chapter  9
Understanding themes, style and structure
WithKatherine Raithby, Alison Taylor
Pages 24

The themes explored in a text offer an insight into what interested the author and what he or she was trying to achieve. These themes may have a personal significance for the writer and be set in a particular time or place, but in order to give the work a wider appeal, themes are often rooted in universal human emotions and dilemmas. Socio-historical context often provides an important framework for the principal themes within a text. Students need help to understand themes arising from an unfamiliar context, but they should be encouraged to uncover themes for themselves. Students may be asked to make a judgement about the author’s portrayal of a particular theme. Although characterisation will be a central element of understanding most novels and plays, in the A level examination, students can expect to have the choice of a second question which will probably ask them to consider the themes or the style and structure of the work.