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, 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.
101 Common Literary Themes 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.
Follow the list to choose some of the popular themes for your next work of fiction.
#5 Good vs. evil
#11 Coming of age
#12 Love and Marriage
#16 Law and injustice
#19 Individual vs. society
#20 Class and Community
#32 Personal development
#44 Woman and sex
#46 Free will
#55 Moral corruption
#61 Gothic elements
#64 Growing up
#75 Rural vs. city life
#76 Carnal desire
#77 Faith in god
#81 Satire and realism
#86 Man and the nature
#88 Limit of knowledge
#90 Social position
#92 Guilt and shame
#98 Hard work
Examples of Themes in Literature
Below are examples of literary themes from the popular novels of all time.
1. Pride and Prejudice
By Jane Austen
Major Themes- Love and marriage, class, reputation, social status, family.
2. To Kill a Mockingbird
By Harper Lee
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
Major Themes- American dream, power, society and class, love and marriage.
4. Harry Potter
By J. K Rowling
Major Themes- Death, confronting fear, fate, love, friendship, power, rebel, good vs.evil, courage, humility.
5. Romeo and Juliet
By William Shakespeare
Major Themes– Love, fate, youth, violence, death, gender, revenge, marriage, hate.
6. David Copperfield
By Charles Dickens
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
Minor Themes- Good vs. evil, war, friendship, loyalty, courage, forgiveness, childhood, betrayal, family.
8. War and Peace
By Leo Tolstoy
Major Themes- Warfare, history, patriotism, forgiveness, spirituality, love, family, man and masculinity.
9. The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn
By Mark Twain
Major Themes- Racism, slavery, society, hypocrisy, freedom, superstition, education, empathy, guilt and shame, wealth, honor, religion.
10. Moby Dick
By Herman Melville
Major Themes- Revenge, limits of knowledge, destiny, religion, nature and man, madness, race, fate and free will.
By George Eliot
Major Themes- Marital compatibility, money, community and class, social position, politics, religion, pride and vanity, self discovery.
12. Anna Karenina
By Leo Tolstoy
Themes- Betrayal, hypocrisy, faith, jealousy, family life, marriage, adultery, imperial Russian society, desire, rural vs city life, society and class, carnal desire, passion, progress.
By George Orwell
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
Major Themes- Time, the meaning of life, subjectivity, the nature of art, gender.
15. Wuthering Heights
By Emily Bronte
Major Themes- Love, revenge, class, hate, violence, good and evil, solitude.
16. A Handful of Dust
By Evelyn Waugh
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
Major Themes- Love and marriage, failure, surveillance, Isolation, religion, self-awareness, corruption, suffering
18. Life of Pi
By Yann Martel
Major Themes- Storytelling, religion, nature, wildlife, survival, truth, faith in god, fear, science.
19. Jane Eyre
By Charlotte Bronte
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
Major Themes- Imperialism, racism, violence, colonialism, exploitation, religion, alienation, moral corruption, loneliness.
21. Mrs. Dalloway
By Virginia Woolf
Major Themes- Time, isolation, communication, death, repression, suffering, society and class.
22. Great Expectations
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.
28. Little Women
Louisa May Alcott
Major Themes- Family, love and marriage, ambitions, sacrifice, poverty, literature and language, writing, morality and society, self-improvement, wealth and happiness, gender and femininity, women as artist