A theme is an essential element of any literary piece, whether it’s a novel, a short story, or any other kind of literature. What implied by the theme is the main, the central idea or topic of the story. It can be revealed with the course of the narrative or presented right at the beginning.
The word originates from the “thema” (Greek), which can be translated as “proposition” or “something set down”. The term was first mentioned in English in approximately 1250-1300.
Oftentimes, the theme of the narrative has a close connection with its subject. That’s why these two literary terms can be confused with each other easily. A subject implies a certain topic, on which the piece of literature is based. It’s a foundation of the literary work. A theme is a slightly narrower concept, which involves the author’s personal view on the subject. For instance, in a literary piece about the relationships in the 19th-century French, the subject is the relationships in general. But the author can narrow it down to a certain theme, for example, marriage between the bourgeois of that period.
A literary piece doesn’t have to be limited to only one theme. It can contain a couple or more, but they will have different significance and will belong to different theme types. These types are major and minor. A major theme is the center of the work. It is the most significant part, the sense of the literary piece. The whole work is based on it, while other subthemes can emerge throughout the narrative. However, those minor subthemes don’t occupy such a big part in the story. They can appear and then be replaced by other themes depending on the author’s wish to discuss certain points. For instance, the literary work with war being the main theme can include the subthemes of love, politics, and so on.
Oftentimes, the theme of the literary piece isn’t presented on the surface but can be found after realizing the message that the author wants to deliver. This is common for literary works that serve to teach a certain lesson. For instance, the story of the hare and the tortoise doesn’t feature the theme of competing in a race. The theme is the moral of the story, which can be revealed only at the end of the narrative. The lesson about patience, consistency, and wit presents itself as the conclusion, the enlightening lesson, and serves as the main theme of the narrative.
The reason why themes are important in any literary piece is that they give the narrative a meaning. Without a certain theme, a work of literature can’t exist. Depending on the author’s desires, the theme can introduce a certain issue, a useful lesson, or just express the author’s ideas, worries, and deeper reasons for creating this literary piece.
The theme is able to cross the boundaries between people of different time periods and nationalities. While certain references or analogies can oftentimes be hard to comprehend, the theme is that central, crucial part of the text that any reader can discover.
When deciding to write about a certain theme, the author is able to deliver a message and convey his moral observations. Thus, a theme is able to help the author present the truth that’s hidden in the narrative.
Themes are an effective way to illustrate the moral lesson. The author might not state it directly in the narrative but reveal it as the general theme of the text, which can be comprehended only by reading the whole literary piece. When the moral statement becomes the theme of the work, it turns into a powerful persuasive tool.
Themes are able to hold the text details together. When the author writes keeping a certain theme in mind, he chooses the suitable literary tools, patterns of speech, characters, symbols, and so on. When all of these pieces are bound by a certain theme, the text looks harmonious and complete.
Without a theme, a literary piece would be meaningless. That’s why there are endless lists of theme examples in the world of literature.
G. G. Marquez in his legendary work “100 Years of Solitude” presents the main idea both in the title and throughout the story. While other subthemes are also present (for example, family, love, duty, etc.), the major theme is clear and appears regularly in the narrative, keeping the text together and creating a general picture of all the text pieces being harmoniously tied together.
Shakespeare in one of his plays, “Othello”, illustrates the theme of jealousy, which is accompanied by other subthemes like human relationships, family, internal struggles, and so on.
Ian McEwan managed to write a literary piece where he incorporated the main theme of the work into its headline. In “Atonement”, the major idea is presented right at the beginning, in the book name, and can be traced throughout the narrative. Still, there are other additional subthemes, which somehow reflect and are linked to the main idea of the story.
In literary pieces, a theme signifies the main, central idea of the narrative. It is what gives the literary work a meaning. The term derives from the word “thema”, meaning “something that is set down”.
The role of the theme in literary pieces is important and versatile. It can represent a certain issue and deliver a specific message the author wants to share. Themes can be used to illustrate a moral statement, which might be hidden in the story and can be revealed only after reading the whole thing. Oftentimes, themes allow the authors to express their concerns and build the narrative around a certain idea. Also, when writing according to a particular theme, the author picks the suitable symbols and literary techniques, which hold the narrative together and create the harmonious image of the work.