Theme is an element of literature and writing in which the moral of the story is conveyed. Theme can be delivered to the reader as an overall concept or as a direct statement as to what the author is trying to express. A theme is generally not expressed by the author literally but rather, theme is expressed in one of the following ways:
- Throughout the actions of the characters
- The dialogue
- Setting of the work
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Many stories often have more than one theme. The themes can cover several aspects of the story, such as the historical underpinnings or the moral of the story. For example, the nature of a specific theme within any literary form is generally designed to reveal something greater about the nature of human beings or human motivation. Through seeing specific qualities or motivations within the character a theme is developed in which the author often intends to make a larger statement about individual behavior and the social forces that shape these attitudes. This is at work in all literary forms, as evidenced by the similarity in theme in Richard Wright's short story "The Man Who was Almost a Man", Tennessee Williams play "A Streetcar Named Desire" and Langston Hughes poem "Mother to Son".
Desire as a Theme
Despite using different forms, each of these works delves into the theme of the nature of desire, and the forces that inform the individual about the nature of his or her desire. In each, the characters are driven by their unspoken, often unrealized desires, which are born from their own sense of their existence and plight. Each story explores the theme of the nature of desire, as well as attempting to make some evaluative remarks about which form serves the purpose of expressing desire the best. It is clear, however, that the desperation that each of these characters feels is expressed in their individual desires. While this theme is important in each of these works, in a sense it is also a central concern of all literature. Most, if not all, great literature, attempts to move a character from one understanding of self or the larger world, and this movement is derived from the motivations of the character, which in a sense is simply a way for them to act on their desires.