A theme is not the subject of a literary work but rather its central idea, which may be stated directly or indirectly and can often be stated in one word. Story is what gets a novel going, but theme is what makes it worthwhile. It is often the reason why the author wrote a novel.

A theme might be loss, but can also be more narrow like loss of innocence, or even loss of innocence of a girl. To give you an idea of possible main themes, here is a non-restrictive list:

  • discovery
  • death
  • security
  • spirituality
  • jealousy
  • loneliness
  • lust
  • ambition
  • prejudice
  • betrayal
  • loss
  • deception
  • survival
  • isolation
  • justice
  • power
  • fear
  • good versus evil
  • freedom
  • escape
  • courage
  • alienation
  • nostalgia
  • coming of age (almost a complete genre)
  • love

More sophisticated examples of themes of are conflict between the individual and society,  humans in conflict with technology, and the dangers of unchecked ambition. A theme is omnipresent in a story, through its structure, dialogues, descriptions and characters.

A story can have several themes, though not many. Themes often explore several ideas, like a ‘what if’ question and challenge the reader having an opinion about these ideas.. They also show the concerns of the age, controversial topics and contemporary debates. Themes are sometimes confused with motifs, which are subordinate to themes.



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