Discuss how the theme is presented in the novel.  A theme is an idea that is important to the book, the message of the story.   

There is not one right answer to theme.  You can also approach the issues in the book from the point of view of a particular group or `ism'. 

Examples of Theme

Beauty and the Beast / Shrek
Looks are less important that what is in the heart. 

The Breakfast Club
People who are different could learn to get along, but society divides us.

Follow the science, you'll find the truth. 

Harry and the Hendersons
Hunting is a sin. 

1. Some things are better left alone. 
2.  Stick together until the end. 

Lord of the Rings
1 Even the smallest person can make a huge difference. 
2 Giving up or despairing is wrong because the ending can never  be known. 

October Sky
Success is possible if a person wants it badly enough. 

Rocky III
When a person gets soft, they lose the goal of their dreams, because there will always be someone who wants it more. 

Sense and Sensibility
When women handle emotionally difficult situations with their heads, they end up better off than if they had handled them with their hearts. 

With Great power comes great responsibility. 

Star Wars
1 Good and evil are choices.
2 The spiritual is stronger than the technological. 

The X-Files
The world is a strange place, but authorities cover it up for their own dark purposes.

Teen Violence and The Outsiders

  Teen violence and its causes are important parts of the novel The Outsiders.   Most notably, the character Johnny kills a rival gang-member.  The killing is not merely the ruthless act of a cruel or delinquent character.  The author goes to great lengths to justify the killing.  This is done by various means - Johnny has been brutalized by this rival gang; he is rescuing Ponyboy, who Johnny believes is being drowned.  But what remains to be answered is the cause of the murders.  The most important characteristic of Johnny is his search for his parents' love and some adult's guidance.  It is brought several times to the notice of the reader that his parents don't care about him.  Even when parental neglect has faded to the background, Johnny is searching for a substitute parent.  This substitute is in fact Dally, and Johnny's attachment to this violent and immature figure is what leads him to delinquency and eventually the slaying.

A Marxist Interpretation of The Outsiders

  The novel The Outsiders is an excellent example of the struggle between the haves and the have-nots.  Beneath all the violence present in this novel is class warfare.  The rich strive to maintain their monopoly on success, power and opportunity and to keep the poor in their place.  They flaunt their cars and women and money before the poor.  When these and other psychological methods of repressing the poor fail, they resort to violence.   The poor struggle to acquire some position of status and protect their `turf', but these efforts are often expressed in futile and trivial acts of rebellion, such as smoking, slashing tires and fighting, or in futile and desperate acts, such as robbing a liquor store. 

A Feminist Interpretation
of The Outsiders

  In the novel The Outsiders, women are treated as the property of various `tribes' of males.  Nowhere in the book is there any important female.   The `real' action revolves around the males; males are the center of this urban, teen world.  Females are subverted to supporting roles, merely informing males of one another's plots and providing a sexual goal for them to conquer.  This is a male-dominated world bent on violent, inter-tribal warfare, where one of the highest stakes is ownership of the females. 

Common Themes in Literature

Growth and Initiation
A boy and a girl must go through a special trial or series of trials before maturing.
Manhood or womanhood is often established by an abrupt, random crisis, sometimes at an unusually early age.
Aspects of childhood are retained in all of us, sometimes hindering growth, sometimes providing the only joy in later life.
A person grows only in so far as he or she must face a crisis of confidence or identity.

The Individual in Society
Society and a person's inner nature are always at war.  -
XXX The Giver by Lois Lowry
A person's identity is determined by place in society. 
Social influences do not determine a person's final destiny. 
XXX The Outsiders by A.E. Hinton; Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin 
Social influences can only add to how a personality was formed by Nature. 
In spite of the pressure to be among people, the individual is essentially alone and frightened. 
An individual is isolated from fellow human beings and foolishly tries to bridge the gaps.
Through alienation comes self-knowledge.
Modern culture is defective because it doesn't provide group ties that in primitive cultures make alienation virtually impossible.

The Individual in Nature
Nature is at war with each of us and proves our vulnerability. 
People are out of place in Nature and need technology to survive. 
People are destroying Nature and themselves with uncontrolled technology. 
Nature is uncaring - neither for nor against human beings. 

Human Relations
There are few friends who will make extreme sacrifices.
Parents should not sacrifice all for a better life for their children.

Parents who do not sacrifice for their children screw up their kids' lives.
Marriage is a perpetual comedy bound to fail.
Marriage is a relationship in which each partner is supported and enabled to grow.

Enjoy life now, for the present moment, because we all die too soon.
By the time we understand life, there is too little left to live.

Death is part of living, giving life its final meaning. 
Death is the ultimate absurd joke on life. 
There is no death, only a different plane or mode of life without physical decay. 
Without love, death often appears to be the only alternative to life.  Romeo and Juliet

The Individual's Relation to the gods.
The god(s) are benevolent and will reward human beings for overcoming evil and temptation.
The gods mock the individual and torture him or her for presuming to be great. 
The gods are jealous of and constantly thwarts human aspiration to power and knowledge. 
The gods are indifferent toward human beings and let them run their undetermined course.
There are no gods in whom people can place their faith or yearning for meaning in the universe.