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How To Write Essays: Free Theme Ideas

Updated on April 8, 2013

Let me guess. You've been reading a book in English class. A classic no doubt. You've only been mildly interested all along, you understand it a little bit, but you don't really like it. Your teacher assigned an essay a while ago, which you've put off, because, let's face it, three to five pages is insane not to mention impossible, and now it is due. And you haven't even started.

The bad news is that I'm not going to give you a free essay here. Besides the fact that you'd learn absolutely nothing, if you get caught cut-and-pasting an essay from the Internet you are in for a whole world of trouble. It is cheating and plagiarism and will (hopefully) result in an automatic failure. Also, it so easy to do that you will most definitely get caught. It might seem like an easy way out for this paper, but it would be a really dumb thing to do.

The good news is I'm still going to help you.

What You Need To Know

If you are in high school or college, I am telling you right now, no matter what is the essay prompt for your assignment, your teacher is not looking for a summary of the book. Summaries work for fourth grade book reports, but not high school essays.

What your teacher is most likely looking for is a literary analysis of a theme in your book. You remember the definition of theme. Here it is, expanded, for clarity: a theme is a central idea presented in the book that can be related to real life, or a universal truth suggested in the story that can be questioned and proved by events and details from the plot.

Remember, theme is not the same thing as plot. The plot is the storyline. Though a novel can take many twists and turns, we typically say it only has one plot. A good novel, however, can have many themes. Plots are summarized. Themes are analyzed.

Below is a list of some of the most popularly assigned high school books, and a few examples of theme statements that could work for them. Keep in mind, again, that because these classic books are great works of literature, there are many themes within each. The best way to utilize this resource is to get ideas, to check to see if you are already on the right track, or to get your brainstorming started. Literature is meant to be discussed, so the following theme statements are provided to spark discussion.

Expanding your essay and proving these themes, however, is up to you.

Theme Statements: A Quicklist

Romeo and Juliet

  • Fighting between families almost always leads to disaster.
  • When love and hate co-exist in relationships, decisions often come with tragic consequences.

To Kill a Mockingbird

  • Even in a world where prejudice and discrimination exist, goodness and honesty can still be found.
  • Intelligence is a key to overcoming discrimination.

The Scarlet Letter

  • In a society of blatant judgement and social disapproval, hypocrisy will almost always abound.
  • The maturity that comes from negative experiences and making mistakes often brings empathy and grace for others.

The Great Gatsby

  • The pursuit of the American Dream often comes at the price of secrets, scandals, and moral corruption.
  • Materialism can lead to corruption, dishonesty, and fear.

Want More?

If any of the above seems helpful, but you still need more, please feel free to leave a comment below. Others, feel free to answer questions in the comments with other comments. Keep in mind that literary discussion and dialogue is the key to success in high school and college English lit classes.

I will also try to update this post with additional texts and theme statements as they come up. Remember the idea here is to glean ideas and generate discussion, not plagiarism. Cut and paste at your own risk.

For more writing help you might want to check these out:

How to Write an Essay on Any Book in English Class: Part 1

How to Write an Essay on Any Book in English Class: Part 2


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