How to Find Themes in Literature

Theme is basically the idea, the concept or the moral around which a particular story revolves. For instance, theme of a fairy tale or folklore is the lesson that it gives in the end after narrating a story. And in works of fiction, the theme is the view about life and how difference people behave.

The theme in fiction is not intended to give any teaching and in fact, it is not presented directly. The actions taken by a character surrounded in a particular setting make the theme of a story so it is up to the reader to make inferences.


  • 1

    In order to find out a theme or the idea in a literary work, it is better to first locate an idea that constantly keeps surfacing. After you have found it, it is up to you to find out whether it’s an idea, a conflict or a situation.

  • 2

    If there is a conflict, find out if the conflict is internal or external. You can also find out a theme even if the characters don’t see it but as a reader, you do.

  • 3

    The next thing you have to do is to see if the particular conflict happens in everyday life or is it something that is a rare occurrence.

  • 4

    Consider how characters deal with this situation and how this situation affects them.

  • 5

    If there is a silver lining in the story in form of a quote, that can also be a theme.

  • 6

    Understand the struggles that characters are going through. How their needs used to be like in the start and how they changed in the middle and how a new set of needs replaced old ones in the end.

  • 7

    It is also a good idea to identify the central conflict. Central conflict would be an issue that will affect all the characters in the work. If there is a conflict between two characters, will it affect how things proceed for other characters as well?

  • 8

    In every literary work, you will come across symbols or motifs that represent something unique. For example, in Lois Lowry’s the Giver, the plot circulates around a young boy named Jonas. Red apple is used as a motif in the book which actually means a lot in the character’s colourless world.

  • 9

    Examining dialogue is another great way to find out the theme. Dialogues between characters are of great importance and play a big part in shaping the climax and also the end of the story.

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