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 in poetry, contain a theme.

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

Difference between plot and theme of a story

Plot of a story

People often get confused between the plot and the theme of a story and if you too then let me tell you, the plot is basically the sequence of events in the story.

Every story has a beginning, middle, and end, containing a rising action, climax, falling action and a resolution which is the basic part of the plot.

Theme of a story

A theme in the literature relates to what a book is about, it is the central idea of the story, it is 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.

101 Common Literary Themes Examples

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

Follow the list to choose some of the popular themes for your next work of fiction.

#1 Love

#2 War 

#3 Revenge

#4 Betrayal

#5 Good vs. evil

#6 Redemption

#7 Friendship

#8 Family

#9 Death

#10 Prejudice

#11 Coming of age

#12 Love and Marriage

#13 Forgiveness

#14 Race

#15 Youth

#16 Law and injustice

#17 Inequality

#18 Power

#19 Individual vs. society

#20 Class and Community

#21 Fate

#22 Courage

#23 Rebellion

#24 Humility

#25 Fear

#26 Hate

#27 Violence

#28 Warfare

#29 Tragedy

#30 Money

#31 Greed

#32 Personal development

#33 Oppression

#34 Poverty

#35 Sacrifice

#36 Survival

#37 Hypocrisy

#38 Loss

#39 Stoicism

#40 Religion

#41 Life 

#42 Alienation

#43 Innocence

#44 Woman and sex

#45 Madness

#46 Free will

#47 Immortality

#48 Crime

#49 Imperialism

#50 Ambitions

#51 Suffering

#52 Education

#53 Time 

#54 Isolation

#55 Moral corruption

#56 Loneliness

#57 Colonialism

#58 Gender

#59 Beauty

#60 Freedom

#61 Gothic elements

#62 Storytelling

#63 Corruption

#64 Growing up

#65 Nature 

#66 Science

#67 Totalitarianism

#68 Repression

#69 Loyalty

#70 Propaganda

#71 Manipulation

#72 Jealousy

#73 Adultery

#74 Desire

#75 Rural vs. city life

#76 Carnal desire

#77 Faith in god

#78 Truth

#79 Surveillance

#80 Morality

#81 Satire and realism

#82 Solitude

#83 Subjectivity

#84 Passion

#85 Progress

#86 Man and the nature

#87 Destiny

#88 Limit of knowledge

#89 Politics

#90 Social position

#91 Honor

#92 Guilt and shame

#93 History

#94 Childhood

#95 Heroism

#96 Honesty

#97 Perseverance

#98 Hard work

#99 Communication

#100 Relationship

#101 Hope


Examples of Themes in Literature

Below are the examples of literary themes from the popular novels of all time.

1. Pride and Prejudice

By Jane Austen

pride and prejudice story 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 ages, 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 Adventure 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.


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, language, manipulation, repression, rebellion, violence.


14. To the Lighthouse

By Virginia Woolfs

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 Conard

heart of darkness themes

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


Some more themes examples-

21. Mrs. Dalloway

By Virginia Woolf

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


22. Great Expedition

By Charles Dickens

Major Themes- Crime, class, imperialism, injustice, ambitions, 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

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


25. The Faults in our Stars

By John Green

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


26. The Hungers Game

By Suzanne Collins

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


27. Animal Farm

By George Orwell

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

Want to learn more about themes then do read this article about 10 most popular literary themes by WritersEdit or this article, a guide on themes for writers by Reedsy.

Neel Rana

About the Author- Neel Rana is a successful short story book author, flash fiction writer, literary enthusiast, entrepreneur and the founder of Pandora Post. Neel holds a degree in BA Honours in English Literature and has been writing since 2017. You can read more about him here