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Free Study Guide-The Once and Future King-T.H. White-Free Book Summary
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THEMES

The most obvious theme is the perseverance of war despite the best intentions. The ending of the novel is intentionally ambiguous: while Arthur is defeated and tragic, there is a hope that Tom will succeed in allowing future generations to envision peace. It is unclear whether White wishes us to feels pessimistic or optimistic about the possibility of peace in a war-torn world. Of course, this makes sense, considering his own historical context: the beginning of the Second World War must have felt very much like the last few chapters of the novel.

Therefore, Right makes Might or Might makes Right could be themes of this novel, with generous amounts of textual support for each.


As for minor themes, there is a strong strain of fate determining action in this novel, very much in a Greek sense. Arthur can be seen as a tragic hero along the line of Oedipus, and there is ample support for the idea that manís destiny is not his own, but is arbitrarily decided by a handful of events, or fickle gods.

MOOD

Again, the mood overall is tragic, but there is a light at the end. Although Tom is very much a ďcandle in the wind;Ē that is, he is facing apparently insurmountable opposition in his quest to tell Arthurís story, we assume he is successful because of the novelís very existence, and thus the ending of the novel is quite optimistic.

It is impossible to ignore the sadness the reader feels at Arthurís defeat and death - his intentions have been pure throughout the novel and to see him destroyed by truly evil forces is disheartening and tragic.

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