A theme can be defined as the basic idea or moral behind a piece of literature; be it a book, a short story, or an essay. A theme is something that a reader has to identify on his own, through the story, plot, climax, characters, etc., as it is seldom made apparent by the writer. Also, interpretations of the same themes may vary from person to person, as people have diverse ways of looking at the same thing.
Since times immemorial, English literature has seen various themes, that have been touched upon by writers and poets of different eras. These help in giving important life lessons to the reader, and thus, help him in becoming a better human being. Here is a list of some themes in literature, which have been used by authors time and again, since centuries.
Honesty is the Best Policy
This is perhaps one of the most common themes. Many great authors and writers have stressed upon the futility of leading a life full of lies. In most books, it is always the good which wins over the evil. Negative emotions such as jealousy, anger, manipulation are looked down upon; and positive emotions such as love, care, and honesty are rewarded.
Blood is Thicker than Water
"Family comes first" - one of the themes that stresses upon the importance of family, and nurturing family bonds, has been the core of many literary master pieces.
Love Conquers All
Many books revolve around the theme of love. Love is depicted as something that one should not even hesitate to die for. Lovers resorting to war to get their beloveds, friends sacrificing themselves for each other, are a few examples of this theme.
Human struggles against the society, against oneself, or sometimes even against God, are something which many authors have depicted beautifully through their creative works. Man is shown as someone who is perpetually struggling against the dictates of the society, of being at loggerheads with what the society expects of him, and what he actually wants to do. Finding peace and God, is another human struggle we find in many literary works.
Live in the Present
Living in the present, living life fully, enjoying every bit of life - is another theme, that tells us the importance of time.
Death is Inevitable
Many books in literature show how death in inevitable, and how it causes suffering to the ones who are left behind. Different stages of life, grief, tragedy, and survival are some of the other themes that are generally depicted along with death.
These are the different themes in literature, which have not lost their significance even now, and many books, poems, and other literary works that are written today revolve around them. Other everlasting themes are birth, freedom, ethics, hope, rejection, alienation, ambition, violence, cruelty, nature, joy, caring for others, seasons, materialism, and responsibility. Such themes have been a part and parcel of literary works since the time of Shakespeare to Jane Austen, and from Yeats to Hemingway. They seldom lose their appeal, as they touch the core of us humans at many different levels.