essay vs theme

Theme Definition

What is theme? Here’s a quick and simple definition:

A theme is a universal idea, lesson, or message explored throughout a work of literature. One key characteristic of literary themes is their universality, which is to say that themes are ideas that not only apply to the specific characters and events of a book or play, but also express broader truths about human experience that readers can apply to their own lives. For instance, John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath (about a family of tenant farmers who are displaced from their land in Oklahoma) is a book whose themes might be said to include the inhumanity of capitalism, as well as the vitality and necessity of family and friendship.

Some additional key details about theme:

  • All works of literature have themes. The same work can have multiple themes, and many different works explore the same or similar themes.
  • Themes are sometimes divided into thematic concepts and thematic statements . A work's thematic concept is the broader topic it touches upon (love, forgiveness, pain, etc.) while its thematic statement is what the work says about that topic. For example, the thematic concept of a romance novel might be love, and, depending on what happens in the story, its thematic statement might be that "Love is blind," or that "You can't buy love . "
  • Themes are almost never stated explicitly. Oftentimes you can identify a work's themes by looking for a repeating symbol , motif , or phrase that appears again and again throughout a story, since it often signals a recurring concept or idea.

Theme Pronunciation

Here's how to pronounce theme: theem

Identifying Themes

Every work of literature—whether it's an essay, a novel, a poem, or something else—has at least one theme. Therefore, when analyzing a given work, it's always possible to discuss what the work is "about" on two separate levels: the more concrete level of the plot (i.e., what literally happens in the work), as well as the more abstract level of the theme (i.e., the concepts that the work deals with). Understanding the themes of a work is vital to understanding the work's significance—which is why, for example, every LitCharts Literature Guide uses a specific set of themes to help analyze the text.

Although some writers set out to explore certain themes in their work before they've even begun writing, many writers begin to write without a preconceived idea of the themes they want to explore—they simply allow the themes to emerge naturally through the writing process. But even when writers do set out to investigate a particular theme, they usually don't identify that theme explicitly in the work itself. Instead, each reader must come to their own conclusions about what themes are at play in a given work, and each reader will likely come away with a unique thematic interpretation or understanding of the work.

Symbol, Motif, and Leitwortstil

Writers often use three literary devices in particular—known as symbol , motif , and leitwortstil —to emphasize or hint at a work's underlying themes. Spotting these elements at work in a text can help you know where to look for its main themes.

  • Near the beginning of Romeo and Juliet , Benvolio promises to make Romeo feel better about Rosaline's rejection of him by introducing him to more beautiful women, saying "Compare [Rosaline's] face with some that I shall show….and I will make thee think thy swan a crow." Here, the swan is a symbol for how Rosaline appears to the adoring Romeo, while the crow is a symbol for how she will soon appear to him, after he has seen other, more beautiful women.
  • Symbols might occur once or twice in a book or play to represent an emotion, and in that case aren't necessarily related to a theme. However, if you start to see clusters of similar symbols appearing in a story, this may mean that the symbols are part of an overarching motif, in which case they very likely are related to a theme.
  • For example, Shakespeare uses the motif of "dark vs. light" in Romeo and Juliet to emphasize one of the play's main themes: the contradictory nature of love. To develop this theme, Shakespeare describes the experience of love by pairing contradictory, opposite symbols next to each other throughout the play: not only crows and swans, but also night and day, moon and sun. These paired symbols all fall into the overall pattern of "dark vs. light," and that overall pattern is called a motif.
  • A famous example is Kurt Vonnegut's repetition of the phrase "So it goes" throughout his novel Slaughterhouse Five , a novel which centers around the events of World War II. Vonnegut's narrator repeats the phrase each time he recounts a tragic story from the war, an effective demonstration of how the horrors of war have become normalized for the narrator. The constant repetition of the phrase emphasizes the novel's primary themes: the death and destruction of war, and the futility of trying to prevent or escape such destruction, and both of those things coupled with the author's skepticism that any of the destruction is necessary and that war-time tragedies "can't be helped."

Symbol, motif and leitwortstil are simply techniques that authors use to emphasize themes, and should not be confused with the actual thematic content at which they hint. That said, spotting these tools and patterns can give you valuable clues as to what might be the underlying themes of a work.

Thematic Concepts vs. Thematic Statements

A work's thematic concept is the broader topic it touches upon—for instance:

  • Forgiveness

while its thematic statement is the particular argument the writer makes about that topic through his or her work, such as:

  • Human judgement is imperfect.
  • Love cannot be bought.
  • Getting revenge on someone else will not fix your problems.
  • Learning to forgive is part of becoming an adult.

Should You Use Thematic Concepts or Thematic Statements?

Some people argue that when describing a theme in a work that simply writing a thematic concept is insufficient, and that instead the theme must be described in a full sentence as a thematic statement. Other people argue that a thematic statement, being a single sentence, usually creates an artificially simplistic description of a theme in a work and is therefore can actually be more misleading than helpful. There isn't really a right answer in this debate.

In our LitCharts literature study guides , we usually identify themes in headings as thematic concepts, and then explain the theme more fully in a few paragraphs. We find thematic statements limiting in fully exploring or explaining a the theme, and so we don't use them. Please note that this doesn't mean we only rely on thematic concepts—we spend paragraphs explaining a theme after we first identify a thematic concept. If you are asked to describe a theme in a text, you probably should usually try to at least develop a thematic statement about the text if you're not given the time or space to describe it more fully. For example, a statement that a book is about "the senselessness of violence" is a lot stronger and more compelling than just saying that the book is about "violence."

Identifying Thematic Statements

One way to try to to identify or describe the thematic statement within a particular work is to think through the following aspects of the text:

  • Plot: What are the main plot elements in the work, including the arc of the story, setting, and characters. What are the most important moments in the story? How does it end? How is the central conflict resolved?
  • Protagonist: Who is the main character, and what happens to him or her? How does he or she develop as a person over the course of the story?
  • Prominent symbols and motifs: Are there any motifs or symbols that are featured prominently in the work—for example, in the title, or recurring at important moments in the story—that might mirror some of the main themes?

After you've thought through these different parts of the text, consider what their answers might tell you about the thematic statement the text might be trying to make about any given thematic concept. The checklist above shouldn't be thought of as a precise formula for theme-finding, but rather as a set of guidelines, which will help you ask the right questions and arrive at an interesting thematic interpretation.

Theme Examples

The following examples not only illustrate how themes develop over the course of a work of literature, but they also demonstrate how paying careful attention to detail as you read will enable you to come to more compelling conclusions about those themes.

Themes in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby

Fitzgerald explores many themes in The Great Gatsby , among them the corruption of the American Dream .

  • The story's narrator is Minnesota-born Nick Caraway, a New York bonds salesman. Nick befriends Jay Gatsby, the protagonist, who is a wealthy man who throws extravagant parties at his mansion.
  • The central conflict of the novel is Gatsby's pursuit of Daisy, whom he met and fell in love with as a young man, but parted from during World War I.
  • He makes a fortune illegally by bootlegging alcohol, to become the sort of wealthy man he believes Daisy is attracted to, then buys a house near her home, where she lives with her husband.
  • While he does manage to re-enter Daisy's life, she ultimately abandons him and he dies as a result of her reckless, selfish behavior.
  • Gatsby's house is on the water, and he stares longingly across the water at a green light that hangs at the edge of a dock at Daisy's house which sits across a the bay. The symbol of the light appears multiple times in the novel—during the early stages of Gatsby's longing for Daisy, during his pursuit of her, and after he dies without winning her love. It symbolizes both his longing for daisy and the distance between them (the distance of space and time) that he believes (incorrectly) that he can bridge. 
  • In addition to the green light, the color green appears regularly in the novel. This motif of green broadens and shapes the symbolism of the green light and also influences the novel's themes. While green always remains associated with Gatsby's yearning for Daisy and the past, and also his ambitious striving to regain Daisy, it also through the motif of repeated green becomes associated with money, hypocrisy, and destruction. Gatsby's yearning for Daisy, which is idealistic in some ways, also becomes clearly corrupt in others, which more generally impacts what the novel is saying about dreams more generally and the American Dream in particular. 

Gatsby pursues the American Dream, driven by the idea that hard work can lead anyone from poverty to wealth, and he does so for a single reason: he's in love with Daisy. However, he pursues the dream dishonestly, making a fortune by illegal means, and ultimately fails to achieve his goal of winning Daisy's heart. Furthermore, when he actually gets close to winning Daisy's heart, she brings about his downfall. Through the story of Gatsby and Daisy, Fitzgerald expresses the point of view that the American Dream carries at its core an inherent corruption. You can read more about the theme of The American Dream in The Great Gatsby here .

Themes in Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart

In Things Fall Apart , Chinua Achebe explores the theme of the dangers of rigidly following tradition .

  • Okonkwo is obsessed with embodying the masculine ideals of traditional Igbo warrior culture.
  • Okonkwo's dedication to his clan's traditions is so extreme that it even alienates members of his own family, one of whom joins the Christians.
  • The central conflict: Okonkwo's community adapts to colonization in order to survive, becoming less warlike and allowing the minor injustices that the colonists inflict upon them to go unchallenged. Okonkwo, however, refuses to adapt.
  • At the end of the novel, Okonkwo impulsively kills a Christian out of anger. Recognizing that his community does not support his crime, Okonkwo kills himself in despair.
  • Clanswomen who give birth to twins abandon the babies in the forest to die, according to traditional beliefs that twins are evil.
  • Okonkwo kills his beloved adopted son, a prisoner of war, according to the clan's traditions.
  • Okonkwo sacrifices a goat in repentence, after severely beating his wife during the clan's holy week.

Through the tragic story of Okonkwo, Achebe is clearly dealing with the theme of tradition, but a close examination of the text reveals that he's also making a clear thematic statement that following traditions too rigidly leads people to the greatest sacrifice of all: that of personal agency . You can read more about this theme in Things Fall Apart   here .

Themes in Robert Frost's The Road Not Taken

Poem's have themes just as plot-driven narratives do. One theme that Robert Frost explores in this famous poem,  The Road Not Taken ,  is the illusory nature of free will .

  • The poem's speaker stands at a fork in the road, in a "yellow wood."
  • He (or she) looks down one path as far as possible, then takes the other, which seems less worn.
  • The speaker then admits that the paths are about equally worn—there's really no way to tell the difference—and that a layer of leaves covers both of the paths, indicating that neither has been traveled recently.
  • After taking the second path, the speaker finds comfort in the idea of taking the first path sometime in the future, but acknowledges that he or she is unlikely to ever return to that particular fork in the woods.
  • The speaker imagines how, "with a sigh" she will tell someone in the future, "I took the road less travelled—and that has made all the difference."
  • By wryly predicting his or her own need to romanticize, and retroactively justify, the chosen path, the speaker injects the poem with an unmistakeable hint of irony .
  • The speaker's journey is a symbol for life, and the two paths symbolize different life paths, with the road "less-travelled" representing the path of an individualist or lone-wolf. The fork where the two roads diverge represents an important life choice. The road "not taken" represents the life path that the speaker would have pursued had he or she had made different choices.

Frost's speaker has reached a fork in the road, which—according to the symbolic language of the poem—means that he or she must make an important life decision. However, the speaker doesn't really know anything about the choice at hand: the paths appear to be the same from the speaker's vantage point, and there's no way he or she can know where the path will lead in the long term. By showing that the only truly informed choice the speaker makes is how he or she explains their decision after they have already made it , Frost suggests that although we pretend to make our own choices, our lives are actually governed by chance.

What's the Function of Theme in Literature?

Themes are a huge part of what readers ultimately take away from a work of literature when they're done reading it. They're the universal lessons and ideas that we draw from our experiences of works of art: in other words, they're part of the whole reason anyone would want to pick up a book in the first place!

It would be difficult to write any sort of narrative that did not include any kind of theme. The narrative itself would have to be almost completely incoherent in order to seem theme-less, and even then readers would discern a theme about incoherence and meaninglessness. So themes are in that sense an intrinsic part of nearly all writing. At the same time, the themes that a writer is interested in exploring will significantly impact nearly all aspects of how a writer chooses to write a text. Some writers might know the themes they want to explore from the beginning of their writing process, and proceed from there. Others might have only a glimmer of an idea, or have new ideas as they write, and so the themes they address might shift and change as they write. In either case, though, the writer's ideas about his or her themes will influence how they write. 

One additional key detail about themes and how they work is that the process of identifying and interpreting them is often very personal and subjective. The subjective experience that readers bring to interpreting a work's themes is part of what makes literature so powerful: reading a book isn't simply a one-directional experience, in which the writer imparts their thoughts on life to the reader, already distilled into clear thematic statements. Rather, the process of reading and interpreting a work to discover its themes is an exchange in which readers parse the text to tease out the themes they find most relevant to their personal experience and interests.

Other Helpful Theme Resources

  • The Wikipedia Page on Theme: An in-depth explanation of theme that also breaks down the difference between thematic concepts and thematic statements.
  • The Dictionary Definition of Theme: A basic definition and etymology of the term.
  • In this instructional video , a teacher explains her process for helping students identify themes.

The printed PDF version of the LitCharts literary term guide on Theme

  • PDFs for all 136 Lit Terms we cover
  • Downloads of 1909 LitCharts Lit Guides
  • Teacher Editions for every Lit Guide
  • Explanations and citation info for 40,206 quotes across 1909 books
  • Downloadable (PDF) line-by-line translations of every Shakespeare play
  • Protagonist
  • Alliteration
  • Epanalepsis
  • Static Character
  • End-Stopped Line
  • Tragic Hero
  • Anachronism

The logo.

  • Key Differences

Know the Differences & Comparisons

Difference Between Theme and Topic

theme vs topic

There are many who believe that topic and theme are one and the same thing. But this is not true, a topic is the main title, usually, written as a heading of the work. It is something which is described, explained or narrated through the story, essay or report.

On the contrary, theme refers to the salient hidden message or idea that the literary work of the author attempts to explore. It acts as a foundation of the entire story. It reflects the writer’s view or opinion on something, which is envisioned in the work. Let’s move further to talk about the difference between theme and topic.

Content: Theme Vs Topic

Comparison chart, definition of theme.

The theme can be understood as the idea or subject-matter, around which the entire story revolves and can be expressed in a single word such as love, betrayal, happiness, honesty, bravery, hard work, etc. It is the hidden message or the bottom line of a literary work, which is presented impliedly, instead of stating explicitly.

A literary work can contain multiple themes. Themes are based on classical or cross-culturally acceptable ideas, such as questions relating to ethics and morals.

One can identify the theme of the work, on the basis of its characters, plot, dialogue, setting (location), conflict (struggle encountered by the main lead) or combination thereof. Themes are universal in the sense that it is not applicable to a single case, rather it can be applied in a pervasive way.

Further, themes are categorized into thematic concepts and thematic statements. Thematic concepts are the overall concept, which reflects the view of the readers about the work, i.e. what they think the work is about, hence, it is conditional to the readers. On the contrary, the thematic statement describes what the literary work states about the topic, which the writer explains.

Definition of Topic

Topic refers to the main subject of discussion in the literary work. It is the phrase or word which the writer talks or writes about in the essay, story or speech. It is the focus, which regulates the direction of our literature. Basically, the article, essay or story is the explanation of the topic on which they are written. It can be an issue, idea, principle or question which the rest of the text explains.

The topic is the highlight, which tells you what the material contains, as the topic is always related to the content and plot. It is clearly mentioned in any script, to reflect the primary focus of any piece of writing.

Topics should be unique, simple and interesting so that it can draw the attention of the reader. Many writers pick the topics which are very common and relatable so that the readers can associate with it easily, while others go for the topics which are rare. In short, we can say that the writer chooses a topic that enables the reader to have a quick and rough idea of the literature, depending on the audience he/she wants to target.

Key Differences Between Theme and Topic

The points given below are substantial so far as the difference between theme and topic is concerned:

  • The topic is nothing but the main subject of the story which the writer discusses or talks about in the work. On the contrary, the theme is the abstract or controlling idea of the literary work, which the author wants to convey with the help of the story or essay.
  • The theme is universal in nature, i.e. theme contains a message, which is not just applicable in one case, rather, it is applicable in many circumstances. Conversely, the topic is unique, in the sense that the writer makes thorough research before choosing any topic, so as to come up with a distinctive topic, which the readers are curious to read.
  • The theme can be described as the hidden message which is pervaded through the work. In contrast, topic determines the main title or subject of the work, which is picked by the reader, keeping in mind the reader’s interest and their attention.
  • Theme specifies what the writer of the story or essay wants to convey to its audience with the help of the material. As against, topic specifies what the story or essay is all about.
  • The theme is inherent in the story, which the reader has to understand, as it is not directly stated, but the entire story revolves around it. On the other hand, the topic is clearly mentioned at the top of the work, to grab the attention of the readers, as well as give them an idea about the story.

While topics are expressly stated in any essay, report, story or novel, themes are not directly stated, rather, they are assumed by the readers, from the work as it is easily recognizable. In a nutshell, we can say that topic is the issue or any subject which is being discussed in the material, whereas theme is the basic message or perception behind the entire piece of writing.

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article vs essay

Jolene Tran says

October 3, 2021 at 4:52 am

Thanks for your useful sharing so much!

Ms. Abbie says

October 1, 2022 at 2:01 pm

Thank you for your clear explanation, especially about the part on themes categorized into thematic concepts and thematic statements. The kids find it a little bit confusing sometimes whether they will give a word or phrase for a theme or a statement.

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Definition of Theme

As a literary device, theme refers to the central, deeper meaning of a written work. Writers typically will convey the theme of their work, and allow the reader to perceive and interpret it, rather than overtly or directly state the theme. As readers infer, reflect, and analyze a literary theme, they develop a greater understanding of the work itself and can apply this understanding beyond the literary work as a means of grasping a better sense of the world. Theme is often what creates a memorable and significant experience of a literary work for the reader.

Themes are often subject to the reader’s perception and interpretation. This means that readers may find primary and/or secondary themes in a work of literature that the author didn’t intend to convey. Therefore, theme allows for literature to remain meaningful, “living” works that can be revisited and analyzed in perpetuity by many readers at once or by a single reader across time.

For example, William Shakespeare ’s well-known tragedy ,  Romeo and Juliet , has been performed and read countless times and by countless people since its publication in 1597:

Come, gentle night ; come, loving, black-browed night; Give me my Romeo; and, when I shall die, Take him and cut him out in little stars, And he will make the face of heaven so fine That all the world will be in love with night

Even those who have not directly heard or read the lines of this play are familiar with its theme of the power of romantic love and its potentially devastating effects.

Common Examples of Literary Themes

Many works of literature share common themes and central ideas. As a literary device, theme allows the author to present and reveal all aspects of human nature and the human condition. This enhances the enjoyment and significance of a literary work for readers by encouraging thought, interpretation, and analysis. Discovery and analysis of theme is also one of the primary reasons that readers return to “classic” literary works that are centuries old. There is no end or expiration to the significance and impact theme can have on readers of literature.

Here are some common examples of literary themes:

  • Human versus nature
  • Good versus evil
  • Coming of age
  • Courage and perseverance
  • Individual versus society
  • Faith versus doubt
  • Chaos versus order
  • Gender roles

Famous Examples of Disney Movies and Their Themes

Of course, theme is an essential literary device in terms of written works. However, nearly all works of art feature theme as an underlying meaning to be understood and interpreted by the audience . Here are some famous examples of Disney movies and their related themes:

  • Peter Pan : out-growing the world of childhood
  • Mulan : girls/women can do battle as honorably as boys/men
  • The Sword in the Stone : education and courage are stronger than brawn and force
  • Cinderella : kindness and inner beauty are rewarded
  • Pinocchio : dishonesty leads to trouble
  • Aladdin : the best course of action is to be who you are
  • The Rescuers : it doesn’t take great size to make a difference
  • Snow White : jealousy can lead to cruelty
  • The Fox and the Hound : the importance of friendship
  • The Little Mermaid : love often requires choices and sacrifices

Difference Between Theme and Subject Matter

Sometimes it can be difficult to determine the difference between the theme and subject matter of a literary work. They are both closely related to each other; however, the subject matter is the topic that is overtly addressed and presented by the writer whereas the theme is the meaning or underlying message that is imparted through the writing.

The subject matter of a written work is what the text is about and is, typically, clearly indicated by the writer. The theme of a literary work reflects why it was written and what the author hopes to convey on a deeper level to the reader without direct statements. A reader may infer and a writer may imply a theme within a literary work. However, the subject matter of a literary work is not inferred by the reader or implied by the writer; it is overtly stated and understood.

For example, in Shakespeare’s  Romeo and Juliet , the subject matter is two young people from feuding families who fall deeply in love with each other. One theme of this play, and Romeo and Juliet certainly features several themes, is the power of romantic love and the futility of others to stop it. The subject matter is almost exclusively related to the foundational elements of the story , such as what happens and to which characters. The theme, in contrast , is the lingering meaning and thought left to the reader as a means of reaching a greater understanding of the play itself and the larger concept of love.

Examples of Theme in Literature

As a literary device, the purpose of theme is the main idea or underlying meaning that is explored by a writer in a work of literature. Writers can utilize a combination of elements in order to convey a story’s theme, including setting , plot , characters, dialogue , and more. For certain works of literature, such as fables , the theme is typically a “ moral ” or lesson for the reader. However, more complex works of literature tend to have a central theme that is open to interpretation and reflects a basic aspect of society or trait of humanity. Many longer works of literature, such as novels, convey several themes in order to explore the universality of human nature.

Here are some examples of theme in well-known works of literature:

Example 1:  The Yellow Wall-Paper  (Charlotte Perkins Gilman)

If a physician of high standing, and one’s own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression – a slight hysterical tendency – what is one to do? My brother is also a physician, and also of high standing, and he says the same thing. • So I take phosphates or phosphites whichever it is, and tonics, and journeys, and air, and exercise, and am absolutely forbidden to “work” until I am well again. Personally, I disagree with their ideas. Personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good.

In her short story , Charlotte Perkins Gilman holds forth a revolutionary theme for the time period. The protagonist of the story is kept in a room with sickly yellow wall-paper as a means of “curing” her emotional and mental difficulties. Her husband, brother, and others are committed to keeping her idle. She is even separated from her baby. Rather than allow the narrator any agency over her daily life, they disregard her words and requests for the fact that she is a woman and considered incompetent.

Gilman conveys a theme of rebellion and feminism to the reader as the narrator begins to embrace the “trapped” woman she has become. Therefore, this allows the reader to perceive the narrator as an empowered figure in many ways, as opposed to one that is oppressed or incompetent.

Example 2:  Harlem  (Langston Hughes)

What happens to a dream deferred?       Does it dry up       like a raisin in the sun ?       Or fester like a sore—       And then run?       Does it stink like rotten meat?       Or crust and sugar over—       like a syrupy sweet?       Maybe it just sags       like a heavy load.        Or does it explode?

Hughes’s well-known poem explores the universality of hope and dreams among humans and the devastating legacy of oppression in deferring such hope and dreams. Hughes structures the poem in the form of questions and responses addressing what happens to a dream deferred. This calls on the reader to consider their own dreams as well those of others, which underscores the theme that dreams, and the hope associated with them, is universal–regardless of race, faith, etc.

Tied to this theme is the deferment of dreams, reflecting the devastating consequences of racism and oppression on the hopes of those who are persecuted. Therefore, the underlying theme of the poem that Hughes conveys to the reader is that, though dreams and hopes are universal, the dreams and hopes of certain members of society are put off and postponed due to the oppression of their race.

Example 3:  A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man  (James Joyce)

I will tell you what I will do and what I will not do. I will not serve that in which I no longer believe, whether it calls itself my home, my fatherland, or my church: and I will try to express myself in some mode of life or art as freely as I can and as wholly as I can, using for my defense the only arms I allow myself to use — silence , exile , and cunning.

Joyce incorporates several themes in his novel . However, as this passage indicates, the central theme of this literary work is the tension between individual artistic expression the demands of society for conformity. The novel’s main character , Stephen Dedalus, faces conflicting loyalties on one side to his family, church, and country, and on the other side to his life as an artist and dedication to artistic expression.

Through the experiences and conflicts facing the novel’s protagonist, Joyce is able to convey his exploration of the theme of the artist’s role in society. This includes freedom of individual expression versus the constraints of societal conventions. As a result, this theme is imparted to the reader who is able to interpret and analyze aspects of the novel’s central meaning. By the end of Joyce’s novel, the theme culminates in Stephen Dedalus’s decision to isolate himself from family, church, and country, to pursue his art. Therefore, the reader’s inference of the novel’s theme impacts their perception and understanding of the story’s resolution as well as the broader concept of the artist’s role in society.

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  • Examples of Themes in Popular Songs
  • Romeo and Juliet Themes
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How to Write a Theme Essay

Last Updated: January 4, 2024 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Jake Adams . Jake Adams is an academic tutor and the owner of Simplifi EDU, a Santa Monica, California based online tutoring business offering learning resources and online tutors for academic subjects K-College, SAT & ACT prep, and college admissions applications. With over 14 years of professional tutoring experience, Jake is dedicated to providing his clients the very best online tutoring experience and access to a network of excellent undergraduate and graduate-level tutors from top colleges all over the nation. Jake holds a BS in International Business and Marketing from Pepperdine University. There are 9 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 206,402 times.

Jake Adams

Starting the Essay

Step 1 Read the essay prompt carefully.

  • For example, an essay prompt may ask you to reflect on the theme of good versus evil in John Steinbeck's East of Eden .

Step 2 Brainstorm ideas for the essay.

  • Make a list of everything you know about the topic. This can be information you learned in class, as well as information you found on your own.
  • Write down keywords or key scenes in the text that respond to the essay prompt. Think about what words or scenes from the text come to mind when you think of a specific theme.
  • For example, when you brainstorm ideas on East of Eden , you may write down any moments in the text that seem to speak to the theme of good and evil.

Step 3 Create a thesis...

  • Your thesis statement will need to address the theme, your primary example or examples, and the stance you will take on the topic.
  • For example, your thesis might be: "In East of Eden , John Steinbeck rejects the Biblical idea of good and evil and instead focuses on the contradictions and complications found in good and evil."

Step 4 Outline the essay.

  • Introduction: Discuss landscape as metaphor, include thesis statement.
  • Body: Describe mountains in opening scene, elaborate on how they symbolize good vs. evil, state how characters live between the mountains, showing how people are caught between good and evil.
  • Conclusion: Restate thesis statement, return to landscape as metaphor.

Writing Your Essay

Step 1 Start with a hook.

  • Questions can make fun hooks for the reader. Ask a rhetorical question that relates to the theme of the essay, such as "How does one decide what is good and what is evil?"
  • You can also use a quote from the text as the hook. Find a quote in the text that explores the themes and ideas you'll be discussing in your essay.

Step 2 Introduce your supporting ideas.

  • For example, you may introduce the role of nature plays in the text to discuss the theme of good and evil. The first sentence of your body paragraph should discuss the role of nature. This will set up the paragraph and let the reader know what the focus of the paragraph will be.

Step 3 Use examples from the text.

  • For example, you may discuss the use of nature in the text in one paragraph. The body of the paragraph should then use quotes and scenes in the text to support this idea.
  • You might write,"The descriptions of the Gabilan Mountains in the text symbolize good and evil. The characters in the story live in the Salinas Valley, trapped in a gray area between these two extremes."

Step 4 Create a strong conclusion.

  • Ask yourself, "What do I want my readers to have learned through this essay?"
  • Remind readers about the essay's theme. Reference some of the arguments you made in the body of your essay, reinforcing how they support your original point.

Revising Your Essay

Step 1 Check the structure and flow of the essay.

  • Check that there are transitions between paragraphs. Look at the beginning of each paragraph to make sure they all flow well together.

Step 2 Look for any spelling, grammar, or punctuation errors.

  • Print out your paper and proofread it. Oftentimes, errors are easier to catch on paper. If you can't print out your paper, try changing the size or type of the font. Anything that alters how the work looked when you wrote it can help alert you to errors. [13] X Trustworthy Source University of North Carolina Writing Center UNC's on-campus and online instructional service that provides assistance to students, faculty, and others during the writing process Go to source

Step 3 Show the essay to others for review.

  • Be open to constructive feedback from friends and peers. This will only improve the essay and ensure it is at its best when you turn it in.

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About This Article

Jake Adams

When writing a theme essay, you’ll need to explore a given theme in the text you’re studying. Before you start your essay, brainstorm some notes about your theme, which you can then build your essay from. For example, if you have the theme of good and evil, think about which characters are mostly good or evil, any good or evil actions they take, description that uses light and darkness, and any religious context. In your intro, state your thesis, which should summarize your essay’s main argument. Then, choose 4 or 5 examples of your theme and write a paragraph exploring each one. Make sure you support your points with quotes from the text. In your conclusion, link your ideas back to your thesis statement. For more tips from our English co-author, including how to revise your essay to polish it up, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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What is Theme? Definition & Examples of Theme in Literature

essay vs theme

by Fija Callaghan

Often scholars will talk about theme in literature like it’s this highbrow, deeply intellectual feat of narrative engineering hiding between the lines of a novel or collection of poetry. “Theme,” they say, delicately sipping hundred-year-old brandy from crystal glasses, “is the intentional and philosophical confluence of story archetypes to convey a groundbreaking, politically or socially relevant ideal.” And you nod eagerly in agreement, because you would also like to try some hundred-year-old brandy.

Writers, on the other hand, will often talk about theme like it’s a clumsy animal that has somehow wandered into your story and, having proven itself to be only a minimal nuisance and actually kind of cute, has been allowed to stay and build itself a nest somewhere between your Midpoint and the first major plot point of Act Three .

Really, theme can be both of these things and more. Let’s look at what theme is in literature, how a strong theme can elevate a story, and how to discover the themes already brewing in your own work.

What is theme in literature?

Theme is the broad central idea supporting any narrative work. The work can be a novel, a short story, a poem, or even something like a song or visual art. In a story, each choice made by your characters and each turn of events will support this core underlying theme which you’re trying to convey to your readers.

Any medium that tells a story will have this underlying message—whether it was put there painstakingly by the artist layer by layer, or whether it grew organically from their unconscious experience as they created their literary work.

Literary themes can be concepts like redemption, sacrifice, true love, or family. Storytelling in particular has an enormous range of tools from which to draw themes, like setting, imagery, metaphor , conflict , and—most importantly of all— character . It’s through character that your readers will experience the underlying meaning of your story and come away with a new understanding.

Theme definition: A story’s theme is the driving message or idea behind any literary work.

Which comes first—theme or plot?

A question as old as the written word: Is it better to start with a meaningful theme or an engaging plot ? Do you choose a thematic concept and then build your story around it, or do you draft your story and then see what theme emerges? What if you have a story in mind but you don’t even know what the theme is?

Theme and plot are intertwined; neither one comes first, but rather they’re developed together. The moment you have an idea for a story, the theme of that story is already being born. The more you learn about the characters, motivations, and events of your story, the clearer its theme will become.

Writing a story is equal parts art, craft, and intuition. Theme is something that tends to reside in the latter category. While your cognitive mind is exploring roads of possibility in your plot, setting, and characters, your subconscious will be constantly reaching out and searching for deeper meaning in these things.

Ask yourself: Why is this story important? Why is this story happening here , now ? Who are the people in this story, and why do they matter to me? That’s theme at work.

Why does theme matter in storytelling?

Okay but do I need a theme? Isn’t it enough to have a fun story and a lovable hero and a dastardly villain and a happily ever after at the end of it?

Well, yes, but even the simplest of universal tales will have some sort of theme bubbling under the surface. Every story needs to communicate something with the reader.

This will usually be the same main idea that’s driving your protagonist towards their goal. It might be a simple developmental ideal such as the overt central morals in Aesop’s fables, or it might be a larger, more complex exploration of multi-faceted issues that we’re still facing in the world today (we’ll look at some theme examples of these later on).

Crafting a literary theme that resonates with readers on a deep, visceral level will help them feel connected to your characters and invested in what those characters are fighting for. A vibrant, engaging theme in a work of literature has the power to affect real change and make readers look at the world in a new way.

Classic themes in literature

Because stories are so universal, we’ll often see the same central themes being repeated over and over in different works. This doesn’t mean the stories that share these central ideas are unoriginal; rather, it means that they speak to deep universal truths that we all recognize and resonate with. That’s why we return to those stories again and again.

Most of these common themes will fall under two categories: one central idea, or a contrast or conflict between two opposing principles.

Here are some common themes in literature that you can explore in your own writing.

Love is something that we all recognize regardless of our background, language, age, class, ability, or understanding of the world. Love is the greatest unifier of the human species, and it can be as bright and empowering as it can be terrible.

Many works of literature deal with the theme of love, but Romeo and Juliet is one famous story in which the author explores the intensity and destructive qualities of undying love.

We most often associate love with romantic relationships, but focusing on love as a theme in your own work can also look at the deep, soulful love between two best friends, or even the journey towards discovering love for yourself.

Many of us have been betrayed in our lives by people we thought we could trust, whether that’s a friend, a family member, a partner, or someone we knew professionally. Just as antagonists are rarely single-faceted, betrayal is usually a very complex thing that can come from a wide range of different motivations.

What one person sees as betrayal might feel like a natural progression to another, and so this theme can be useful for exploring the complexity of human needs and desires. Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a famous work of literature that deals with strong themes of betrayal.

The theme of rebirth has figured into the mythological cycles of a variety of cultures, most famously the rebirth of Christ in the Christian bible.

On a microcosmic level, we often see rebirth as a dawn of hope and opportunity after a devastating experience such as a divorce, a failure, or the loss of a loved one. On a deep psychological level, we like to believe that there can be hope for us even when we ourselves have become lost.

There are many stories of rebirth, but Charles Dickens’ famous holiday piece A Christmas Carol explores the rebirth of its protagonist after a lifetime of avarice and misery.

Modern popular culture has seen a huge resurgence in redemptive character arcs, most famously in “anti-hero” type characters . There is something so satisfying about watching a rascally ne’er-do-well make mistakes, learn from them, and grow into someone we wouldn’t be embarrassed to introduce to our mothers.

Much like rebirth, redemption comes from a place of hope—the idea that there’s always room to grow, and that anyone can find the will to do better. Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables is a famous novel that uses this thematic concept to create a dynamic character arc.

Love, betrayal, and redemption are some examples of classic themes in literature.

For many of us, our relationships with our families are quite complex. And yet, the bond between family members is a very universal idea that can teach us a lot about other cultures, generations, and ways of life.

The relationship we have with our families can also teach us a lot about ourselves, and so this theme is very useful for character-driven stories and novels.

The Book Thief , a novel by Markus Zusak, explores our connection to our blood families as well as the families we build around us.

Prejudice has always been a major societal issue, and those issues are being brought into new light. Prejudice can be found through race, class, and ability both in literature and in the world around us. For this reason, art of all kinds is a powerful tool in fighting against these poisonous ideas and helping people understand them in a new way.

The novel Such a Fun Age , by Kiley Reid, is one of many powerful works that explore themes of racial and class-driven prejudice that is still prevalent today.


Often we discover that growing and learning about ourselves and the world means letting go of precious ideals or perceptions we once had. Knowledge is never an inherently negative thing, but coming to terms with it can be a less than comfortable experience.

These themes often deal with the sacrifice of innocence and idealism in order to attain a greater understanding of ourselves and the world. The Great Gatsby is a tragic literary work that follows the central character’s disillusionment—and, by proxy, the reader’s—with the glittering party lifestyle that was once so seductive.

Closely related to prejudice, oppression is a very real problem in our world that has inspired a lot of powerful art and literature. Literary work that deals with this theme often seek to accomplish two things: the first, to enlighten people to a toxic situation that they may not have been aware of, and second, to show them that we can do something about it.

Although they deal with very negative and difficult subject matter, themes of oppression are often found in stories full of hope for a better future.

Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is one such groundbreaking novel that uses a speculative lens to draw attention to some of the problems we have faced historically and are still fighting against today.

The desire for revenge is a universal human impulse, and watching those impulses play out in the safe arena of fiction is both riveting and cathartic. However, revenge left to ferment and fester can be a very damaging thing and many of these stories teach us just how damaging these desires can be.

Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a revenge-driven tale that shows two different characters undone by their need for revenge above all else. These themes are often useful for examining the contrast of human strength and weakness.

On the topic of human weakness, corruption is one of the most vicious poisons to enter a human heart. Most corruption comes from a place of fear and survival instinct, and feeds easily from one person to another.

George Orwell’s allegorical novel Animal Farm examines the way this theme takes root and spreads, turning the best intentions into destructive actions fueled by pride and greed.

Powerful and nuanced themes can help writers and readers understand humanity on a deeper level.

On some small level, we all take little steps to try and make it through each day. But most of us have never been in a situation so extreme that we need to fight for our lives.

Stories that explore the theme of survival are often a beat or two removed from our day-to-day understanding of the world, but they help us learn a lot about what we are capable of in difficult circumstances. The famous novel Robinson Crusoe is an adventure story that follows the central character cast away on a deserted island, pitting his strength and intellect against the whims of nature and fate.

Death and mortality are constant underlying themes in all works of literature as they are in life. The battle against the inevitability of death has been present in stories from all cultures for as long as there have been storytellers.

Very often literature that deals with the theme of mortality doesn’t present death as something wholly antagonistic, but something with its own place in the cycle of the world. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight , from the classic Arthurian Legends, deals strongly with multiple themes of life, death, rebirth, and honoring our place within those themes.

Good vs. Evil

Themes that explore morality are some of the first themes that many readers are exposed to as children. The Chronicles of Narnia , among many others, is a story that shows us this polarity. This theme teaches us that we should always try to do good in the world, and that even when there are bad people doing scary things, we can overcome them by being true to our own best natures.

Even as we grow older and learn that the world and the people in it are more complex than we could have imagined, there is still some part of us that wants to believe in those ideals. We gather strength from believing that good can triumph over evil—whether that’s between two forces in the wider world, or deeper, more intimately, within ourselves.

Individual vs. Society

Tying into some of the popular themes we looked at above like prejudice, oppression, and corruption, this theme will often explore those ideas by placing an individual protagonist at odds with the world around them.

The reader will identify with the central character and use their journey as a way to examine the failings of the society in the story—which may, in turn, reflect some of the failings that the reader can see in their own world as well. The Hunger Games is a popular novel that places an individual in opposition with a seemingly insurmountable status quo.

Life vs. Death

While some stories include themes that seek to understand mortality and the place it has in our life’s journey, other stories may look at life and death as two opposing, contradictory forces.

In the Harry Potter series, all of the events of the story unfold because the primary antagonist is at constant war with death. He treats it as an enemy to be overcome, even domesticated.

Since death is unfortunately a very real part of our natural cycle, these sorts of themes rarely end well for those involved. However, fear of the unknown is also a very real part of our natural cycle and so this central topic has arisen again and again in stories throughout history.

Sometimes the theme of a story is the juxtaposition of two different elements.

Fate vs. Free Will

How much of our path do we truly choose, and how much is preordained? This is a question we have been asking as long as there has been human consciousness—and people are still debating it today. Stories that explore this theme will usually follow a character who has seen a glimpse of what the future holds for them… and doesn’t care for it at all.

Oedipus the King , a famous Greek tragic drama, follows a character who’s trying to dodge a terrible prophecy about his future. He removes himself from the situation completely, only to find that those very actions are what set his fate into motion.

This theme doesn’t have to be tragic, though; it works just as well if you give your characters the strength to choose their own destinies.

Tradition vs. Change

Tension has always existed between one generation and another, regardless of what culture, ethnicity, or era they might be from. Stories with this theme look at finding the right balance between honoring the traditions of those before us and allowing room to grow.

Neil Gaiman’s American Gods takes a fantastical approach to this theme by pitting the old world gods of popular mythology against the new world of worship that people bow down to today, including media, technology, and the stock market.

These themes teach us that there is wisdom to be learned from our predecessors as well as wisdom in new ideas.

Pride vs. Humility

Pride is one of the most seductive of human sins. It’s also one of the most difficult to break away from, even when we can see as well as anyone how quickly it’s tearing us apart.

Themes of pride and humility are usually character-driven examinations of how we are all susceptible to this weakness, and the ways in which we can find the strength to overcome it. The appropriately named Pride and Prejudice is a good example of a story that shows two characters overcoming their pride in order to find the happiness they truly deserve.

Justice vs. Depravity

Any work of literature that follows a judicial system knows what a knife edge the threat of corruption can be. James Ellroy’s novel L.A. Confidential is a famous modern noir story that explores the thin line between righteousness and corruption, heroes and villains.

Using this concept in your work is an excellent way to explore our strengths, weaknesses, and limitations as human beings in a fundamentally unjust world.

Morality vs. Fear

This is another staple theme of the “hero vs. villain” stories. We like heroes because they always try to do the right thing, but we sometimes forget that doing the right thing can be very difficult and scary. Stories with this theme show us that we all constantly battle between doing what is right and what is easy, and that choosing the brave or honorable path does not happen without fear—it happens in spite of it.

Kristin Harmel’s WWII novel The Room on Rue Amélie follows a brave protagonist determined to play her part in the war efforts, even when she has every reason to feel afraid of doing so. From stories like this we learn how to be brave in our own lives.

How to find the theme of your own story

Unlike plot, theme isn’t really something you build from the ground up. Once you begin to see glimmers of a story, your theme is already beginning to take shape under the surface. It’s your job to excavate it and bring it to life.

To find the theme of your story, decide what central message the story is trying to communicate with the reader. Try asking yourself why you’re writing it in the first place. Why does it matter to you? This can take time, and the answer may surprise you.

For example, if you’re writing about a girl who discovers she’s from a secret lineage of super spies, deep down you might be writing it as a way to understand your feelings about your own lineage.

What sort of conflict is your main character facing? Has someone in her family been kidnapped by a rival super spy faction? Has she discovered some shady business in her family history that has her questioning her own values and perception of herself? In these cases your theme might be things like the importance of family, or the contrasting values of independence and tradition.

Develop your thematic statement

Then, see if you can crystallize your idea into a thematic statement—a one-sentence summary of the concept you’re trying to convey. In the above examples, your thematic statement might be, “Family always comes first,” or “One is not bound by the mistakes of their parents.” This thematic statement then becomes the driving force of your plot.

It doesn’t matter how fantastical or far-removed your story is—its heart, its reason for existing, will be something that you’re exploring or working to understand through the filter of art. It may be conscious or unconscious. Then, once you know what your story is really trying to say, you can share it with people who need your story to help them explore or understand these ideas too.

A concise thematic statement can help make your story’s message even stronger.

How to strengthen the theme of a story

Once you’ve figured out what your theme is, it’s time to find ways to make it shine even brighter through the course of your plot points and narrative development. You can do this as you go, or you can go back and find ways to give it a nudge later in the editing process.

Every literary element in your story should help communicate your theme with the reader, and your protagonist’s journey should be a direct parallel to their relationship with the theme. If the theme of your story is “family,” you may need to put your protagonist through a series of obstacles to help them realize the importance of this idea and why it’s worth fighting for.

The types of conflicts your characters face might all be different, but they should all circle back to the relationship they have with this central idea and how that relationship evolves through each major plot point.

When your characters grow to understand the theme in a new way, your readers will too. Making your characters do this is an important way of strengthening the themes of your story.

A writer can use literary devices like motifs, symbolism, and repetition to emphasize the themes in your story. Adding in recurring colors, words, objects, places, numbers, or cultural symbols will help intensify the theme for your reader. See if you can find ways to add little details that make your story’s theme even more prominent.

For example, if your central theme is “corruption,” you could use these literary devices to show a metaphorical corruption, or corrosion, of positive things in the story. You might have your character buy a new pair of shoes which becomes steadily more worn down until they fall apart—this would be a repeated symbol for other things that are being “worn down,” such as the character’s hope, morals, or ideals.

Certain motifs can also bring to mind this idea of corruption, such as tarnished coins or dirty water, and you can drop images like these here and there throughout your story to make the theme even more powerful for your reader.

These sorts of symbols can be used to emphasize all kinds of themes. If your theme is “mortality” or “life vs. death” you may have your main character come across a dead animal early in the story, and have them take time to reflect on their feelings and understanding of this idea before their journey begins.

Conversely, if your theme is “family”, they might need to stop their car to let a family of animals cross the road in front of them. How do they feel about that? Enchanted? Annoyed? Frightened? Their reaction won’t necessarily be stated explicitly, but showing it on the page will give further depth to your theme.

Theme is the heart of storytelling

Theme is one of the most important building blocks of powerful storytelling, but it doesn’t need to be approached from a place of anxiety or stress. Theme is simply a statement of why your story exists and why you need to be the one to tell it.

Storytelling has a very real power to change the world for the better, and theme—sharing it, talking about it, helping people understand why it matters—is how we can begin doing that.

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When someone asks you “What is this book about?” , there are a few ways you can answer. There’s “ plot ,” which refers to the literal events in the book, and there’s “character,” which refers to the people in the book and the struggles they overcome. Finally, there are themes in literature that correspond with the work’s topic and message. But what is theme in literature?

The theme of a story or poem refers to the deeper meaning of that story or poem. All works of literature contend with certain complex ideas, and theme is how a story or poem approaches these ideas.

There are countless ways to approach the theme of a story or poem, so let’s take a look at some theme examples and a list of themes in literature. We’ll discuss the differences between theme and other devices, like theme vs moral and theme vs topic. Finally, we’ll examine why theme is so essential to any work of literature, including to your own writing.

But first, what is theme? Let’s explore what theme is—and what theme isn’t.

  • Theme Definition

20 Common Themes in Literature

  • Theme Examples

Themes in Literature: A Hierarchy of Ideas

Why themes in literature matter.

  • Should I Decide the Themes of a Story in Advance?

Theme Definition: What is Theme?

Theme describes the central idea(s) that a piece of writing explores. Rather than stating this theme directly, the author will look at theme using the set of literary tools at their disposal. The theme of a story or poem will be explored through elements like characters , plot, settings , conflict, and even word choice and literary devices .

Theme definition: the central idea(s) that a piece of writing explores.

That said, theme is more than just an idea. It is also the work’s specific vantage point on that idea. In other words, a theme is an idea plus an opinion: it is the author’s specific views regarding the central ideas of the work. 

All works of literature have these central ideas and opinions, even if those ideas and opinions aren’t immediate to the reader.

Justice, for example, is a literary theme that shows up in a lot of classical works. To Kill a Mockingbird contends with racial justice, especially at a time when the U.S. justice system was exceedingly stacked against African Americans. How can a nation call itself just when justice is used as a weapon?

By contrast, the play Hamlet is about the son of a recently-executed king. Hamlet seeks justice for his father and vows to kill Claudius—his father’s killer—but routinely encounters the paradox of revenge. Can justice really be found through more bloodshed?

What is theme? An idea + an opinion.

Clearly, these two works contend with justice in unrelated ways. All themes in literature are broad and open-ended, allowing writers to explore their own ideas about these complex topics.

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Let’s look at some common themes in literature. The ideas presented within this list of themes in literature show up in novels, memoirs, poems, and stories throughout history.

Theme Examples in Literature

Let’s take a closer look at how writers approach and execute theme. Themes in literature are conveyed throughout the work, so while you might not have read the books in the following theme examples, we’ve provided plot synopses and other relevant details where necessary. We analyze the following:

  • Power and Corruption in the novel Animal Farm
  • Loneliness in the short story “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place”
  • Love in the poem “How Do I Love Thee”

Theme Examples: Power and Corruption in the Novel Animal Farm

At its simplest, the novel Animal Farm by George Orwell is an allegory that represents the rise and moral decline of Communism in Russia. Specifically, the novel uncovers how power corrupts the leaders of populist uprisings, turning philosophical ideals into authoritarian regimes.

Most of the characters in Animal Farm represent key figures during and after the Russian Revolution. On an ailing farm that’s run by the negligent farmer Mr. Jones (Tsar Nicholas II), the livestock are ready to seize control of the land. The livestock’s discontent is ripened by Old Major (Karl Marx/Lenin), who advocates for the overthrow of the ruling elite and the seizure of private land for public benefit.

After Old Major dies, the pigs Napoleon (Joseph Stalin) and Snowball (Leon Trotsky) stage a revolt. Mr. Jones is chased off the land, which parallels the Russian Revolution in 1917. The pigs then instill “Animalism”—a system of government that advocates for the rights of the common animal. At the core of this philosophy is the idea that “all animals are equal”—an ideal that, briefly, every animal upholds.

Initially, the Animalist Revolution brings peace and prosperity to the farm. Every animal is well-fed, learns how to read, and works for the betterment of the community. However, when Snowball starts implementing a plan to build a windmill, Napoleon drives Snowball off of the farm, effectively assuming leadership over the whole farm. (In real life, Stalin forced Trotsky into exile, and Trotsky spent the rest of his life critiquing the Stalin regime until he was assassinated in 1940.)

Napoleon’s leadership quickly devolves into demagoguery, demonstrating the corrupting influence of power and the ways that ideology can breed authoritarianism. Napoleon uses Snowball as a scapegoat for whenever the farm has a setback, while using Squealer (Vyacheslav Molotov) as his private informant and public orator.

Eventually, Napoleon changes the tenets of Animalism, starts walking on two legs, and acquires other traits and characteristics of humans. At the end of the novel, and after several more conflicts , purges, and rule changes, the livestock can no longer tell the difference between the pigs and humans.

Themes in Literature: Power and Corruption in Animal Farm

So, how does Animal Farm explore the theme of “Power and Corruption”? Let’s analyze a few key elements of the novel.

Plot: The novel’s major plot points each relate to power struggles among the livestock. First, the livestock wrest control of the farm from Mr. Jones; then, Napoleon ostracizes Snowball and turns him into a scapegoat. By seizing leadership of the farm for himself, Napoleon grants himself massive power over the land, abusing this power for his own benefit. His leadership brings about purges, rule changes, and the return of inequality among the livestock, while Napoleon himself starts to look more and more like a human—in other words, he resembles the demagoguery of Mr. Jones and the abuse that preceded the Animalist revolution.

Thus, each plot point revolves around power and how power is wielded by corrupt leadership. At its center, the novel warns the reader of unchecked power, and how corrupt leaders will create echo chambers and private militaries in order to preserve that power.

Characters: The novel’s characters reinforce this message of power by resembling real life events. Most of these characters represent real life figures from the Russian Revolution, including the ideologies behind that revolution. By creating an allegory around Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, and the other leading figures of Communist Russia’s rise and fall, the novel reminds us that unchecked power foments disaster in the real world.

Literary Devices: There are a few key literary devices that support the theme of Power and Corruption. First, the novel itself is a “satirical allegory.” “ Satire ” means that the novel is ridiculing the behaviors of certain people—namely Stalin, who instilled far-more-dangerous laws and abuses that created further inequality in Russia/the U.S.S.R. While Lenin and Trotsky had admirable goals for the Russian nation, Stalin is, quite literally, a pig.

Meanwhile, “allegory” means that the story bears symbolic resemblance to real life, often to teach a moral. The characters and events in this story resemble the Russian Revolution and its aftermath, with the purpose of warning the reader about unchecked power.

Finally, an important literary device in Animal Farm is symbolism . When Napoleon (Stalin) begins to resemble a human, the novel suggests that he has become as evil and negligent as Mr. Jones (Tsar Nicholas II). Since the Russian Revolution was a rejection of the Russian monarchy, equating Stalin to the monarchy reinforces the corrupting influence of power, and the need to elect moral individuals to posts of national leadership.

Theme Examples: Loneliness in “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place”

Ernest Hemingway’s short story “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” is concerned with the theme of loneliness. You can read this short story here . Content warning for mentions of suicide.

There are very few plot points in Hemingway’s story, so most of the story’s theme is expressed through dialogue and description. In the story, an old man stays up late drinking at a cafe. The old man has no wife—only a niece that stays with him—and he attempted suicide the previous week. Two waiters observe him: a younger waiter wants the old man to leave so they can close the cafe, while an older waiter sympathizes with the old man. None of these characters have names.

The younger waiter kicks out the old man and closes the cafe. The older waiter walks to a different cafe and ruminates on the importance of “a clean, well-lighted place” like the cafe he works at.

Themes in Literature: Loneliness in “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place”

Hemingway doesn’t tell us what to think about the old man’s loneliness, but he does provide two opposing viewpoints through the dialogue of the waiters.

The younger waiter has the hallmarks of a happy life: youth, confidence, and a wife to come home to. While he acknowledges that the old man is unhappy, he also admits “I don’t want to look at him,” complaining that the old man has “no regard for those who must work.” The younger waiter “did not wish to be unjust,” he simply wanted to return home.

The older waiter doesn’t have the privilege of turning away: like the old man, he has a house but not a home to return to, and he knows that someone may need the comfort of “a clean and pleasant cafe.”

The older waiter, like Hemingway, empathizes with the plight of the old man. When your place of rest isn’t a home, the world can feel like a prison, so having access to a space that counteracts this feeling is crucial. What kind of a place is that? The older waiter surmises that “the light of course” matters, but the place must be “clean and pleasant” too. Additionally, the place should not have music or be a bar: it must let you preserve the quiet dignity of yourself.

Lastly, the older waiter’s musings about God clue the reader into his shared loneliness with the old man. In a stream of consciousness, the older waiter recites traditional Christian prayers with “nada” in place of “God,” “Father,” “Heaven,” and other symbols of divinity. A bartender describes the waiter as “otro locos mas” (translation: another crazy), and the waiter concludes that his plight must be insomnia.

This belies the irony of loneliness: only the lonely recognize it. The older waiter lacks confidence, youth, and belief in a greater good. He recognizes these traits in the old man, as they both share a need for a clean, well-lighted place long after most people fall asleep. Yet, the younger waiter and the bartender don’t recognize these traits as loneliness, just the ramblings and shortcomings of crazy people.

Does loneliness beget craziness? Perhaps. But to call the waiter and old man crazy would dismiss their feelings and experiences, further deepening their loneliness.

Loneliness is only mentioned once in the story, when the young waiter says “He’s [the old man] lonely. I’m not lonely. I have a wife waiting in bed for me.” Nonetheless, loneliness consumes this short story and its older characters, revealing a plight that, ironically, only the lonely understand.

Theme Examples: Love in the Poem “How Do I Love Thee”

Let’s turn towards brighter themes in literature: namely, love in poetry . Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem “ How Do I Love Thee ” is all about the theme of love.

Themes in Literature: Love in “How Do I Love Thee”

Browning’s poem is a sonnet , which is a 14-line poem that often centers around love and relationships. Sonnets have different requirements depending on their form, but between lines 6-8, they all have a volta —a surprising line that twists and expands the poem’s meaning.

Let’s analyze three things related to the poem’s theme: its word choice, its use of simile and metaphor , and its volta.

Word Choice: Take a look at the words used to describe love. What do those words mean? What are their connotations? Here’s a brief list: “soul,” “ideal grace,” “quiet need,” “sun and candle-light,” “strive for right,” “passion,” “childhood’s faith,” “the breath, smiles, tears, of all my life,” “God,” “love thee better after death.”

These words and phrases all bear positive connotations, and many of them evoke images of warmth, safety, and the hearth. Even phrases that are morose, such as “lost saints” and “death,” are used as contrasts to further highlight the speaker’s wholehearted rejoicing of love. This word choice suggests an endless, benevolent, holistic, all-consuming love.

Simile and Metaphor: Similes and metaphors are comparison statements, and the poem routinely compares love to different objects and ideas. Here’s a list of those comparisons:

The speaker loves thee:

  • To the depths of her soul.
  • By sun and candle light—by day and night.
  • As men strive to do the right thing (freely).
  • As men turn from praise (purely).
  • With the passion of both grief and faith.
  • With the breath, smiles, and tears of her entire life.
  • Now in life, and perhaps even more after death.

The speaker’s love seems to have infinite reach, flooding every aspect of her life. It consumes her soul, her everyday activities, her every emotion, her sense of justice and humility, and perhaps her afterlife, too. For the speaker, this love is not just an emotion, an activity, or an ideology: it’s her existence.

Volta: The volta of a sonnet occurs in the poem’s center. In this case, the volta is the lines “I love thee freely, as men strive for right. / I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.”

What surprising, unexpected comparisons! To the speaker, love is freedom and the search for a greater good; it is also as pure as humility. By comparing love to other concepts, the speaker reinforces the fact that love isn’t just an ideology, it’s an ideal that she strives for in every word, thought, and action.

“Theme” is part of a broader hierarchy of ideas. While the theme of a story encompasses its central ideas, the writer also expresses these ideas through different devices.

You may have heard of some of these devices: motif, moral, topic, etc. What is motif vs theme? What is theme vs moral? These ideas interact with each other in different ways, which we’ve mapped out below.

Theme of a story diagram

Theme vs Topic

The “topic” of a piece of literature answers the question: What is this piece about? In other words, “topic” is what actually happens in the story or poem.

You’ll find a lot of overlap between topic and theme examples. Love, for instance, is both the topic and the theme of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem “How Do I Love Thee.”

The difference between theme vs topic is: topic describes the surface level content matter of the piece, whereas theme encompasses the work’s apparent argument about the topic.

Topic describes the surface level content matter of the piece, whereas theme encompasses the work’s apparent argument about the topic.

So, the topic of Browning’s poem is love, while the theme is the speaker’s belief that her love is endless, pure, and all-consuming.

Additionally, the topic of a piece of literature is definitive, whereas the theme of a story or poem is interpretive. Every reader can agree on the topic, but many readers will have different interpretations of the theme. If the theme weren’t open-ended, it would simply be a topic.

Theme vs Motif

A motif is an idea that occurs throughout a literary work. Think of the motif as a facet of the theme: it explains, expands, and contributes to themes in literature. Motif develops a central idea without being the central idea itself .

Motif develops a central idea without being the central idea itself.

In Animal Farm , for example, we encounter motif when Napoleon the pig starts walking like a human. This represents the corrupting force of power, because Napoleon has become as much of a despot as Mr. Jones, the previous owner of the farm. Napoleon’s anthropomorphization is not the only example of power and corruption, but it is a compelling motif about the dangers of unchecked power.

Theme vs Moral

The moral of a story refers to the story’s message or takeaway. What can we learn from thinking about a specific piece of literature?

The moral is interpreted from the theme of a story or poem. Like theme, there is no single correct interpretation of a story’s moral: the reader is left to decide how to interpret the story’s meaning and message.

For example, in Hemingway’s “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place,” the theme is loneliness, but the moral isn’t quite so clear—that’s for the reader to decide. My interpretation is that we should be much more sympathetic towards the lonely, since loneliness is a quiet affliction that many lonely people cannot express.

Great literature does not tell us what to think, it gives us stories to think about.

However, my interpretation could be miles away from yours, and that’s wonderful! Great literature does not tell us what to think, it gives us stories to think about, and the more we discuss our thoughts and interpretations, the more we learn from each other.

The theme of a story affects everything else: the decisions that characters make, the mood that words and images build, the moral that readers interpret, etc. Recognizing how writers utilize various themes in literature will help you craft stronger, more nuanced works of prose and poetry .

“To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme.” —Herman Melville

Whether a writer consciously or unconsciously decides the themes of their work, theme in literature acts as an organizing principle for the work as a whole. For writers, theme is especially useful to think about in the process of revision: if some element of your poem or story doesn’t point towards a central idea, it’s a sign that the work is not yet finished. 

Moreover, literary themes give the work  stakes . They make the work stand for something. Remember that our theme definition is an idea plus an opinion. Without that opinion element, a work of literature simply won’t stand for anything, because it is presenting ideas in the abstract without giving you something to react to. The theme of a story or poem is never just “love” or “justice,” it’s the author’s particular spin and insight on those themes. This is what makes a work of literature compelling or evocative. Without theme, literature has no center of gravity, and all the words and characters and plot points are just floating in the ether. 

Should I Decide the Theme of a Story or Poem in Advance?

You can, though of course it depends on the actual story you want to tell. Some writers certainly start with a theme. You might decide you want to write a story about themes like love, family, justice, gender roles, the environment, or the pursuit of revenge.

From there, you can build everything else: plot points, characters, conflicts, etc. Examining themes in literature can help you generate some strong story ideas !

Nonetheless, theme is not the only way to approach a creative writing project. Some writers start with plot, others with character, others with conflicts, and still others with just a vague notion of what the story might be about. You might not even realize the themes in your work until after you finish writing it.

You certainly want your work to have a message, but deciding what that message is in advance might actually hinder your writing process. Many writers use their poems and stories as opportunities to explore tough questions, or to arrive at a deeper insight on a topic. In other words, you can start your work with ideas, and even opinions on those ideas, but don’t try to shoehorn a story or poem into your literary themes. Let the work explore those themes. If you can surprise yourself or learn something new from the writing process, your readers will certainly be moved as well. 

So, experiment with ideas and try different ways of writing. You don’t have think about the theme of a story right away—but definitely give it some thought when you start revising your work!

Develop Great Themes at

As writers, it’s hard to know how our work will be viewed and interpreted. Writing in a community can help. Whether you join our Facebook group or enroll in one of our upcoming courses , we have the tools and resources to sharpen your writing.

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Sean Glatch


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Sean Glatch,Thank you very much for your discussion on themes. It was enlightening and brought clarity to an abstract and sometimes difficult concept to explain and illustrate. The sample stories and poem were appreciated too as they are familiar to me. High School Language Arts Teacher

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Hi Stephanie, I’m so glad this was helpful! Happy teaching 🙂

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Wow!!! This is the best resource on the subject of themes that I have ever encountered and read on the internet. I just bookmarked it and plan to use it as a resource for my teaching. Thank you very much for publishing this valuable resource.

Hi Marisol,

Thank you for the kind words! I’m glad to hear this article will be a useful resource. Happy teaching!

Warmest, Sean

builders beams bristol

What is Theme? A Look at 20 Common Themes in Literature |

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Hello! This is a very informative resource. Thank you for sharing.

farrow and ball pigeon

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This presentation is excellent and of great educational value. I will employ it already in my thesis research studies.

John Never before communicated with you!

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Brilliant! Thank you.


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marvellous. thumbs up

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Thank you. Very useful information.

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found everything in themes. thanks. so much

' src=

In college I avoided writing classes and even quit a class that would focus on ‘Huck Finn’ for the entire semester. My idea of hell. However, I’ve been reading and learning from the articles, and I want to especially thank Sean Glatch who writes in a way that is useful to aspiring writers like myself.

You are very welcome, Anne! I’m glad that these resources have been useful on your writing journey.

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Thank you very much for this clear and very easy to understand teaching resources.

' src=

Hello there. I have a particular question.

Can you describe the exact difference of theme, issue and subject?

I get confused about these.

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I love how helpful this is i will tell my class about it!

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Home » Education » Difference Between Theme and Topic

Difference Between Theme and Topic

Main difference – theme vs. topic.

Theme and topic are two essential terms we encounter in writing, and they play a unique role in your writing. It is important to know the difference between theme and topic in order to produce a good piece of writing. That is why, in this article, we are going to discuss the difference between theme and topic. The main difference between theme and topic is that theme is the central idea, or the perception conveyed through the writing while the topic is the subject treated or presented in your writing. Topics explain what the story is about whereas themes explain why the story is written.

What is Theme

The theme is the central message or the perception that is conveyed through the piece of writing . Any piece of writing, be it a story, poem or an essay , has a theme. In fact, there can be more than one theme; themes can be further divided into major themes and minor themes according to their importance.

Difference Between Theme and Topic

What is Topic

The topic is the subject discussed in a piece of writing, and it explains what the story is about . Topics are easy to identify as writers generally use a direct approach to define and explain the general subject of their works. The topic is clearly stated at the beginning of an essay or another academic piece of writing.

For example, you might be asked to write about globalization. This will be the topic or the subject matter of your writing. But the themes might vary according to different people’s personal opinions.

In addition, without a clearly defined topic, the readers have no way of knowing what the story is about. A clearly defined topic also helps the writer to gather his thoughts around the central points and produce a well-organized work.

Theme is the central message conveyed through the writing.

Topic is the subject matter discussed in the writing.


Theme explains why that particular piece of writing was written.

Topic explains what that writing is about.


Theme is not directly stated in the work.

Topic is generally directly given in the work.


Theme is specific as it reflects an opinion.

Difference Between Theme and Topic - infographic

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essay vs theme

How to Write a Thematic Essay

essay vs theme

Every piece of writing ever written has its agenda. Whether it’s to teach a lesson or show the impact of a particular emotion or action, a central theme can be developed. The goal for us as readers is to uncover what the author was trying to tell us between the lines in their literature. When we do finally discover it, we’ve accomplished the first step of thematic essay writing! Let’s see below how to write a thematic essay with our papers writing service .

What Is a Thematic Essay?

Let’s look at the thematic essay definition; a thematic essay is a piece of writing in which an author develops the central theme in some literature using literary devices like foreshadowing, imagery, personification, etc.

A professional essay writer will uncover the primary subject, elaborate upon the literary devices employed, and express the overall significance of the theme. The primary challenge comes from the fact that although there are various subjects, finding the most meaningful and impactful one can be challenging.

Naturally, each person has their own varied interpretation, making it hard to agree on a central theme wholesomely. In short, a well written thematic essay comes from a healthy central idea that is conclusively proven via literary devices and logical arguments.

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How to Pick a Thematic Topic?

A crucial aspect of writing a good thematic essay is choosing a theme. Follow the hints listed below to help you create a thematic topic:

How to Write a Thematic Essay

Brainstorm from your own experiences. Recall what you were talking about in class, with your mates or parents. Do some of these conversations remind you of some book, novel or another piece of literature?

Write down every idea that comes to mind. Sometimes, your most absurd ideas are the best way to go.

List your favourite literature pieces. Which literature piece was the most touching for you? Try to analyze its subject and problems the author built upon within the story; it might help you come up with your own ideas.

Look at the details of other literature pieces: You might find some interesting details within other literature that can help you come up with your theme.

Still have no idea what to write about? No worries, we have your back.

Thematic Essay Topics

  • What is George Orwell’s deliberation in portraying a “Perfect Utopia” in his book 1984?
  • What main idea is George Orwell painting about Communism in the book Animal Farm?
  • What is Harper Lee saying about innocence in her novel To Kill A Mockingbird?
  • What is John Steinbeck saying about loneliness and isolation in Of Mice and Men?
  • What is F. Scott Fitzgerald saying about the American Dream in The Great Gatsby?

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How to Find and Explore the Central Theme

As stated before, uncovering the main subject and central theme respectively is the first significant step in a thematic paper. However, with so many things going on within the literature, it may be difficult to interpret the central theme accurately. To make sure you choose it correctly, follow these steps:

1. Summarize the literature: What main idea is the author trying to purvey? Usually, there will be many hints along the way, so choosing the right direction may not be so challenging.

2. Pick the most prevalent subject: One thing to note is the significant difference between a subject and a theme. A subject is the general topic of conversation—whether it be love, bravery, deception, etc. A theme is a specific point the author is making about said subject. So, find the talking point that is most commonly being brought up. This will be the focal point of the essay.

3. Read between the lines: After finding the most suitable subject, decipher what main point the author is trying to make. This will become clearer as you get deeper into the literature since clues and examples will appear frequently. After fully deciphering the central theme, there is one more significant step.

4. Overall significance: What is the overall significance that comes from the author’s point? What can be taken from this and applied to our personal lives? In other words, what is the lesson from all of this? What have we learned?

Feeling difficult to write thematic essay? Leave us a notice and our persuasive essay writer we'll help.

Thematic Essay Outline

The thematic essay has several key components. First of all, it should be five paragraphs or more, depending on the depth of the theme. Next, it should have a concrete thesis statement, which, in other words, is the thematic statement that comes from the main subject. The introduction presents the reader with the subject and the thesis statement. The body paragraphs each discuss one literary element or more to defend the validity of your thesis, all the while providing many supporting details from the text itself. Lastly, the thematic essay conclusion summarizes the main points presented and finishes off with a statement of significance.

Follow the link to learn more about HOW TO CREATE A WINNING OUTLINE

The thematic essay introduction presents the main subject of discussion in a captivating way. The first sentence of the intro should be a hook statement that makes some intriguing claim about the subject of discussion. If done correctly, this will grab your reader's attention. Afterwards, provide any necessary background information from the literature that will help the audience understand your claims later on. Lastly, put together a well thought out thesis statement that reflects the central theme of the novel.

The body paragraphs follow a thematic essay format. Since each body paragraph’s purpose should be to present a literary device as evidence, the topic sentence should introduce the claim and gateway into the evidence. Every topic sentence must mention a literary device and its relationship to the literature.

Afterwards, to validate your claim, use examples from the book that strengthen the reasoning of your statement. These can be actions from the plot or quotations that are parallel with the central theme. It’s imperative to explain how the action/quote links back to your thesis statement, as it shows that you can support your logic.

Remember: each claim must use a literary device. It can not just be a random moment or inference. Thematic essays are all about proving thesis statements through the use of critical literary devices.

The thematic essay conclusion has three main objectives to complete before wrapping up the entire paper. It should not present any new information or facts, but should summarize the information already given. First of all, restate your thesis statement in a new way. Then, summarize the central claims you made within the body of your paper and their influence on the thesis statement. To finish off the entire work, present an overall concluding statement with a global analysis of the subject. Leave your reader with another hook, making him/her interested in digging deeper into the topic.

Try also read an article on poetry analysis essay , it could be useful and can give you new insights.

Thematic Essay Example

The best way to familiarise yourself with this type of writing is to learn from an example. ‍

Even though the ancient Greek cities of Athens and Sparta were geographically close to each other, they had very distinct cultures, lifestyles, values, and political systems that defined them. The following paper compares and contrasts the cultural impacts of the two cities by examining some of the duties and responsibilities of the citizenry as well as the different values that were deemed important. The paper further evaluates the impact of accomplishments that would have been left by both city-states on the history of western civilization.

Wrap Things Up

Before submitting your thematic essay, make sure to check a couple of things to correct any possible errors.

How to Write a Thematic Essay

  • Double-check and confirm that the central theme you have decided is the one that the author likely meant to focus on. Unless you can provide a secondary issue and present it strongly enough as a primary, validate the primary subject.
  • Go through and proofread your entire paper. Nothing makes reading more irritating than grammatical mistakes, clean that stuff up as much as possible.
  • Get a second pair of eyes to read through your paper. It’s best to ask a classmate for help, as they most likely have or had a similar assignment. Another great way to polish things up is to ask one of our writers to give you some helpful advice.

We also recommend reading about Jem Finch character traits , our readers find it very interesting.

Having a Trouble with Your Thematic Essay?

Having a hard time thinking up a proper topic to write about? Or, do you have one but are having a hard time deciphering the theme? Let our custom essay writing service do all the work for you. Check out our price calculator to estimate the cost of your assignment.

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Difference Between Theme and Topic

• Categorized under Language | Difference Between Theme and Topic

Both the terms theme and topic play a unique and independent role in writing. Theme generally refers to the central idea or a perception conveyed in writing. A topic is the subject that is treated or presented within writing. Topics play the role of explaining what a story is all about, while, themes explain the reason why it was written in the first place. The two terms can be confusing, especially to students when asked by their teacher to write essays based on a certain theme with a particular topic. Many feel the two terms should be used interchangeably, but the fact is they are two totally different concepts used in writing.

essay vs theme

What is a Theme?

The theme of a piece of writing is the main meaning or the perception conveyed through the words used. All forms of writing, (blogs, poems, essays) must have a theme. Themes are further divided into two; minor and major themes. Both types can be included in the writing. Themes are not listed or mentioned by the writers, the reader must infer the themes. A theme can only be understood after one has read the whole work.

A theme has two subdivisions; a concept and a statement. A concept is the one that is conditional to readers while a statement is envisioned by the writer. Themes reflect the personal views of the writers as well as the readers since everyone’s perception about a certain theme is different from another.

The content and main subject of a performance is highly related to the theme. The main message that the writer wants to pass to his audience is closely related to its theme rather than it is to its topic. So as to be consistent in what they write, most writers choose a specific genre so as to gather a fan base. This is why when most people want to get an idea of what a novel is about they do not go back to the topic, they look for the theme of the novel so as to get a clear understanding of what the writer wants to pass on. Theme is not only restricted to text, it can also manifest itself in things such as music and dance.

essay vs theme

What is a Topic?

A topic is a discussion in a piece of writing that clearly explains what the writing is talking about. They are easy to pinpoint and writers use them to explain the general topic of their written material. A topic is well stated at the beginning of any academic script. Without a well stated topic, it is difficult to know what the piece of writing is talking about. A good topic helps a writer to bring together his thoughts and therefore assist him to create work that is well written and organized. A topic is definite and it clarifies the main focus of a book or any academic paper.

For one to come up with a good topic, every writer should ensure they come up with something that is interesting and relevant to their target audience. Their chosen topic should be timely and significant. If a writer decides to write a persuasive script, then their topic should be somewhat controversial. Topics should be well researched to avoid misleading the readers.

Differences Between Theme and Topic

A theme is the main messaged passed on through writing while a topic is the major subject explained in writing.


A theme explains the trail of thoughts while a topic explains characters


A theme clarifies why a certain script has been written while a topic explains what the script is all about.


A theme is not clearly described in the piece of writing but a topic is written at the beginning of every piece of writing


A theme reflects opinion while a topic reflects the subject matter

A theme is general while a topic is very specific

A theme is not stated; it is implied, while a topic is clearly stated. On very few occasions, will writers state the themes.

Theme vs. Topic : Comparison chart

essay vs theme

Summary of Theme vs. Topic

A theme and a topic are very closely related. Although they are not interchangeable, it is not possible to draw a clear line that differentiates a theme form a topic. For example, Equality could be the theme of an election but it could also be the topic of an academic paper.

A theme is general and it may differ from one person to another depending on the individuals’ perception.  This is why a theme is mostly implied.

A topic is specific and it appears at the beginning of any piece of writing. It is always stated in words

Both a theme and a topic align the readers’ line of thought in order for the reader to understand what the writer is trying to convey.

A theme and a topic also assist the writer to progress well from being too general and narrowing down to a specific thing that will enable them to write readable material. They assist in being persuasive as well as captivate and entertain the reader.

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Cite APA 7 Kungu, E. (2019, March 1). Difference Between Theme and Topic. Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects. MLA 8 Kungu, Evah. "Difference Between Theme and Topic." Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects, 1 March, 2019,

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The Importance of Theme: Finding Your Story’s North Star

An effective piece of writing contains a single dominant message. In many newsrooms it’s called the “focus,” or the “spine” of the story. “Take” or “angle” is the magazine world’s terminology.

Whatever the term, it all boils down to one word: theme.

Discovering the theme is crucial to the two interested parties at polar ends of the storytelling experience: the reader, viewer or listener; and the writer, both of whom rely on the theme to produce and experience a unified story. This is what I believe.

So it was with great pleasure that I came across a note of gratitude that author and former Washington Post writer Paul Hendrickson paid to a key figure who helped him produce his 2003 book “Sons of Mississippi: A Story of Race and its Legacy.”

On the book’s cover, stretching from back to front, is a riveting 1962 Life magazine photograph of seven Mississippi lawmen who look on as one of their number brandishes a billy club. They are readying themselves to foil an attempt by federal authorities to enroll an Air Force veteran named James H. Meredith as the first black student in the University of Mississippi.

“ Henry James once said that a good story is both a picture and an idea and that the picture and the idea should be interfused,” Hendrickson begins a “bibliographic essay” about his book’s sources.

He traces the germ of his book to Feb. 19, 1995, when he stood in a Berkley, Calif., bookstore paging through an outsized text of black-and-white images titled “Powerful Days: The Civil Rights Photography of Charles Moore.”

On page 55, amid familiar photographs taken in Birmingham, Ala., in 1963, “of fire hoses and dogs baring their fangs on their choke chains,” he came across that image; “that stopped me in my tracks.”

“It was a good while before I understood that the book I set out to write, as I stood there, wasn’t about the photograph so much as it was about what came down from those seven Mississippi faces. I didn’t begin to get that part until after my editor of two decades, Jonathan Segal of Knopf, had studied the image and had then told me in a single word where the true direction of the story lay: ‘legacies.’ “

With that theme as his north star, Hendrickson navigated his way through years of field reporting, research, composition and revision. As his editor predicted, his book told the historic and sad tale, not only of those southern lawmen, but of the way their legacies played out, some in sorrow, others in denial, in succeeding years and later, in the lives of their sons and grandsons.

And, as Hendrickson says, it all came down to a single word, one defined as “anything handed down from the past.”

There are many ways to discover your story’s theme: write a headline, a budget line, a title.

Defining the theme in one word is my favorite technique because one of the principal definitions of theme is “meaning in a word.” Merged with the journalistic paradigm of five W’s and an H, that theme, or working hypothesis, can help you make the necessary decisions on the way to publication, from reporting and organizing to drafting and revising.

  • What’s my story really about?
  • Who’s the story about? Who are the major characters, the minor ones?
  • Where and when are the best places and times to find the story? What are the story’s settings? What are the story’s timelines? Often these elements lie outside a reporter’s regular hours and location but they are vital to a story’s power. You must go to them.
  • When should the story begin and end? And what to do about the mushy middle? What shape best supports the theme?
  • How did the story happen, unfold, come to be? What happened? What’s the plot?
  • Why am I telling this story? Perhaps the most important question, one that readers, viewers and listeners are always wondering as they decide whether to continue or retreat from news stories: “Why does it matter?”

Those are just some of the ways that the one-word themes guide the writer.

The best ones resonate. They reflect universal qualities and truths about what it means to be human. They connect the domains journalists spend their time in, such as law enforcement, politics, education, with news audiences. Every domain has its own jargon, mores and rules. A theme lays down a bridge between consumers and the news they need to function as citizens in a democracy.

It’s a fortunate writer who gets to work with an editor like Jonathan Segal, one who understands that a single word holds the promise of an entire book. But you can give yourself, or another writer, that same a gift: a compass that points to the north star and helps you navigate journeys that lead to places where the best stories are found. Try it.

Working on a story? What’s it really about? In one word.

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Opinion | NPR suspends an editor for his essay blasting … NPR

The firestorm caused by Uri Berliner’s critical essay in The Free Press continues to rage

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  • Knowledge Base
  • How to write an essay outline | Guidelines & examples

How to Write an Essay Outline | Guidelines & Examples

Published on August 14, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on July 23, 2023.

An essay outline is a way of planning the structure of your essay before you start writing. It involves writing quick summary sentences or phrases for every point you will cover in each paragraph , giving you a picture of how your argument will unfold.

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Table of contents

Organizing your material, presentation of the outline, examples of essay outlines, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about essay outlines.

At the stage where you’re writing an essay outline, your ideas are probably still not fully formed. You should know your topic  and have already done some preliminary research to find relevant sources , but now you need to shape your ideas into a structured argument.

Creating categories

Look over any information, quotes and ideas you’ve noted down from your research and consider the central point you want to make in the essay—this will be the basis of your thesis statement . Once you have an idea of your overall argument, you can begin to organize your material in a way that serves that argument.

Try to arrange your material into categories related to different aspects of your argument. If you’re writing about a literary text, you might group your ideas into themes; in a history essay, it might be several key trends or turning points from the period you’re discussing.

Three main themes or subjects is a common structure for essays. Depending on the length of the essay, you could split the themes into three body paragraphs, or three longer sections with several paragraphs covering each theme.

As you create the outline, look critically at your categories and points: Are any of them irrelevant or redundant? Make sure every topic you cover is clearly related to your thesis statement.

Order of information

When you have your material organized into several categories, consider what order they should appear in.

Your essay will always begin and end with an introduction and conclusion , but the organization of the body is up to you.

Consider these questions to order your material:

  • Is there an obvious starting point for your argument?
  • Is there one subject that provides an easy transition into another?
  • Do some points need to be set up by discussing other points first?

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Within each paragraph, you’ll discuss a single idea related to your overall topic or argument, using several points of evidence or analysis to do so.

In your outline, you present these points as a few short numbered sentences or phrases.They can be split into sub-points when more detail is needed.

The template below shows how you might structure an outline for a five-paragraph essay.

  • Thesis statement
  • First piece of evidence
  • Second piece of evidence
  • Summary/synthesis
  • Importance of topic
  • Strong closing statement

You can choose whether to write your outline in full sentences or short phrases. Be consistent in your choice; don’t randomly write some points as full sentences and others as short phrases.

Examples of outlines for different types of essays are presented below: an argumentative, expository, and literary analysis essay.

Argumentative essay outline

This outline is for a short argumentative essay evaluating the internet’s impact on education. It uses short phrases to summarize each point.

Its body is split into three paragraphs, each presenting arguments about a different aspect of the internet’s effects on education.

  • Importance of the internet
  • Concerns about internet use
  • Thesis statement: Internet use a net positive
  • Data exploring this effect
  • Analysis indicating it is overstated
  • Students’ reading levels over time
  • Why this data is questionable
  • Video media
  • Interactive media
  • Speed and simplicity of online research
  • Questions about reliability (transitioning into next topic)
  • Evidence indicating its ubiquity
  • Claims that it discourages engagement with academic writing
  • Evidence that Wikipedia warns students not to cite it
  • Argument that it introduces students to citation
  • Summary of key points
  • Value of digital education for students
  • Need for optimism to embrace advantages of the internet

Expository essay outline

This is the outline for an expository essay describing how the invention of the printing press affected life and politics in Europe.

The paragraphs are still summarized in short phrases here, but individual points are described with full sentences.

  • Claim that the printing press marks the end of the Middle Ages.
  • Provide background on the low levels of literacy before the printing press.
  • Present the thesis statement: The invention of the printing press increased circulation of information in Europe, paving the way for the Reformation.
  • Discuss the very high levels of illiteracy in medieval Europe.
  • Describe how literacy and thus knowledge and education were mainly the domain of religious and political elites.
  • Indicate how this discouraged political and religious change.
  • Describe the invention of the printing press in 1440 by Johannes Gutenberg.
  • Show the implications of the new technology for book production.
  • Describe the rapid spread of the technology and the printing of the Gutenberg Bible.
  • Link to the Reformation.
  • Discuss the trend for translating the Bible into vernacular languages during the years following the printing press’s invention.
  • Describe Luther’s own translation of the Bible during the Reformation.
  • Sketch out the large-scale effects the Reformation would have on religion and politics.
  • Summarize the history described.
  • Stress the significance of the printing press to the events of this period.

Literary analysis essay outline

The literary analysis essay outlined below discusses the role of theater in Jane Austen’s novel Mansfield Park .

The body of the essay is divided into three different themes, each of which is explored through examples from the book.

  • Describe the theatricality of Austen’s works
  • Outline the role theater plays in Mansfield Park
  • Introduce the research question : How does Austen use theater to express the characters’ morality in Mansfield Park ?
  • Discuss Austen’s depiction of the performance at the end of the first volume
  • Discuss how Sir Bertram reacts to the acting scheme
  • Introduce Austen’s use of stage direction–like details during dialogue
  • Explore how these are deployed to show the characters’ self-absorption
  • Discuss Austen’s description of Maria and Julia’s relationship as polite but affectionless
  • Compare Mrs. Norris’s self-conceit as charitable despite her idleness
  • Summarize the three themes: The acting scheme, stage directions, and the performance of morals
  • Answer the research question
  • Indicate areas for further study

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

  • Ad hominem fallacy
  • Post hoc fallacy
  • Appeal to authority fallacy
  • False cause fallacy
  • Sunk cost fallacy

College essays

  • Choosing Essay Topic
  • Write a College Essay
  • Write a Diversity Essay
  • College Essay Format & Structure
  • Comparing and Contrasting in an Essay

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You will sometimes be asked to hand in an essay outline before you start writing your essay . Your supervisor wants to see that you have a clear idea of your structure so that writing will go smoothly.

Even when you do not have to hand it in, writing an essay outline is an important part of the writing process . It’s a good idea to write one (as informally as you like) to clarify your structure for yourself whenever you are working on an essay.

If you have to hand in your essay outline , you may be given specific guidelines stating whether you have to use full sentences. If you’re not sure, ask your supervisor.

When writing an essay outline for yourself, the choice is yours. Some students find it helpful to write out their ideas in full sentences, while others prefer to summarize them in short phrases.

You should try to follow your outline as you write your essay . However, if your ideas change or it becomes clear that your structure could be better, it’s okay to depart from your essay outline . Just make sure you know why you’re doing so.

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Theme vs. Thesis: Key Differences and How to Write each

  • by Judy Jeni
  • January 18, 2024

Differences Between Thesis And Theme

Many students confuse between these two terms, a theme and a thesis. In practice, they are two distinct aspects.

By reading the content in this write-up, you will appreciate the difference between the two items. A theme is a central message in a text, whereas a thesis is an argument about a text.

Theme vs. Thesis

While it is possible to write items based on a theme or a project based on a thesis, the two are different. While their focus may seem similar, they are different.

A theme is a focus topic that a writer bases his argument on. It is the direction that guides the points that a writer argues. On the other hand, a thesis is a stand that a writer seeks to prove in his or her writing.

In a theme, a writer bases points on a concept, but in a thesis, the writer writes to prove a specific assertion.

A theme and a thesis are two different items that we can elaborate through the following points:  

outlining differences

  • A theme is the crucial idea of the piece of literature or any art you are writing about.
  • It is the recurrent idea in your work before you identify other elements such as characters, conflict, setting, and plot.
  • A thesis is a statement that you will try to prove by backing it with necessary facts. It is a position that the author takes to maintain a particular argument.

Differences between a Theme and a Thesis

  • A theme is the general topic of your essay, whereas a thesis is the precise statements that the author tries to prove.
  • A theme could be more general as the writer cannot necessarily state it expressly. On the other hand, a thesis is a direct message at the beginning of the paragraph that indicates what the entire paper will be talking about.
  • A theme is the motif of the piece or an underlying idea, whereas the thesis is the argument in favor of something that you believe you are presenting to your audience.

How to Write a Theme Based Essay

A theme-based essay writes about something based on a theme that you can derive from a novel, song, or short story. Before you begin to write such an essay, you should identify the underlying theme in your literature work.

Steps When Writing a Theme Based Essay

1. identify the character.

The odd one out

One should locate the characters that you will discuss in the essay. Such should relate to the identified theme in your essay.

For instance, if you locate ‘violence’ in the novel ‘The Shadow of Death,’ it is reasonable to talk about the characters that promote violence in the novel.

2. Maintain the Chosen Theme

As indicated above, suppose violence is the main theme in the novel, then you should maintain the same thing by writing about violence.  Such could include incidences of violence, including blood baths and more.

The point is you should endeavor to remain as close to the theme of violence by highlighting incidences and situations from the novel, drama, or story.

3. Avoid Mixing the Theme with the Key Subject

A theme is not a plot but an idea that binds up the story. It is the message that the author wants to convey to the audience or the readers. It is, therefore, wrong to try to write on the plot or story. Stick to the idea only.

Let your thoughts remain organized and well-knitted in the essay body. In the same vein, the body should relate to the central theme as you refer to the characters and incidents in the source matter.

How to Write a Thesis

One can use the following steps to come up with a strong thesis statement:

Start with a Question

start thesis with question

One should come up with a question in case the assignment did not offer the question.

After that, you should state your topic, which is the essential idea of the paper.

This thesis statement is usually a phrase or a few words that summarize the main subject of your paper.

The thesis statement makes the topic to be as precise as possible.

Write an Initial Answer

After performing initial research, it is now time to formulate a tentative answer. At this point, it could be just simple, or you can craft it to guide the process of writing and researching.

In case you are writing an argumentative essay, your answer should take a position on the matter. This is different from a thesis statement. Check more about thesis statements to know the idea of the two.

Develop the Answer

This section should prove why you believe it is your answer and convince the reader to agree with your position.

The more you write about the topic, the more you develop more details for your response. The final essay should summarize your overall arguments.

One should know what they are trying to prove in a topic. While you are expressing your opinion, it is vital to state one major idea. Also, you should name the topic and state something specific about it.

Furthermore, you should take a position and back it up with facts and reasons as an author. It is vital to support your reasons with evidence and logical facts.

Include Opposing Viewpoint

The correct thesis statement should acknowledge that there is another side of the argument. It is excellent to include your opposing viewpoints in your opinion. It is also essential to capture another person’s view who may have a different opinion about your topic.

Judy Jeni

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4.4: Organically Structured Essays

  • Last updated
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  • Page ID 58279
  • Lumen Learning

Learning Objective

  • Identify characteristics of organically structured essays

In high school, the SAT and other standardized testing formats value a very rigid, formulaic approach to essay writing. Some students who have mastered that form, and enjoyed a lot of success from doing so, assume that college writing is simply more of the same. The skills involved in a very basic kind of essay—often called the five-paragraph theme—are indispensable. If you’re good at the five-paragraph theme, then you’re good at identifying a clear and consistent thesis, arranging cohesive paragraphs, organizing evidence for key points, and situating an argument within a broader context through the introduction and conclusion.

In college, you will build on and move beyond those essential formulaic skills. Your college professors are looking for a more ambitious and arguable thesis, a nuanced and compelling argument, and real-life evidence for all key points, all in an organically structured paper.

Link to Learning

This resource from the UNC Writing Center explains how college writing differs from writing in high school.

The figures below contrast the standard five-paragraph theme and the organic college paper. The five-paragraph theme, outlined on the left, is probably what you’re used to: the introductory paragraph starts broadly and gradually narrows to a thesis, which readers expect to find at the very end of that paragraph. In this format, the thesis invokes the magic number of three: three reasons why a statement is true. Each of those reasons is explained and justified in the three body paragraphs, and then the final paragraph restates the thesis before gradually getting broader. This format is easy for readers to follow, and it helps developing writers organize their points and the evidence that goes with them. That’s why you learned it.

The figure on the right represents a paper on the same topic that has the more organic form expected in college. The first key difference is the thesis. Rather than simply positing a number of reasons to think that something is true, the thesis in an organic essay puts forward an arguable statement: one with which a reasonable person might disagree. An arguable thesis gives the paper purpose. It surprises readers and draws them in. You hope your reader thinks, Huh. Why would the author come to that conclusion? and then feels compelled to read on. The body paragraphs, then, build on one another to carry out this ambitious argument.

In the classic five-paragraph theme it hardly matters which of the three reasons you explain first or second. In the more organic structure, each paragraph specifically leads to the next. The last key difference is seen in the conclusion. Because the organic essay is driven by an ambitious, non-obvious argument, the reader comes to the concluding section thinking, OK, I’m convinced by the argument. What do you, author, make of it? Why does it matter? The conclusion of an organically structured paper has a real job to do. It doesn’t just reiterate the thesis; it explains why the thesis matters. Some instructors will call this the so what? Given what you’ve argued in your essay, so what? What the takeaway or the call to action?

Five Paragraph Essay vs. organic essay

Compare the five-paragraph model on the left with the organic model on the right.

essay vs theme

The substantial time you spent mastering the five-paragraph form was time well spent; it’s hard to imagine anyone succeeding with the more organic form without the organizational skills and habits of mind inherent in the simpler form. But if you assume that you must adhere rigidly to the simpler form, you’re blunting your intellectual ambition. Your professors will not be impressed by obvious theses, loosely related body paragraphs, and repetitive conclusions. They want you to undertake an ambitious, independent analysis, one that will yield a thesis that is somewhat surprising and challenging to explain.

Understanding that college writing will demand more than a five-paragraph essay is the first step. But then what? How do writers move beyond the formulas that are so familiar and well-practiced and begin to develop organic writing?

A good starting place is to recharacterize writing as thinking. Experienced writers don’t figure out what they want to say and then write it. They write in order to figure out what they want to say. Experienced writers develop theses in dialog with the body of the essay. An initial characterization of the problem leads to a tentative thesis. Then, drafting the body of the paper reveals thorny contradictions or critical areas of ambiguity, prompting the writer to revisit or expand the body of evidence and then refine the thesis based on that fresh look. The revised thesis may require that body paragraphs be reordered and reshaped to fit the emerging thesis. Throughout the process, the thesis serves as an anchor point while the author wades through the morass of facts and ideas. The writer continues to read to learn more about his or her issue and refines his or her ideas in response to what is learned. The dialogue between thesis and body continues until the author is satisfied or the due date arrives, whatever comes first.

Consider the following example.

Your political science professor asks you to write a paper on legislative redistricting. The professor spent a lot of time in class talking about motivations for redistricting, state redistricting laws, and Supreme Court redistricting cases. You decide to write about those three topics using the following thesis:

Legislative redistricting is a complicated process that involves motivations for redistricting, state redistricting laws, and Supreme Court decisions.

Then you write a section on motivations, a section on state laws, and a section on Supreme Court decisions.

On the first draft of the paper, the professor comments: “This paper tries to cover too much and has no point to make. What’s the original point you are trying to defend? You are just restating everything we said about redistricting in class. Keep thinking.” You realize at this point that you have tried to write a five-paragraph essay, and it doesn’t work.

You go back to the drawing board. Your professor said you needed an arguable, original point and to avoid just restating everything from class. You think about what interested you most in the discussion of redistricting and remember talking about the Goldilocks principle of getting the balance of voters “just right.” You also remember that the professor mentioned a current case before the Supreme Court involving your home state.

You research the case and decide to revise your thesis to argue that your state has not achieved the Goldilocks balance but has erred on the side of excessive racial representation in some districts. Rather than using the body paragraphs of the paper to give three reasons for why that overrepresentation occurred, you decide to first give background on the racial divisions within the state, followed by profiles of two districts where over-representation of one race has occurred.

After writing those sections, you read further about the current status of the Supreme Court case and find that one of the districts you discuss in the paper isn’t involved in the case and that the Court’s decision has still not been handed down. You decide to rewrite one of the profile sections to focus on the district in the Supreme Court case. Then you add a section overviewing the current court case. You use your conclusion to make a recommendation to the Supreme Court about how the case should be decided.

Once the conclusion is drafted, you go back to the introduction and tighten the thesis to focus just on the two districts covered in the court case. You also revise the initial background section to include specific mention of those two cases. Now you are writing like a college writer, using writing as a tool for thinking and developing the paper in response to your growing understanding.

An organically structured argument is a beautiful thing. For one, it gives a paper authentic momentum. The first paragraph doesn’t just start with some broad, vague statement; every sentence is crucial for setting up the thesis. The body paragraphs build on one another, moving through each step of the logical chain. Each paragraph leads inevitably to the next, making the transitions from paragraph to paragraph feel wholly natural. The conclusion, instead of being a mirror-image paraphrase of the introduction, builds out the argument by explaining the broader implications. It offers new insight, without departing from the flow of the analysis.

A paper with this kind of momentum may read like it was knocked out in one inspired sitting. But don’t be fooled In reality, just like accomplished athletes and artists, masterful writers make the difficult look easy. As writer Anne Lamott notes, reading a well-written piece feels like its author sat down and typed it out, “bounding along like huskies across the snow.” However, she continues,

This is just the fantasy of the uninitiated. I know some very great writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits down routinely feeling wildly enthusiastic and confident. Not one of them writes elegant first drafts. All right, one of them does, but we do not like her very much. [1]

  • Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (New York: Pantheon, 1994), 21. ↵

Contributors and Attributions

  • Practice: Organically Structured Essays. Provided by : University of Mississippi. License : CC BY: Attribution
  • Revision and Adaptation. Provided by : Lumen Learning. License : CC BY-NC-SA: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike
  • Moving beyond the five-paragraph theme.. Authored by : Amy Guptill.. Provided by : The College at Brockport, SUNY. Located at : Project : Writing in College: From Competence to Excellence. . License : CC BY-NC-SA: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike
  • Organic and Inorganic. Authored by : John D.. Located at : . License : CC BY-NC-ND: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives
  • Three-story theses and the organically structured argument. Authored by : Amy Guptill. Provided by : The College at Brockport, SUNY. Located at : Project : Writing in College: From Competence to Excellence. License : CC BY-NC-SA: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike

101 Compare and Contrast Essay Topics

Great Ideas for Essays

  • Teaching Resources
  • An Introduction to Teaching
  • Tips & Strategies
  • Policies & Discipline
  • Community Involvement
  • School Administration
  • Technology in the Classroom
  • Teaching Adult Learners
  • Issues In Education
  • Becoming A Teacher
  • Assessments & Tests
  • Elementary Education
  • Secondary Education
  • Special Education
  • Homeschooling
  • M.Ed., Curriculum and Instruction, University of Florida
  • B.A., History, University of Florida

Compare and contrast essays are taught in school for many reasons. For one thing, they are relatively easy to teach, understand, and format. Students can typically understand the structure with just a short amount of instruction. In addition, these essays allow students develop critical thinking skills to approach a variety of topics.

Brainstorming Tip

One fun way to get students started brainstorming their compare and contrast essays is to create a Venn diagram , where the overlapping sections of the circle contain similarities and the non-overlapping areas contain the differing traits.

Following is a list of 101 topics for compare and contrast essays that you are welcome to use in your classroom. As you look through the list you will see that some items are academic in nature while others are included for interest-building and fun writing activities.

  • Apple vs. Microsoft
  • Coke vs. Pepsi
  • Renaissance Art vs. Baroque Art
  • Antebellum Era vs. Reconstruction Era in American History
  • Childhood vs. Adulthood
  • Star Wars vs. Star Trek
  • Biology vs. Chemistry
  • Astrology vs. Astronomy
  • American Government vs. British Government (or any world government)
  • Fruits vs. Vegetables
  • Dogs vs. Cats
  • Ego vs. Superego
  • Christianity vs. Judaism (or any world religion )
  • Republican vs. Democrat
  • Monarchy vs. Presidency
  • US President vs. UK Prime Minister
  • Jazz vs. Classical Music
  • Red vs. White (or any two colors)
  • Soccer vs. Football
  • North vs. South Before the Civil War
  • New England Colonies vs. Middle Colonies OR vs. Southern Colonies
  • Cash vs. Credit Cards
  • Sam vs. Frodo Baggins
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Word Wool

Tone vs. Theme: What Is the Difference?

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Here’s the difference between a tone and a theme:

A theme is basically what the piece is trying to say, the main message , whereas tone reflects the narrator’s attitude.

Tone also has an intimate connection to mood.

If you want to learn all about the differences between tone and theme, then this article is for you.

Let’s jump right in!

Tone vs. Theme: What Is the Difference? (+ Examples)

What Is the Difference Between a Tone and a Theme?

Young woman in beige vintage dress of early 20th century reading

Tone and theme are two of the core foundations of any ambitious written work, with each quality permeating the text from the first line to the last.

Here’s an overview of the key differences between tone and theme .

The theme is essentially the point being made by the piece, the main idea or the message. 

Tone reflects the attitude that the narrator presents.

Tone also has an intimate connection to mood, which we’ll touch on later.

You couldn’t realistically expect to write a gripping narrative with conflict and stakes without inserting some sort of theme or moral, even if you end up doing so by accident as a result of how the conflicts in your story turn out.

Tone is even more unavoidable. 

Simply by virtue of placing words on a page, you create a tone. 

Even a dry emotionless boring academic tone is still technically a tone.

Of course, there’s much more to delve into than just that.

What Is a Tone?

Young widow suspected of murdering her husband is crying with eyes messy with makeup.

Perhaps you’ve heard someone say, “Don’t take that tone with me!”

If so, then you essentially know what a tone is, more or less.

Just as the tone of your voice reveals your current mood, the tone of your writing reveals the narrator’s feelings. 

Of course, literature can’t rely on pitch and inflection to invoke tone.

It has to do so entirely with the word selections and the syntax of the sentence.

See the below examples:

  • We drove back the alien scourge with our strongest weapons.
  • We managed to push back the monstrous aliens with only human technology.

In the first sentence, the narrator sounds triumphant and assured. 

There was never any doubt that the protagonists were going to defeat the aliens with their impressive firepower. 

The choice of words is important in establishing tone because tone relies heavily on connotation.

Painting the aliens as a “scourge” and the human weapons as the “strongest” creates a dynamic that sounds almost like an exterminator eliminating an infestation.

Meanwhile, the second sentence sounds much less confident. There’s a palpable sense of hesitancy in the wording as if something could have easily gone wrong at any moment.

This, too, is established via the connotation of the words used. Instead of boldly defeating the aliens, the protagonists in this version merely “managed” to handle it.

Here the weapons are classified as “only human.”

The underlying implication is that the narrator of the second version is  surprised  that the humans were victorious over the “monstrous aliens.”

The events of both versions are the same, but the tone is drastically different.

What Is the Connection Between a Theme and a Mood?

Young woman in the field enjoying the moment outdoor.

It’s difficult to address tone properly without also bringing up mood.

The very purpose of tone is very often to set the mood, after all.

The tone, as stated above, is what the narrator expresses.

This is the voice painted by the author using careful word choices. 

It might be a subtle undertone or an aggressive overtone, but it is always reflective of how the narrator is meant to be characterized.

The mood is what the reader feels in response to that expression and to the details of the text. 

A scene presented with graphic imagery and gore may be intended to gross you out and horrify you. In that context, you could say the mood is horrific.

While mood is not only set up by the tone they do go hand in hand.

It would be difficult to write an entire novel with a lighthearted comedic tone but still establish a serious mood.

This doesn’t mean tone and mood always match, of course. 

If you were to write about a haunted castle beset by legions of the decaying undead in a hopeless situation, but do so in a heavily romanticized tone, then a unique dissonance would be achieved that breaks the tone and mood up into something intricate and strange.

What Is a Theme?

Mysterious Snow White holds a ripe apple on her lap.

Theme is debatably the more complex of the two.

While a tone is something you might pick up in the first couple of sentences, the theme of the work often requires that you read the entire story cover to cover.

This is, in large part, because any sudden overturn in the plot might turn the theme on its head. 

A plot twist might change the relationship between good and evil at any moment, thus recontextualizing the theme from scratch with each unexpected turn.

There can also be subthemes appearing in sections of the work or even in individual scenes, completely separate from the more cohesive overarching theme(s).

Themes are inextricably linked to the “moral of the story” and are essentially the ethical fibers that the narrative uses as a backbone. 

Themes can be wholly intended and blatantly obvious, like how the morals of fables and parables are essential to the story, or they can emerge organically and be incredibly subtle.

Even when you do not actively try to promote a theme, it’s likely that one will be born of the events that take place in your stories, most notably the conflicts.

Who won and who lost?

How did that turn out for everyone else?

Whereas tone and mood emerge from careful and consistent word choices, themes typically pop out of the story’s actual events. 

Forcibly inserting a theme through dialogue or exposition usually amounts to poor, lazy writing.

Young woman working on laptop lying in hammock on the beach

The most memorable themes are often the ones that are debatable and complex.

One obvious and even overused theme is the classic “Love finds a way.” 

The idea is that the characters of the story who are in love will end up together without a shadow of a doubt. 

Cities may fall, nations may crumble, and stars may fall from the sky, but the fate of the lovers is set in stone.

You could, of course, flip this concept on its head by having the lovers fail miserably to stay together in the face of adversity. 

In this case, you would subvert the trope, arguing through a narrative that love alone is not always enough.

There’s no rule that themes have to be founded on happy endings, after all. 

A book can be a lesson in the harshness of reality just as easily as it can be a window into a fanciful dream world. 

The outcomes you portray when your characters are tested will naturally, gradually unveil the themes of your work, whatever those may be.

Earth Day 2024: Planet Vs. Plastic


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Born in 1970, Earth Day has evolved into one of the largest civic events of all time. When we observe the 54 th Earth Day on April 22, the health and safety of the planet couldn’t be timelier, especially when it comes to dealing with the proliferation of plastic.

Over the past 60 years, around eight billion tons of plastic has been produced, according to a recent study in the journal Science Advances — 90.5 per cent of which has not been recycled . As a result, this year’s Earth Day theme— “Planet vs. Plastic”— demands a 60% reduction in the production of all plastics by 2040.

Just how big of a challenge is this? What type of numbers are we talking about? Here’s some perspective:

  • In 1950, the world produced just two million tons of plastic. We now produce over 450 million tons .
  • Half of all plastics ever manufactured have been made in the last 15 years.
  • P roduction is expected to double by 2050.
  • More than one million plastic water bottles are sold every minute.
  • Every year, about 11 million tons of plastic waste escapes into the ocean.
  • Only 9% of plastics ever produced has been recycled.
  • Plastics often contain additives that can extend the life of products, with some estimates ranging to at least 400 years to break down.

Plastic is literally everywhere

An advertisement from the American Plastics Council in a 1997 edition of the New Yorker suggested that plastic wrappers and containers were the “sixth food group” that were there to keep contaminates out of our food.

Close up shot of microplastics on a hand.

In a twisted type of irony, Microplastics are now in almost everything and everywhere. Even in in much of the food we eat and water we drink! Microplastics are tiny particles of plastic (from ½ inch to microscopic) is synthetic that never disappears. As Stephen Jamieson recently explained in a Future of Supply Chain podcast, “We're ingesting a credit card size worth of plastic every single week as humans, and the real health impacts of that, we don't truly know and don't truly understand.”

What is the world doing about it?

In the Podcast, Stephen discussed the upcoming fourth session of the United Nations Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee he is attending in Ottawa, Canada from 23rd to the 29th of April. The goal is to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment, that will, as Stephen stated, “by early next year, actually ratify a new treaty at the United Nations to eliminate plastic pollution by 2040”.

What can businesses do about it?

Think about optimizing your entire supply chain for sustainability, rather than just individual functions.

For example, you may be pulling certain levers in your design processes, or manufacturing plants, only to realize that the sustainability gains in that process are offset by much a much larger negative impact on logistics or at the end of life of a product.

Perform Life Cycle Assessments on your products

A Life Cycle Assessment is a method for the compilation and evaluation of the inputs, outputs and the potential environmental impacts of a product throughout its life cycle (ISO standard 14040).

In simple terms, it’s a way by which you can understand the sustainability footprint of a product throughout it’s full lifecycle, from “cradle to grave.”

By enabling product footprints periodically across the entire product lifecycle, you can gain insights on the environmental impacts of your products across the entire lifecycle for disclosure and internal product and process optimization.

Design with end of life in mind

As says, “We need to invest in innovative technologies and materials to build a plastic-free world”.

And this starts with how we design products and packaging material in the goods we manufacture and deliver. The sooner we phase out all single use plastics, the better. We need responsible design and production solutions that facilitate a product and package redesign that enables companies to engage in the circular economy and reduces waste without sacrificing quality.

Enforce compliance at each step of the product lifecycle

If you look at most companies’ website for their mission statement or purpose, sustainability is front and center. And supply chain sits right in the middle, both as a major contributor to the problem, and a major opportunity to improve.

But you can’t manage regulatory and sustainability requirements, track registrations and substance volumes, classify products, and create compliance documents, as well as package, transport, and store hazardous materials properly with accurate labeling you won’t be able to measure how you are performing.

This takes a stepwise approach to:

Record: The first step is to gather all necessary ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) data along the entire value chain. This data cannot be found easily in one single system. Currently this is a highly manual and therefore time consuming effort compounded by data quality challenges.

Report: There are more than 600 ESG frameworks/standards out there and they are being constantly developed further (Take the evolving plastics taxes across Europe for example). The requirements for companies are constantly changing. A high effort is required to keep up with the current requirements to report along the respective regulatory & voluntary frameworks.

Act: In many companies sustainability action is already happening but in many cases this this is still partly disjoint from the strategy or not yet covering all business processes

What can we as individuals do about it?

The reality is that everybody has a role to play in the “Planet vs. Plastics battle, and the sustainability of the planet in general.

Little things like using reusable bottles and straws and bringing reusable bags to the store are great first step.

You can also go to to learn more about the battle between planet vs. plastics, and find an event near you where you can help clean up the planet.

Let’s make every day Earth Day, to protect this beautiful rock we live on for future generations.

To learn more, listen to The Future of Supply Chain Podcast – Earth vs. Planet .

Richard Howells

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Earth Day: What is it, when is it and why is it important?

Earth Day takes place on 22 April each year

Earth Day takes place on 22 April each year. Image:  UNSPLASH/Markus Spiske

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Hanh nguyen.

essay vs theme

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This article was last updated on 11 April 2024. It was originally published on 19 April 2022.

  • Earth Day takes place every year on 22 April and is one of the biggest environmental protest movements on the planet.
  • The theme of Earth Day this year is 'Planet vs. Plastics' - campaigners are calling for a 60% reduction in the production of plastics by 2040.
  • The World Economic Forum's Global Risks Report 2024 finds that environmental risks make up half of the top 10 risks over the next 10 years.

“Good evening, a unique day in American history is ending. A day set aside for a nationwide outpouring of mankind seeking its own survival.”

Those were the words of US TV presenter Walter Cronkite as he described the aftermath of the first Earth Day back in 1970.

Here’s what you need to know about Earth Day in 2024.

What is Earth Day and what is the theme in 2024?

Earth Day is an international day devoted to our planet. It draws attention to the environment and promotes conservation and sustainability. Each year on 22 April, around 1 billion people around the world take action to raise awareness of the climate crisis and bring about behavioural change to protect the environment.

Participation in Earth Day can take many forms, including small home or classroom projects like planting a herb garden or picking up litter. People also volunteer to plant trees, join other ecological initiatives or take part in street protests about climate change and environmental degradation.

Official Earth Day campaigns and projects aim to increase environmental literacy and bring together like-minded people or groups to address issues such as deforestation, biodiversity loss and other challenges .

The global theme for this year's Earth Day is ' Planet vs. Plastics ', which recognizes the threat plastics pose to human health and with campaigners demanding a 60% reduction in the production of plastics by 2040.

From 23 to 29 April 2024, governments and NGOs from around the world will gather in Ottawa to continue negotiating the terms of the United Nations Global Plastic Treaty .

How did Earth Day begin?

Millions of people took to the streets of US cities and towns on 22 April 1970 in mass protests over the damage being done to the planet and its resources. Amid the demonstrations, protesters brought New York City’s usually bustling Fifth Avenue to a halt, while students in Boston held a “die-in” at Logan Airport. The environmental impact of the post-war consumer boom was beginning to be felt at that time. Oil spills, factory pollution and other ecological threats were on the rise, with little if any legislation in place to prevent them.

Earth Day has become a global environmental protest movement.

The protests brought together people from all walks of American life – accounting for about 10% of the US population – to demonstrate and voice their demands for sustainable change. The Earth Day website calls it the birth of the modern environmental movement.

What led to the street protests in 1970?

Concerned about increasing levels of unchecked environmental destruction, Junior Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin suggested a series of “teach-ins” on university campuses across the US in 1969 to raise awareness of environmental threats. Nelson was joined by Congressman Pete McCloskey and activist Denis Hayes to organize the teach-ins, but the group soon recognized an opportunity to broaden the event’s appeal beyond student populations.

The newly named Earth Day protest events attracted national media attention and support from around 20 million Americans across age and political spectrums, occupations and income groups.

What did the protests achieve?

The Earth Day demonstrations left an indelible mark on US policy. By the end of 1970, the US Environmental Protection Agency came into being and a stream of laws followed to help protect the environment . These included the National Environmental Education Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act and the Clean Air Act. Further legislation was soon introduced to protect water quality and endangered species, and to control the use of harmful chemicals and pesticides.

When did Earth Day go global?

Earth Day went beyond the US in 1990. Around 200 million people from 141 countries joined efforts to boost recycling around the world that year, paving the way for the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Climate change poses an urgent threat demanding decisive action. Communities around the world are already experiencing increased climate impacts, from droughts to floods to rising seas. The World Economic Forum's Global Risks Report continues to rank these environmental threats at the top of the list.

To limit global temperature rise to well below 2°C and as close as possible to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, it is essential that businesses, policy-makers, and civil society advance comprehensive near- and long-term climate actions in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The World Economic Forum's Climate Initiative supports the scaling and acceleration of global climate action through public and private-sector collaboration. The Initiative works across several workstreams to develop and implement inclusive and ambitious solutions.

This includes the Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders, a global network of business leaders from various industries developing cost-effective solutions to transitioning to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy. CEOs use their position and influence with policy-makers and corporate partners to accelerate the transition and realize the economic benefits of delivering a safer climate.

Contact us to get involved.

This “Earth Summit”, as it became known, led to the formation of the UN Convention on Climate Change and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity , along with the Commission on Sustainable Development to monitor and report on the implementation of Earth Summit agreements.

And as citizens were increasingly concerned with corporate impacts on the natural environment, big and small businesses started to feel the pressure to consider sustainability in their practice.

Have you read?

Is climate inaction a human rights violation, how earth observation from space helps advance climate change research, why is earth day important today.

As the millennium loomed, the Earth Day movement turned its attention to the growing reality of the impending climate crisis with a clear message for world leaders and business: urgent action is needed to address global warming.

It’s a message that is even more relevant today. The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states that without further immediate action to curb greenhouse gas emissions, the world is on course for temperatures 3.2°C above pre-industrial levels by 2100. This level of warming would be catastrophic for the planet and all life on it, including humans.

The year 2023 was the hottest ever recorded .

The World Economic Forum's Global Risks Report 2024 finds that environmental risks make up half of the top 10 risks over the next 10 years, with extreme weather events, critical change to Earth's systems, biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse being the top three.

Global risks ranked by severity over the short and long term

Nature is our biggest ally in fighting the climate crisis and has slowed global warming by absorbing 54% of human-related carbon dioxide emissions over the past 10 years. Yet, we are losing animals, marine species, plants, and insects at an unprecedented rate, not seen in 10 million years . Threats from human activity for food production and ocean use, infrastructure, energy and mining endanger around 80% of all threatened or near-threatened species .

Earth Day has become a leading light in the fight to combat climate change and nature loss. As we celebrate its 54th anniversary, we must make use of this truly global movement to act, as citizens and governments, as consumers and businesses, and as individuals and communities. Our survival could well depend on it.

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World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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What is the difference between a solar eclipse and a lunar eclipse?

essay vs theme

It almost time! Millions of Americans across the country Monday are preparing to witness the once-in-a-lifetime total solar eclipse as it passes over portions of Mexico, the United States and Canada.

It's a sight to behold and people have now long been eagerly awaiting what will be their only chance until 2044 to witness totality, whereby the moon will completely block the sun's disc, ushering in uncharacteristic darkness.

That being said, many are curious on what makes the solar eclipse special and how is it different from a lunar eclipse.

The total solar eclipse is today: Get the latest forecast and everything you need to know

What is an eclipse?

An eclipse occurs when any celestial object like a moon or a planet passes between two other bodies, obscuring the view of objects like the sun, according to NASA .

What is a solar eclipse?

A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon comes in between the Earth and the sun, blocking its light from reaching our planet, leading to a period of darkness lasting several minutes. The resulting "totality," whereby observers can see the outermost layer of the sun's atmosphere, known as the corona, presents a spectacular sight for viewers and confuses animals – causing nocturnal creatures to stir and bird and insects to fall silent.

Partial eclipses, when some part of the sun remains visible, are the most common, making total eclipses a rare sight.

What is a lunar eclipse?

A total lunar eclipse occurs when the moon and the sun are on exact opposite sides of Earth. When this happens, Earth blocks the sunlight that normally reaches the moon. Instead of that sunlight hitting the moon’s surface, Earth's shadow falls on it.

Lunar eclipses are often also referred to the "blood moon" because when the Earth's shadow covers the moon, it often produces a red color. The coloration happens because a bit of reddish sunlight still reaches the moon's surface, even though it's in Earth's shadow.

Difference between lunar eclipse and solar eclipse

The major difference between the two eclipses is in the positioning of the sun, the moon and the Earth and the longevity of the phenomenon, according to NASA.

A lunar eclipse can last for a few hours, while a solar eclipse lasts only a few minutes. Solar eclipses also rarely occur, while lunar eclipses are comparatively more frequent. While at least two partial lunar eclipses happen every year, total lunar eclipses are still rare, says NASA.

Another major difference between the two is that for lunar eclipses, no special glasses or gizmos are needed to view the spectacle and one can directly stare at the moon. However, for solar eclipses, it is pertinent to wear proper viewing glasses and take the necessary safety precautions because the powerful rays of the sun can burn and damage your retinas.

Contributing: Eric Lagatta, Doyle Rice, USA TODAY

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NPR defends its journalism after senior editor says it has lost the public's trust

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David Folkenflik

essay vs theme

NPR is defending its journalism and integrity after a senior editor wrote an essay accusing it of losing the public's trust. Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

NPR is defending its journalism and integrity after a senior editor wrote an essay accusing it of losing the public's trust.

NPR's top news executive defended its journalism and its commitment to reflecting a diverse array of views on Tuesday after a senior NPR editor wrote a broad critique of how the network has covered some of the most important stories of the age.

"An open-minded spirit no longer exists within NPR, and now, predictably, we don't have an audience that reflects America," writes Uri Berliner.

A strategic emphasis on diversity and inclusion on the basis of race, ethnicity and sexual orientation, promoted by NPR's former CEO, John Lansing, has fed "the absence of viewpoint diversity," Berliner writes.

NPR's chief news executive, Edith Chapin, wrote in a memo to staff Tuesday afternoon that she and the news leadership team strongly reject Berliner's assessment.

"We're proud to stand behind the exceptional work that our desks and shows do to cover a wide range of challenging stories," she wrote. "We believe that inclusion — among our staff, with our sourcing, and in our overall coverage — is critical to telling the nuanced stories of this country and our world."

NPR names tech executive Katherine Maher to lead in turbulent era

NPR names tech executive Katherine Maher to lead in turbulent era

She added, "None of our work is above scrutiny or critique. We must have vigorous discussions in the newsroom about how we serve the public as a whole."

A spokesperson for NPR said Chapin, who also serves as the network's chief content officer, would have no further comment.

Praised by NPR's critics

Berliner is a senior editor on NPR's Business Desk. (Disclosure: I, too, am part of the Business Desk, and Berliner has edited many of my past stories. He did not see any version of this article or participate in its preparation before it was posted publicly.)

Berliner's essay , titled "I've Been at NPR for 25 years. Here's How We Lost America's Trust," was published by The Free Press, a website that has welcomed journalists who have concluded that mainstream news outlets have become reflexively liberal.

Berliner writes that as a Subaru-driving, Sarah Lawrence College graduate who "was raised by a lesbian peace activist mother ," he fits the mold of a loyal NPR fan.

Yet Berliner says NPR's news coverage has fallen short on some of the most controversial stories of recent years, from the question of whether former President Donald Trump colluded with Russia in the 2016 election, to the origins of the virus that causes COVID-19, to the significance and provenance of emails leaked from a laptop owned by Hunter Biden weeks before the 2020 election. In addition, he blasted NPR's coverage of the Israel-Hamas conflict.

On each of these stories, Berliner asserts, NPR has suffered from groupthink due to too little diversity of viewpoints in the newsroom.

The essay ricocheted Tuesday around conservative media , with some labeling Berliner a whistleblower . Others picked it up on social media, including Elon Musk, who has lambasted NPR for leaving his social media site, X. (Musk emailed another NPR reporter a link to Berliner's article with a gibe that the reporter was a "quisling" — a World War II reference to someone who collaborates with the enemy.)

When asked for further comment late Tuesday, Berliner declined, saying the essay spoke for itself.

The arguments he raises — and counters — have percolated across U.S. newsrooms in recent years. The #MeToo sexual harassment scandals of 2016 and 2017 forced newsrooms to listen to and heed more junior colleagues. The social justice movement prompted by the killing of George Floyd in 2020 inspired a reckoning in many places. Newsroom leaders often appeared to stand on shaky ground.

Leaders at many newsrooms, including top editors at The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times , lost their jobs. Legendary Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron wrote in his memoir that he feared his bonds with the staff were "frayed beyond repair," especially over the degree of self-expression his journalists expected to exert on social media, before he decided to step down in early 2021.

Since then, Baron and others — including leaders of some of these newsrooms — have suggested that the pendulum has swung too far.

Legendary editor Marty Baron describes his 'Collision of Power' with Trump and Bezos

Author Interviews

Legendary editor marty baron describes his 'collision of power' with trump and bezos.

New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger warned last year against journalists embracing a stance of what he calls "one-side-ism": "where journalists are demonstrating that they're on the side of the righteous."

"I really think that that can create blind spots and echo chambers," he said.

Internal arguments at The Times over the strength of its reporting on accusations that Hamas engaged in sexual assaults as part of a strategy for its Oct. 7 attack on Israel erupted publicly . The paper conducted an investigation to determine the source of a leak over a planned episode of the paper's podcast The Daily on the subject, which months later has not been released. The newsroom guild accused the paper of "targeted interrogation" of journalists of Middle Eastern descent.

Heated pushback in NPR's newsroom

Given Berliner's account of private conversations, several NPR journalists question whether they can now trust him with unguarded assessments about stories in real time. Others express frustration that he had not sought out comment in advance of publication. Berliner acknowledged to me that for this story, he did not seek NPR's approval to publish the piece, nor did he give the network advance notice.

Some of Berliner's NPR colleagues are responding heatedly. Fernando Alfonso, a senior supervising editor for digital news, wrote that he wholeheartedly rejected Berliner's critique of the coverage of the Israel-Hamas conflict, for which NPR's journalists, like their peers, periodically put themselves at risk.

Alfonso also took issue with Berliner's concern over the focus on diversity at NPR.

"As a person of color who has often worked in newsrooms with little to no people who look like me, the efforts NPR has made to diversify its workforce and its sources are unique and appropriate given the news industry's long-standing lack of diversity," Alfonso says. "These efforts should be celebrated and not denigrated as Uri has done."

After this story was first published, Berliner contested Alfonso's characterization, saying his criticism of NPR is about the lack of diversity of viewpoints, not its diversity itself.

"I never criticized NPR's priority of achieving a more diverse workforce in terms of race, ethnicity and sexual orientation. I have not 'denigrated' NPR's newsroom diversity goals," Berliner said. "That's wrong."

Questions of diversity

Under former CEO John Lansing, NPR made increasing diversity, both of its staff and its audience, its "North Star" mission. Berliner says in the essay that NPR failed to consider broader diversity of viewpoint, noting, "In D.C., where NPR is headquartered and many of us live, I found 87 registered Democrats working in editorial positions and zero Republicans."

Berliner cited audience estimates that suggested a concurrent falloff in listening by Republicans. (The number of people listening to NPR broadcasts and terrestrial radio broadly has declined since the start of the pandemic.)

Former NPR vice president for news and ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin tweeted , "I know Uri. He's not wrong."

Others questioned Berliner's logic. "This probably gets causality somewhat backward," tweeted Semafor Washington editor Jordan Weissmann . "I'd guess that a lot of NPR listeners who voted for [Mitt] Romney have changed how they identify politically."

Similarly, Nieman Lab founder Joshua Benton suggested the rise of Trump alienated many NPR-appreciating Republicans from the GOP.

In recent years, NPR has greatly enhanced the percentage of people of color in its workforce and its executive ranks. Four out of 10 staffers are people of color; nearly half of NPR's leadership team identifies as Black, Asian or Latino.

"The philosophy is: Do you want to serve all of America and make sure it sounds like all of America, or not?" Lansing, who stepped down last month, says in response to Berliner's piece. "I'd welcome the argument against that."

"On radio, we were really lagging in our representation of an audience that makes us look like what America looks like today," Lansing says. The U.S. looks and sounds a lot different than it did in 1971, when NPR's first show was broadcast, Lansing says.

A network spokesperson says new NPR CEO Katherine Maher supports Chapin and her response to Berliner's critique.

The spokesperson says that Maher "believes that it's a healthy thing for a public service newsroom to engage in rigorous consideration of the needs of our audiences, including where we serve our mission well and where we can serve it better."

Disclosure: This story was reported and written by NPR Media Correspondent David Folkenflik and edited by Deputy Business Editor Emily Kopp and Managing Editor Gerry Holmes. Under NPR's protocol for reporting on itself, no NPR corporate official or news executive reviewed this story before it was posted publicly.

essay vs theme

Suspended NPR editor Uri Berliner says woke CEO is ‘the opposite’ of what embattled network needs

N PR suspended a top editor who ripped the network last week over its left-leaning bias – but the journalist doubled down on Tuesday, saying its new, controversial CEO is the “opposite” of what the embattled radio outlet needs.

Uri Berliner – who published a bombshell essay last week claiming NPR has “lost America’s trust” by reporting the news with a left-wing slant – was sidelined for five days without pay beginning last Friday after his article ignited a firestorm.

Nevertheless, Berliner in a Tuesday interview ripped NPR CEO Katherine Maher over a trove of past posts unearthed on X. Those included calling Donald Trump “racist” in 2018 and blasting Hillary Clinton for using the terms “boy” and “girl,” saying she was “erasing language for non-binary people.”

“We’re looking for a leader right now who’s going to be unifying and bring more people into the tent and have a broader perspective on, sort of, what America is all about,” Berliner told NPR media scribe David Folkenflik Tuesday. “And this seems to be the opposite of that.”

Folkenflik, who reviewed a copy of the suspension letter from NPR brass, said the company told Berliner he had failed to secure its approval for outside work for other news outlets — a requirement for NPR journalists.

NPR called the letter a “final warning,” saying Berliner would be fired if he violated its policy again. Berliner is a dues-paying member of NPR’s newsroom union, but Folkenflik reported that the editor is not appealing the punishment.

Berliner, a Peabody Award-winning journalist who has worked at NPR for 25 years, called out journalistic blind spots around major news events, including the origins of COVID-19, the war in Gaza and the Hunter Biden laptop, in an essay published last Tuesday on  Bari Weiss’ online news site the Free Press .

Last week, Maher defended NPR’s journalism, calling Berliner’s article “profoundly disrespectful, hurtful, and demeaning,” The 42-year-old exec added that the essay amounted to “a criticism of our people on the basis of who we are.”

Folkenflik said Berliner took umbrage at that, saying she had “denigrated him.” Berliner said he had a private exchange with Maher in which he supported diversifying NPR’s workforce to look more like the US population at large — a point that she failed to address in the exchange, according to Berliner.

“I love NPR and feel it’s a national trust,” Berliner said. “We have great journalists here. If they shed their opinions and did the great journalism they’re capable of, this would be a much more interesting and fulfilling organization for our listeners.”

The fiasco has also put the spotlight on Maher, whose own left-leaning bias came to light in a  trove of ultra woke tweets she penned  on X over the years. 

In January, when Maher was announced as NPR’s new leader,  The Post revealed her penchant  for parroting the progressive line on social media — including since-deleted Twitter posts like “Donald Trump is a racist,” which she wrote in 2018. She also  called  HBO’s Bill Maher a “racist bigot” in tweet that year.

In 2020, Maher weighed in on the widespread looting and property damage during the Black Lives Matter protests, saying it was “hard to be mad” about the destruction.

“I mean, sure, looting is counterproductive. But it’s hard to be mad about protests not prioritizing the private property of a system of oppression founded on treating people’s ancestors as private property,” she  wrote .

“White silence is complicity. If you are white, today is the day to start a conversation in your community,” she  added  a day later.

Maher also weighed in on race-based reparations, writing in 2020: “Yes, the North, yes all of us, yes America. Yes, our original collective sin and unpaid debt. Yes, reparations. Yes, on this day.”

An NPR spokeswoman, Isabel Lara, said in statement Maher “was not working in journalism at the time and was exercising her First Amendment right to express herself like any other American citizen.”

The rep added that Maher had upheld the network’s code of ethics since she took the helm.

“Since stepping into the role she has upheld and is fully committed to NPR’s code of ethics and the independence of NPR’s newsroom,” the statement said. “The C.E.O. is not involved in editorial decisions.”

Christopher Rufo, a fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute, dug up some of Maher’s other race-tinged posts over the weekend, including one where she called herself “someone with cis white mobility privilege.”

In response, Tesla boss Elon Musk wrote, “This person is a crazy racist!”

In another bizarre post, Maher wrote , “Had a dream where Kamala and I were on a road trip in an unspecified location, sampling and comparing nuts and baklava from roadside stands,” referring to Vice President Kamala Harris. “Woke up very hungry.”

Berliner’s essay  sparked outrage from the network’s left-leaning colleagues. Late Monday afternoon, NPR chief news executive Edith Chapin announced to the newsroom that executive editor Eva Rodriguez would lead monthly meetings to review coverage.

Berliner said that among editorial staff at NPR’s Washington, DC, headquarters,  he counted 87 registered Democrats and no Republicans. He wrote that he presented these findings to his colleagues at a May 2021 all-hands editorial staff meeting.

“When I suggested we had a diversity problem with a score of 87 Democrats and zero Republicans, the response wasn’t hostile,” Berliner wrote. “It was worse. It was met with profound indifference.”

The fiasco also ignited a firestorm of criticism from prominent conservatives — with former President Donald Trump demanding NPR’s federal funding be yanked — and has led to internal tumult,  the New York Times reported  Friday.

Berliner had  told The Times  he had not been disciplined by managers when interviewed last Thursday, though he received a note from his supervisor reminding him that NPR required its employees to clear speaking appearances and media requests with standards and media relations. 

He told The Times he didn’t run his initial remarks or those to the Gray Lady by NPR.  

Days earlier,  Berliner appeared on Chris Cuomo’s show on NewsNation , telling the anchor that his essay garnered “a lot of support from colleagues, and many of them unexpected, who say they agree with me.”

“Some of them say this confidentially,” said Berliner, who added that he wrote the essay partly because “we’ve been too reluctant, too frightened to, too timid to deal with these things.”

Journalist  Matt Taibbi also slammed Maher for her biased views, as well as her lefty resume , which he wrote in his substack Racket News, reads so much like “overeducated nonsense-babbling white ladies that it’s difficult to believe she’s real.”

Amid the scrutiny on her CV and posts, Maher told  The New York Times  on Tuesday that in America “everyone is entitled to free speech as a private citizen.”

“What matters is NPR’s work and my commitment as its C.E.O.: public service, editorial independence and the mission to serve all of the American public,” she said. “NPR is independent, beholden to no party, and without commercial interests.”

Suspended NPR editor Uri Berliner says woke CEO is ‘the opposite’ of what embattled network needs


  1. PPT

    essay vs theme

  2. How to Write a Thematic Essay

    essay vs theme

  3. How To Write A Thematic Essay Analysis Example

    essay vs theme

  4. Subject vs. Theme

    essay vs theme

  5. PPT

    essay vs theme

  6. Theme vs. Topic: 5 Key Differences Explained

    essay vs theme


  1. Which theme is better?

  2. Kengo2 2nd vs theme 剣豪2

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  4. Themes in Essay Writing |Fatima Batool

  5. Dan Vs. Theme (Stereo)

  6. Essay vs Assignment


  1. Theme

    A theme is a universal idea, lesson, or message explored throughout a work of literature. One key characteristic of literary themes is their universality, which is to say that themes are ideas that not only apply to the specific characters and events of a book or play, but also express broader truths about human experience that readers can ...

  2. A Guide to Themes in Writing and Literature

    2 Good vs. evil. Good vs. evil is perhaps the most well-known literary theme. Think of just about any novel or movie—the Harry Potter series, Star Wars —and you'll likely find good vs. evil as the theme. Broadly, this theme is about how good and evil forces are, and always have been, at play in our world. 3 Coming-of-age

  3. Difference Between Theme and Topic (with Comparison Chart)

    The theme can be described as the hidden message which is pervaded through the work. In contrast, topic determines the main title or subject of the work, which is picked by the reader, keeping in mind the reader's interest and their attention. Theme specifies what the writer of the story or essay wants to convey to its audience with the help ...

  4. The Four Main Types of Essay

    An essay is a focused piece of writing designed to inform or persuade. There are many different types of essay, but they are often defined in four categories: argumentative, expository, narrative, and descriptive essays. Argumentative and expository essays are focused on conveying information and making clear points, while narrative and ...

  5. Theme vs. Topic: 5 Key Differences Explained

    The key to strong writing is understanding theme vs. topic. Work toward mastering the art of writing by learning the difference between topic and theme.

  6. Theme

    As a literary device, the purpose of theme is the main idea or underlying meaning that is explored by a writer in a work of literature. Writers can utilize a combination of elements in order to convey a story's theme, including setting, plot, characters, dialogue, and more.For certain works of literature, such as fables, the theme is typically a "moral" or lesson for the reader.

  7. How to Write a Theme Essay: 11 Steps (with Pictures)

    Download Article. 1. Read the essay prompt carefully. A theme essay usually responds to a specific prompt given to you by a teacher or professor. Most essay prompts will ask you to identify the theme, or the overarching message, in a text. Look at the terms used in the prompt and highlight keywords or important terms.

  8. Theme

    Examples and Observations (definition #1): "Simply put, a story's theme is its idea or point (formulated as a generalization). The theme of a fable is its moral; the theme of a parable is its teaching; the theme of a short story is its implied view of life and conduct. Unlike the fable and parable, however, most fiction is not designed ...

  9. Understanding theme

    A theme is an important idea that is woven throughout a story. It's not the plot or the summary, but something a little deeper. A theme links a big idea about our world with the action of a text. Sometimes a theme answers a question the story is trying to explore, like, "What does it mean to be a family?"

  10. What is Theme? Definition & Examples of Theme in Literature

    Theme is the broad central idea supporting any narrative work. The work can be a novel, a short story, a poem, or even something like a song or visual art. In a story, each choice made by your characters and each turn of events will support this core underlying theme which you're trying to convey to your readers.

  11. What is Theme? A Look at 20 Common Themes in Literature

    Theme definition: the central idea (s) that a piece of writing explores. That said, theme is more than just an idea. It is also the work's specific vantage point on that idea. In other words, a theme is an idea plus an opinion: it is the author's specific views regarding the central ideas of the work.

  12. Difference Between Theme and Topic

    The theme is the central message or the perception that is conveyed through the piece of writing. Any piece of writing, be it a story, poem or an essay, has a theme. In fact, there can be more than one theme; themes can be further divided into major themes and minor themes according to their importance.

  13. Tips, Examples

    2. Pick the most prevalent subject: One thing to note is the significant difference between a subject and a theme. A subject is the general topic of conversation—whether it be love, bravery, deception, etc. A theme is a specific point the author is making about said subject. So, find the talking point that is most commonly being brought up.

  14. Difference Between Theme and Topic

    Theme generally refers to the central idea or a perception conveyed in writing. A topic is the subject that is treated or presented within writing. Topics play the role of explaining what a story is all about, while, themes explain the reason why it was written in the first place. The two terms can be confusing, especially to students when ...

  15. Topic vs. Theme: What's the Difference in Definition and Use?

    Meaning, Definition, and Usage of "THEME". In contrast to "topic," the term "theme" refers to a message about life conveyed or implied by the story. Other definitions of theme are: a central idea, a life lesson, a deeper message, or a moral. For example: "Love is stronger than hate," or "Gaining power causes people to change.".

  16. The Importance of Theme: Finding Your Story's North Star

    Merged with the journalistic paradigm of five W's and an H, that theme, or working hypothesis, can help you make the necessary decisions on the way to publication, from reporting and organizing ...

  17. How to Write an Essay Outline

    Revised on July 23, 2023. An essay outline is a way of planning the structure of your essay before you start writing. It involves writing quick summary sentences or phrases for every point you will cover in each paragraph, giving you a picture of how your argument will unfold. You'll sometimes be asked to submit an essay outline as a separate ...

  18. Theme vs. Thesis: Key Differences and How to Write each

    A theme is the general topic of your essay, whereas a thesis is the precise statements that the author tries to prove. A theme could be more general as the writer cannot necessarily state it expressly. On the other hand, a thesis is a direct message at the beginning of the paragraph that indicates what the entire paper will be talking about.

  19. Theme vs Thesis: When And How Can You Use Each One?

    Key Takeaways. A theme is a general topic or idea that runs throughout a piece of writing, while a thesis is a specific statement that the author is trying to prove or support. Themes and theses are not mutually exclusive, and a well-crafted thesis often supports the overarching theme of a piece of writing.

  20. 4.4: Organically Structured Essays

    The five-paragraph theme, outlined on the left, is probably what you're used to: the introductory paragraph starts broadly and gradually narrows to a thesis, which readers expect to find at the very end of that paragraph. ... Five Paragraph Essay vs. organic essay. Compare the five-paragraph model on the left with the organic model on the right.

  21. 101 Compare and Contrast Essay Ideas for Students

    Recycling vs. Landfill. Motorcycle vs. Bicycle. Halogen vs. Incandescent. Newton vs. Einstein. Go on vacation vs. Staycation. Rock vs. Scissors. Cite this Article. These compare and contrast essay topics provide teachers and students with great and fun ideas for home and class work.

  22. Tone vs. Theme: What Is the Difference? (+ Examples)

    Updated on November 29, 2023. Here's the difference between a tone and a theme: A theme is basically what the piece is trying to say, the main message, whereas tone reflects the narrator's attitude. Tone also has an intimate connection to mood. If you want to learn all about the differences between tone and theme, then this article is for you.

  23. Free Essay: Theme vs. Morals of a Story

    The theme of the story is "slow and steady wins the race" and the moral can be "to never give up" (OR OTHER THINGS). This is the theme because it is the general topic/statement of the fable, and this is the moral because it is what you can learn from the story. This is not the only lesson you can learn from this fable, you can say that ...

  24. Earth Day 2024: Planet Vs. Plastic

    Over the past 60 years, around eight billion tons of plastic has been produced, according to a recent study in the journal Science Advances — 90.5 per cent of which has not been recycled. As a ...

  25. Earth Day: What is it, when is it and why is it important?

    It was originally published on 19 April 2022. Earth Day takes place every year on 22 April and is one of the biggest environmental protest movements on the planet. The theme of Earth Day this year is 'Planet vs. Plastics' - campaigners are calling for a 60% reduction in the production of plastics by 2040. The World Economic Forum's Global Risks ...

  26. Solar vs. lunar eclipse: The different types of eclipses, explained

    The major difference between the two eclipses is in the positioning of the sun, the moon and the Earth and the longevity of the phenomenon, according to NASA. A lunar eclipse can last for a few ...

  27. NPR responds after editor says it has 'lost America's trust' : NPR

    NPR defends its journalism after senior editor says it has lost the public's trust. NPR is defending its journalism and integrity after a senior editor wrote an essay accusing it of losing the ...

  28. Suspended NPR editor Uri Berliner says woke CEO is 'the ...

    Opinion by Alexandra Steigrad. NPR has suspended Uri Berliner, the senior editor who published a bombshell essay a week ago that claimed that the publicly funded outlet has "lost America's ...

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    Posted: Apr 18, 2024 9:23 am. The Avengers have saved Earth from many extraterrestrial threats, but they're about to face their biggest challenge yet in Avengers vs. Aliens. That's right, Earth's ...

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