In literature, theme refers to the main idea or moral of the story. Sometimes this main idea or moral is stated directly, and sometimes the reader has to think about the main idea.
In most literary works, there could be more than one theme. Novels and plays, especially, are long enough that different readers could pick up on different thematic ideas throughout.
It is best to state the theme in a sentence. Instead of saying that a story is about "love" or "innocence," what is the point that the story is trying to make about "love" or "innocence"?
Examples of Themes in Literature
1. Many of Aesop's fables end with an explicitly stated moral, or theme. For example, the tale of the tortoise and the hare typically ends with, "Slow and steady wins the race."
2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee has several themes, but one of the main ones is that we all have the capacity for good and evil. Scout and Jem learn that "good" people can demonstrate prejudice, and someone is is considered "bad" like Boo Radley has the capacity to do good.
3. One of the themes of The Hunger Games relates to the idea that reality television is entertaining only for the audience, but those who are living the drama are not as amused. The "games" that Kat and Peeta have to compete in are for the entertainment of the wealthy people in the capitol. The author is obviously making a comment on the reality TV craze.
Literary Terms Examples