Throughout school, my teachers always distinguished the theme from the plot when assigning us short stories and novels to read. The theme, we came to learn, is more important to both the writer and the reader.
Since I started writing, I have always thought about how I would answer the question, “What is the theme of your literary work?”
When I wrote The Monarchs, the novel I am publishing soon, I focused on the relationship between two, retired teachers. As the book begins, they are 59-years-old. As the book nears the end, they are not much older.
The couple has established a commitment to each other that is exclusive to all others. They are aware that, in the future, the wife will be living a solitary life since her husband seems likely to die from cancer. Some of their interchanges reflect this probability.
What I wanted to capture most in my book is the love they have for each other, one that has never abated over 30 years of their being together. Such a relationship is not unusual in our world; however, in my community, I see that mean-spiritedness, separation, and divorce among couples is more common than it was when I was a child.
Some people do not seem to have the patience that marriage requires but the couple in my book certainly do.
Along with her husband, the wife faces the indignities through which he is going. She takes care of him as his body is ravaged daily with pain and discomfort and as he tolerates the tests done on him in hospitals.
And why wouldn’t she? This is a couple that loves one another unconditionally. The husband would do the same for her. I hope my book reveals this dedication between them.
The most difficult scene that I wrote but one that I believe is necessary is the one in which the couple makes love. I want my reader to understand that sexual intimacy belongs with emotional and spiritual intimacy and that it is as special to two people, regardless of age.
As I grow older, I see that ageism does exist in the world. I hope that, in some way, my novel makes the reader aware that ageism, like all discriminatory practices, is wrong.