What Are Themes in Literature?

In modern literary studies, themes are central points, common factor, central theme, or central message in a story. However, themes can also be subdivided into two broad categories: the thematic idea of a story and the thematic content of a text. A theme, in literary analysis, is defined as the central idea or central message of a story. The central idea or central message is presented in one of the structural elements of the text such as narration, dialogue, imagery, settings, or time. It is then argued that the theme constitutes an independent and crucial element of the text, and that the structure of the text contributes to the meaning and intent of the theme.

themes

Although themes are important in literature, many critics argue that they are too abstract and subjective to be used effectively as indicators of the meaning and intent of a literary work. Moreover, several themes may be presented simultaneously, and it is sometimes difficult to determine what exactly each theme is trying to say. For instance, when two or more plots compete over a central theme, how do the viewers or readers separate the plots from each other and from the central idea? Some themes, such as conflict and the nature of power, can only be understood against the background of other themes, while some themes, like time and the passage of time, can only be understood in relation to other themes.

In terms of plot, the most common plot types are the hero’s fantasy, the girl’s fantasy, and the boy’s fantasy. A hero’s fantasy is a story in which the hero acts according to the moral norms that he believes to be correct. A girl’s fantasy is a story in which the girl acts according to the moral norms that she believes to be correct. In a boy’s fantasy, on the other hand, the hero is someone who does things that would usually be considered immoral, but in this case the punishment for such actions are typically funny ones. For example, a boy may believe that stealing is morally wrong, but if he steals a toy truck, he may believe that he is justified in doing so.

Thematic repetition occurs when several characters share a common theme, idea, or motif. This happens frequently in literature of all types, with the exception of tragedy. In tragedy, several characters die, leaving the reader to fill in the gaps left by those deaths with his own interpretation. However, in a play or a musical, the same themes repeat, with the audience unable to interject their own opinions due to the explicit content of the play or song. A musical example is Handel’s “Water Music”, in which the same theme recurs twice, each consisting of two stanza elements.

Thematic repetition occurs most often in works of fiction, but it is also a principle element of many philosophical works of fiction, plays, and music. Thus, a theme, such as “the triangle” in The Omen of Paris, is used repeatedly within the text; thus, its presence in a literary work provides a point of connection between other literary works, and helps to identify the theme or plot of the entire work. Thematic repetition in literature occurs most frequently in works aimed at children; however, this type of theme is equally present in works aimed at adult readers. This occurs most often in fairy tales, where the theme of the fairy tale the child is going to follow, is related to the world view of that fairy tale.

Finally, a literary theme can be derived from a literary work in another manner. When a motif is repeated excessively throughout a work, such as the theme of the French Revolution, literature has developed a pattern called a “cycle.” The repetition of a motif in literature occurs in a logical sequence, beginning with an example of the theme in Theban mythology, proceeding through literature focusing on the themes expressed in works like Pride and Prejudice, Londonistan, and other classic novels. A similar pattern may be applied to other forms of literature. For example, the repetition of an important quote from a poem or other source tends to provide a context for understanding that quote. Similarly, literary themes may be explained by identifying the psychological meaning associated with the specific theme, and applying it to current events.

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