Let the Great World Spin


Colum McCann

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Themes and Colors
Political Unrest Theme Icon
Unity & Human Connection Theme Icon
Prejudice & Stereotypes Theme Icon
Simultaneity & Time Theme Icon
Doubt & Faith Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Let the Great World Spin, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Political Unrest

Let the Great World spin tacitly addresses an array of political and cultural issues at play in the United States in the 1970s. When Philippe Petit walked a tightrope strung between New York’s Twin Towers on August 7, 1974, the country was undergoing a particularly turbulent political period. Only two days later, on August 9th, President Richard Nixon would resign from office due to his involvement with the break-in and wiretapping of the Democratic National…

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Unity & Human Connection

Chance encounters, serendipitous moments, and relationships that defy racial and cultural boundaries run throughout Let the Great World Spin. Above all, the book is interested in the patchwork of human life and the mysterious convergences or departures that unite people either physically or philosophically. The epigraph, taken from Aleksandar Hemon’s The Lazarus Project, establishes this interest and sets the novel’s tone: “All the lives we could live, all the people we will never…

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Prejudice & Stereotypes

Cultural and economic divides are felt quite strongly in Let the Great World Spin, and these divisions often bring about an array of prejudices and stereotypes that the characters perpetuate and endure. For instance, characters from drastically different backgrounds are frequently paired with one another, a technique that ultimately emphasizes the rifts between them while simultaneously seeking to explore their prejudices in a more nuanced manner. As such, one of the novel’s primary concerns…

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Simultaneity & Time

The idea of simultaneity is important to the construction of Let the Great World Spin. Once again, we can look to the novel’s epigraph for guidance: “All the lives we could live, all the people we will never know, never will be, they are everywhere. That is what the world is.” Within this is the idea that the world is made up of a great many lives existing all at once, and there is…

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Doubt & Faith

Doubt is a common theme in Let the Great World Spin, whether it is in regards to religion, relationships, or the self. Perhaps the most evident of these is the doubt experienced in relation to the existence of God, as exemplified by Corrigan; he wants a “fully believable God, one you could find in the grime of the everyday.” God, he believes, ought to be doubted because the struggle for belief is divine…

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