Although young adults may share some of the themes associated with the teen years, such as the search for love and intimacy and discovering one’s identity, this thematic category digs deeper than the former – explored in last week’s post. It tends to focus more on achievement and efficacy in the world. It not only establishes the theme as a protagonist’s goal, it scratches for the truth that lies below the surface.
Stories, such as Titanic and Elizabeth, for example, respectively explore the consequences of choosing someone to love that our parents would disapprove of, or choosing duty over love.
Young Adulthood and Story Themes – Linda Seger
Because many popular stories and films tend to cater for readers and audiences in their twenties and thirties their themes center more on success and achievement – strong driving forces in that age group.
Themes about success focus on achieving success in the world’s eyes – about public achievement. If the protagonist fails to have her dream acknowledged in the public arena it may be that the dream is unimportant or insignificant. Important achievements, by contrast, carry the stamp of public approval: John Nash wins the Nobel Prize in A Beautiful Mind, the first Star Wars ends with a ceremony, and Clarice receives an award at the end of Silence of the Lambs.
Stories in the category, can, however, be more inwardly-looking, exploring the conflict between career and family (Melvin’s Room, One True Thing), or the tension between fame, materialism and integrity – Magnolia, Jerry Maguire, Quiz Show. Here the storyline tends to explore the outer goal while the inner story, driven by a more intimate exploration of the theme, examines the inner world through subplot.
Regardless of the level of intimacy, however, stories that fall in the young adulthood category focus more on the consequences of pursuing success or fame through career, its rewards and costs, rather than discovering the themes as goals in the first instance – the first order search in teenage stories.
The young adulthood category, then, represents a maturing of the teenage dream into an ostensible set of goals that have public and personal effects.
Stories involving characters in the young adulthood category tend to explore the consequences, good and bad, of pursuing career, success, and fame.