Possible modes of Response to Literature Writing

• Journal responses

• Double entry journals/Dialectical journals

• Critical book reviews

• Reading response logs

• Interpretive or response to literature or text essays

• Poetry inspired by literature

Questions to Start You Thinking About Theme: Theme is insight about human life that is revealed in literary work. Themes are rarely stated directly in literature. Most often, a reader has to infer the theme of a work after considerable thought. Theme is different from subject. A story's subject might be stated as "growing up," "love," "heroism," or "fear." The theme is the statement the writer wants to make about the subject: "For most young people, growing up is a process that involves the pain of achieving self-knowledge." Theme must be stated in at least one sentence; most themes are complex enough to require several sentences, or even an essay.

"The answers you get from literature depend on the questions you pose" - Margaret Atwood

1. Is the central character static or does s/he learn or mature in the story? Is this a child-to-adult initiation story?

2. What insight does the central character experience, if any? Has the insight been benign or destructive?

3. Does the character take a real or psychological journey? Is it symbolic? What is the destination? Is the journey successful?

4. Is the central character a victim? If so, does s/he know it? What or who is doing the victimizing? Is escape possible?

5. Does the central character have free will or is s/he controlled by fate? If controlled by fate, is it fate of character?

6. Is there a central conflict in the story? Is this a universal conflict?

7. Are the characters or situations archetypal (universal characters we frequently encounter in life and literature)? Is the story a retelling of a traditional myth?

8. In what way are the events of the story ironical, in the sense that they can be "looked at two ways?"

9. How does the author feel about his characters and his narrator? Is he for them, against them, or neutral?

10. In what way is the structure of the story a clue to what the story means?

11. What does the author's style tell us?

12. What symbols or repeated details has the author used and why?

13. What point of view is the story told from? Is this a first person story? Is the narrator inside or outside the story? Does the narrator know everything, or is his point of view limited? Does he know what the characters are thinking and feeling, or does he just see what they are doing and hear what they are saying?

14. What is the theme of the story? In other words, what is the author saying about life in this story?

The main character carries the theme.

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