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1. Symbolism

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3. Imagery

Article of the Week

Run-On Sentences

Run-on sentences occur when writers try to combine more than one idea into a single sentence. They cause confusion because readers are not sure when one idea ends and the next one begins. Read our entry and test your knowledge with our quiz!


A theme is the main point of a piece of literature. A theme is a general idea that a story or poem illustrates in a specific form. Some themes are obvious, such as those in children’s stories—they are equivalent to the “moral of the story.” But much of the time, a theme will not be completely evident on its own; readers will recognize it as a “feeling” they get while reading the text. When reading William Faulkner, readers may get the sense that he is making some kind of greater statement about the American South, memory, and time. Readers should refine that feeling by using the terms in this glossary: symbolism, point of view, structure, setting, and more. When writing a piece of literary criticism, the thesis is an argument about the theme of a story, poem, play, or novel.

Theme in real life: The theme or our work meeting today was profit margin: the boss kept pushing us to sell TV brands with a higher margin, and reminded us to ask customers to buy the high-margin accessories that we bundle with our big-ticket items.

Theme in popular culture: The classic sitcom Seinfeld’s theme was, as its creator put it, “no hugging, no learning.” Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer were destined to repeat their complaints, mistakes, and selfish actions forever.

Theme in literature: William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” uses the aging of a woman to illustrate a greater theme about the Old South—it is unprepared to give up its old ways, carries terrible secrets, and stubbornly remains, sticking out like a sore thumb in the New South.