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Literature Themes

What theme applies to your story?

How and Why?


As we study selected pieces of Literature, my students will need to relate these works to Literature Themes.  They will often be asked to identify the theme that applies to our chosen selection and then defend their choice by providing examples and incidents from the story, movie, picture, etc. that apply.  Some of the themes that we will be using are listed below.

Loss of Innocence 

Sometimes called the “coming of age story,” this most commonly introduces an “innocent” character to the evil or complexity of the real/adult world.

♦ Story revolves around Growth and Initiation (Man v Man  and/or  Man v Self)

a. A boy and a girl must go through a special trial or series of trials before maturing.

b. Manhood or womanhood is often established by an abrupt, random crisis, sometimes at an unusually early age.

c. A person grows only in so far as he or she must face a crisis of confidence or identity.



“No man is an island” dictates the focus of the story.

♦  Story revolves around – The Individual in Society. (Man v Society,  Man v Man and/or  Man v Self)

  1. An individual is isolated from fellow human beings and tries to bridge the gaps.
  2. Society and a person’s inner nature are at war.
  3. Social influences determine a person’s final destiny.

b. Through alienation comes self-knowledge.


The Great Battle 

It is about people or groups of people in conflict.  It is sometimes a good vs. evil story

♦ Story revolves around – The Individual in Society (Man v Society, Man v Man  and/or  Man v Self)

a. A person is at war with another person or persons.

b. A battle happens and there is a winner and a loser.

c. Social influences can only complete a path set by Nature.

d. A person’s identity might be determined by place in society and/or outcome of the battle.


The Fall From Grace

This theme people going where only God should go, doing what only God is meant to do, or attempting to do something that human beings should never do.  This is always followed by misfortune, whether it is the direct result of their action or an act of God.

♦  Story revolves around – Relation to the Gods or Fate (Man v Society  and/or  Man v Self)

a. The god(s) are benevolent and will reward human beings for overcoming evil and temptation.

b. The gods mock the individual and torture him or her for presuming to be great.

c. The gods are jealous of and constantly thwarts human aspiration to power and knowledge.

d. The gods are indifferent toward human beings and let them run their undetermined course.

e. There are no gods in whom people can place their faith or yearning for meaning in the universe.

Love and Friendship 

Love stories.  The ending may be happy, sad, or bittersweet, but the main theme is romantic love.  Also included in this theme is platonic love–friendship

♦  Story revolves around Human Relations (Man v Man  and/or  Man v Self)

a. Relationships between lovers, family, clans, etc. are tested and defined.

b. Parents/Friends might make sacrifices for one.

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