• The theme is the central, underlying, and controlling idea of a literary work.  It is an abstract concept.  It is a generalization about human conduct that may be comic or serious, profound or unsurprising.  It cannot be expressed in one word, but needs to be expressed in a full sentence.  It is not the purpose or the subject of the work.  A literary work may have more than one theme, and most themes are not directly stated but implied. 

     

    How do you analyze THEME?

    To determine the THEME you might:

    • Summarize the story.
    • List the subject or subjects that emerge from their summaries, such as evil, injustice, inhumanity, social protest, corruption, poverty, tradition, individuality, and survival.
    • Write a sentence about each subject listed based on insights gained from analyzing symbolism, imagery, figurative language, and other devices. 

     

    Because all rhetorical and literary devices lead to tone and theme, this process will help you perceive what insights about life the author is revealing about each subject and to refine the process of determining meaning in text.

     

    To understand THEME you might ask yourself the following questions:

    • How has the main character changed?
    • What lessons has he or she learned?
    • What is the central conflict of the work?
    • What is the subject of the work?
    • What does the author say about the subject?
    • Can this idea be supported entirely by evidence from the work itself?
    • Are all the author’s choices of plot, character, conflict, and tone  controlled by this idea?

     Universal Topics for Theme Statements:


    Alienation

    Ambition

    Appearance versus reality

    Betrayal

    Bureaucracy

    Chance/fate/luck

    Journey/psychological journey

    Cruelty/violence

    Loyalty/disloyalty

    Discontent/disillusionment

    Domination/suppression

    Heart versus reason

    Heaven/paradise/Utopia

    Home

    Illusion/innocence

    Initiation

    Instinct

    Courage/cowardice

    Loneliness/aloneness/solitude

    Defeat/failure

    Memory/the past

    Music/dance

    Social status

    Supernatural

    Time/eternity

    War

    Women/feminism

    Children

    Law/justice

    Custom/tradition

    Materialism

    Mob psychology

    Dreams/fantasies