CLASS: SENIOR FIVE
UNIT 1: EUROPEAN LITERARY TRADITIONS 1
UNIT 2: UNDERSTANDING PROSE
UNIT 3: THEMES IN AFRICAN NOVELS
UNIT 4: EPIC POETRY
UNIT 5: ODES
UNIT 6: RHYTHM IN AFRICAN POETRY
UNIT 7: DEVELOPMENT OF EUROPEAN DRAMA
UNIT 8: LANGUAGE USE IN DRAMAS
UNIT III: THEMES IN AFRICAN NOVELS
III.0. REVIEW OF THEME
A theme is a central or main idea in a literary work. It a view about life that is expressed in the story. A theme is what the author is trying to convey or reveal in relation to the subject of the story. In other words, themes are insights of life that the story exposes to the reader. Short stories have one or few themes while novellas and novels have many. To find the theme in the story, we must ask the question: What is the purpose of the story and what is it all about? You can also check how much an idea is repeated in the story.
In few words, a theme can be explained as:
- a central/ main idea of the story.
- an opinion expressed on the subject.
- what a writer is saying about a certain subject.
- a writer’s opinion or perspective about a certain issue in society.
- a controlling idea which is continuously developed throughout the story.
- a central and unifying concept of a story.
- a main or an underlying meaning of a literary work.
The themes in novels may be major or minor. A major theme refers to an idea that an author repeats in his/her novel; making it the most significant idea of the novel. The whole literary novel revolves around it. A minor theme on the other hand is an idea that appears in a novel briefly or appears once in a while in the novel. This one is less important and may appear for a part of the novel to be replaced by another. It doesn’t cover the whole novel.
A theme may be expressed explicitly. This is when the writer states it openly and clearly. It could be also implied. This is when it is not stated directly. To find out a theme in a novel, a reader needs to deduce evidence from the novel. He/she must identify a cross section of examples from the extract to support his/her interpretation. He/she can interpret a book with political elements, historical elements, social elements, economic elements and cultural elements found in a book. There are themes that are common or universal like love, betrayal, suffering(calamities) and hope.
III.1. MAJOR THEMES IN AFRICAN NOVELS
Historical theme means historical events that motivate the writer to write. The elements of historical theme may be war, independence, genocide, famine, migration, drought, natural calamities, and volcano eruptions. Historical themes include independence, war, colonialism, apartheid etc.
In historical fiction, setting is the most important literary element. Because the author is writing about a particular time in history, the information about the time period must be accurate, authentic, or both. To create accurate and authentic settings in their books, authors must research the time period thoroughly.
A political theme means political situation that are depicted in a story. It is composed with some elements that highlight good governance, corruption, unity and reconciliation in a story. Political themes include good governance, corruption, patriotism, embezzlement of public funds, unity and reconciliation, apartheid or racial discrimination, oppression, etc.
An economic theme is a description of economic situation in the prose narrative. This theme is characterized by poverty, development, growth, economic integration, monetary union, economic growth, inflation, debts that are depicted in a novel. Economic themes include poverty, development, unemployment, suffering etc.
Cultural themes are cultural elements that are described in a narrative prose. They are traditions (polygamy, charms, witchery, rituals, superstitions, kubandwa, guterekera and kuraguza). Cultural themes include traditions, modernization, polygamy, marginalization of women, superstition, masculinity, clash of culture, fate and free will, culture, religion, etc.
By social theme, we understand the social interaction between people in their daily life. The elements of social themes are the way the society is organized in family, state, in social groups, institutions, roles, social relationship, societal values, religions, classification of social group etc. Social themes include conflicts, violence and revenge, social classes, love, hate, friendship, social transformation, etc.