A Theme is a statement of the central idea or message in fiction, narrative or poetry. It is usually not stated explicitly, but rather developed through the characters, plot, narrator’s point of view, and language. It differs from a Topic which is the subject matter being written about, and a Thesis which is an contentious argument based on the topic. A thesis is often stated explicitly, and can be argued.

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Example from Hamlet:

Topic: Revenge

Theme: Revenge consumes the mind of all of those who are obsessed with it, and, ultimately, it destroys them. (This is never stated explicitly in Hamlet, but it can be deduced form the actions of the character and the outcome of the plot.)

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Thesis: For a thesis, you might argue how and why this theme of revenge is developed and expressed through the play.

Theme Statement: Put your ideas about theme into one or two clear and concise statements. The following structure is fairly straightforward:

READ:
David Williamson’s The Removalists: Summary, Theme, Analysis

“With regards to _____[topic]_______, the author is saying that…”

A theme statement can be used as a thesis in literary evaluations. You should easily be able to pick out details from the story or poem with respect to a theme.

Write a theme statement that clearly expresses what you think Heron Jonse’s main message is in the poem. Quote and explain 2-3 examples of figurative language that reveal theme. Any explanation of figurative language needs to include:

  • An identification of the specific passage being looked at.
  • An identification of the specific type of figurative language used.
  • If there is a comparison, (metaphor, simile, personification, analogy), clearly explain what 2 things are being compared.
  • A clear explanation of why the fig. lang. is used, and an explanation of how it relates to the purpose or meaning of the passage.

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