101 (Literary) Theme of a Story Examples: A Huge List of Common Themes in Literature

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Theme is an important element of a story after plot, characters, conflict and setting. Either in a work of literature: a short story, novella, novel, or poetry, contain a theme.

Let’s understand the themes in literature in the simplest words.

Theme is the central idea of a literary work which helps the author to convey a message.

So, in a story, if an author wants to present the message of love, self-sacrifice, suffering or good vs. evil, etc. they will do so by making it the main idea or the theme of their story and conveying it using the elements of a story like characters, plot, setting, and dialogue.

Themes in Literature-

  • A theme of a story in the literature relates to what a book is about. It is the central idea of the story, the belief, or the message the writer wants to deliver through the story.   
  • The theme is the underlying message that writers want to convey, and there can be one or even multiple themes in a story.

List of 101 Themes in Literature (Common Literary Theme Examples)

The below list of 101 Common literary themes examples are recurring themes in popular works of fiction and have been used as main, major, or minor themes in popular novels.

1. Love

theme of love in literature examples

2. War 

Theme of war in literature examples

3. Revenge

4. Betrayal

5. Good vs. Evil

6. Redemption

7. Friendship

8. Family

9. Death

10. Coming of Age

11. Love and Marriage

12. Forgiveness

13. Identity

14. Youth

15. Prejudice

list of common themes in literature examples

16. Justice

17. Change vs. Tradition

18. Power

19. Individual vs. Society

20. Social Class

21. Fate vs. Free Will

22. Courage

23. Rebellion

24. Humility

25. Fear

26. Hate

27. Violence

28. Hubris

29. Race

30. Money

31. Greed

32. Woman and Femininity

33. Oppression

34. Poverty

35. Sacrifice

36. Survival

37. Hypocrisy

38. Religion

39. Science

40. Sin

41. Wealth

42. Alienation

43. Innocence

44. Sex and Sexuality

45. Madness

46. Crime

47. Deception

48. Temptation

49. Technology

50. Ambition

list of common themes in literature examples

51. Suffering

52. Education

53. Time 

54. Isolation

55. Moral Corruption

56. Loneliness

57. American Dream

58. Gender Roles

59. Beauty

60. Freedom

61. Gothic Elements

62. Storytelling

63. Corruption

64. Secrecy

65. Reputation 

66. Memory and the Past

67. Totalitarianism

68. Repression

69. Loyalty

70. Knowledge vs. Ignorance

71. Manipulation

72. Jealousy

73. Adultery

74. Guilt

75. Dissatisfaction

themes in literature list (theme of a story examples)

76. Morality

77. Community

78. Man and the Nature

79. Surveillance

80. Injustice

81. Satire and Realism

82. Solitude

83. Subjectivity

84. Passion

85. Faith in God

86. Truth

87. Doubt

88. Limit of knowledge

89. Politics

90. Social position

91. Honor

92. Guilt

93. History

94. Childhood

95. Heroism

96. Honesty

97. Perseverance

98. Circle of Life

99. Communication

100. Relationship

101. Hope

list of common literary themes in literature

Examples of Themes in Literature-

Below are examples of major and minor literary themes that appeared in some of the popular books of all time.

1. Pride and Prejudice

By Jane Austen

pride and prejudice themes

Major Themes- Love and marriage, class, reputation, social status, family.

2. To Kill a Mockingbird

By Harper Lee

to kill a mockingbird story themes

Major Themes- Good vs. evil, coming of age, small town life, prejudice, racism, social inequality, law and justice.

3. The Great Gatsby 

By F.Scott Fitzgerald

the great gatsby story themes

Major Themes- American dream, power, society and class, love and marriage.

4. Harry Potter

By J. K Rowling 

harry-potter story themes

Major Themes- Death, confronting fear, fate, love, friendship, power, rebel, good vs.evil, courage, humility. 

5. Romeo and Juliet

By William Shakespeare

romeo and juliet story themes

Major Themes- Love, fate, youth, violence, death, gender, revenge, marriage, hate. 

6. David Copperfield

By Charles Dickens

david copperfield story themes

Major Themes- Good vs. evil, personal development, wealth and class, impartiality in marriage, abuse of the weak.  

7. The Lion, the Witches, and the Wardrobe

By C. S Lewis

narnia story themes

Minor Themes- Good vs. evil, war, friendship, loyalty, courage, forgiveness, childhood, betrayal, family.

8. War and Peace

By Leo Tolstoy

war and peace story themes

Major Themes- Warfare, history, patriotism, forgiveness, spirituality, love, family, man and masculinity.

9. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

By Mark Twain

the adventure of huckleberry finn story themes

Major Themes- Racism, slavery, society, hypocrisy, freedom, superstition, education, empathy, guilt and shame, wealth, honor, religion.

10. Moby Dick

By Herman Melville

moby dick story themes

Major Themes- Revenge, limits of knowledge, destiny, religion, nature and man, madness, race, fate and free will.

list of common themes in literature examples

11. Middlemarch

By George Eliot

george eliot middle march story themes

Major Themes- Marital compatibility, money, community and class, social position, politics, religion, pride and vanity, self discovery.

12. Anna Karenina

By Leo Tolstoy

anna karenina themes

Themes- Betrayal, hypocrisy, faith, jealousy, family life, marriage, adultery, imperial Russian society, desire, rural vs city life, society and class, carnal desire, passion, progress.

13. 1984

By George Orwell

1984 themes

Themes- Propaganda, totalitarianism, poverty vs. wealth, independence and identity, Loyalty, technology, class struggle, love and sexuality, liberty and censorship, betrayal, language, manipulation, repression, rebellion, violence.

14. To the Lighthouse

By Virginia Woolf

to the lighthouse themes

Major Themes- Time, the meaning of life, subjectivity, the nature of art, gender.

15. Wuthering Heights

By Emily Bronte

wuthering heights themes

Major Themes- Love, revenge, class, hate, violence, good and evil, solitude.

16. A Handful of Dust

By Evelyn Waugh

a handful of dust themes

Major Themes- Love and marriage, adultery, selfishness, money, class and society, morality, satire and realism, religion.

17. The Heart of the Matter

By Graham Greene

the heart of the matter themes

Major Themes- Love and marriage, failure, surveillance, Isolation, religion, self-awareness, corruption, suffering.

18. Life of Pi

By Yann Martel

life of pi story themes

Major Themes- Storytelling, religion, nature, wildlife, survival, truth, faith in god, fear, science.

19. Jane Eyre

By Charlotte Bronte

jane eyre themes

Major Themes- Family, religion , social position, class, love and marriage, gender, beauty, independence, feeling vs. judgment, gothic elements.

20. Heart of Darkness

By Joseph Conrad

heart of darkness themes

Major Themes- Imperialism, racism, violence, colonialism, exploitation, religion, alienation, moral corruption, loneliness.

21. Mrs. Dalloway

By Virginia Woolf

mrs dalloway themes

Major Themes- Time, isolation, communication, death, repression, suffering, society and class.

22. Great Expectations

By Charles Dickens

great expectations themes

Major Themes- Crime, class, imperialism, injustice, ambition, education, family.

23. The Lord of the Rings

By J.R.R Tolkien


Major Themes- Friendship, fate, good and evil, religion, free will, loss, courage, power, death and immortality, forgiveness.

24. The Catcher in the Rye

By J.D Salinger

the catcher in the rye themes

Major Themes- Alienation, innocence, phoniness, angst, growing up, death, love, woman and sex, religion, madness.

25. The Faults in our Stars

By John Green

the faults in our starts themes

Major Themes- Love, family, life and death, religion, coming of age, friendship, suffering, literature and writing.

26. The Hungers Game

By Suzanne Collins

the hunger games themes

Major Themes- Friendship, family, class, love, rebellion, starvation, oppression, poverty, self-sacrifice, hypocrisy, appearances, survival, stoicism, loss.

27. Animal Farm

By George Orwell

animal farm themes

Major Themes- Corruption, totalitarianism, class, control, exploitation, idealism, deception, abuse of power.

28. Little Women

By Louisa May Alcott

examples-of themes in little women

Major Themes- Family, love and marriage, ambition, sacrifice, poverty, literature and language, writing, morality and society, self-improvement, wealth and happiness, gender and femininity, women as artist.

Related: Common Poetry Themes

Neel Rana

About the Author- Neel Rana is a YA short story author, flash fiction writer, literary enthusiast and the founder of Pandora Post. Neel holds a degree in BA Honours in English Literature and has been writing since 2017. Neel’s magnum opus YA short storybook, “The Drunken Ghost” has been well received by the readers.