Theme And Its Importance Essay, Research Paper
November 13th, 2000
Final Exam Essay
The Role of Theme in three stories
Theme is the principal phrase or idea behind a story. It plays an important role in the notable accomplishment of Shirley Jackson?s ?The Lottery?, ?The Open Boat? written by Stephen Crane, and ?Battle Royal? by Ralph Ellison. Each of these stories portray an important and powerful theme which is a valuable contribution to the success of each work.
?The Lottery? is a story about human sacrifice and tradition. It is nicely written with a total control of the point-of-view, which prevents readers from realizing the ending even with symbolic hints and foreshadowing. The ironic situation of the story is that usually a lottery serves the winner with a good prize. However, the winner of the lottery in this story is stoned to death. The small group of townspeople gathered to participate in the traditional lottery must choose a piece of paper out of a black box. The paper with the black circle on it means that person is selected to die. Both the black box and the black circle symbolize death and fate itself. This lottery is such an old tradition that the villagers have forgotten when and how it originated. One of the oldest men in town, Old Man Warner, warns the people about what will happen if they end this tradition. He states that it is ?crazy? and that they would have to go back to ?living in caves?. He warns the people about not being able to go back to normalcy. This story is about life and death. It is not just tradition, it is reality. The reality of being the one fated to die is based upon sheer chance. The tradition of human sacrifice provides the success and benefits of the rest of the town. As the saying goes, ?Lottery in June, Corn be heavy soon.? This tells the theme. The sacrifice allows the positive surplus of good-fortune for the remaining people.
?The Open Boat? features naturalism and egocentrism as the main theme. Readers learn about human insignificance and how we are but a speck in the universe. Four male survivors of a shipwreck are stranded inside a ten-foot dingy, or life boat. The story shows how these four remained united in brotherhood and helped each other through this atrocity. The characters believe that they will be saved throughout the entire story. Stephen Crane made a good point in not providing names for three of the four characters. This stresses how insignificant we are to nature. Nature does not care who has a name or who does not. The characters are concerned with only themselves and believe that everyone else is looking for them. In fact, they light cigars when they believe they will be saved when spotted by someone from land. In all actuality, no one even knows or cares about them. No one is looking for them. They are too filled with their own self-importance. Nature takes them down a notch or two. Not only are these men egocentric, but they also come to realize that death and suffering is only really important when it becomes reality. No one is concerned until they themselves are facing a life-threatening situation themselves. The remaining crew also believes that nature will help them survive. The brutal reality that the characters help teach readers is that nature does not care to help or hurt anyone. Nature is unconcerned with human suffering. When the survivors decide to try and ride the crest towards the land and attempt swimming to shore, three out of the four make it alive. It is just by chance that one of them happened to hit his head and die. These men come to learn that no one can determine chance. Nature, not only is it not out to get anyone, but it does not regard humans as important. Humans survive natural atrocities by sheer chance since nature is indifferent to mankind.
?Battle Royal? was reprinted from Ralph Ellison?s novel Invisible Man. The section of his novel that was made into this short story was powerful and enough to stand by itself. It made for an extraordinary tale, intensely thematic of how invisibility was a major part of the black experience. Blacks were not seen or heard and suffered through society?s indifference to the plight of their people. This short story portrays the narrator?s high self-worth turned into humiliation and loss of dignity. Upon finishing a speech after graduation, The narrator is asked to attend a ?smoker?, a gathering of the town?s leading white men for entertainment purposes, in order to read his speech. His speech is described as a ?triumph of the town?. This gathering however, was meant to put the blacks on a demeaning display providing comical entertainment to the white men. The story reminds us that we are all human beings and how blind and intolerant we become when another human becomes ?invisible? to us due to ignorance or prejudice. ?Battle Royal? is simply a fight where prestigious white men lure blacks into a high-class ballroom and fight each other wearing blindfolds. The winner is rewarded with ten dollars where as the rest of the fighters are given five dollars for participating. Giving a speech at graduation because he was the top of his class at a segregated school becomes the entertainment for the whites. After losing his dignity in this animalistic fight, The narrator is finally given a chance to make his speech. He is then given a scholarship to the state college for Negroes. As a contribution to the theme, the sole purpose for this course of action is to get rid of the blacks and keep them busy. This sad story does a wonderful job in the portrayal of this young black man?s invisibility in society. When he is recognized, he is initiated into the white?s repression through humiliating and undignified acts. The white?s disregard for the black man?s humanness is disturbing.
?The Lottery?, by Shirley Jackson, ?The Open Boat?, by Stephen Crane and ?Battle Royal? written by Ralph Ellison are three examples of how theme plays an important role in the success of a story. Identifying themes not only help make a story more powerful, but it also helps readers relate to the story. The theme may also teach a reader a valuable lesson or moral. These three short stories provided wonderful themes that can help every reader live a better life upon understanding.