Identifying Theme


A good piece of writing is usually acknowledged for its theme or idea. Whether it’s a story, novel, play or poem, a theme plays a significant role in convening the message of a writer to its readers. A theme refers to the central idea or main idea, which is found in a story, poem, play and novel. It is considered a unifying or dominant idea that makes a piece of writing meaningful for the readers. A theme indicates an important message or lesson that a writer wants to convey to readers through his or her writing. When a theme is relevant to a large number of readers or audience, then it is called as a universal theme. It can be relevant for a number of reasons such as human behavior, a common lifestyle, education goal, food habits, life cycle, travelling around the world, dealing with stress, signs of falling in love, poverty, etc. It has been seen that universal theme immediately connects the readers emotionally with a story, novel or a poem. Hence, it is important for a writer to choose an ideal theme for his or her story so as to draw the attention of a wide range of readers. 

How to Identify Theme

A theme expresses an author’s viewpoint on a specific topic. It is an underlying idea in literature that conveys a writer’s message or raises a question about human experience or human nature. With the help of a good theme, a writer tries to illuminate important aspects of human experience. However, many times, a theme may not influence the readers or agrees with the reader’s belief. It is important to understand the plots, characterizations and several other literary elements before identifying the theme. Here, some essential tips are discussed that will help you identify a theme of a literary work: 

How to Identify Theme?

  • Make a note of main literary elements: A plot, characterization, setting, conflicts, tone, etc. are considered important literary elements. When you are analysing a literary work, you need to determine the conflicts in the work, the most important moment in the work and how does an author resolve the conflict and how did the literary work end? 
  • Identify the subject or topic: Determine the subject of the literary work. Keep in mind that a theme is not a subject or a topic of any literary work.  It is the point being made about the subject. In simple words, a theme is one of the elements of the work that help a reader in understanding the story. 
  • Determine the main character: How does the character change? What made him or her change? Does the main character affect other characters? How does the protagonist or the main character relate to other characters? Analyse all the elements carefully while finding a theme.  
It is essential for students to understand that a theme is an important lesson or message in a story. In order to identify the theme of a story, a student needs to think and analyse the characters carefully. What the characters did wrong or right or what the experience of the character in the entire story can help a reader to identify the theme. 

Key Points 

  • A theme is a big idea.
  • It is a message from the author.
  • It is found in literature, art as well as movies.
  • Moral is the theme of a fable.
  • Teaching is the theme of parable.
  • It is a universal truth that most people relate to their life.
  • A good theme provides valuable and useful lesson about life.