A painting of a painting on an easel in front of a window. The painting is an exact replica of what is seen through the window.

Source: La condition humaine, 1933: Rene Magritte, ehpien, Flickr

You will often run across themes in your reading. Themes are underlying messages about life and human nature; they are big ideas an author wants to pass on to you. What is tricky about themes is that sometimes they don’t stand out but only emerge after careful analysis. Understanding the theme of a text is an “aha” moment that gives you deeper insight into what an author is trying to say.

Themes can be explicit, meaning that the theme is out in the open and obvious. Authors of pieces with explicit themes don’t hold back. They want to make sure that you figure out their stories.

Themes can also be implicit. An implicit theme asks you as the reader to draw inferences about what the author is trying to say. Once you have made several inferences, you are better able to draw a conclusion about what the theme is. Remember that your summation, or conclusion, must be based on evidence.

In this lesson, you will make inferences and draw conclusions about similar themes across various genres by finding supporting evidence within each of the texts. This task will require you to use your analytical reading skills, and it will help you become a more critical reader and better understand what you read.

Theme and Genres

A poster drawing of a student studying. He is surrounded by the quotation “Adversity is not without comforts and hopes.”

Source: Adversity Is Not Without Bacon Jambalaya, Edith Mahier, Wikimedia

As mentioned, you will read texts that represent different genres: short stories, novels, poetry, and nonfiction text. Every text will have the theme “hope gives us the courage to overcome adversity.”

Keep in mind that a theme is more than a one-word topic like “love” or a cliché such as “love is blind.” A theme expresses a clear and complete idea. Here are some helpful strategies to find the theme of a text:

Again, you won’t have to discover themes on your own. Each text in this lesson has the same theme: “Hope gives us the courage to overcome adversity.”