Literature – Theme Examples
In current literary studies, themes are central, usually recurrent, themes in a story. Themes are normally distinguished by how their repetitious appearance and presence disrupt the plot. A theme is not a fixed idea that can be identified and portrayed in a story; rather, themes are “reflected” on by the characters in the story and the reader as they interpret the plot. Themes are used to mark the difference between literary and popular fiction.
In recent years, themes have become increasingly important to literature. In literary analysis, themes are identified as aspects of a writer’s “sense of purpose,” as a component of that writer’s “ontological structure,” or as central elements of an interpretive model that support a writer’s plot. Thematic concepts are the central aspects of literary theories about literature, and the analysis of literature has largely remained consistent across time, emphasizing themes and thematic elements in stories as important components of a story’s meaning.
Some writers are known for coming up with many themes. However, not all of these writers have produced a large number of very successful works. An example of this is Charles Dickens, who throughout his life came up with many themes but none of them was central to his overall body of work. He created several “personality themes,” such as miserliness and fraudulence, that added interest to his character’s psyche, but they were peripheral to his overall ideas about life. Charles Dickens also repeatedly used “parable” forms, such as similes and parodies, in his books, but these too were minor elements of his larger ideas.
In examining the definitions of themes in literature, several main categories of thematic elements appear. A major theme may indicate a significant event or development and is usually characterized by its central purpose or aim. A minor theme is one that serve to highlight some aspect of the larger theme, but is not itself a crucial part of that larger theme. A central theme, on the other hand, is generally a fundamental idea that is developed in several subordinate themes. These ideas are related to each other and draw together their various characteristics, but are themselves not central to each other.
Several themes in literature are quite complex. In order to fully examine their various aspects, it can be beneficial to break a theme down into smaller and more detailed parts. For instance, in the essay “The Theme of Suffering,” George Eliot outlines nine thematic concepts and sub-themes that are all related to her major theme of misery and her poems and writings on the theme. In these, each of the smaller themes helps to support and develop the main theme, and all of them together form a whole that makes up the entire theme. In this way, even though each of these smaller themes is not crucial to understanding the main theme itself, they all build upon each other to form a meaningful whole.
Of course, themes in literature do not just lie within the bounds of a single poem or article. They are often explored and developed throughout many works of literature. Frequently, a large theme will be developed in a piece of literature and then left dormant for a while, only to be revisited later on in a completely different context. This is especially common in plays and movies where a plot will be developed and left dormant until it is finally brought to the forefront. In these cases, multiple smaller themes that develop around the main theme can help to create a richer interpretation of the play or movie overall.