When we refer to the moral of a story, we mean the underlying message or lesson to be learned from the story. Sometimes, moral is interchanged with theme.
Some texts have a very clearly stated moral. For example, the fables of Aesop often have a clearly stated moral at the end of the text. In other texts, the moral is implied rather than stated explicitly.
Examples of Morals in Literature:
In Aesop's fable, "The Ant and the Dove," a dove drops a leaf to an ant that is drowning in a river. Later on, the ant repays the kindness by biting a hunter who is trying to shoot the dove. The moral of the story is clearly stated at the end, "A kindness is never wasted."
Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird is set in a segregated South, and is narrated mainly through the experiences of a young girl named Scout. Scout's father, Atticus, defends a black man accused of abusing a white woman. There are also other story lines related to a neighbor who is addicted to morphine and the reclusive Boo Radley who lives nearby. While there are several possible morals to this story, one of the main morals that is learned by Scout and her brother Jem is to treat others equally, regardless of outward appearance or reputation. As Atticus says, you learn best when you "walk a mile" in the other person's shoes.
Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is about the ill-fated love affair between Romeo and Juliet, who marry in secret because their families hate each other. Juliet then fakes her death to keep from having to marry another man. Romeo believes she is truly dead and kills himself; Juliet also kills herself when she wakes to find him dead. The moral of the play relates to the power of love to overcome hatred-and the fact that these two young lovers "with their death did bury their families' strife."
Literary Terms Examples