We speak student! Power in Literature: Theme a la Shmoop. When symbols or elements of setting
repeat themselves or have a structure to them, I think that begins to get us toward the concept of a theme. So tell us, what is a theme and how does it apply contextually here? What is theme? Great, a theme is an abstract or philosophical viewpoint that runs throughout a work of literature and usually runs throughout all of literature. So, for instance, very broadly, love, might be a theme that’s an abstract idea, vs. symbols which are these kind of tangible concrete things. A theme is always abstract. So, we start with love, let’s say in the Great Gatsby but then we want to narrow it down, and we want to talk about what the author’s attitude is toward love and that’s where the theme really comes out, so Fitzgerald might say: “Love is pointless, it’s not real, you’ll never attain it,” There are other stories where the theme might be “love is blind,” etc., or “love is all you need” Whatever the case is, and then we kind of want to focus in and see what is the author’s attitude toward this, you don’t wanna just say: “love is the theme” you wanna say, “here’s how the book embodies that theme” Got it, so drill down for us how the author uses a theme, meaning do
they consciously create the theme here’s the story, the morals that I want to
present, or is that incidental to the story that they then tell? I would say it’s more the latter, usually a story will begin with the characters or the plot and then through those the theme kind of comes out. I’m sure many authors are surprised by what they get out of the
story at the end But there are certain aspects to stories that will follow through all literature, patterns that we just see coming out of every single book. What is theme?