11

I asked the following question on the main site: What are the themes in I, Robot?, and as such it has been closed as Too Broad.

I have conflicted feelings on this, because on the one hend yes, there are a lot of possible answers to this question. However, on the other hand, if we want to be a site that allows literary analysis, aren't these the sorts of questions we want to ask?

I suppose I could break this question up, asking "What's Asimov's themes in regard to X" and "What's Asimov's themes in regards to Y?" or "What's the central theme for x book?"

So, I wanted to start a discussion on if this question IS too broad, or if it was closed too hastily. Do we want broader questions about a literary work's themes, or do we want to narrow it down to very specific parts?

The question has since been deleted. Here is the text of the question, for reference:

Isaac Asimov's I, Robot book, a collection of short stories, is an amazing piece of work that explores some of the possibilities of technology. It is a great, complicated piece of work.

Since it has several short stories, it's hard to nail down exactly what themes the book talks about. One major theme, of course, is the potential dangers of technology, but I feel that's only surface level and that there are potentially a lot more themes convered.

So, what are the themes in Isaac Asimov's I, Robot?

| |
13

Are questions about the themes of a work Too Broad?

In general, no. Analysing the themes present in a work is part of literary analysis, and we've already had questions about such things on this site.

Is the question "What are all the themes in this work?" Too Broad?

In my view, yes. Unless the work is really short (and maybe not even then), it would be near-impossible to provide a complete answer to this sort of question.

Any sufficiently interesting and well-written work will have not only multiple themes, but multiple different possible sets of themes according to how you analyse it.

A good answer would have to consider each possible theme, give a decent explanation (at least a paragraph or two, preferably longer and backed up with quotes from the work) about why that could be considered a theme, and perhaps for full effect make some commentary on the author's views about this theme and how those views are expressed in the work, e.g. by an eventual moral of the story.

Then multiply all that effort by the number of possible themes, which is unlikely to be a short list if one's making a thorough analysis. A medium-sized novel may have several underlying themes which run through the entire work, plus many which only crop up occasionally, or which could be argued to appear only under some interpretations. A thorough answer would have to cover every theme that may possibly appear in the book, discuss the arguments for and against that really being a theme of the story, and then do all the work described in the previous paragraph for each of these themes.

All in all, it sounds like a textbook example of Too Broad: not because there are "too many possible answers", but because "good answers would be too long for this format". Either of these qualifies a question to be Too Broad, according to the close banner.

If you ask about a particular theme, that could make a good question. A complete answer to that would only have to analyse the work with a single theme in mind and discuss the ways in which it may or may not cover that theme, rather than having to comb through every page and every line looking for every possible theme that might appear anywhere in the work.

| |
10

Starting from a broad premise like "What are the themes in I, Robot?" would generally be considered a good taking point for a round-table discussion, but it's not really the type of question that can be answered definitively in the context of this type of Q&A.

I used the word definitively here because Stack Exchange was designed to handle a type of <quote> "technical support" issue where posts are generally expected to be rankably answered as "most correct".

I know technical support isn't really a word that is often used in the context of literary analysis, but while you might not get a great reception to doling out high-level assignments like "analyze this work for me…", you very well can get a lot of support where you found yourself stuck in that process (folks sometimes tritely express this as "what have you tried?")

Stack Exchange works very well for overcoming specific points of confusion or problems you might encounter in your literary study…

… but Stack Exchange is not a good fit for a generalized discussion site.

| |

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .