How to Write a Clear Theme Statement (with Examples)
Have you been asked to write a theme statement? It might seem easy at first glance, because theme statements are so short — one sentence, or two at most. Coming up with a solid theme statement requires careful analysis, however. Here’s how to write a strong theme statement for any work of art.
Theme Statement Basics
A theme is, in works of art, literature, film, and TV, the one overarching idea that defines the work. No matter the plot and the sub-themes explored in the work, the main theme will shine through in everything the work deals with. A theme statement is a short summary of that idea — a single sentence, or sometimes two, that lay the subject out for an audience.
Theme statements are helpful tools when analyzing a work. In the case of novels, movies, and TV shows, they can also be used to draw potential audience members in without spoiling the work — because (and this is important, so listen up!) a theme statement is not a plot summary, and should never mention specific plot points !
A good theme statement describes the essence of a work, but not its details. It describes the whole work, and not only one particular part of it.
Here’s one example:
In the Amazing Spider-Man 2, Marc Webb shows that with great power, there must not only come great responsibility, but also great sacrifice.
Theme statements are, however, to an extent open to interpretation. Works of art often have multiple themes, and you can write an accurate theme statement in a few different ways.
Theme Statement Vs. Theme Topic
If you find yourself needing to craft a theme statement, you may struggle with this question. How does a theme statement differ from a theme topic? Understanding the similarities and differences is quite easy, thankfully. Look at it like this:
- A theme topic simply describes the theme of the work — and although there are many, some common examples include “rags to riches”, “coming of age”, or “true love”.
- A theme statement, in contrast, is a complete sentence (or even two), with some additional information and an interpretation about the way in which the work (film, book, painting, poem…) deals with the theme topic.
As an example, “love conquers all” would be a theme topic. “The central theme in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar is that only love can prevail across space and time,” would be a theme statement.
How to Write a Theme Statement
Are you still lost? Are you no closer to writing a killer theme statement now than when you started reading? That’s where this step-by-step guide comes in. Warning: Penning a high-quality theme statement requires a deceptively large amount of work and creative power.
1. Explore the Work Thoroughly
Theme statements may be written about:
- Short stories
Your first step lies in interacting with the work — and to keep things simple, let’s say you’re writing a theme statement about a novel. Read the work thoroughly, cover-to-cover, at least once. It helps if you take notes as you read.
2. Make a List of the Theme Topics You Discover
As you read, you will inevitably discover that the book contains multiple sub-themes. Get yourself a nice notebook, or set up a Word document, and write down any theme topic you come across.
Which one bleeds through in the entire work? That will be the main theme. From the main challenge the protagonist faces and the way in which they overcome it, the interactions the characters have, the language used, and the way in which the setting is described, can you guess the author’s opinion on this central theme? Now you have a solid base to work with.
Reading the book closely, and asking yourself what message it’s sending, is the way to find a theme in a literary piece. That same process works for movies, TV shows, and short stories as well. Finding the theme in a painting or poem can be significantly more challenging, however.
3. Explore the Author’s Thoughts
The work you are interacting with, and are attempting to write a theme statement for, is of course the main place where you will be exploring the author’s thoughts on the book’s theme topic. It is not, on the other hand, your only possible source of information. Especially if you are writing a theme statement for a more recently-written book, you are highly likely to be able to find:
- Interviews in which the author shares their thoughts on the character’s main struggles and the ultimate meaning of the literary work.
- Social media blurbs on the topic.
- Don’t discount the synopsis on the back of the cover, either! You’ll often find a lot of good info there.
4. Use a Template or Theme Statement Generators
Congratulations! The book you are writing a theme statement for has now become, at the very least, an “acquaintance”, and maybe even a “friend”. You have immersed yourself in the book’s overarching theme, and you have intellectually analyzed the book, at least informally in your own mind.
Still not sure how to write a theme statement? You could look for theme statement templates or theme statement generators on the internet, and find some useful tools. You could also work with the following informal template:
The [film/book/poem/etc] [title], by [author] explores [main theme], showing that [main opinion or message about the theme].
Once you’re done filling in the blanks, get to work on rewriting that sentence to make it sound a lot more appealing.
You could start your sentence with:
- [Name of the work] masterfully explores how….
- The main theme of [Title] is that…
- [Name of author’s] work [Title] shows that…
Once you have penned a theme statement you wholly agree with, and you feel confident that it reflects the spirit of the work, you will only need to format it and incorporate it, where relevant, into a wider essay you are writing about the work.
Good Examples of Theme Statements
Are you still not certain that you are on the right track with your theme statement? It always helps to see some examples in action.
Theme Statements Exploring Family
The remake of the classic show Lost in Space sheds a new light on an age-old struggle — exploring each member’s individuality in relation to the family unit.
E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web illustrates that “family” is not necessarily the group one is born into, but a group that chooses to stick by one another unconditionally, no matter what struggles lie ahead.
Theme Statements Dealing with Friendship
Stranger Things is ultimately about the enduring power of friendship — which can, with the right dose of determination, overcome almost anything.
Spider-Man Far from Home deals with some of the hardest aspects of friendship, asking what lengths we are morally obliged to go to to protect those we love.
Theme Statements Discussing Love
Shakespeare explores the unstoppable force of love, regardless of obstacles, in Romeo and Juliet .
Pride and Prejudice leaves no stone unturned as it boldly discusses the ways in which budding love can change us forever.
Theme Statements About Death
They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera demonstrates the power of mortality itself, for it is the guaranteed ending that makes life worthwhile.
Henry Scott-Holland’s poem Death Is Nothing At All explores the transitory nature of life.
Theme Statements that Touch on Fear
In Heart of Darkness , Joseph Conrad shows that fear can be used to control — or to overcome.
Sony’s Into the Spider-Verse sheds a unique perspective on the universal emotion of fear, showing that our own insecurities often represent our most significant fetters.
Theme Statements about Identity
Good Will Hunting explores the universal themes of abandonment and identity, asking whether trusting others is possible after a lifetime of isolation and fear.
Frances Hodgson Burnett’s Secret Garden is a tale of lost souls who are found, and learn to trust themselves in the process.
The book Record of a Spaceborn Few , by Becky Chambers, shows that even the oldest of traditions must sooner or later bend to the harsh tides of history.
Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy grapples with the universal human challenge of injustice, showing that hope can be found in the darkest of places.
The Hate U Give , by Angie Thomas, is a coming-of-age story with a twist. When oppression is a daily reality, Thomas shows, love and unity are the only way forward.
5 Important Tips on Writing a Theme Statement
Are you ready to rock your own theme statement now? Yes — very nearly. Before you do go forward with your final version, you’ll want to make sure to stick to a few important dos and don’ts.
When you present a theme statement for a book, movie, TV series, or piece of poetry, see to it that your statement is:
- The best theme statements are the result of the hard work you did in interacting with (reading, watching) the work of art you are writing a theme statement for, and getting to know it intimately. Once you are familiar with the work, you can analyze it and present an authentic opinion on its main theme. Note that others may disagree with you. That is OK, as long as you sincerely believe that your position is correct and can defend it.
- Your opinions in writing your theme statement should flow directly from the literary or cinematic work you are analyzing; don’t bring your own baggage into the theme statement if the work does not explicitly tackle it.
As you pen your theme statement, make sure that you don’t:
- Offer specifics. This is both so that you can see the “trees for the forest”, so to speak, and identify the theme rather than the plot points, and so that you do not spoil the work for people who have not yet read it or seen it.
- Deal in cliches. It’s easy. You’ll even spot a few in the previous section. If your theme statement is important to you, however, try to toss your preconceived ideas aside and analyze the work’s important subject matter in a novel way.
- Don’t generalize in your theme statement. Love doesn’t “always triumph”, for instance.
As long as you keep these points in mind, and you have done the work you need to in analyzing your book, movie, or other piece of art, you will end up with a theme statement you can be proud of.
How to start a theme statement?
You can start a theme statement simply by discussing what work of art you are talking about — “in [this work] authored by [this person]…”, or “[Author’s] classic book, [title], shows that…”. Your readers want to know what you are talking about, after all. Take it from there.
How to write a theme statement essay?
After opening your essay with the theme statement, as you view it after careful analysis, you can discuss the main theme and related sub-themes explored within the work you are analyzing in detail. You may compare the work to other works that deal with similar themes, perhaps in entirely different settings, as well.
How to write a theme in a sentence?
If you follow the format of “who wrote this work”, “what’s the main underlying topic?”, and “why is that important?”, you will be able to summarize the theme of a literary or cinematic work in a single sentence. Remember that theme statements may have two sentences, though.
How to write a theme paragraph?
If you were asked to write an entire paragraph, simply explore the work’s theme topic in more depth. You should still avoid any specifics, including plot points or character analyses.
Can you find a theme through titles?
Titles can sometimes offer important clues about a work’s theme. This is not always the case, however. Some works of art have deceptively unrelated titles.
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What are some themes of identity?
- Identity is important.
- Belonging is important.
- How is identity formed?
- Identity influences belonging.
- Belonging influences identity.
- Identity changes.
- Identity and belonging contradict each other.
What is identify theme?
Identifying Theme. Theme is the main idea or underlying meaning of a work of literature. Examples of Identifying Theme: Theme should be stated as a complete sentence, rather than a one or two word answer.
What is identity in English literature?
The Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary (2017) defines identity as the set of personal characteristics in which an individual is known as a member of a group. Based on Hamilton (2016) explanation, identity is the collective aspect of characteristics which make a thing recognizable.
What is a literary identity?
They are unique entities, themselves possessing a sort of identity to which we, as readers, bring our own experiences and resultant identities, therewith interacting to produce a distinct and original product: our individual, respective interpretations of a text.
How is identity a theme?
The theme of identity is often expressed in books/novels or basically any other piece of literature so that the reader can intrigue themselves and relate to the characters and their emotions. … People can try to modify their identity as much as they want but that can never change.
Is identity crisis a theme?
Identity crisis is a term which is coined by the theorist Erikson and it refers to the self analysis that is conducted by a person about himself and also about the perception of himself. This is a theme which has been explored by various novelists at different points of time in world literature.
What is an example of a theme?
Examples of Theme Topics: Love, Justice/Injustice, Family, Struggle, the American Dream, Wealth, Inhumanity Examples of Themes: People risk their own identity to find love; Power corrupts humanity; Without empathy, there can be no justice.
What are the 5 Steps to Finding theme?
Identifying the Theme in Five Steps Summarize the plot by writing a one-sentence description for the exposition, the conflict, the rising action, the climax, the falling action, and the resolution.
What is the best definition of a theme?
noun. an idea or topic expanded in a discourse, discussion, etc. (in literature, music, art, etc) a unifying idea, image, or motif, repeated or developed throughout a work.
What is the main idea of identity?
Identity (self-views) relates to our basic values that determine the choices we make (e.g., relationships, career). The meaning of an identity includes expectations for self about how one should behave.
How does literature affect identity?
Literature doesn’t just make us smarter, however; it makes us us, shaping our consciences and our identities. Strong narratives  help us develop empathy. … individuals who frequently read fiction seem to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them, and see the world from their perspective 
What are the types of identities?
Multiple types of identity come together within an individual and can be broken down into the following: cultural identity, professional identity, ethnic and national identity, religious identity, gender identity, and disability identity.
Does literature play a role in identity formation?
With its true representation of life’s complicated moral choices, literature pulls us into a story, making us identify with the characters. It is in going through this process of imagination, of occupying the bodies, lives, and times of characters that identity is gradually shaped and formed.
What are common themes in literature?
Six common themes in literature are:
- Good vs. evil.
- Courage and perseverance.
- Coming of age.
What is the deeper meaning of identity?
The definition of identity is who you are, the way you think about yourself, the way you are viewed by the world and the characteristics that define you. An example of identity is a person’s name . An example of identity are the traditional characteristics of an American. noun.
What might identity thieves do with your identity?
An identity thief can use your name and information to: buy things with your credit cards. get new credit cards. open a phone, electricity, or gas account.
What is our self identity?
Self-identity is how you identify and define yourself. It is your perception of specific and selective traits, qualities, abilities, and characteristics that represent you. … You may not perceive or value some of the traits that make up your personal identity, so you do not incorporate them as part of your self-identity.
How do you write a theme statement?
Therefore, when creating a theme statement, it’s important to remember:
- Don’t mention specific books, names or events.
- Avoid clichs (for example, love makes the heart grow fonder).
- Do not summarize the work.
- Avoid absolute terms (for example, always, none).
- Don’t overgeneralize (for example, love is love).
What are the 4 identity statuses?
The four identity statuses are achieved, moratorium, foreclosed, and diffused.
Why do I struggle with my identity?
If you’re experiencing an identity crisis, you may be questioning your sense of self or identity. This can often occur due to big changes or stressors in life, or due to factors such as age or advancement from a certain stage (for example, school, work, or childhood).
What is identity crisis in English literature?
1 : personal psychosocial conflict especially in adolescence that involves confusion about one’s social role and often a sense of loss of continuity to one’s personality.
What are the 8 themes of art?
What is the 8 themes of painting? … What are the themes under the painting category?
- Conflict and Adversity.
- Freedom and Social Change.
- Heroes and Leaders.
- Humans and the Environment.
- Immigration and Migration.
- Industry, Invention, and Progress.
What are the two types of themes?
This is because there are two types of themes: major and minor themes.
How long is a theme?
Theme-is a long paper consisting of several paragraphs that are tied together in some way. Their length can be anywhere from 3-4-5 paragraphs or up to 50 pages. Prerequisite Skills- COPS strategy, sentence writing strategy (most types of sentences), and paragraph writing strategy.
What are the two key features of a theme?
A theme observes, weighs, and considers the actions of a character; theme avoids judging what a character should or should not do.
What are the elements of theme?
Theme: Idea, belief, moral, lesson or insight. It’s the central argument that the author is trying to make the reader understand.
What are the steps in analyzing a theme?
A 4-Step Plan for Finding Theme
- Read the story, and pay attention to the plot and story elements.
- Ask yourself What do people learn from reading this story? (That’s the theme!)
- Turn the theme into a question.
- Answer the question. The answers are the supporting details! (Which leads to citing evidence!)
What is a good sentence for theme?
A recurring theme in her work is the romance of the inexplicable. George To continue the theme of Healthy Eating why not make some herb flavored oil or vinegar to drizzle over your summer salads. The application of evolutionary principles is an emerging theme . The recurrent theme of the book is the politics of IT.
Can themes be one word?
A theme is a message or main idea that the writer wants the reader to remember after reading his/her work. Most stories, plays, novels, and poems have more than one theme. … A theme is not ONE WORD.
What is theme in your own words?
The definition of a theme is a topic, a recurring idea or a short melody. An example of theme is a lecture about environmental protection. … An example of theme is someone using the same color to decorate throughout their home.
Graduated from ENSAT (national agronomic school of Toulouse) in plant sciences in 2018, I pursued a CIFRE doctorate under contract with Sun’Agri and INRAE in Avignon between 2019 and 2022. My thesis aimed to study dynamic agrivoltaic systems, in my case in arboriculture. I love to write and share science related Stuff Here on my Website. I am currently continuing at Sun’Agri as an R&D engineer.
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- 1.0.1 Multiple identities
- 2 Belonging is important
- 3 How is identity formed?
- 4 Identity influences belonging
- 5 Belonging influences identity
- 6 Identity changes
- 7 Identity and belonging contradict each other
Identity and Belonging Themes and Ideas
“Exploring Issues of Identity and Belonging” is one of four contexts that students may study within the “creating and presenting” section of the VCAA English Study Design. There are four texts for Identity and Belonging, of which schools choose two:
- Skin directed by Anthony Fabian
- Summer of the Seventeenth Doll written by Ray Lawler
- The Mind of a Thief written by Patti Miller
- Wild Cat Falling written by Mudrooroo
The context of Identity and Belonging is broad and can be approached in a number of ways. This article covers some of the “big ideas” that students will need to understand to respond effectively to prompts.
Note that one of the greatest difficulties with this context is remembering that any question, whether it refers to both “identity” and “belonging” or only one, expects you to acknowledge both components regardless. For example, prompts that mention how either belonging or identity require sacrifices, does not relate to general sacrifices, but to those specific to the opposite concept.
Identity is important
How we behave and our ability to relate to things and people around us is based on our sense of identity. Even people who feel “lost” or are attempting to find themselves have an identity, albeit not a fully developed one.
While identity is heavily influenced by our childhoods it is important not to think of this as something static, but as something which shifts over time with our experiences and process of maturation.
Our identity may be seen to change in different contexts. For example, the person you represent yourself to be to your parents may be different than the one your friends or partner see. This may be a matter of “false” personalities to belong to more than one group, but it can also represent a distinct shift in how we present ourselves to others and perhaps correspondingly, think about our own identities. Whether or not the core of one’s identity remains the same despite these multiple representations of self is another point to be considered.
Belonging is important
In the same way that identity is important on its own, a sense of belonging is central to the human condition. The urge to belong is innate, stemming from our ancestry and is a source of safety and security. Even now, we are made more vulnerable by living separately from a group.
The groups we belong to change over time and this is important to our ability to grow and mature. Both the groups we associate with and the ones we idolize and are rejected from are significant forces on our lives.
How is identity formed?
There are many different factors that contribute to the development of our particular sense of self. Significant factors to consider include:
- Upbringing – how we were raised and by whom
- Past experiences
- Socio-economic group
- The groups we belong to
- The people we admire
Each of these factors can play a significant role in shaping how we think about ourselves and identify to others.
Identity influences belonging
Our senses of identity and belonging are entirely interlinked. Often, our sense of self dictates who we wish to associate with; such as people who share our values or beliefs. While there are some groups we cannot choose, such as our families and often communities, we can choose our friends and partners, allowing for our identity to exercise power over our sense of belonging.
Belonging influences identity
The relationship between identity and belonging goes both ways. The groups we belong to, or even those that we want to belong to but are rejected from, influence how we see ourselves. Some groups demand a level of conformity, and require us to sacrifice a part of our identity in order to belong. Furthermore, gaining a relationship with others may assist in shifting our beliefs and give us new experiences, which in turn influence our identity.
Perhaps even more obviously, all of us are born into a group to belong to (at least to some extent). Our families and communities are not chosen groups, but one that we inherently belong to from birth which influences our sense of identity from a young age.
Another point to consider is if it is the urge to belong or the actual process of belonging that influences identity. The desire to belong can encourage us to relinquish elements of our identity or to abandon other groups we had previously belonged to. On the other hand, belonging to a group can influence our identity by creating new experiences that are specific to those people.
There are many ways identity can change, or be seen to change. As we grow older, have more experiences and form new connections with others, our identity may shift.
As we grow older, we gain wisdom and new experiences that can influence the way we think about ourselves. Identity is not static, but shifts and transforms with us. This change in our internal world in turn influences the way we see the world around us. Children and adults do not often share perspectives because as we age we are more likely to approach a situation with cynicism, or with the knowledge gained by past experiences.
Identity and belonging contradict each other
Beyond suggestions that one concept or the other requires the sacrifice of the opposite, we must consider if identity and belonging are actually mutually incompatible ideas. Undeniably both of these senses alter how we experience the other, but they also place irreconcilable demands on our psyche. If we accept that identity is what makes us different and belonging is what makes us the same, then we acknowledge this basic contradiction. This contradiction is a tough one as both concepts are obviously important in our lives.
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Posted on Jun 30, 2021
12 Common Themes in Literature Everyone Must Know
By nature, literary themes are broad and universal. It’s no wonder, then, that certain themes come up again and again across the spectrum of literature, from novels and short stories to poetry and creative nonfiction . That’s not to say that works which share a common theme tackle it in the same way — indeed, the beauty of themes in literature is that they can be approached from multiple perspectives that offer different thematic statements (in other words opinions on said themes).
Here, we’ll be focusing on broader thematic concepts, with some examples of how themes are being used. Whether you’re looking to identify common themes or searching for the right kind of inspiration for your next writing project, this list is just what you need.
Like you might see anytime you turn on the news, power (or the desire for it) makes people do crazy things. This is naturally reflected in fiction. From dystopias (Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games trilogy, for example) to fantasy (like that other famous trilogy The Lord of the Rings , or that little-known series by George R. R. Martin called A Song of Ice and Fire ) and classics like George Orwell’s Animal Farm , the concept of power has fueled countless literary projects. Sometimes the focus is power’s corruptive abilities, sometimes it’s the exchange of power between oppressive states and individuals, sometimes it’s simply the power of dreams. Regardless, the element of power remains central.
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Family relationships and dynamics make for the most interesting and complex sources of conflict in literature . From intergenerational epics like Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko and Gabriel García Márquez’s 100 Years of Solitude to contemporary novels like Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves , books have always asked what the meaning of a family is, and will continue to highlight both the dysfunctional and wholesome relationships within them.
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Questions of identity and the labels that come with them are powerful animating forces in much of literature. From representing one’s ethnic or racial identity (Brit Bennet’s The Vanishing Half and Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake , for example) to gender identity (e.g. George by Alex Gino) and mental health diagnoses like in Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar , who we are is one of the fundamental questions we must face. For some writers, literature is a place to try and answer that question for themselves or the group they identify with; for others, it’s a place to dismiss the need for labels and embrace a self that exists at the intersections of various groups. This is also a theme connected to the way society impacts the way we perceive ourselves and others.
🏳️🌈 Check out some more book recommendations about queer identity over on our list of the best LGBT books !
Is there anything more writerly (or typically associated with writerliness, anyway) than the image of a lone, isolated scribe visible inside a lit window at night, typing away into the dark? Or (let’s face it) the loner in school, symbol of misfits all over? From the famous alienated high schoolers in The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Catcher in the Rye to more recent bestsellers like Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine , there’s no shortage of loners, isolated misfits, or content-to-be-alone introverts in literature. Whether the theme is used to show that human nature is inherently lonely, to criticize dependence, or to argue that loneliness is a societal privilege ( A Room of One’s Own -style), these are stories that never fail to be deeply affecting.
Friends, it’s often said, are the family we choose for ourselves — and the bonds we have with them are just as complex, potentially tense, or heart-warming as familial bonds. Childhood friends are often at the heart of children’s classics like The Secret Garden or Charlotte’s Web . In books for young readers, friendship is commonly praised for its selflessness and camaraderie. It remains a common theme for books that deal with young adulthood, coming-of-age narratives, and even later life, as titles like Teddy Wayne’s Apartment , Zadie Smith’s Swing Time , Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life and Carolina de Robertis’ Cantoras show. In such stories, friendship is also thematized for its absence, its tensions, shortfalls, and failings. No single friendship is the same, and the same is true of their literary representations.
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6. Free will vs. Fate
A common type of conflict as well as a literary theme, the friction between one’s ability to determine their own future and their externally determined fate can be found in many enduring classics, especially plays! From the ancient Greek play Oedipus Rex , Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus to beloved children’s series Harry Potter and Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore , the tension arising from the sense of external expectations and pressures and the notion of self-fulfilling prophecies is, ahem, fated to be a part of literature forever.
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Hope springs in the most unlikely places — and for books, that often means stories of loss, despair, or disaster. Memoirs of suffering or hardship, like Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air , tend to end on a note of hope, whereas stories about social issues like racism or climate change also tend to locate reasons for optimism. Examples here include Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give , Richard Powers’ The Overstory , and Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being .
📚 Our list of the best memoirs is sure to find you some more hopeful books to read.
* Sighs in lovestruck ❤️ * Ah, yes. Romance is yet another of those undying forces that has sustained works of literature since the beginning of time, and it’s not about to stop. From literary fiction and classics like Romeo and Juliet to YA heartwarmers like Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park and Casey McQuiston’s Red, White, and Royal Blue and epic historical fiction like Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander , romantic love (or the heartbreak resulting from the lack of it) lies at the center of books from more genres than just romance. Some authors use this theme to write delightfully comforting works that offer readers an escape from their routine, while others ask what it means to be dependent on another person, or observe the changing dynamics within a relationship. Whatever the overarching opinion, stories that focus on love promise to be deeply emotionally resonant.
From war poets like Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen who wrote about the toll of World War I to modern novels exploring its emotional and social consequences (e.g. Pat Barker’s Regeneration trilogy and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun ), violence and conflict works could constitute an entire genre of fiction in themselves.
Our childhood years might not necessarily define us, but they’re still pretty integral in terms of changing who we want to be. So whether it’s to look back at our childhoods with nostalgia, to acknowledge the bitter realizations that followed it, or to simply consider the point of view of a child, childhood keeps coming back as a prevalent theme in literature — and three examples that do just these things are Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, The Red Pony by John Steinbeck, and Room by Emma Donoghue.
11. Coming of age
Entering adulthood is another period that brings many changes, and so the time during which people come of age tends to be a common theme. In books as varied as Jane Austen’s Emma , Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex , and Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend , growing up, maturing, and coming into your own are thematized to show the uncertainty and empowerment that comes with this stage of life.
💡 Head to our list of the 70 best coming-of-age books for more examples!
12. Environment and climate change
Unfortunately, the planet is warming up. And as the planet’s temperature grows, so do concerns about our future as a species — which leads to an increased prevalence of the environment or climate change appearing as core themes in literature. Now that ecofiction and “cli-fi” are becoming more popular, books like Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior , John Lanchester’s The Wall , and Dr Seuss’s The Lorax will see their themes discussed more than ever.
Test your theme-detecting skills!
See if you can identify five themes from five questions. Takes 30 seconds!
We hope this list has been handy! Remember that your own book doesn’t need to tackle a new-found, unbelievably novel theme to have merit: as long as you approach a theme in a fresh way, it’s completely natural for others to have discussed it before you.
If you're a writer who wants to start working themes into your stories, be sure to check out the final section of this guide.
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Identity encompasses the memories, experiences, relationships, and values that create one’s sense of self. This amalgamation creates a steady sense of who one is over time, even as new facets are developed and incorporated into one's identity.
- What Is Identity?
- How to Be Authentic
- Theories of Identity
Everyone struggles with existential questions such as, “Who am I?” and “Who do I want my future self to be?” One reason why may be that the answer is so complex.
Identity includes the many relationships people cultivate, such as their identity as a child, friend, partner, and parent. It involves external characteristics over which a person has little or no control, such as height, race, or socioeconomic class. Identity also encompasses political opinions, moral attitudes, and religious beliefs, all of which guide the choices one makes on a daily basis.
People who are overly concerned with the impression they make, or who feel a core aspect of themselves, such as gender or sexuality , is not being expressed, can struggle acutely with their identity. Reflecting on the discrepancy between who one is and who one wants to be can be a powerful catalyst for change.
Identity encompasses the values people hold, which dictate the choices they make. An identity contains multiple roles—such as a mother, teacher, and U.S. citizen—and each role holds meaning and expectations that are internalized into one’s identity. Identity continues to evolve over the course of an individual’s life.
Identity formation involves three key tasks: Discovering and developing one’s potential, choosing one’s purpose in life, and finding opportunities to exercise that potential and purpose. Identity is also influenced by parents and peers during childhood and experimentation in adolescence .
Every individual has a goal of nurturing values and making choices that are consistent with their true self. Some internalize the values of their families or culture, even though they don’t align with their authentic self. This conflict can drive dissatisfaction and uncertainty. Reflecting on one’s values can spark change and a more fulfilling life.
The idea of an identity crisis emerged from psychologist Erik Erikson, who delineated eight stages of crises and development, a concept later expanded upon by others. Although not a clinical term, an identity crisis refers to facing a challenge to one’s sense of self, which may center around politics , religion, career choices, or gender roles.
Adolescence is a time in which children develop an authentic sense of self, distinct from their parents, in order to become an independent adult. Experimentation is an important part of the process: As teens try on different identities—in terms of friends, hobbies, appearance, gender, and sexuality—they come to understand who they are and who they want to be.
Features of identity can highlight similarities or differences between people—through race, gender, or profession—which can function to either unite or divide. People who view themselves as members of a larger overarching group tend to have stronger kinship with other people, animals, and nature.
A hunger for authenticity guides us in every age and aspect of life. It drives our explorations of work, relationships, play, and prayer. Teens and twentysomethings try out friends, fashions, hobbies, jobs, lovers, locations, and living arrangements to see what fits and what's "just not me." Midlifers deepen commitments to career, community, faith, and family that match their self-images, or feel trapped in existences that seem not their own. Elders regard life choices with regret or satisfaction based largely on whether they were "true" to themselves.
Authenticity is also a cornerstone of mental health. It’s correlated with many aspects of psychological well-being, including vitality, self-esteem , and coping skills. Acting in accordance with one's core self—a trait called self-determination—is ranked by some experts as one of three basic psychological needs, along with competence and a sense of relatedness.
Everyone subconsciously internalizes conventions and expectations that dictate how they believe they should think or behave. The decision to examine or challenge those assumptions, even though it’s difficult, is the first step to living more authentically. This set of 20 steps can guide you through that process.
There can be tension between being wholly yourself and operating successfully in your relationships and career. No one should be completely deceitful or completely forthright; a guiding principle to achieve a balance is that as long as you’re not forced to act in opposition to your values or personality , a little self-monitoring can be warranted.
Relationships can come under threat when there’s a disconnect between expressing yourself freely and taking your partner’s feelings into account. The Authenticity in Relationships scale —which measures this construct through statements such as “I am fully aware of when to insist on myself and when to compromise”—can initiate discussion and help couples cultivate a healthy balance.
As so much of the world has shifted online, discrepancies have emerged between one’s virtual self and real self. People may cultivate their online avatar more and more carefully over time, and the virtual self can influence the perception of the real self. Therefore, it can be valuable to reflect on whether the virtual self is really authentic .
One of the most enduring theories of development was proposed by psychologist Erik Erikson. Erikson divided the lifecycle into eight stages that each contained a conflict, with the resolution of those conflicts leading to the development of personality. The conflict that occurs during adolescence, Erikson believed, is “identity versus role confusion.”
Adolescents grapple with so many different aspects of identity, from choosing a career path to cultivating moral and political beliefs to becoming a friend or partner. Role confusion pertains to the inability to commit to one path. Adolescents then go through a period of experimentation before committing, reconciling the pieces of their identity, and emerging into adulthood.
Identity formation is most acute during adolescence, but the process doesn’t stop after the teen years. Taking on a new role, such as becoming a parent, can make self-definition a lifelong process.
As a person grows older, the overall trend is toward identity achievement. But major life upheavals, such as divorce , retirement , or the death of a loved one, often lead people to explore and redefine their identities.
According to Freud’s psychoanalytic framework, the mind was composed of the id, driven by instinct and desire, the superego, driven by morality and values, and the ego which moderates the two and creates one’s identity. Many features contribute to ego functioning, including insight, agency, empathy, and purpose.
Erik Erikson’s proposed a theory of development based on different stages of life. He also coined the term “ego identity,” which he conceived as an enduring and continuous sense of who a person is. The ego identity helps to merge all the different versions of oneself (the parent self, the career self, the sexual self) into one cohesive whole, so that if disaster strikes, there's a stable sense of self.
Social psychologist Henri Tajfel conducted pioneering research on prejudice , revealing that people favor those in their own groups, even when those groups are designated randomly, such as by people’s preferences for artwork. This research was the basis for Social Identity Theory—that self-esteem is in part derived from group membership, which provides pride and social identity.
Recent research on Yemeni immigrants suggests that some aspire to become American citizens by any means necessary but may be unaware of the challenges that will remain.
Distinguishing between "mundane" and "groupish" beliefs clarifies myriad confusions surrounding the puzzle of religious rationality.
The unexamined life is not worth living, and the unlived life is not worth examining. Both living and examining life can benefit from reflecting on our possible selves.
LGBTQ+ individuals often have complex and diverse connections with religion and spirituality, even in the face of structural stigma and prejudice rooted in religious beliefs.
A Personal Perspective: You can feel normal again and reconnect with others after a psychotic break—and even form new friendships.
In 1807 at age 32, Edgar Allan Poe eerily and accurately portrayed dissociative fugue in his narrative poem, "Ulalume: A Ballad."
Joy from our feelings, our social environments, our reflections and our senses are always present and available if we allow it to flourish.
Terms like "silver tsunami" and "geriatric" conjure images of people who are feeble and dependent, but aging is not a disaster to be feared.
As an adult with ADHD, do you feel like your experience is dismissed? The stories of these adults may validate what you're feeling.
If you're feeling anxious about retirement, there are a few things you can do to manage your fears.
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The people around us have a stronger influence on our decisions and actions than we realize. Here’s what research reveals about our networks’ gravitational force.
- Coronavirus Disease 2019
- Affective Forecasting
- 3.1 Identity and Expression
- 1 Unit Introduction
- 1.1 "Reading" to Understand and Respond
- 1.2 Social Media Trailblazer: Selena Gomez
- 1.3 Glance at Critical Response: Rhetoric and Critical Thinking
- 1.4 Annotated Student Sample: Social Media Post and Responses on Voter Suppression
- 1.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About a “Text”
- 1.6 Evaluation: Intention vs. Execution
- 1.7 Spotlight on … Academia
- 1.8 Portfolio: Tracing Writing Development
- Further Reading
- Works Cited
- 2.1 Seeds of Self
- 2.2 Identity Trailblazer: Cathy Park Hong
- 2.3 Glance at the Issues: Oppression and Reclamation
- 2.4 Annotated Sample Reading from The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. Du Bois
- 2.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically about How Identity Is Constructed Through Writing
- 2.6 Evaluation: Antiracism and Inclusivity
- 2.7 Spotlight on … Variations of English
- 2.8 Portfolio: Decolonizing Self
- 3.2 Literacy Narrative Trailblazer: Tara Westover
- 3.3 Glance at Genre: The Literacy Narrative
- 3.4 Annotated Sample Reading: from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
- 3.5 Writing Process: Tracing the Beginnings of Literacy
- 3.6 Editing Focus: Sentence Structure
- 3.7 Evaluation: Self-Evaluating
- 3.8 Spotlight on … The Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives (DALN)
- 3.9 Portfolio: A Literacy Artifact
- Works Consulted
- 2 Unit Introduction
- 4.1 Exploring the Past to Understand the Present
- 4.2 Memoir Trailblazer: Ta-Nehisi Coates
- 4.3 Glance at Genre: Conflict, Detail, and Revelation
- 4.4 Annotated Sample Reading: from Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain
- 4.5 Writing Process: Making the Personal Public
- 4.6 Editing Focus: More on Characterization and Point of View
- 4.7 Evaluation: Structure and Organization
- 4.8 Spotlight on … Multilingual Writers
- 4.9 Portfolio: Filtered Memories
- 5.1 Profiles as Inspiration
- 5.2 Profile Trailblazer: Veronica Chambers
- 5.3 Glance at Genre: Subject, Angle, Background, and Description
- 5.4 Annotated Sample Reading: “Remembering John Lewis” by Carla D. Hayden
- 5.5 Writing Process: Focusing on the Angle of Your Subject
- 5.6 Editing Focus: Verb Tense Consistency
- 5.7 Evaluation: Text as Personal Introduction
- 5.8 Spotlight on … Profiling a Cultural Artifact
- 5.9 Portfolio: Subject as a Reflection of Self
- 6.1 Proposing Change: Thinking Critically About Problems and Solutions
- 6.2 Proposal Trailblazer: Atul Gawande
- 6.3 Glance at Genre: Features of Proposals
- 6.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Slowing Climate Change” by Shawn Krukowski
- 6.5 Writing Process: Creating a Proposal
- 6.6 Editing Focus: Subject-Verb Agreement
- 6.7 Evaluation: Conventions, Clarity, and Coherence
- 6.8 Spotlight on … Technical Writing as a Career
- 6.9 Portfolio: Reflecting on Problems and Solutions
- 7.1 Thumbs Up or Down?
- 7.2 Review Trailblazer: Michiko Kakutani
- 7.3 Glance at Genre: Criteria, Evidence, Evaluation
- 7.4 Annotated Student Sample: "Black Representation in Film" by Caelia Marshall
- 7.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About Entertainment
- 7.6 Editing Focus: Quotations
- 7.7 Evaluation: Effect on Audience
- 7.8 Spotlight on … Language and Culture
- 7.9 Portfolio: What the Arts Say About You
- 8.1 Information and Critical Thinking
- 8.2 Analytical Report Trailblazer: Barbara Ehrenreich
- 8.3 Glance at Genre: Informal and Formal Analytical Reports
- 8.4 Annotated Student Sample: "U.S. Response to COVID-19" by Trevor Garcia
- 8.5 Writing Process: Creating an Analytical Report
- 8.6 Editing Focus: Commas with Nonessential and Essential Information
- 8.7 Evaluation: Reviewing the Final Draft
- 8.8 Spotlight on … Discipline-Specific and Technical Language
- 8.9 Portfolio: Evidence and Objectivity
- 9.1 Breaking the Whole into Its Parts
- 9.2 Rhetorical Analysis Trailblazer: Jamil Smith
- 9.3 Glance at Genre: Rhetorical Strategies
- 9.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Rhetorical Analysis: Evicted by Matthew Desmond” by Eliana Evans
- 9.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically about Rhetoric
- 9.6 Editing Focus: Mixed Sentence Constructions
- 9.7 Evaluation: Rhetorical Analysis
- 9.8 Spotlight on … Business and Law
- 9.9 Portfolio: How Thinking Critically about Rhetoric Affects Intellectual Growth
- 10.1 Making a Case: Defining a Position Argument
- 10.2 Position Argument Trailblazer: Charles Blow
- 10.3 Glance at Genre: Thesis, Reasoning, and Evidence
- 10.4 Annotated Sample Reading: "Remarks at the University of Michigan" by Lyndon B. Johnson
- 10.5 Writing Process: Creating a Position Argument
- 10.6 Editing Focus: Paragraphs and Transitions
- 10.7 Evaluation: Varied Appeals
- 10.8 Spotlight on … Citation
- 10.9 Portfolio: Growth in the Development of Argument
- 11.1 Developing Your Sense of Logic
- 11.2 Reasoning Trailblazer: Paul D. N. Hebert
- 11.3 Glance at Genre: Reasoning Strategies and Signal Words
- 11.4 Annotated Sample Reading: from Book VII of The Republic by Plato
- 11.5 Writing Process: Reasoning Supported by Evidence
- 12.1 Introducing Research and Research Evidence
- 12.2 Argumentative Research Trailblazer: Samin Nosrat
- 12.3 Glance at Genre: Introducing Research as Evidence
- 12.4 Annotated Student Sample: "Healthy Diets from Sustainable Sources Can Save the Earth" by Lily Tran
- 12.5 Writing Process: Integrating Research
- 12.6 Editing Focus: Integrating Sources and Quotations
- 12.7 Evaluation: Effectiveness of Research Paper
- 12.8 Spotlight on … Bias in Language and Research
- 12.9 Portfolio: Why Facts Matter in Research Argumentation
- 13.1 The Research Process: Where to Look for Existing Sources
- 13.2 The Research Process: How to Create Sources
- 13.3 Glance at the Research Process: Key Skills
- 13.4 Annotated Student Sample: Research Log
- 13.5 Research Process: Making Notes, Synthesizing Information, and Keeping a Research Log
- 13.6 Spotlight on … Ethical Research
- 14.1 Compiling Sources for an Annotated Bibliography
- 14.2 Glance at Form: Citation Style, Purpose, and Formatting
- 14.3 Annotated Student Sample: “Healthy Diets from Sustainable Sources Can Save the Earth” by Lily Tran
- 14.4 Writing Process: Informing and Analyzing
- 15.1 Tracing a Broad Issue in the Individual
- 15.2 Case Study Trailblazer: Vilayanur S. Ramachandran
- 15.3 Glance at Genre: Observation, Description, and Analysis
- 15.4 Annotated Sample Reading: Case Study on Louis Victor "Tan" Leborgne
- 15.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About How People and Language Interact
- 15.6 Editing Focus: Words Often Confused
- 15.7 Evaluation: Presentation and Analysis of Case Study
- 15.8 Spotlight on … Applied Linguistics
- 15.9 Portfolio: Your Own Uses of Language
- 3 Unit Introduction
- 16.1 An Author’s Choices: What Text Says and How It Says It
- 16.2 Textual Analysis Trailblazer: bell hooks
- 16.3 Glance at Genre: Print or Textual Analysis
- 16.4 Annotated Student Sample: "Artists at Work" by Gwyn Garrison
- 16.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About Text
- 16.6 Editing Focus: Literary Works Live in the Present
- 16.7 Evaluation: Self-Directed Assessment
- 16.8 Spotlight on … Humanities
- 16.9 Portfolio: The Academic and the Personal
- 17.1 “Reading” Images
- 17.2 Image Trailblazer: Sara Ludy
- 17.3 Glance at Genre: Relationship Between Image and Rhetoric
- 17.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Hints of the Homoerotic” by Leo Davis
- 17.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically and Writing Persuasively About Images
- 17.6 Editing Focus: Descriptive Diction
- 17.7 Evaluation: Relationship Between Analysis and Image
- 17.8 Spotlight on … Video and Film
- 17.9 Portfolio: Interplay Between Text and Image
- 18.1 Mixing Genres and Modes
- 18.2 Multimodal Trailblazer: Torika Bolatagici
- 18.3 Glance at Genre: Genre, Audience, Purpose, Organization
- 18.4 Annotated Sample Reading: “Celebrating a Win-Win” by Alexandra Dapolito Dunn
- 18.5 Writing Process: Create a Multimodal Advocacy Project
- 18.6 Evaluation: Transitions
- 18.7 Spotlight on . . . Technology
- 18.8 Portfolio: Multimodalism
- 19.1 Writing, Speaking, and Activism
- 19.2 Podcast Trailblazer: Alice Wong
- 19.3 Glance at Genre: Language Performance and Visuals
- 19.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Are New DOT Regulations Discriminatory?” by Zain A. Kumar
- 19.5 Writing Process: Writing to Speak
- 19.6 Evaluation: Bridging Writing and Speaking
- 19.7 Spotlight on … Delivery/Public Speaking
- 19.8 Portfolio: Everyday Rhetoric, Rhetoric Every Day
- 20.1 Thinking Critically about Your Semester
- 20.2 Reflection Trailblazer: Sandra Cisneros
- 20.3 Glance at Genre: Purpose and Structure
- 20.4 Annotated Sample Reading: “Don’t Expect Congrats” by Dale Trumbore
- 20.5 Writing Process: Looking Back, Looking Forward
- 20.6 Editing Focus: Pronouns
- 20.7 Evaluation: Evaluating Self-Reflection
- 20.8 Spotlight on … Pronouns in Context
By the end of this section, you will be able to:
- Use reading and composing for inquiry, learning, critical thinking, and communicating.
- Discern the nature of identity in various rhetorical and cultural contexts.
You likely express your identity , or ideas about who you are, through language. The language you use also signals the ways in which you are rooted in specific culture , or groups of people who share common beliefs and lived experiences. Because the ways in which people speak and write are closely intertwined with their self-images and community affiliations, you can think, communicate, and interact most freely with others by using your personal idiolect —that is, your individual way of speaking and writing—which is based in cultural language use. This section examines a few myths about language use and explores some productive ways to think about language and communication.
Language and Identity
As members of different communities, most Americans speak and write in a number of English varieties without even thinking about doing so. Like others, you generally speak differently with friends than you do with elders. You usually use different types of language when texting on your phone than when writing a professional email. As you make these communication choices based on different settings and audiences, you signal your identity and culture through word choice, sentence structure, and use of language in specific situations. For example, when speaking with friends, you may engage in wordplay to show identification with the group. On the other hand, you may speak with respect to elders to show an identity as a well-mannered younger relative, and you may use a standard email format to show a professional identity. If you speak other languages, you may find yourself freely switching between English and those other languages when conversing with people who share the same linguistic abilities; these shifts from one language to another showcase your identity as a multilingual person. As author Gloria Anzaldúa (1942–2004) writes in Borderlands / La Frontera , “I will no longer be made to feel ashamed of existing. I will have my voice: Indian, Spanish, white” (59).
Every time you communicate, you signal some aspect of your identity. In the same way that everyone has multiple, intersecting identities, everyone has multiple ways of expressing themselves through language. As members of a multiethnic, multicultural society, everyone should recognize and respect these personal ways of communicating, which are integral to a shared human experience.
Expressing Identity in Writing
Even though individuals speak and write effectively using different varieties of English, many people nevertheless believe that one standard, “proper” English variety exists and that this “correct” way of speaking and writing should be used universally in all settings. This viewpoint considers varieties of English outside the imagined norm to be “wrong,” “bad,” or “substandard.” For example, speakers of some southern U.S. English varieties are often judged as “poor” or “unintelligent.” Similarly, people who speak English with the accent of another language may be incorrectly assumed to be illiterate. If you speak and write using one of those undervalued English varieties, others may have judged you for your language use or told you that your writing is “wrong.” Even without such judgment, you may have felt apprehensive when sharing your writing with others; you may still fear a harsh assessment, or you may feel vulnerable when others read your compositions.
The truth is that people speak and write in different ways for different rhetorical situation , or instances of communication. People in different communities and professions employ distinct kinds of English. You already use different varieties of English in different parts of your life; as you progress through college and into your career, you will learn the language expectations for the rhetorical situations you will encounter in those spaces. In learning these expectations, you will gain new identities. For example, you may become someone who knows how to write an exemplary lab report, you could develop an identity as an emerging researcher in any number of fields, or you may simply become someone who is comfortable letting other people read your writing. These new linguistic identities do not need to replace language use in other areas of your life. For instance, you should not feel the need to use a different form of grammar or punctuation in your social media posts. You should feel comfortable using your familiar English varieties in familiar rhetorical situations while, if needed, using new varieties of English you may learn in the new rhetorical situations you encounter. Additionally, you can and should seek out opportunities to use your familiar, nonacademic English varieties in academic and professional settings when you feel it is appropriate and aligns with the expectations of your instructor or employer.
Because people write in many different settings for many reasons, no particular English variety is appropriate for all writing tasks. As you become more familiar with the different ways English is used in different settings and communities, you can choose which variety to draw on in each rhetorical situation. You also may choose whether to meet or to disrupt the expectations of the people you are communicating with. In making these choices, you will rely on your existing literacies as well as newly learned ones.
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- Authors: Michelle Bachelor Robinson, Maria Jerskey, featuring Toby Fulwiler
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- Publication date: Dec 21, 2021
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Never struggle with Show-and-Tell again. Activate your free trial or subscribe to view the Theme And Symbolism Thesaurus in its entirety, or visit the Table of Contents to explore unlocked entries.
Thematic statements that may apply to your story:, lies (anti-thematic statements) your character might believe:, character traits to support or challenge the theme:, wounds that may shape a character's perspective:, creative works that explore this theme:, natural symbols for this theme:, human & societal symbols for this theme:.
How to write a theme statement
When you get done with a reading assignment for school, usually an essay, novel, or short story, you'll sometimes be asked to write a theme statement.
The definition of a theme statement can vary, but essentially it's asking you to state what the piece of writing was about — not the plot, but what sort of insight or perspective does it give on life/the world/human nature?
Theme is also sometimes known as the "main idea" of a story.
But how do you find the theme of a story? And how do you write a theme statement?
To write a theme statement, follow these 3 steps:
- Pick the main topic addressed in the story
- Pinpoint the author's view on the topic
- Format that perspective using a theme statement template
Let's dive a little deeper:
Finding the theme of a story using topics
After you're finished reading the book, story, or essay (you did read it, right?!), think back on the main character or characters.
Did they undergo some kind of change throughout the journey? Did their outlook on life evolve in some way?
That's usually a pretty good place to start looking for the theme.
For example, maybe the story deals with the broad topic of "love." Well "love" by itself isn't a theme, but a specific perspective on love could be.
Try this exercise once you've found your topic. Fill in the blank:
"This author believes _____ about (topic)."
In our example about love, maybe the story's about how love conquers all. Or maybe it's about how love is fleeting and fickle.
Your theme at this point might look something like this:
"The author believes that true love doesn't really exist."
(A little dark, but hey, it's just an example!)
Using a theme statement template
Every teacher or instructor is going to have their own way of wanting you to present your theme statement, so be sure to get clarity on that directly from them.
That said, there are some agreed upon "rules" of writing theme statements.
- Don't include specific characters or plot points. This perspective on life should apply to people and situations outside the story.
- Don't be obvious. "War is bad," is not a theme. Dig a little deeper using details from the story. (What specifically is bad about war? How does it negatively impact the characters or the world of the story?)
- Don't make it advicey. "You should always be there for your family," isn't a theme, it's a suggestion. Keep your theme statement objective and based solely on evidence from the story ("The bond between family can overcome any obstacle.")
- Don't use cliches. "Once a cheater, always a cheater," or "Actions speak louder than words," aren't themes. They're just expressions people use all the time and have very little power or real insight.
Here is a general template you can use based on what we learned above:
"The central theme of (piece of writing) is (author's position on topic) ."
Alternatively, you could try: "In (piece of writing), (author) presents the idea that (position on topic)."
You may also be asked to use supporting details from the story to back up your theme statement. In that case, your full theme statement might look something like this:
"The central theme of (piece of writing) is (author's position on topic). When (event from the story) happens, it results in (blank), which demonstrates (some element of the theme)."
You're going to have to tweak and adjust this based on how much detail the assignment calls for and which examples from the text you choose to use, but it should be a good starting point!
Theme statement examples
OK, so what does it look like in action?
Here are some example theme statements from stories you're probably already familiar with (I'm doing these mostly to demonstrate how to use the template. I hope you'll put a lot of thought into your own theme statements and play around with different ideas before committing to one) :
In 'The Dark Knight Rises', Christopher Nolan presents the idea that true heroism requires complete and utter selflessness.
The central theme of 'Finding Nemo' is that fear is sometimes more dangerous than danger itself.
In 'Romeo and Juliet', Shakespeare presents the idea that love is more powerful than hate.
Hope this helps! And good luck!
Questions? Let me know in the comments.
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Why Identity Matters and How It Shapes Us
Sanjana is a health writer and editor. Her work spans various health-related topics, including mental health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness.
Dr. Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD, is a licensed clinical psychologist and a professor at Yeshiva University’s clinical psychology doctoral program.
Verywell / Zoe Hansen
- What Makes Up a Person's Identity?
Identity Development Across the Lifespan
The importance of identity, tips for reflecting on your identity.
Your identity is a set of physical, mental, emotional, social, and interpersonal characteristics that are unique to you.
It encapsulates your core personal values and your beliefs about the world, says Asfia Qaadir , DO, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at PrairieCare.
In this article, we explore the concept of identity, its importance, factors that contribute to its development , and some strategies that can help you reflect upon your identity.
Your identity gives you your sense of self. It is a set of traits that distinguishes you from other people, because while you might have some things in common with others, no one else has the exact same combination of traits as you.
Your identity also gives you a sense of continuity, i.e. the feeling that you are the same person you were two years ago and you will be the same person two days from now.
Asfia Qaadir, DO, Psychiatrist
Your identity plays an important role in how you treat others and how you carry yourself in the world.
What Makes Up a Person's Identity?
These are some of the factors that can contribute to your identity:
- Physical appearance
- Physical sensations
- Emotional traits
- Life experiences
- Health conditions
- Social community
- Peer group
- Political environment
We all have layers and dimensions that contribute to who we are and how we express our identity.
All of these factors interact together and influence you in unique and complex ways, shaping who you are. Identity formation is a subjective and deeply personal experience.
Identity development is a lifelong process that begins in childhood, starts to solidify in adolescence, and continues through adulthood.
Childhood is when we first start to develop a self-concept and form an identity.
As children, we are highly dependent on our families for our physical and emotional needs. Our early interactions with family members play a critical role in the formation of our identities.
During this stage, we learn about our families and communities, and what values are important to them, says Dr. Qaadir.
The information and values we absorb in childhood are like little seeds that are planted years before we can really intentionally reflect upon them as adults, says Dr. Qaadir.
Traumatic or abusive experiences during childhood can disrupt identity formation and have lasting effects on the psyche.
Adolescence is a critical period of identity formation.
As teenagers, we start to intentionally develop a sense of self based on how the values we’re learning show up in our relationships with ourselves, our friends, family members, and in different scenarios that challenge us, Dr. Qaadir explains.
Adolescence is a time of discovering ourselves, learning to express ourselves, figuring out where we fit in socially (and where we don’t), developing relationships, and pursuing interests, says Dr. Qaadir.
This is the period where we start to become independent and form life goals. It can also be a period of storm and stress , as we experience mood disruptions, challenge authority figures, and take risks as we try to work out who we are.
As adults, we begin building our public or professional identities and deepen our personal relationships, says Dr. Qaadir.
These stages are not set in stone, rather they are fluid, and we get the rest of our lives to continue experiencing life and evolving our identities, says Dr. Qaadir.
Having a strong sense of identity is important because it:
- Creates self-awareness: A strong sense of identity can give you a deep sense of awareness of who you are as a person. It can help you understand your likes, dislikes, actions, motivations, and relationships.
- Provides direction and motivation: Having a strong sense of identity can give you a clear understanding of your values and interests, which can help provide clarity, direction, and motivation when it comes to setting goals and working toward them.
- Enables healthy relationships: When you know and accept yourself, you can form meaningful connections with people who appreciate and respect you for who you are. A strong sense of identity also helps you communicate effectively, establish healthy boundaries, and engage in authentic and fulfilling interactions.
- Keeps you grounded: Our identities give us roots when things around us feel chaotic or uncertain, says Dr. Qaadir. “Our roots keep us grounded and help us remember what truly matters at the end of the day.”
- Improves decision-making: Understanding yourself well can help you make choices that are consistent with your values, beliefs, and long-term goals. This clarity reduces confusion, indecision, and the tendency to conform to others' expectations, which may lead to poor decision-making .
- Fosters community participation: Identity is often shaped by cultural, social, political, spiritual, and historical contexts. Having a strong sense of identity allows you to understand, appreciate, and take pride in your cultural heritage. This can empower you to participate actively in society, express your unique perspective, and contribute to positive societal change.
On the other hand, a weak sense of identity can make it more difficult to ground yourself emotionally in times of stress and more confusing when you’re trying to navigate major life decisions, says Dr. Qaadir.
Dr. Qaadir suggests some strategies that can help you reflect on your identity:
- Art: Art is an incredible medium that can help you process and reflect on your identity. It can help you express yourself in creative and unique ways.
- Reading: Reading peoples’ stories through narrative is an excellent way to broaden your horizons, determine how you feel about the world around you, and reflect on your place in it.
- Journaling: Journaling can also be very useful for self-reflection . It can help you understand your feelings and motivations better.
- Conversation: Conversations with people can expose you to diverse perspectives, and help you form and represent your own.
- Nature: Being in nature can give you a chance to reflect undisturbed. Spending time in nature often has a way of putting things in perspective.
- Relationships: You can especially strengthen your sense of identity through the relationships around you. It is valuable to surround yourself with people who reflect your core values but may be different from you in other aspects of identity such as personality styles, cultural backgrounds, passions, professions, or spiritual paths because that provides perspective and learning from others.
American Psychological Association. Identity .
Pfeifer JH, Berkman ET. The development of self and identity in adolescence: neural evidence and implications for a value-based choice perspective on motivated behavior . Child Dev Perspect . 2018;12(3):158-164. doi:10.1111/cdep.12279
Hasanah U, Susanti H, Panjaitan RU. Family experience in facilitating adolescents during self-identity development . BMC Nurs . 2019;18(Suppl 1):35. doi:10.1186/s12912-019-0358-7
Dereboy Ç, Şahin Demirkapı E, et al. The relationship between childhood traumas, identity development, difficulties in emotion regulation and psychopathology . Turk Psikiyatri Derg . 2018;29(4):269-278.
Branje S, de Moor EL, Spitzer J, Becht AI. Dynamics of identity development in adolescence: a decade in review . J Res Adolesc . 2021;31(4):908-927. doi:10.1111/jora.12678
Stirrups R. The storm and stress in the adolescent brain . The Lancet Neurology . 2018;17(5):404. doi:10.1016/S1474-4422(18)30112-1
Fitzgerald A. Professional identity: A concept analysis . Nurs Forum . 2020;55(3):447-472. doi:10.1111/nuf.12450
National Institute of Standards and Technology. Identity .
By Sanjana Gupta Sanjana is a health writer and editor. Her work spans various health-related topics, including mental health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness.
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50 Theme Statement Examples
Thematic statements are common in literary work. Writers use them to express their attitude towards the theme of their work or their intention in writing the particular literary piece.
Authors employ thematic statements to address readers and establish themselves as experts on the subject matter. They do this by sharing their knowledge, revealing their opinions concerning the theme.
What is a Theme Statement?
A theme statement is a sentence that reveals the general idea of the content as it is written and presented on paper. A good thematic statement is often an idea that can be condensed into one sentence or a generalization based on the entire content.
Why are Theme Statements Important?
- A theme statement helps readers focus on the main idea. Readers can then get an insight into what they are about to read, avoid being distracted by side issues, and stay on track.
- Thematic statements can be used by anyone who wants to make a point about what they are expressing. Teachers, business professionals, or students can use them to describe a project they have been assigned to do.
- A writer’s thematic statement is a reflection of their attitude towards the topic. It’s used to show what perspective they are using in writing about it.
- A good theme statement can be used to remind a writer of the project they have to do. It also acts as a guide that can help readers stay on track with what they are reading.
50 Thematic Statement Examples
The following are ten categories of theme statements with five examples for each category:
Theme statements about death
Theme statements about love, theme statements about change, theme statements about life, theme statements about nature, theme statements about friendships, theme statements about faith, theme statements about character, theme statements about parenting, theme statements about failure, steps for writing a great theme statement.
Remember that a theme statement is the essence of what you are trying to say about your subject. There are no rules or guidelines for writing one, but the steps below will get you there:
Consider several theme topics
Before deciding the most suited theme statement, you must have a list of options to choose from. Make sure you have a good understanding of the most important topics. Brainstorm as many ideas as possible
You’re not limited to a few sentences. Write as many as you can think of, then choose those that resonate with you most and discard those that don’t.
Analyze the options
Read through all your brainstormed ideas and think about which one fits in with your theme better than others. This step is to help you choose between your options, not eliminate them.
Do your research
Read through several sources on your chosen thematic sentence to get a better understanding. This will help you analyze the possible impact it will have on your audience.
Check out other theme statements
Going through and analyzing what other writers have will help you build your own. Try to see how they put it together and what makes their statement effective.
Decide on the best thematic statement for you
The right thematic statement is the one that best encapsulates what you want to say. You should feel confident about it and know that it will work well with your article.
Write your thematic statement
Once you’ve chosen your theme, it’s time to write your thematic sentence. Keep in mind that it should be both effective and efficient.
Tips for writing a good theme statement are:
- Stay away from cliches. Readers have heard them way too many times, and they don’t make an impact anymore. Stay original.
- Use active verbs to help your statement come alive. Words like ‘can’ and ‘will’ make a world of difference.
- Your theme should sound well thought out, not spontaneous or random. It should be relevant to the article and not seem like it’s added in for good measure.
- Make your thematic statement relate to what you are writing about.
- Vary your sentence structure and length.
- Make sure the first words of your thematic statement are powerful enough to grab attention.
- Don’t be long-winded. Nobody likes a drag; keep your sentence concise and to the point.
- Make sure that there is a logical connection between your theme statement and the article. Don’t contradict yourself.
Themes versus Theme Statements
Many people will use the terms themes and theme statements interchangeably, but they are two very different things. The following are differences between themes and theme statements:
- Themes are what you write about, while your thematic statement is a summation sentence of what you want to communicate.
- A theme can be a word, while a theme statement is a complete sentence. E.g., a love theme can just be written as “love” while the statement goes like, “Love is a powerful emotion; it cannot be quenched.”
- A theme can be anything, while a theme statement needs to have more structure. It’s basically the essence of your work.
- A theme can be interpreted in many different ways. A theme statement is a more specific and overarching message that leaves no room for doubts or second thoughts.
- A theme can be found in the body, while a thematic statement is used in the introduction.
- A theme can help you understand what you’re writing about, but a theme statement will help your reader better understand your topic.
- A theme can be anything that gives some kind of meaning to your work, while a theme statement projects what you’re writing about.
- The chosen theme can be an idea, while a thematic statement is worded to show the reader if they agree or not.
- A theme can be about any part of your work, while a thematic sentence condenses what needs to be communicated in the beginning paragraph.
- Remember that your theme is what you write about, but your thematic statement helps you communicate it.
Examples of themes versus theme statements
You want your theme statement to be the final piece that brings everything together. It’s all about finding what works best for you and your article, and it may take some tweaking. Having a clear idea of what your essay is about and who your audience is will help you.
I ‘m a freelance content and SEO writer with a passion for finding the perfect combination of words to capture attention and express a message . I create catchy, SEO-friendly content for websites, blogs, articles, and social media. My experience spans many industries, including health and wellness, technology, education, business, and lifestyle. My clients appreciate my ability to craft compelling stories that engage their target audience, but also help to improve their website’s search engine rankings. I’m also an avid learner and stay up to date on the latest SEO trends. I enjoy exploring new places and reading up on the latest marketing and SEO strategies in my free time.
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What is theme? Here’s a quick and simple definition:
A theme is a universal idea, lesson, or message explored throughout a work of literature. One key characteristic of literary themes is their universality, which is to say that themes are ideas that not only apply to the specific characters and events of a book or play, but also express broader truths about human experience that readers can apply to their own lives. For instance, John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath (about a family of tenant farmers who are displaced from their land in Oklahoma) is a book whose themes might be said to include the inhumanity of capitalism, as well as the vitality and necessity of family and friendship.
Some additional key details about theme:
- All works of literature have themes. The same work can have multiple themes, and many different works explore the same or similar themes.
- Themes are sometimes divided into thematic concepts and thematic statements . A work's thematic concept is the broader topic it touches upon (love, forgiveness, pain, etc.) while its thematic statement is what the work says about that topic. For example, the thematic concept of a romance novel might be love, and, depending on what happens in the story, its thematic statement might be that "Love is blind," or that "You can't buy love . "
- Themes are almost never stated explicitly. Oftentimes you can identify a work's themes by looking for a repeating symbol , motif , or phrase that appears again and again throughout a story, since it often signals a recurring concept or idea.
Here's how to pronounce theme: theem
Every work of literature—whether it's an essay, a novel, a poem, or something else—has at least one theme. Therefore, when analyzing a given work, it's always possible to discuss what the work is "about" on two separate levels: the more concrete level of the plot (i.e., what literally happens in the work), as well as the more abstract level of the theme (i.e., the concepts that the work deals with). Understanding the themes of a work is vital to understanding the work's significance—which is why, for example, every LitCharts Literature Guide uses a specific set of themes to help analyze the text.
Although some writers set out to explore certain themes in their work before they've even begun writing, many writers begin to write without a preconceived idea of the themes they want to explore—they simply allow the themes to emerge naturally through the writing process. But even when writers do set out to investigate a particular theme, they usually don't identify that theme explicitly in the work itself. Instead, each reader must come to their own conclusions about what themes are at play in a given work, and each reader will likely come away with a unique thematic interpretation or understanding of the work.
Symbol, Motif, and Leitwortstil
Writers often use three literary devices in particular—known as symbol , motif , and leitwortstil —to emphasize or hint at a work's underlying themes. Spotting these elements at work in a text can help you know where to look for its main themes.
- Near the beginning of Romeo and Juliet , Benvolio promises to make Romeo feel better about Rosaline's rejection of him by introducing him to more beautiful women, saying "Compare [Rosaline's] face with some that I shall show….and I will make thee think thy swan a crow." Here, the swan is a symbol for how Rosaline appears to the adoring Romeo, while the crow is a symbol for how she will soon appear to him, after he has seen other, more beautiful women.
- Symbols might occur once or twice in a book or play to represent an emotion, and in that case aren't necessarily related to a theme. However, if you start to see clusters of similar symbols appearing in a story, this may mean that the symbols are part of an overarching motif, in which case they very likely are related to a theme.
- For example, Shakespeare uses the motif of "dark vs. light" in Romeo and Juliet to emphasize one of the play's main themes: the contradictory nature of love. To develop this theme, Shakespeare describes the experience of love by pairing contradictory, opposite symbols next to each other throughout the play: not only crows and swans, but also night and day, moon and sun. These paired symbols all fall into the overall pattern of "dark vs. light," and that overall pattern is called a motif.
- A famous example is Kurt Vonnegut's repetition of the phrase "So it goes" throughout his novel Slaughterhouse Five , a novel which centers around the events of World War II. Vonnegut's narrator repeats the phrase each time he recounts a tragic story from the war, an effective demonstration of how the horrors of war have become normalized for the narrator. The constant repetition of the phrase emphasizes the novel's primary themes: the death and destruction of war, and the futility of trying to prevent or escape such destruction, and both of those things coupled with the author's skepticism that any of the destruction is necessary and that war-time tragedies "can't be helped."
Symbol, motif and leitwortstil are simply techniques that authors use to emphasize themes, and should not be confused with the actual thematic content at which they hint. That said, spotting these tools and patterns can give you valuable clues as to what might be the underlying themes of a work.
Thematic Concepts vs. Thematic Statements
A work's thematic concept is the broader topic it touches upon—for instance:
while its thematic statement is the particular argument the writer makes about that topic through his or her work, such as:
- Human judgement is imperfect.
- Love cannot be bought.
- Getting revenge on someone else will not fix your problems.
- Learning to forgive is part of becoming an adult.
Should You Use Thematic Concepts or Thematic Statements?
Some people argue that when describing a theme in a work that simply writing a thematic concept is insufficient, and that instead the theme must be described in a full sentence as a thematic statement. Other people argue that a thematic statement, being a single sentence, usually creates an artificially simplistic description of a theme in a work and is therefore can actually be more misleading than helpful. There isn't really a right answer in this debate.
In our LitCharts literature study guides , we usually identify themes in headings as thematic concepts, and then explain the theme more fully in a few paragraphs. We find thematic statements limiting in fully exploring or explaining a the theme, and so we don't use them. Please note that this doesn't mean we only rely on thematic concepts—we spend paragraphs explaining a theme after we first identify a thematic concept. If you are asked to describe a theme in a text, you probably should usually try to at least develop a thematic statement about the text if you're not given the time or space to describe it more fully. For example, a statement that a book is about "the senselessness of violence" is a lot stronger and more compelling than just saying that the book is about "violence."
Identifying Thematic Statements
One way to try to to identify or describe the thematic statement within a particular work is to think through the following aspects of the text:
- Plot: What are the main plot elements in the work, including the arc of the story, setting, and characters. What are the most important moments in the story? How does it end? How is the central conflict resolved?
- Protagonist: Who is the main character, and what happens to him or her? How does he or she develop as a person over the course of the story?
- Prominent symbols and motifs: Are there any motifs or symbols that are featured prominently in the work—for example, in the title, or recurring at important moments in the story—that might mirror some of the main themes?
After you've thought through these different parts of the text, consider what their answers might tell you about the thematic statement the text might be trying to make about any given thematic concept. The checklist above shouldn't be thought of as a precise formula for theme-finding, but rather as a set of guidelines, which will help you ask the right questions and arrive at an interesting thematic interpretation.
The following examples not only illustrate how themes develop over the course of a work of literature, but they also demonstrate how paying careful attention to detail as you read will enable you to come to more compelling conclusions about those themes.
Themes in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby
Fitzgerald explores many themes in The Great Gatsby , among them the corruption of the American Dream .
- The story's narrator is Minnesota-born Nick Caraway, a New York bonds salesman. Nick befriends Jay Gatsby, the protagonist, who is a wealthy man who throws extravagant parties at his mansion.
- The central conflict of the novel is Gatsby's pursuit of Daisy, whom he met and fell in love with as a young man, but parted from during World War I.
- He makes a fortune illegally by bootlegging alcohol, to become the sort of wealthy man he believes Daisy is attracted to, then buys a house near her home, where she lives with her husband.
- While he does manage to re-enter Daisy's life, she ultimately abandons him and he dies as a result of her reckless, selfish behavior.
- Gatsby's house is on the water, and he stares longingly across the water at a green light that hangs at the edge of a dock at Daisy's house which sits across a the bay. The symbol of the light appears multiple times in the novel—during the early stages of Gatsby's longing for Daisy, during his pursuit of her, and after he dies without winning her love. It symbolizes both his longing for daisy and the distance between them (the distance of space and time) that he believes (incorrectly) that he can bridge.
- In addition to the green light, the color green appears regularly in the novel. This motif of green broadens and shapes the symbolism of the green light and also influences the novel's themes. While green always remains associated with Gatsby's yearning for Daisy and the past, and also his ambitious striving to regain Daisy, it also through the motif of repeated green becomes associated with money, hypocrisy, and destruction. Gatsby's yearning for Daisy, which is idealistic in some ways, also becomes clearly corrupt in others, which more generally impacts what the novel is saying about dreams more generally and the American Dream in particular.
Gatsby pursues the American Dream, driven by the idea that hard work can lead anyone from poverty to wealth, and he does so for a single reason: he's in love with Daisy. However, he pursues the dream dishonestly, making a fortune by illegal means, and ultimately fails to achieve his goal of winning Daisy's heart. Furthermore, when he actually gets close to winning Daisy's heart, she brings about his downfall. Through the story of Gatsby and Daisy, Fitzgerald expresses the point of view that the American Dream carries at its core an inherent corruption. You can read more about the theme of The American Dream in The Great Gatsby here .
Themes in Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart
In Things Fall Apart , Chinua Achebe explores the theme of the dangers of rigidly following tradition .
- Okonkwo is obsessed with embodying the masculine ideals of traditional Igbo warrior culture.
- Okonkwo's dedication to his clan's traditions is so extreme that it even alienates members of his own family, one of whom joins the Christians.
- The central conflict: Okonkwo's community adapts to colonization in order to survive, becoming less warlike and allowing the minor injustices that the colonists inflict upon them to go unchallenged. Okonkwo, however, refuses to adapt.
- At the end of the novel, Okonkwo impulsively kills a Christian out of anger. Recognizing that his community does not support his crime, Okonkwo kills himself in despair.
- Clanswomen who give birth to twins abandon the babies in the forest to die, according to traditional beliefs that twins are evil.
- Okonkwo kills his beloved adopted son, a prisoner of war, according to the clan's traditions.
- Okonkwo sacrifices a goat in repentence, after severely beating his wife during the clan's holy week.
Through the tragic story of Okonkwo, Achebe is clearly dealing with the theme of tradition, but a close examination of the text reveals that he's also making a clear thematic statement that following traditions too rigidly leads people to the greatest sacrifice of all: that of personal agency . You can read more about this theme in Things Fall Apart here .
Themes in Robert Frost's The Road Not Taken
Poem's have themes just as plot-driven narratives do. One theme that Robert Frost explores in this famous poem, The Road Not Taken , is the illusory nature of free will .
- The poem's speaker stands at a fork in the road, in a "yellow wood."
- He (or she) looks down one path as far as possible, then takes the other, which seems less worn.
- The speaker then admits that the paths are about equally worn—there's really no way to tell the difference—and that a layer of leaves covers both of the paths, indicating that neither has been traveled recently.
- After taking the second path, the speaker finds comfort in the idea of taking the first path sometime in the future, but acknowledges that he or she is unlikely to ever return to that particular fork in the woods.
- The speaker imagines how, "with a sigh" she will tell someone in the future, "I took the road less travelled—and that has made all the difference."
- By wryly predicting his or her own need to romanticize, and retroactively justify, the chosen path, the speaker injects the poem with an unmistakeable hint of irony .
- The speaker's journey is a symbol for life, and the two paths symbolize different life paths, with the road "less-travelled" representing the path of an individualist or lone-wolf. The fork where the two roads diverge represents an important life choice. The road "not taken" represents the life path that the speaker would have pursued had he or she had made different choices.
Frost's speaker has reached a fork in the road, which—according to the symbolic language of the poem—means that he or she must make an important life decision. However, the speaker doesn't really know anything about the choice at hand: the paths appear to be the same from the speaker's vantage point, and there's no way he or she can know where the path will lead in the long term. By showing that the only truly informed choice the speaker makes is how he or she explains their decision after they have already made it , Frost suggests that although we pretend to make our own choices, our lives are actually governed by chance.
What's the Function of Theme in Literature?
Themes are a huge part of what readers ultimately take away from a work of literature when they're done reading it. They're the universal lessons and ideas that we draw from our experiences of works of art: in other words, they're part of the whole reason anyone would want to pick up a book in the first place!
It would be difficult to write any sort of narrative that did not include any kind of theme. The narrative itself would have to be almost completely incoherent in order to seem theme-less, and even then readers would discern a theme about incoherence and meaninglessness. So themes are in that sense an intrinsic part of nearly all writing. At the same time, the themes that a writer is interested in exploring will significantly impact nearly all aspects of how a writer chooses to write a text. Some writers might know the themes they want to explore from the beginning of their writing process, and proceed from there. Others might have only a glimmer of an idea, or have new ideas as they write, and so the themes they address might shift and change as they write. In either case, though, the writer's ideas about his or her themes will influence how they write.
One additional key detail about themes and how they work is that the process of identifying and interpreting them is often very personal and subjective. The subjective experience that readers bring to interpreting a work's themes is part of what makes literature so powerful: reading a book isn't simply a one-directional experience, in which the writer imparts their thoughts on life to the reader, already distilled into clear thematic statements. Rather, the process of reading and interpreting a work to discover its themes is an exchange in which readers parse the text to tease out the themes they find most relevant to their personal experience and interests.
Other Helpful Theme Resources
- The Wikipedia Page on Theme: An in-depth explanation of theme that also breaks down the difference between thematic concepts and thematic statements.
- The Dictionary Definition of Theme: A basic definition and etymology of the term.
- In this instructional video , a teacher explains her process for helping students identify themes.
- PDFs for all 136 Lit Terms we cover
- Downloads of 1807 LitCharts Lit Guides
- Teacher Editions for every Lit Guide
- Explanations and citation info for 37,864 quotes across 1807 books
- Downloadable (PDF) line-by-line translations of every Shakespeare play
- Static Character
- Rhetorical Question
- External Conflict
- Climax (Figure of Speech)
My Speech Class
Public Speaking Tips & Speech Topics
How To Write A Thematic Statement with Examples
Jim Peterson has over 20 years experience on speech writing. He wrote over 300 free speech topic ideas and how-to guides for any kind of public speaking and speech writing assignments at My Speech Class.
The English language is not as straightforward as it seems. Penning a quality essay or story requires in-depth knowledge of English grammar and sentence structure rulings.
A single paragraph may contain multiple different sentence types. An argumentative essay’s introductory paragraph, for example, may have many simple sentences, a thesis statement, and a thematic statement.
Thesis statements are present within almost every essay. Thematic statements, on the other hand, are less popular because not many people know about them. Regardless, they are an essential part of English writing, and learning about these statements will help you produce better essays. Thematic statements are most commonly employed within stories, though you can also find them in some formal texts.
This article will cover everything you need to know about thematic statements – what are they, where are they used, and how they differ from thesis statements. We’ll also explore the guidelines for penning a quality thematic statement, accompanied by multiple examples.
So, without further delay, let’s dive in!
In this article:
What is a Thematic Statement?
What’s the purpose of having a theme, where to use thematic statements: popular examples, how are thematic statements different from thesis statements, theme vs. topic, how to write a thematic statement, what to avoid when writing a thematic statement, good vs. evil, power and corruption, coming of age, thematic statement examples for love, thematic statement examples for identity, thematic statement examples for fear, thematic statement examples for death, thematic statement examples for trust.
Thematic statements are unique sentences employed by writers to convey the most prominent message of their story or article. They summarize the essence of the story into a short, precise statement.
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Every thematic statement must contain a single root keyword. This keyword is called the ‘theme’ or a ‘thematic idea.’ Unlike thematic statements, thematic ideas are not complete sentences but only words.
Thematic statements grow from thematic ideas.
Some writers prefer to pen two thematic statements instead of one. This tactic is most common within more extensive texts that discuss multiple ideas. Still, the idea is to summarize the central message that the text aims to deliver to readers. Hence, thematic statements shouldn’t be too long. An entire paragraph of writing cannot qualify as a thematic statement.
Thematic statements do not target a specific audience. Expert writers know that thematic statements lose their purpose when directed at the reader. Hence, thematic statements should never sound personal. Words like “I” and “you” have no place within thematic statements because they narrow the thematic idea’s scope. You essentially direct an idea towards a specific audience by personalizing a statement. Hence, the audience’s perception of the statement’s message becomes relevant. Unfortunately, having the audience’s perception as a point of interest weakens the statement’s impact.
Let’s go over a simple example to understand this idea better:
Suppose the proposed thematic statement is “If you love sincerely, you will find joy.”
There are many problems with this statement. Firstly, it is a personal statement directed at an audience. A quality thematic statement must be impersonal. It should address not a person or audience but rather a single idea or message.
Another thing wrong with this sentence is its use of “if.” Writing “if” immediately transforms the text into a conditional statement that’s paired with a promise. Here, the statement mentioned above promises joy to those who love sincerely.
Unfortunately, promises are often broken and are seldom guaranteed. Therefore, it’s best to avoid making promises within thematic statements. Including the word “if” and closing the statement off with a promise only serves to weaken the sentence’s impact. Plus, it lengthens the statement. Remember, thematic statements should be concise and to the point. It should seek to deliver a single message in simple words.
A better thematic statement would be, “Sincere love results in joy.” This statement is direct and discusses one idea only. It does not make promises and is not an “if” statement. It is powerful and stated as a fact or lesson, allowing the reader to successfully understand the essay’s central idea.
A theme is often used to summarize the focus or main idea that the author is trying to convey. Well-developed works of literature often have a multitude of themes that can be determined or understood at face value as well as on a much deeper level. Sometimes, the author wants you to read between the lines and form your own conclusion.
For readers, understanding the theme gives you a much more in-depth understanding of the storyline as well as added clarity. Understanding the themes of a literary piece will also inspire a greater appreciation of the literature’s deeper meanings and innuendos.
Themes allow authors to express their opinions and comment on humanistic traits or societal pressures without having to be too obvious about it.
Learning to understand themes allows the reader the opportunity to think about the plot on a much deeper level, form their own opinions and align their opinions with those of the authors. A greater understanding of themes will also inspire deeper thinking and promote self-reflection in the reader.
Determining themes requires reading between the lines, having a greater understanding of emotion and reactiveness and critical thinking to decipher the message that the author is attempting to convey.
Thematic statements are often found within the following literary works:
- Short, five-paragraph essays that are at least 500 words long
- Social science research essays, particularly on topics like sociology or psychology
- Marriage toasts, funeral speeches , and other emotionally-charged pieces of text, centered around a single theme (like love or death)
- Stories, including personal narratives and autobiographical essays
- Rhetorical analysis essays that explore a published author’s linguistic articulation. The use of thematic statements can help perfectly capture the author’s message without beating around the bush
As discussed previously, thematic statements aim to deliver a single idea through a simple yet impactful sentence. This “single idea” is the central message of a complete body of text (like a story or essay).
Thematic statements are interchangeable with thesis statements when employed within thematic essays. However, this is the exception, not the rule. In most literary works, thematic statements are different from thesis statements. Both statements may be interrelated yet express their ideas through differing sentence structures. Unlike their thematic counterparts, we structure thesis statements as arguments containing multiple points of interest.
For example, suppose you are writing an essay on climate change. Climate change is the essay’s primary theme or thematic idea. Hence, your thematic statement will stem from it. Your thesis statement will also refer to climate change. However, it may also talk about other ideas relevant to climate change. These ideas will vary depending on what stance your essay takes on the matter of climate change, of course.
Here’s what a thematic statement for an essay on climate change may look like:
“Climate change is harmful to the environment.”
A thesis statement concerning the same topic may look like this:
“Climate change is harmful to the environment because it is raising sea levels, causing global warming, and depleting Earth’s flora and fauna.” This statement is arguable, not factual. It can be debated and proven or disproven using evidence.
On the other hand, thematic statements are simple factual sentences and undebatable facts. For example, the theme for a story like Romeo and Juliet is love. The thematic statement developed from this theme could be “love comes with a high price.” By connecting the theme, or thematic idea , to a lesson, we can successfully portray a complete message to the reader. This message encapsulates the core idea running through the entire story.
A story’s theme and the topic may share common ground, but they are not the same. Themes are single words that capture the story or essay’s essence. For example, we know that Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet explores the theme of love. It also explores the theme of rivalry.
However, anyone who has read Romeo and Juliet knows that the topic is not love or rivalry. Instead, we can say the topic is “two young people belonging to rival families find love, only to suffer at its hands.” Notice how topics are complete sentences, whereas themes are standalone words.
A topic sentence may cite the story’s primary themes but goes a step further by exploring the plot, too. Topic statements are a tool to help better illustrate how a specific theme plays out within a story or essay. Hence, we see that theme and topic are not the same. However, they most certainly are interconnected.
Thematic statements come from thematic ideas. Therefore, before you start penning a thematic statement, you must first identify your essay’s central theme or main idea. You can do so by referring to your essay’s title.
Suppose your thematic idea is love. Now that you’ve got your theme down move on to uncovering the theme assertion.
“Theme assertion” refers to the text’s central message. What lesson can we learn from reading a specific literary work, and how does this lesson relate to the thematic idea?
The thematic assertion is decided by the story or essay’s original author. A reader can only spot it. We can do so by exploring the author’s thoughts. For example, within Romeo and Juliet, we see Shakespeare imply that love (theme) has unintended negative consequences (assertion).
Combining the theme and assertion can yield a complete thematic statement. But if you’d like to take things further, you can always add a ‘qualifying clause.’
Qualifying clauses are optional. You can add them after a thematic assertion to further define the thematic statement.
Let’s take the example of Romeo and Juliet again:
Love (theme) has unintended negative consequences (assertion) that cannot be denied (qualifying clause).
Notice how the qualifying clause adds to the overall thematic statement. However, if you wrote the qualifying clause on its own, it would not make any sense as a standalone sentence. Yet, when meshed with a theme and assertion, it can help create a well-rounded statement.
Here’s a quick summary of other ways to identify themes:
- Pay attention to the plot: Write down the main elements of the work like, plot, the tone of the story, language style, characters traits. Were there any conflicts? What was the most important moment of the story? What was the main character’s goal? What was the author’s resolution for the conflict? How did the story end?
- Identify the literary subject: If you had to tell someone about the book, how would you describe it to them?
- Who is the protagonist: Plainly put, who is the hero or the ‘good guy’? How did the character develop and grow throughout the plot? What was the character’s effect on all the other people around him? How did he/she impact the other characters? How does this character relate to the others?
Assess the author’s point of view: What was the author’s view on the characters and how they made choices? What message could the author be trying to send us? This message is the theme. Find clues in quotes from the main characters, language use, the final resolution of the main conflict.
Thematic statements aren’t overly complicated. However, being human, there is always room for error.
Keep an eye out for the following mistakes when penning thematic statements:
- Remember to mention the story or essay’s central theme within the thematic statement.
- Avoid summarizing the literary work – that’s what topic sentences are for!
- Stay away from absolute terms like “always.”
- Overgeneralization is unnecessary and distracts from the main idea.
- Do not say, “this story’s theme is….” Instead, weave the thematic idea’s keyword (“love”) into the thematic statement.
- Avoid metaphors, complicated idioms, and flowery language.
- Don’t beat about the bush.
- Stay away from cliché statements and trendy slogans or chants.
- Qualifying clauses are not compulsory. Only use them if you feel they’ll improve your writing without complicating it.
You can successfully pen a striking thematic statement by avoiding these common writing mistakes.
Examples of Themes
There are many great literary theme examples of love that have developed through the ages, one of the most famous ones being, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet of course. Theme: A tragic tale of forbidden love with terrible consequences.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is yet another classic example that explores the type of love that grows slowly where there was once dislike and misunderstanding.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte explores love in a completely different light, highlighting the way its intensity and power disrupt and even destroy lives.
The book thief by Marcus Zusak is narrated by death itself, exploring his role in taking lives in setting Germany in World War 2.
The Fault in Our Stars features teenagers who come to terms with the grave reality of death while coming to terms with their terminal illness.
Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien displays the battle of good versus evil quite clearly in its tale of hobbits, elves and men teaming up to defeat the power hungry Sauron and his armies of dark creatures.
The Stand by Stephen King features the light versus dark dichotomy. Staging a battle between good and evil through the characters of Mother Abigail and Randall Flagg.
Shakespeare’s Macbeth is the tragic tale of a character seeking power for his own sake, and dealing with the consequences of his own self minded ambition.
Animal Farm by George Orwell is another iconic classic exploration of power and corruption, an allegorical story about a group of animals who rise up against their human masters with increasingly sinister results.
Lord of the flies by William Golding focuses on a group of young boys stuck on a deserted island, chronicling their attempts to survive and govern themselves.
Room by Emma Donoghue tells a different story of survival as that of a woman who has been held captive for seven years and her five-year-old son who doesn’t know a normal life outside of the room that they are held captive in.
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger follows a sixteen-year-old boy dealing with teenage angst and rebellion in the 1950s.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky is the story of a teenager named Charlie navigating all the challenges that come with the time between adolescence and adulthood.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is noted as one of the most famous explorations of prejudice and racism. A white lawyer Atticus Finch is appointed to defend Tom Robinson, a black man falsely accused of rape.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelly explores prejudice and fear of the unknown throughout the story of Dr. Frankenstein and the ‘monster’ he created.
Examples of Thematic Statements
Now that we’ve gone over the guidelines associated with writing a thematic statement, let’s explore some theme sentence examples:
- Love can heighten our sense of courage.
- Loving ourselves can heal our emotional scars, even if it takes time.
- Love is more powerful than infatuation.
- Accepting our true selves can help us lead happier lives.
- Our identity is crafted from personal experiences.
- Believing in ourselves can help us achieve the impossible.
- Fear is a state of mind.
- We can overcome fear through strong faith.
- Fear is an inevitable emotion.
- All humans experience fear.
- We should embrace death as an inevitable fact of life.
- Nobody can evade death.
- Seeing their loved ones die makes people sad.
- Healthy relationships are built on trust.
- To achieve success, we must trust our gut instinct.
- Not everyone deserves to be trusted.
- We should choose who to trust with care.
Pay attention to how each statement covers only a single idea relating to one theme. This is a trademark rule with thematic statements. It helps them remain simple, unwinding, and direct.
Learning about thematic statements is an essential part of every writer’s journey. Storybook authors, in particular, should be well-aware of thematic statements and their undeniable importance.
A quality thematic statement can make your story much easier to understand. That’s because a thematic statement stems from the story’s central or thematic idea and captures the story’s true essence. Hence, thematic statements are incomplete without discussing the literary work’s primary theme.
Thematic statements should not be confused with thesis statements. Both are important in their own right, yet neither one can replace the other. Thematic statements are factual, whereas thesis statements explore arguments that can be disproven with relevant evidence.
Thesis statements seldom exist within stories. Instead, they are a characteristic of formal essays, particularly argumentative ones. However, to truly understand the essence of a story , one must first learn to understand the nature of thematic statements.
A story or essay’s theme is also strikingly different from its topic. Thematic ideas (themes) are typically single words. On the other hand, topics are illustrated through multiple words. As a result, we often see topic sentences and single-worded themes.
The best thematic statements reference a single theme. After identifying the story’s theme, these statements build upon a lesson or message relating to said theme. This thematic idea keyword (for example, love or death) must appear within the thematic statement.
Thematic statements must also contain a thematic assertion. A thematic assertion is essentially an explanation, lesson, or central message the story conveys.
A single thematic idea and assertion are enough to create a complete thematic statement. However, some people prefer adding an optional qualifying clause, too. After adding the clause, you’re left with a comprehensive, well-rounded thematic statement.
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Identity Essay Topic Ideas & Titles
🏆 good identity essay topic ideas, 🥇 interesting identity topic ideas for college, 📍 essay topics to write about identity, 📝 list of topics about identity.
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NerdySeal . (2021) 'Identity'. 19 October.
NerdySeal. (2021, October 19). Identity. Retrieved from https://nerdyseal.com/topics/identity-essay-topics/
NerdySeal . 2021. "Identity." October 19, 2021. https://nerdyseal.com/topics/identity-essay-topics/.
1. NerdySeal . "Identity." October 19, 2021. https://nerdyseal.com/topics/identity-essay-topics/.
NerdySeal . "Identity." October 19, 2021. https://nerdyseal.com/topics/identity-essay-topics/.
"Identity." NerdySeal , 19 Oct. 2021, nerdyseal.com/topics/identity-essay-topics/.
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