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Themes in Literature

The current, editable version of this book is available in Wikibooks, the open-content textbooks collection, at

Permission is granted to copy, distribute, and/or modify this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.


Welcome to Themes in Literature! The goal of this book is to encourage critical reading and thinking of short literary texts--poems, short stories, book chapters, short films, short plays--available on the free Web.

To encourage a diversity of themes, the book has been divided into volumes with as many chapters per volume as the contributors see fit.

The format for each chapter is intentionally loose: contributors are welcome to use their imagination as to how they wish for readers to engage with the texts. Each chapter could cover one text or several texts.

As the collection grows, we hope to label each lesson based on the specific characteristics of its target audience (right now we are thinking of age, but we are open to other classifications). This means that there could be more than one lesson for a specific text or texts, if the lesson is clearly targeted for different audiences.

Since Themes in Literature was set up as a school project, the majority of its contributors will be students exploring how they wish to "teach" others a specific text they enjoyed while taking a literature class; nevertheless, we welcome all contributors who wish to offer a favorite short piece of literature for reflection.

Below you will find some ideas of how to create a simple lesson for your text(s) of choice. If you wish to suggest ideas for lessons, leave a note on the Talk page of this introduction, or on my Talk page.

Dr. X
January 21, 2021

How can I create a lesson for my favorite text(s)?[edit | edit source]

The way you create your chapter will depend on your target audience and what you want them to focus on when thinking of the text(s). Here is a list of typical information that helps a reader understand a text and reflect on its purpose and significance:

  • Epigraph: a short quotation or saying (may be more than one) at the beginning of the chapter that suggests its themes or concerns.
  • Context: the circumstances that frame a text and provide resources for its appropriate interpretation. In other words, the historical, cultural, and/or textual situation in which the text was created, perhaps including relevant biographical information about the text's creator(s).
  • Summary: an account of the main points of a text. Summaries are useful if the text is long or complex.
  • Quotes: a selection of passages from a text that reflect some particularly important idea that cannot be paraphrased. Quotes are useful if you want to attract the reader's attention to specific moments in the text or to the way language is being used. It is especially useful when combined with close reading questions (see below).
  • Images, sound, and/ or video to illustrate or explain a concept, theme, and/or purpose in a non-textual manner.[1]
  • Textual analysis: an examination of the elements and structure of a text to explain it, explain its importance, and its relationship to other texts or to the larger culture.
  • Notes: a short comment on or explanation of a word or passage in a text; an annotation.[2]
  • Glossary: an alphabetical list of words found in the text with explanations; a brief dictionary. It is particularly useful if your text uses words in a language other than English.
  • References/Works Cited: a list of sources of information used in the chapter or sections of it.

If you want your reader to engage with the text(s), you may try adding a few of the following sections:

  • Comprehension questions: questions intended to help readers process and understand the information they are reading.[3] These questions usually have right and wrong answers; if so, you may want to include the correct answers in a separate section.
  • Close reading questions: questions intended to help readers to "micro-read"[4] selected segments and/or aspects of the text(s) such as their structural elements, rhetorical features, and cultural and historical allusions.
  • Critical thinking questions: questions intended to have the reader reflect or inquire, such as open-ended questions, (re)search questions, comparison questions, problem-solving questions, connecting questions, and meta-cognitive questions about the text(s).
  • Further reading: a usually chronological or alphabetical list of texts which a reader may consult for additional and more detailed coverage of the topic or themes of the text(s). It may include brief annotations.
  • Extension activities: Ask the reader to create something connected to the text, like writing a poem or putting together a collage or a video in response to it, or writing a sequel or a different ending to the story. Or have the reader conduct a search, a survey, or an interview on a topic connected to the story. If you want them to have lots of fun, try some of the extension activities recommended by teacher Marilyn Pryle.
  • Games: Create a crossword puzzle using key vocabulary from your text. Or put together a Jeopardy! interactive game using a free template from JeopardyLabs. Or choose one of the four game styles offered at Trivia Maker.


  1. Media for Wikibook chapters must come from Wikimedia Commons.
  2. This is a note. For more examples of what Notes do, see this use of notes in Shakespearean sonnets and for [play Macbeth].
  3. "Catalog of question types | Reading comprehension." Khan Academy
  4. "Close and Critical Reading."

For Readers

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Dearest Themes in Literature Reader,

Our intention in creating this book is to allow you to spend a few hours reading or watching or listening to some wonderful literary pieces, learning about their authors, and perhaps spending some time pondering on the questions that their works bring up to mind.

We would love it if you left your impressions--even criticism!--on the discussion page for each entry. Or maybe you want to answer one or two of the discussion questions there. We'll leave that decision to you.

Wishing you much enjoyment,

Dr. X for the Themes in Literature collaborators.
December 2, 2021

Isolation and Community

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Although I am a typical loner in my daily life, my awareness of belonging to the invisible community of those who strive for truth, beauty, and justice has prevented me from feelings of isolation.
--Albert Einstein, My Credo

I’m alone in a crowd—e pluribus plures.
Far from a family I miss.
I’d almost say I’m lonely, but lonely
Is worse, I recall, than this.
--Geoffrey Brock, Bryant Park at Dusk

Short fiction

"The Happy Prince" by Oscar Wilde
"Night Call, Collect" by Ray Bradbury
"The Bet" by Anton Chekov
"The Southern Thruway" by Julio Cortázar
"The Paper Menagerie" by Ken Liu
"Dream House as Choose your Own Adventure" by Carmen Maria Machado
"The Selfish Giant" by Oscar Wilde

Long Fiction

Dawn by Octavia E. Butler


"Much Madness is divinest Sense" by Emily Dickinson
"Let America Be America Again" by Langston Hughes

Short film

Belonging by Pierre Ieong

Xenophobia and Xenophilia

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The Hate U Give, directed by George Tillman Jr.


Warning: Display title "Contributors" overrides earlier display title "Volume III: Xenophobia and Xenophilia".

  1. Mahimol28
  2. Caribbean Baby
  3. Meilleux
  4. Kira.SStewart
  5. MelissaDP
  6. Rosie
  7. FreeRighter
  8. Señor Rodriguez
  9. Sunshine
  10. Mostafa Mahmoud
  11. Dr. X
  12. Gerusamaso

Printable version

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