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Sample Book Themes


School girl (14-15) reading on floor by bookshelf in library
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Finding the theme of a book is tough for some students because the theme is something you determine on your own, not something you find stated in plain words. The theme is a message about life that you take away from the book, which can be derived from a set of symbols or a motif that keeps appearing and reappearing throughout the work.

To determine the theme of a book, you should select a word that expresses the subject of your book and try to expand the word into a a message about life. Below you will see words that have been expanded into a message.

Life Lesson Themes

A theme should be a statement that expresses a universal message.

Can your book’s message be summed up by one of the words or phrases below? One of these words my lead you to understanding a message that comes through in your book. The words themselves may constitute a symbol or motif.

  • Birth - life after loss, life sustains tragedy
  • Death - death as mystery, death as a new beginning
  • Heroism - false heroism, heroism and conflicting values
  • Escape - escape from family pressures, escaping social constraints
  • Love - love sustains/fades with a challenge
  • Journey - most journeys lead back to home
  • Coming of age - boy becomes a man
  • Patriotism - inner conflicts stemming from patriotism
  • Peace and war - war is tragic, peace is fleeting
  • Hope - hope rebounds
  • Hopelessness - finding hope after tragedy
  • Generation gap - experience versus youthful strength
  • Home - security of a homestead
  • Betrayal - fading bonds of love
  • Power - Lust for power
  • Isolation - the isolation of a soul
  • Judgment - balance between justice and judgement
  • Fortune - a fall from grace and fortune
  • Family - destruction of family
  • Sense of self - finding strength from within
  • God and spirituality - inner struggle of faith
  • Good and evil - the coexistence of good and evil on earth
  • Duty - the ethics of killing for duty
  • Survival - man against nature
  • Conformity - industrialization and the conformity of man
  • Individualism - choosing between security and individualism
  • Deception - appearance versus reality
  • Race relations - learned racism
  • Suffering - suffering as a natural part of human experience
  • Alienation - creating emotional isolation
  • Loss - loss of innocence, loss of individualism
  • Discovery - conquering unknown, discovering strength


An object can stand as a symbol for something else, like a human experience. A reoccurring symbol can signify a motif in a book.

  • Birds can mean freedom
  • Buildings can mean strength
  • Cats can signify mystery
  • City can represent civilization
  • Feathers can signify lightness
  • Fire can symbolize anger
  • Plants can represent nature
  • Snakes can mean danger
  • Trees can represent steadfastness
  • Water can symbolize life

See more about symbols and motifs.

Even if none of the themes and symbols above fit the book you have in mind, this list might help you understand what a book theme looks like.

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