Finding Themes – More Ideas


The quick method is a good way of starting to consider themes and it works really well for Hollywood movies and children’s stories. However, for more complex texts a more developed way of looking at themes is needed. You might like to consider some of the areas below when deciding on the themes in your texts. Not all of these will apply to all texts.



What is the Goal of the Main Character?

·         This is often first of all in an obvious physical form – the boy / girl, the job, the sports victory, the car, the house, the career, … etc. There is a basically unlimited number of these actual physical goals.

·         However, this physical goal often represents a more abstract goal. These are much more limited in number. A character can desire a goal because it represents:

            Success / power






            Authenticity (being real, man!)

            Affirmation (to gain the approval of others)

            Confidence (to gain approval from themselves)


What are the Obstacles?

Obstacles can come in a number of different forms:

·         People: parents, teachers, policemen, priests, the boss, the stubborn horse, the little sister, ...

·         Objects: mountains, the sea, the cold, an animal, a trap, …

·         Abstract: government, society in general, racism, poverty, nature, fate, God, ignorance, …


What is the Turning Point / Climax?

There is often a point in the story where the main character discover something or has a revelation about his goal. There may be a speech at this point can reveal the themes of the text.


What are the Last Words?

Often at the end of a novel or text an author can’t resist a very direct and obvious reference back to one of the major themes. This might be in the form of a direct statement or a symbol. A good example of a symbolic ending would be the death of Adela (who represents freedom and rebellion) at the end of The House of Bernarda Alba. Bernarda’s subsequent statement about silence reinforces the idea that society / the government / religion is crushing the freedom and individuality of people at the time in rural Spain. Obviously these things don’t have to actually be the final, final words in a text. In a long novel they might not even be in the last chapter.


The Title

The title can sometimes help identify a theme. It may do this in a number of ways:

·         As a symbol – the Spider Woman, suggests entrapment and deviousness

·         By using the main character to stand for the theme – Bernarda Alba represents repression

·         By directly stating the theme – we will be together From Here to Eternity