Literature Themes- Definition, Types & Development

Literary themes are the backdrop of your story, the central idea around which a story, book, or even a film revolves. A theme need not cover the story on the whole; a section of a story can also be based on a theme. If you pay attention, you will find that themes are of various types; love, hatred, evil, redemption, or even revenge can be a theme of a single fairy tale. As easy as it may seem to read, developing a theme is not an easy task. It is an amalgamation of several elements that combusts into a spellbound theme. 

Literature Theme

Think about the themes example in literature like the novel “The thousand splendid suns” by Khaled Hosseini. It is a single-story strung on the pearls of love; for father and a daughter like a child, the longingness; for father’s love and love of a husband and then anger and hatred; for male gender as a whole on the backdrop of a war-stricken country. All three elements combine the story to leave a powerful message. 

What Is a Literary Theme?

The first thing that comes to your mind about a literary theme is the idea that a story is based. In other words, the theme is the central idea that a writer explores in different literary pieces like themes in books, novels, stories, or any literary work. The theme presents itself through characters, setting, dialogue, plot or a combination of a different element. For example, a theme can be a moral or message like ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’. In complicated stories, the theme is often open-ended, and it allows the reader to understand and ideate on the theme. Readers get the chance to think and decide what they want to make out of the story.

3 Common Themes in Literature

When you read different stories and books, you come across several themes, and the best ones explore human nature on a universal level, and multiple books share the same idea. This is because every book aims to impact a reader’s mind, and writers give enough thought to curate themes, revealing the human condition. 

Here are 3 standard themes in literature, and also they are the types used in story theme

  • · Good vs evil
  • · Love
  • · Redemption

Good vs Evil

The most common and classic theme that you can find is the battle between the light and dark, good and bad, altruism and antagonisms. This theme is mainly seen when the story is about winning well over bad beyond biblical times. You can use these theme examples in books written by J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Harper Lees To Kill a Mockingbird. 

Moreover, the theme explores the external actions and dialogues of characters, or the characters face some internal struggle to make the right decisions when faced with temptations. 


The universal language of the world and is also universal when it comes to themes in literature. You can use a love theme to inspire people or a force that makes people sacrifice things for others. Love can be toxic, too, driving people to madness and instigating them to commit violence. There are different flavours of love, and the love theme includes the following:

  • Forbidden love
  • Family love
  • Unrequited love
  • Friendship


Another popular theme is redemption; it is mainly a sad theme that is about failures or tragedies. However, it doesn’t have to end sadly: in books, they use redemption as the central theme, characters notice the errors they made and strive to do the right thing. Thus, redemption stories are about a reformed character making a sacrifice for someone’s life or freedom. 

Story theme examples like A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and Les Miserables by Victor Hugo.

How to write a Theme for a Story?

When you are writing a story, you need to have a theme, and it is the foundation, so you must begin writing the theme as fast as possible otherwise, you cannot build the content around it. If you struggle to identify the theme for your story, you can consider the following tips on how to come up with a theme.

You need to ask yourself what aspect of the plot reoccurs in the story of the people, like what age, race, gender or walks of life?

  • Choose a theme that your readers can relate

You need to perform research and develop new ideas that can keep the readers hooked to the stories, and they can continue to think about a specific plot of your story. 

  • Begin with another story element

The story’s theme can be elevated with similar narratives, but few students can begin a good story with an impactful theme. Generally, authors start with another story element like a captivating location or setting, a witty character or entertaining character, a touching love story or an actual event. Then, the story is built from there. You can even develop the first draft without a clear theme, but it is best to avoid it because readers cannot make any sense. 

It would help if you created an outline so that the theme is present evenly in the story. You can make the theme part of the outline process; it is much easier to incorporate the theme while making the framework.

  • Blend your theme through the narrative

While you produce the content using words that best describe the scenes, ensure that the main character comes face to face with a situation the showcases the theme. If you use multiple storylines, check if every section of the narrative thread includes and highlights the theme. It is best if you can find different ways to have the theme in each storyline. 

There are several stories and book that does not have a single deep-rooted them. Instead, some writers choose to write a central idea, and they convey the message through it. Still, eventually, through the writing process, they uncover different themes that reflect the stories’ narratives. Of course, you can also perform the same thing and involve more than one theme in your book.

You must avoid thinking about how others have used themes in their stories, novels, other books. Some say a limited number of themes in fiction stories, but every story has a different way of presenting a theme. Even the universal themes can be presented differently depending on the context. You must use your imagination and weave your words through the theme and produce a captivating story.

Need help with writing themes? Check out our themes example in literature to learn about them

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