In modern literary studies, a motif is a central theme, episode, or message in a story. The themes of a literary work are what most readers “view the work as having meaning”. Different themes or ideas are developed throughout the text. However, one theme, or central idea, dominates the text. A theme may also dominate the entire work or a number of characters’ thoughts or feelings. The dominant thematic idea or theme in a literary work is what readers interpret the text as referring to or meaning.
Thematic interpretation involves the identification of the characters’ thoughts and feelings relating to the central theme. An example of a Thematic Theme is “The Metaphors of Love.” In this article I present different types of themes as well as how the themes are related to literature. Additionally, I examine how literary critics evaluate works of fiction and essays based on their themes.
A theme may appear throughout the text of a novel as a main character’s thought or emotions. It may be expressed by a character undergoing a transformation, a change in state of mind, a personal experience, a change in societal environment, a psychological problem, a change in relationship, etc. When the theme appears in a narrative book, it often expresses the primary meaning of the story, which is the theme-the universal meaning that all writers share. The most common examples of themes in novels are love, sadness, war, and comedy.
Thematic interpretation relies on literary analysis and literary criticism. Literary critics analyze stories and literature by identifying and studying the main themes within the text. Examples of thematic concepts in literature include paronomasia (paradoxity), anachronism (a surprising event), symbolism, anthropomorphism, and similitude. Literary analysis requires the use of various techniques such as theme modeling (referring to the theme as a model for the text), the comparative method, and structuralism.
Novelists rely on a number of methods to identify themes in a story. Some authors may draw connections between events and key words; others may make connections between various characters that have similar traits; and still others use mythical devices that take away the emphasis from the main theme. The writer who wants to write a successful novel must be aware of these different approaches to identifying themes in literature. In other words, we must learn how to “read” a story and not just expect the text to tell us what the theme is. We need to develop our own reading skills and expectations so that we can “really read” a story.
Theme modeling and thematic statements are two important aspects of successful storytelling. I believe that a novel is only half complete once the reader has fully comprehended the plot. This requires the writer to allow the reader to picture the plot out on his or her own. Only then will the reader be able to understand the theme. Themes are the glue that keeps a story together and allows it to move from one level to another.