn't sound right to me.

    Another theme is what it is like to live in 17th century Massachusetts?

    I guess both fit the definition. I still don't like them.
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  3. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by EmmaSohan View Post
    So, is a theme of The Scarlet Letter that people shouldn't commit adultery?

    From the internet (
    http://fictionwriting.about.com/od/glossary/g/theme.htm): A theme is the central idea or ideas explored by a literary work. John Gardner puts it this way: "By theme here we mean not a message -- a word no good writer likes applied to his work -- but the general subject...

    So the theme of The Scarlet Letter is the consequences of committing adultery?

    I admit that doesn't sound right to me.

    Another theme is what it is like to live in 17th century Massachusetts?

    I guess both fit the definition. I still don't like them.
    I think the theme of The Scarlet Letter ​is more along the lines of hypocrisy and judgment than anything as specific as adultery. At least, that is what I got out of it.
    Wisdom is seldom boisterous.

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  4. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by EmmaSohan View Post
    So, is a theme of The Scarlet Letter that people shouldn't commit adultery?

    From the internet (
    http://fictionwriting.about.com/od/glossary/g/theme.htm): A theme is the central idea or ideas explored by a literary work. John Gardner puts it this way: "By theme here we mean not a message -- a word no good writer likes applied to his work -- but the general subject...

    So the theme of The Scarlet Letter is the consequences of committing adultery?

    I admit that doesn't sound right to me.

    Another theme is what it is like to live in 17th century Massachusetts?

    I guess both fit the definition. I still don't like them.
    Quote Originally Posted by InstituteMan View Post
    I think the theme of The Scarlet Letter ​is more along the lines of hypocrisy and judgment than anything as specific as adultery. At least, that is what I got out of it.

    Themes can be different things to different people, but institute nailed it with the traditionally taught one. It's about judgement of others and how society should treat personal affairs. There's things in there too about labeling people and societal treatments and scapegoats...

    All of it wrapped in a terrible book.

    Themes can also just be explorations of situations and concepts. There's no clean definition for something as subjective as a theme. It's kinda like trying to nail jello to the wall. You get some of it, but a lot just falls to the floor, and everyone reads differently with different experiences and every writer writes differently with different experiences. That's why I and a lot of other writers don't go in with a theme in mind, we just find some later when we've hashed out the majority of the text.
    If you ever need a second set of eyes on your work, PM me for a critique! I'm happy to help Hidden Content

  5. #15
    So the theme of The Scarlet Letter is the consequences of committing adultery?

    I admit that doesn't sound right to me.

    Another theme is what it is like to live in 17th century Massachusetts?

    I guess both fit the definition. I still don't like them.
    If a theme doesn't sound right to you, then it's likely not a theme you're finding within the work. You may want to be, as IM suggested, less specific. Look at how these websites identify themes:

    http://www.shmoop.com/scarlet-letter/themes.html
    http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/scarlet/themes.html

    Ultimately, they're just concepts we're familiar with - the theme doesn't include direction, but has direction through it established within the text. So rather than 'problems with the Puritan conception of sin', the themes are just 'sin' and 'the nature of evil', though the text demonstrates the former within those themes.
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  6. #16
    We tend to forget that we are closer in time to Hawthorne than was he to the setting of The Scarlet Letter. I think a great deal of his theme is humanizing and demythologizing the legalistic Puritan founders, whose influence was still great, but whose philosophy was much at odds with the transcendentalism he'd embraced.
    A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking. Steven Wright

  7. #17
    I've tried both: writing from a theme, and discovering a them within my work. To me, neither really fit the bill. When I wrote for a theme, I had a piddly story with a bunch of preachy characters. When I tried discovering one within, I had a random set of events that led to a wholly unsatisfying conclusion.

    So now, instead of asking what my theme is, I ask, "Why these characters? Why today?" I learned that from taking some comedy classes, as corny as that might sound, but it works. Why should anyone care about this story? What does it say about society (to a lesser extent)? In the case of the Scarlet Letter, we care about the book because it demonstrates the evil that is hypocrisy. Focus more on that. Also, on what Cadence said earlier. Brilliant stuff.
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  8. #18
    Cadence, I read the first link. I didn't see that Dimmesdale's awareness of his sin made him a better preacher. ('His eloquent and powerful sermons derive from this sense of empathy") Did Hawthorne even say the sermons were good? I think he mostly emphasized how much people admired Dimmesdale, which -- I thought -- led Dimmesdale to feel even more guilty. I saw the book as showing the ravages of guilt.

    The first link sounded brilliant and impressive. I can now write a kick-ass A+ essay on the themes in The Scarlet Letter. Until I actually thought about whether it was right or wrong, I also felt undermined as a reader. Is that what we try to teach high school students -- that they cannot read and understand a book?

    In contrast, ppsage's comment made sense to me. I saw it in the book, but it helps me appreciate the book more to read it in words. And- -- scarily? -- I can say the same thing as him without using the word "theme".

    Did Hawthorne see that theme and then rewrite his book to better express that theme? I'm not seeing it. Hawthorne had one of the best endings ever. If you see him as writing the book to make that ending work, a lot of the book makes sense.
    Looking for people to beta a chapter or more of my book Modern Punctuation and Grammar: Tools for Better Writing. Go Hidden Content
    As always, useful information you can't find anywhere else.

    Hidden Content

  9. #19
    Cadence, I read the first link. I didn't see that Dimmesdale's awareness of his sin made him a better preacher. ('His eloquent and powerful sermons derive from this sense of empathy") Did Hawthorne even say the sermons were good? I think he mostly emphasized how much people admired Dimmesdale, which -- I thought -- led Dimmesdale to feel even more guilty. I saw the book as showing the ravages of guilt.

    The first link sounded brilliant and impressive. I can now write a kick-ass A+ essay on the themes in The Scarlet Letter. Until I actually thought about whether it was right or wrong, I also felt undermined as a reader. Is that what we try to teach high school students -- that they cannot read and understand a book?

    In contrast, ppsage's comment made sense to me. I saw it in the book, but it helps me appreciate the book more to read it in words. And- -- scarily? -- I can say the same thing as him without using the word "theme".

    Did Hawthorne see that theme and then rewrite his book to better express that theme? I'm not seeing it. Hawthorne had one of the best endings ever. If you see him as writing the book to make that ending work, a lot of the book makes sense.
    All the questions above are thing you answer for yourself, making your own personal experience from the book. Other people will probably answer them differently. That's the beauty of literature.

    I tend to go on websites like the ones I posted and disagree with most of the stuff on there. It helps nurture the individual critical spirit, which I'm going to need if I'm going to get into Oxford (I'm taking the entrance test on wednesday).

    Ultimately, I see it like this: theme is not an answer. It's a question.
    Sleep is for the weak, or sleep is for a week.
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  10. #20
    It helps nurture the individual critical spirit, which I'm going to need if I'm going to get into Oxford (I'm taking the entrance test on wednesday).

    Ultimately, I see it like this: theme is not an answer. It's a question.
    Spotted this amongst the other stuff. Good luck, Cadence.
    “Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were, but without it we go nowhere.” -Carl Sagan

    Real courage is found, not in the willingness to risk death, but in the willingness to stand, alone if necessary, against the ignorant and disapproving herd. --Jon Roland, 1976

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