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How to Write a Theme Based Essay

A theme based essay is an essay where you write something based on a theme which can be derived from a novel, drama, brief story, song, poem or any other literary object that has some form, or plot and story in it. The very first part in writing a theme based essay is to identify the theme(s) in the literary chunk of work you are thinking writing about. Without decently identifying suitable and suitable themes, you won’t be able to write a good theme based essay. So, the very first and foremost step in writing a theme based essay starts with identifying the underlying themes that you have read in your literature work.

To begin with, a theme can be as ordinary as the moral of a fable. However, themes just don’t stop with the moral of the story alone. They lie deep within the chunk of literature and need to be unearthed, as they are never introduced in a direct form. They need to be extracted from the characters, their deeds, the settings, the plot and everything else that is present in the novel, story, drama or any other chunk of literature. Finding the right theme for the theme based essay is one of the major pre-requisites for writing a theme based essay and students are urged not to overlook this part as incorrect or wrong theme can weaken the essay.

The very first step in finding the theme of a literary object such as a brief story or a novel is by looking at its title.

Example #1

For example, if we take the novel ‘Blood Wedding’ by Federico Garcнa Lorca, we will see that it evokes a feeling of bloodshed and violence in us by just reading its title! The novel has such a plot that it is replete with violence and bloodshed from the beginning till the end. Even the 2nd phrase of the novel’s title looks like there is an element of wedding and marriage in the novel and is true to a fine extent, as there is a vivid depiction of wedding inbetween a prospective bride and bridegroom. In the midst of the wedding ceremony, there is a sea of violence and bloodshed and hence the title ‘Blood Wedding’. So, by looking at the title of the novel itself, we come to know that the prevalent themes in the novel would be both violence and wedding as they are reflected in the title itself.

Example #Two

Similarly, if we take a look at the novel ‘Chronicle of a Death Foretold’ by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, we will find that the title of this novel also presents a picture of death and violence just like the previous novel, which was mentioned above in this passage. The title also exposes that there is some amount of foreshadowing in the story or plot narration and we can get a hint here that the underlying theme in this novel is going to be composed at least of death, violence and foreshadowing. If you read this novel, you will find that the author, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, has written the novel in such a way that the underlying theme is basically based on these three elements, i.e. death, violence and foreshadowing.

Example #Trio

Even if we take the novel ‘The House of the Spirits’ (also known as ‘La Casa de los EspГritus’ in the original Spanish version), we will find that the title exposes a lot about the underlying theme present in the novel. Spirits can mean ghosts, demons, and angels – anything that is not physical in nature but appearing as supernatural or occult. The House of the Spirits is true to its title as there are slew of ‘spirits’, ‘ghosts’ and supernatural coerces that encircle the house of the main protagonist. Since a house holds a family, there is also a lot of talk about family members in the novel. So, the novel essentially consists of themes that are related to the spirits, family members and houses.

So, we can see that the very first and foremost step in writing a theme based essay is to identify the main theme or themes from the title itself. However, just depending upon the title of the literary work is simply not enough for identifying the main themes in the novel or story. You must also read the entire novel/story right from the embark till the end a number of times as to acquaint yourself meticulously about the underlying themes present in it. The following steps will help you in identifying the underlying themes in a better way for your theme based essay:

  • Notice the patterns and symbols in the story. Does it show up to be repeating itself regularly? For example, in the novel ‘Blood Wedding’, there is a lot of repetition and stress on blood and wedding. This indicates that these two form the main themes in the novel. If you go after the main patterns and symbols, you will get a better idea of the main themes present in the novel or story, which in turn will make it lighter for you to write the theme based essay.
  • Notice the allusions that are made in the novel or story. Allusion is a literary mechanism which is used by writers to make indirect or implicit references to something in their story or novel. If you can identify the allusions, you will also be able to identify the themes in the novel/story.
  • Emotions, ideas and other forms of abstract things also form the theme of a literary lump such as novels or brief stories. For example, in the novel ‘Blood Wedding’, there is a lot of talk about murder, bloodshed, violence and all these form the core theme of the novel. So, basically, the theme can be found at the deeper level, i.e. at the intellectual or emotional level, which makes it a bit abstract but still identifiable at the surface level.
  • Once you have identified the theme, you can commence writing your actual essay. The steps in writing a theme based essay are:

  • Identify the character or character(s) that you are going to mention in your essay. These must relate to the theme you have identified and chosen for your theme based essay. For example, if you have chosen violence as the main theme in the novel ‘Chronicle of a Death Foretold’, you must write mainly on the characters that take part in violence or are sufferers/witnesses to violence in the novel. For example, you can write how Santiago Nasar was killed violently by the Vicario brothers. How violence is visible from the early part of the novel, how the guns and knives are depicted as violent devices in the plot, etc.
  • Maintain the chosen theme by highlighting it via your essay. For example, if you have taken violence as the theme from the novel ‘Chronicle of a Death Foretold’, write on everything that contains violence or refers to violence in the novel. It doesn’t necessarily have to be based on blood bath, gore or macabre, but can include petite incidents of violence like underlying tensions, fits, outrage, outbursts, emotional extremes, etc. The point is that you should attempt to remain as close to the underlying theme that you are writing in your theme based essay as possible by highlighting incidents and situations from the background source, which could be a novel, story, drama or any other literary chunk. For example, here, the source referred is from the novel ‘Chronicle of a Death Foretold’.
  • Do not attempt to mix the main theme with the main subject of the novel/story. Many students assume that the theme and plot/story/subject are the same things and attempt to write on the story or plot. However, a theme is not the plot or story but is actually an idea, which ties the story or plot in a taut style. It is more like a message or the main idea(s) that the writer wants to convey to the readers/audience.
  • Embark with a brief background of the underlying theme(s) that you have identified in the source matter and mention that in the introduction part of the essay. For example, if you have chosen violence as the main theme from the novel ‘Blood Wedding’, you could begin writing in the following way: “The novel Blood Wedding, written by Federico Garcнa Lorca, depicts violence in such a way that even the modern reader of today’s times is intrigued by it. One of the main female characters in the novel, La Novia, causes a number of violent murders in the play. The theme of violence can be felt in the very first Act itself when El Novio’s mother responds violently and in a bizarre manner when El Novio asks her for a knife – “Knives, knives…Curse them all.” (Lorca, Five) The reaction of El Novio’s mother shows how much fear she has for knives and other similar acute objects. El Novio’s father was killed in a ghastly manner when his assailants inflicted numerous stabs on his chest and tummy. Due to the violent murder of her hubby, El Novio’s mother is in a state of shock and apprehends violence when she hears about the knife.”
  • Keep your thoughts well organised and relate the themes closely knitted via the main figure in your theme based essay. The bod should relate only to the main theme but can also refer to other characters, plot, incidents and events that happen in the source matter.
  • After you have introduced all the incidents and events related to the main theme, you can summarise the effect of the theme on the character(s) or the plot/story and how it affects the novel/story/drama. This way the conclusion would be solid and effective too.
  • If you go after the above steps, you would find it lighter to write a theme based essay

    Related video: Writing my thesis and Potential Vorticity – PhD Watch #2


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