Please wait while we process your payment
If you don't see it, please check your spam folder. Sometimes it can end up there.
Don’t have an account?
Create Your Account
Sign up for your FREE 7-day trial
Already have an account? Log in
Choose Your Plan
$4.99/month + tax
$24.99/year + tax
Save over 50% with a SparkNotes PLUS Annual Plan!
for a group?
Get Annual Plans at a discount when you buy 2 or more!
$18.74 /subscription + tax
Subtotal $37.48 + tax
on 2-49 accounts
on 50-99 accounts
Want 100 or more?
for a customized plan.
You'll be billed after your free trial ends.
7-Day Free Trial
Renews December 8, 2023
December 1, 2023
Discounts (applied to next billing)
This is not a valid promo code.
(one code per order)
Annual Plan - Group Discount
SparkNotes Plus subscription is $4.99/month or $24.99/year as selected above. The free trial period is the first 7 days of your subscription. TO CANCEL YOUR SUBSCRIPTION AND AVOID BEING CHARGED, YOU MUST CANCEL BEFORE THE END OF THE FREE TRIAL PERIOD. You may cancel your subscription on your Subscription and Billing page or contact Customer Support at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your subscription will continue automatically once the free trial period is over. Free trial is available to new customers only.
For the next 7 days, you'll have access to awesome PLUS stuff like AP English test prep, No Fear Shakespeare translations and audio, a note-taking tool, personalized dashboard, & much more!
You’ve successfully purchased a group discount. Your group members can use the joining link below to redeem their group membership. You'll also receive an email with the link.
Members will be prompted to log in or create an account to redeem their group membership.
Thanks for creating a SparkNotes account! Continue to start your free trial.
Your PLUS subscription has expired
See discount terms and conditions.
Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, and literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes.
Fire takes on multiple meanings in the play, but it most strongly symbolizes death and the eventual and inevitable end of the human species. Like Thomasina's diagram of heat exchange, as exemplified by Mr. Noakes's steam engine, all will eventually end. As the law of thermodynamics prescribes, we will all eventually burn up. Fire is destruction and death happening over and over again. Septimus burns Lord Byron's letter, unread, a rare and valuable piece of historical literature. Fire is also sexual, the burn that keeps bodies in motion. Septimus observes that Mrs. Chater is in a state of "tropical humidity as would grown orchids in her drawers in January". Thomasina and Valentine wish to describe and analyze the universal laws of heat and destruction. The final scene is the greatest culmination of the fire motif. While Valentine and Hannah discuss the meaning of Thomasina's heat-exchange diagram, Thomasina holds the flame that will eventually cause her own destruction. As Thomasina and Septimus waltz, the audience is aware of Thomasina's fate. We can see the workings and progress of the heat diagram before our eyes.
Sex persists as the anti-academic driving force in Arcadia. Academic knowledge is never separated far from carnal knowledge—academic knowledge somehow equating sexual prowess. For example, when Bernard makes his great discovery he immediately propositions Hannah, indicating how academic knowledge gives Bernard sexual confidence. Sex is also equated with heat, making it the eventual objective and need of all humans. The relationship between Thomasina's theory of heat exchange and sex is clearly articulated by Chloe who tells Valentine that Newton forgot to account for sex in his deterministic universe. Heat, like sex, is unchangeable, persistent, and random.
Mathematics and "Simple English Algebra" is the foundation of Arcadia. The mysteries of math reveal greater truths about humanity and the family as a whole. Mathematics is also a source of pride within the play. Valentine, as a chaos mathematician himself, is reluctant to share Thomasina's theory and fractal with Hannah. Thomasina's algebra and geometry lessons culminate into her genius understanding of the laws of thermodynamics and chaos theory. The laws of thermodynamics dictate the fate of all the characters on stage, and the realization of such fate eventually conclude the play (most tragically, Thomasina's own ironic death by fire). Septimus and Thomasina, along with Gus and Hannah, succumb to the law of thermodynamics by coming together in a waltz. The couples know their mathematical, unstoppable fate and embrace each other in spite of it.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Arcadia!