How to state a theme Modified from Susan Vreeland, What English Teachers Want 1. Phrase it as a complete thought, not a topic. Poor: The theme of The Great Gatsby is moral decay. Better: Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby suggests that pursuit of material gain causes moral decay. 2. It is an observation about a universal topic; not just about the book, but bigger than the book. Poor: Fitzgerald suggests that Gatsby's dream of attaining Daisy justifies the means he uses to reach it. Better: Fitzgerald suggests that some dreams justify the means used to obtain them. 3. State it as an idea or observation, NOT as advice or cliché. Poor: Fitzgerald's message is that we should keep on trying to reach our goals no matter how distant they may seem Better: Fitzgerald asserts that pursuit of dreams, even if unsuccessful, may be noble in itself. 4. State it literally. Don't use figurative, poetic or dramatic language. Poor: Fitzgerald suggests that those who pursue materialism may find their souls bruised and scarred by the battle to secure status and comfort. Better: Fitzgerald suggests that the pursuit of materialism causes individuals to compromise their morality. 5. It should be worth arguing about. Poor: Fitzgerald suggests that materialism is bad. Better: Fitzgerald suggests that materialism can cause individuals to focus solely on the pursuit of material gain at the expense of engaging in meaningful personal development.