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July 24th, 2020

10:15 PM

Themes: The Common Ties That Bind

Most successful and legendary authors I have found strive on writing basic themes to which everyone can relate. These themes speak or question to the heart of our humanity, who we are, why we act the way we do, and everything in between. It's why when I studied in college, I read literature of what living in Walden Pond felt like, along with learning from the various characters in The Canterbury Tales to an occasional read from William Faulkner or Mark Twain. If I studied in an African American Literature class, I would understand the themes from a Langston Hughes poem, a Richard Wright novel or from David Walker and his Appeal, or even Alexandre Dumas and his Three Muskateers.

Historically, the themes of friendship, betrayal, love, feeling like an outsider, are written as universal and relatable to the readers of a written work. For centuries, these themes either help a work of literature become a famous work of art or just another written piece that doesn't stay on our minds as most of the works of famous authors, past and present, we know. In this year of 2020, theme seems to have taken on a political slant which may excite a readership looking for 'representation' but doesn't speak to the overall themes which have been written about for centuries. I'm not sure the written works of our modern authors will be considered classics. It depends on their social media standing, I guess. For example, there is one author who wrote a series of children's novels. She appeared to be on track on becoming a classic author (by modern standards) when suddenly she expressed an opinion her fanbase had issues with and immediately 'cancelled' her. Now this could be a theme for a book; betrayal or becoming an outcast, though I would say not in the same manner this author is treated now.

You want to know why themes in literature endure? They do so for the simple reason they reflect real life. Friendship is a constant theme in The Three Muskateers by Alexandre Dumas and it is a classic because of the bond between Athos, Porthos and Aramis, the title characters of the novel. d'Artagnan isn't a Muskateer at the beginning of the novel, and at the end earns the trio's trust and loyalty from his actions that enable him to join them. You can read a novel from Ernest Hemingway and look into the main character's escapades in another country or alone on a boat whose main objective is to catch a fish. These examples are reflections of the lives we live where we seek these intangibles. This makes for great literature.

When you spend time reading and learning from the great authors, you see the themes they built in their works become great works because they touch each of our lives. A Stephen King horror or Issac Asimov science fiction tale may border on the fantastic and frightening, but these themes are a representation of our fears, our hopes for a world other than the one we're living in now. This is something I see young authors like myself fail to realize; expressing our political stance in our written works may gain us all the likes and followers we crave, but if we fail to appeal to everyone on a theme in which everyone can relate with, the small fanbase we're catering to will not be worth it if they feel we are not 'playing along' with their own political and social views. In the case of one author, she is paying a price for seemingly betraying her 'fans' based on an opinion she shared to the world.

If I can offer a piece of advice to someone who wants to be an author one day and as I have found whenever I wrote a 'controversial' piece, make sure it's a subject you passionately believe in. Make sure it's a theme that is not only universal to your audience but informational to anyone who doesn't share your ethnicity, your culture, even your sexual preference. When my first book was published, I was a bit concerned readers from different cultures, ethnicities would express their disappointment with some of my poems. To my surprise, I found out they were very encouraging and supportive to the themes I wrote about. I tend to believe my written works, although I am a Black man, have something for everyone. My use of history in my works may have something to do with that, perhaps it's my opinions of love, the world around us, the future. Whatever the reason, I'm happy that my written works and the themes involved are meant to understand, not argue with a willing reader and supporter. The plan for authors like myself is to gain new readers, not pick fights with them for the sake of politics.

As I close, it is my sincerest hope that new authors will focus on the themes that unite us all and provide a window to other cultures, lives in this world we're living in. The common ties that bind us all in literature should be the same common ties that unite us all in life.

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