Out With the Old

Performance Review

How Does Setting, Characterization, and Literary Devices Contribute to Theme

Dreams and Theme


When people think about theme, they don’t think about what contributes to it. There are a lot of things that contribute to theme, such as setting, can change the way people think and act, and in turn changes the theme. For example, the “ I Have A Dream” speech by Martin L. King is about prejudice and not giving up even when there are a million people against you. The setting is in the very racist 1950’s to 1960’s. This time period was when the Civil Rights Movement began, which was people fighting for equality. King was one of the most influential activist, and during this time he made the famous “I Have A Dream” speech. In the speech, King said “There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights,” showing how he wants the world to change and how no one will stop fighting to get their rights. Had the setting been different, King wouldn’t have had to fight for equal rights, which in turn made him say the speech. This portrays how setting can influence the theme by showing how because there was prejudice against black people, King had to make a speech about perseverance. If there hadn’t been any racism towards black people, like there was in this setting, King would not have made the speech. Because the setting was in a racist time period, King had to encourage others to persevere through the hard times. Even though it seemed like the entire world was against them, they persevered and eventually won the fight they were fighting.

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Perseverance and Prejudice

Everywhere people look in this world, there is bound to be prejudice. Whether fiction or real life, there is no escape from judgement. However, if you fight back against these ideas, you will not be judged, instead, people will look at you with a different perspective. There are lots of ways perseverance is shown, one of which is through characterization. For example, in the book Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy, the main character, Willowdean Dickson, gets into a relationship but starts to doubt herself because she is fat. In retaliation, Will decides to join the beauty pagent, breaking all the stereotypes and and forces people to look past her differences and see all the good qualities she has to offer. When Will first joined the pageant, all she got was backlash, with people saying “If you would put a little effort in and take care of yourself, you’d be surprised of how much of a difference it would make,” and “ You better make sure [you] know its a beauty contest and not a livestock show.” Her school bully even went as far as calling Will the name her mom calls her, Dumplin’. But instead of letting that get to her,Will promptly “knee[d] him square in the nuts.” She persevered through everyone’s detest, even her own mothers, who refused to help her do the things a normal mother should do. One of the biggest things that people judged Will about was her wearing a swimsuit. They didn’t like how a fat girl could wear a swimsuit, but instead of letting that get to her, Will states “There’s something about swimsuits that make you think you’ve got to earn the right to wear them. And that’s wrong. Really, the criteria is simple. Do you have a body? Put a swimsuit on it,” which shows how even with all the hate, Will pushed through and still went to the contest. Even though she didn’t win, Will still finds confidence and joy while participating. By making the main character a bigger woman, Murphy shows us that even though you don’t fit the mold society gives you, doesn’t mean you can’t find happiness. Even though Will was fat, she persevered through the hate and finally got accepted into society. People will always have certain opinions of others, but if they persevere, they can help the haters look past what makes the outcasts different and see the the person inside.


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Mountains and Metaphors

When reading a book, there are tons of literary devices that contribute to theme. For example, take the song “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” which reveals how no matter what gets in the way of love, people will persevere through the obstacles and end up together again. In the song, the writer uses the metaphor, “Ain't no valley low enough, ain't no river wide enough, to keep me from getting to you babe,” which shows the lengths the person will go through just to get to their loved one. By saying the obstacles that keep them from their loved one are as grand as the rivers and valleys, the writer shows that no matter what, they will find a way to their beloved. Even though there are many barriers in the way of their love, the characters will persevere through the hard times to be together. The writer chose to put in metaphors in their song to emphasize how much the characters will go through to be together. The author also put in the line “No wind, no rain or winter's cold can stop me baby, na na baby ,'Cause you are my goal,” which further proves that the writer uses metaphors to show how far the person will go to be with their loved one. Even the title of the song, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” is a metaphor that shows the characters struggle to be with each other. The reason the author put metaphors in the song was to clearly show how much the characters would persevere through to be together.


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How Do All of These Texts Relate to One Another?

The texts “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, Dumplin’, and the “I Have A Dream Speech” are all topically related by perseverance. Dumplin’ is about using characterization the show how the main character persevered through bullying. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” is about using literary devices, specifically metaphors, to show perseverance through obstacles to get to your love. Lastly the “I Have A Dream Speech” is about how setting can force the character to persevere through societies prejudice. These texts are historical, catchy, and overall exciting, and are sure to keep your class involved and interested.

In Dumplin’,the text doesn’t only each good life lessons, it also is a riveting story about a girl living in Texas. While also being educational, Dumplin’ continues to surprise the reader. Dumplin’ shows us how important it is to persevere through the tough times no matter how hard. Teachers can use Dumplin’ to not only teach characterization, but also how to persevere. It’s overall a funny, fascinating story that will keep your students enthralled.

The “I Have A Dream Speech” is a historical, classic piece. By having familiarity with this piece, your students will take off running with this speech. The “I Have A Dream Speech” teaches us how although the entire world is against you, if you persevere, you will reach your goal. When teaching this speech, teachers can use it to talk about the effects of setting on theme. This speech is more relevant and intriguing to our age group than the other books that the teachers use to talk about theme.

Lastly, but most certainly not least, the song “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”. It’s a catchy song that also can teach us how to use literary devices to contribute to theme. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” is about not letting anything get in the way of love. By using metaphors such as rivers and valleys, a teacher can teach about the power of perseverance, while having a catchy song to go along with it.