Main Idea and Theme

The main idea is a short description of what the story is about.

Who does what and why?

The main character has a problem and finds a solution.

Let’s try to discover the main idea in one of my favorite books. It’s a world-renowned children’s classics by the genial Swedish author Astrid Lindgren. Pippi Longstocking is a masterpiece most of us have grown with, and we loved and admired her story. Personally, I have read the book as a child about 12 times.

Now let’s think of Pippi Longstocking and answer the main idea questions:

Who?

– Pippi–a red-haired girl with freckles, who has got superhuman power and doesn’t like growing up.

What?

– She lives all by herself in Villa Vilecula, only with the horse and her pet monkey, Mr. Nilsson.

Why?

– She is wild and has no care in this world, but she has a peculiar sense of fashion. She wears shoes twice her size and mismatched black stockings above the knees – hence her pretty name. She is festive, confident and unconventional and has one suitcase full of golden coins. Therefore, by the end of the 11th chapter,  this unusual young girl becomes our favorite character and has taken us to one adventure after another. That she is so unusual and rebellious keeps us reading…and savoring every word.

So we can summarize the main idea of the book as:

Pippi is a child who lives by herself, without being raised by adults, and unlike other children, she turns out to find the fun in any situation.

Now let’s draw a line between the Main Idea and Theme.

A Theme

Carries the central moral or message, or lesson of the story. The theme is the question the story asks–it’s the very reason for the story to exist.

The themes of Pippi Longstocking are:

Family

What is it for a child to live without being brought up by adults? Can a girl, a monkey, a horse, a mother, who is an angel and a father lost at sea be a family?

Education

Does a child need education in its present version? Pippi knows how to do a lot of things that nine-year-old do not. She cleans, cooks, sails, sews, rides cares for pets, and she also draws and dances.

Childhood

Why does she hope she never grows up? Pippi is the female variant of Peter Pan, she is a child and she loves being a child…to live her life however she wants, saying and doing whatever she pleases.

Just like crème filling is hidden inside a cupcake, themes are hidden inside a book. Think about what the author wants the reader to realize.

If we take Little Red Riding Hood–the theme is that appearances are sometimes deceiving.

If we take The Three Little Pigs–Hard work pays off.

Other themes from the books we all love are compassion, friendship, honesty, courage, kindness and responsibility, love, loyalty, or cooperation.

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