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Popular Themes in Literature

Updated on December 9, 2011

Whether fiction or nonfiction, or prose or poetry, most literature has a theme. Scholars argue that there are dozens of possible themes, but here are some of the most popular ones.

  • GOOD VERSUS EVIL
    This theme pits a protagonist against an antagonist. It's typical hero versus villain. It could be man against man, or man against nature, or any two forces where a conflict exists between them.
  • REVENGE
    In this theme, one person is out to square things up against someone who they feel has wronged them. It could be related to love, politics, religion, or a different subject entirely.
  • FATE
    The fate theme relies on an act of chance to set everything else -- mood, plot, dialogue, et cetera -- for the rest of the work. Often with this theme, someone in a good situation ends up with an unhappy ending, or vice versa.
  • LOVE or FRIENDSHIP
    This theme could be romantic or platonic. It could be a story about a couple who falls madly in love, or about a pair of friends who go through some kind of situation together.
  • JOURNEY
    In this theme, someone (often the main character) goes on a journey throughout the course of the work. The journey does not have to be literal; it could be spiritual or emotional as well.
  • MYSTERY
    This theme usually has a plot that involves figuring out some kind of puzzle. Some even involve crimes, like theft or murder.

No matter what kind of theme you choose for your works when writing, just stick with it through the last chapter. Even if you mix two or more themes (journey and love, friendship and mystery, etc.) you can make it work by staying true to the themes with all the other elements -- plot, dialogue, character development, et cetera.

Good luck, and thanks for reading!

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  • penelopae profile image
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    Becky Muth 5 years ago from Harpers Ferry, WV

    @Tammyswallow - Thanks for the comment, and for reading!

    @Jools99 - re: the book, awesome! I'll have to see if my library has a copy, as it sounds like that's something I'd find interesting to read. Thanks for reading!

  • Jools99 profile image

    Jools99 5 years ago from North-East UK

    Penelopae, I own a book called The Seven Basic Plots and yourlist are all in it, just goes to show we do like the same themes and it's been that way through history. Good hub, very interesting.

  • tammyswallow profile image

    Tammy 5 years ago from North Carolina

    Great suggestions for writing! Thanks for writing this..

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