Themes and Ideas

English Language > Extended Reading > Themes and Ideas

When writing for your extended reading controlled assessment you will need to think about the main themes and ideas that lie beneath the surface of the story and characters.

Preparing to write about themes and ideas

All good stories are written to say something about the world and how we live in it. When you are writing about the theme of a book, play or poem you are really just writing about why the author cared about and, perhaps, why we should too.

Themes are the main subjects that lie beneath the surface of a story, such as:

  • conflict
  • family
  • love
  • power
  • time
  • place

For example, Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare is about two teenagers who fall in love and die trying to stay together but we know that Shakespeare is not simply interested in these two young people: he is interested in all young people and everyone who has ever been in love. He knows that love is an ideal we all look for but don't always find because of the difficult realities of life. So the story of Romeo and Juliet allows Shakespeare to explore a whole range of themes and ideas. They include, for example:

  • tensions between rival families
  • tensions within families
  • the contrasts and conflict between youth and age
  • the power of forbidden love
  • the struggle between individual citizens and the society in which they live
  • the clash between what we want to do (free will and desire) and what life throws in our way (fate or chance)

These are classic themes - you will find them in a lot of texts.

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