A Quick Guide to Literature and Themes
In contemporary literary studies, themes are a central point, motif, or viewpoint within a story. The themes in a story are what readers perceive the story to be primarily about and what these themes or thematic elements tell us about the characters in the story. More specifically, in literature theses themes are what lend meaning to the text, make it tell a story, and/or make it be the basis of an interpretation.
Themes have been present since the beginning of humanity. In ancient Greek mythology, the god of the winds, Zeus, gave mankind a gift: the wind. This gift caused humans to seek out knowledge of the world around them and through the use of the stars to guide them, humans eventually learned to fly. Thus, the first literary works arguably feature themes (themes perhaps derived from the cyclical aspects of Greek mythology).
Throughout literature, themes develop throughout stories to provide meaning to the text, make it tell a story, or base an interpretation on the characters in the text. However, themes may differ according to the genre of the work, the theme of a story, the intended meaning of the text, and the intention of the writer or publisher. An example of this would be how dominant a sexual theme is in a novel. There are many works that openly display sexual themes such as pornography. These works, however, have one of two interpretations: either the sexual theme is presented as the main character’s theme or the reader’s interpretation is that the character’s theme is the main character’s theme.
Most themes are categorized according to whether they are major or minor. A major theme develops throughout the entire text, while minor themes tend to appear only once or twice throughout the entire story. For instance, the main character’s theme could be a major theme throughout the narrative while his minor themes are only used when the story develops certain aspects of the main character. The major themes may also be related to other characters and ideas.
While there is no exact definition for themes, they can generally be classified into five categories: thematic statements, structural elements, similes, symbolical statements, and epitomes. In addition, themes can be broken down further into different sub-themes, which include conflict themes, time themes, ritual themes, and genre themes. Each of these sub-themes is related to a specific region of literature. For instance, a time theme would be found in books written during the time period of a specific season.
All of these definitions and suggestions should help you get started in understanding your own literary themes and ideas. If you’re looking for more information on the topic, you should check out various websites and publications focusing on the various theories and approaches to the different types of themes. You may also want to read a number of books and articles by famous authors, which will provide even more insight into the world of literary themes and concepts.