Theme: Everything You Need to Know

It refers to the encapsulating elements of literary pieces, as projected by the author. In other words, a literary theme is the main idea or underlying meaning a writer explores in a short story, novel, or other literary work. An author can convey the story’s theme by using dialogues, characters, plot, setting, or a combination of all of these elements. In simpler stories, the central theme could be a message or moral. But in more complex stories, it could typically be a more open-ended exploration of some basic facets of humanity or society.

There are six common themes in literature, each of which reveals the human condition and provides the readers with food for thought long after they have finished reading the story.

·         Good vs. evil refers to the classic battle between light and dark, selflessness and animosity. It may either pit the main character against society at large, such as in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, or two protagonists against each other as in the Harry Potter series.

·         Love: In literature and life, love is one of the most universal themes. Stories based on this theme could explore different types of love like forbidden love (Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet), family love, friendship, toxic love, unrequited love, etc.

·         Redemption: Stories based on this theme could have a happy or sad ending. Typically, they involve a reformed character, who may either sacrifice his life or freedom or realize the errors committed and strive to make things right, such as Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables.

·         Courage and perseverance: Characters in these stories tolerate impossible odds or tough circumstances to emerge the winner, thanks to their sheer grit, determination, and gall. An example is Mark Bowden’s Black Hawk Down, which has courage as its focal theme.

·         Coming of age: Stories based on this theme follow one or more characters during their journey of growing up, which may involve an awakening, loss of innocence, or self-awareness. They finally end with the characters reaching maturity. An example is Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women.

Revenge: Stories based on the theme of revenge showcase the trials a character must endure to achieve his vengeance. Such stories may also explore the moral dilemmas and human costs related to avenging the wrongs done to the protagonist. Popular examples are Homer’s The Iliad, Stephen King’s Carrie, and Alexander Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo.

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