Generally Speaking Novels Have Themes That Give a Message


When reading a novel, there is a meaning or message to it. The message is not elaborate, nor is it preachy. It’s often a simple one-liner, even one word. Generally speaking novels have themes to sum up the idea of the story. The key in the above image represents the key to understanding themes.

Themes can be love, betrayal, and other subjects, such as morality and the human condition. We will explore some of these issues later in this article. Themes are necessary to add depth and emotion to a narrative, helping readers resonate with the characters on a deeper level. 

Themes help readers think critically about their environment and belief system. Readers will come to realize that while novels are entertaining, they also act as a tool for personal and intellectual growth.

Each successful novel has a backbone in which it can stand strong against the winds of criticism. The theme can serve as the backbone, providing a lens through which readers can look closely at the world. The writer invites the audience to a special place that reflects dialogue about the human experience.

Let’s go deeper into the meaning of theme as it relates to novels. Trottier says “. . . think of it [theme] as the moral of your story. This moral is not a sermon and it is not preached. Often, you don’t know what this moral or message is when you start scripting your story.” (70)

Read more of what Trottier says about Themes.

By the time you’re close to finishing your novel, you will know what the message is. Fables are a great literary device that involves writing short stories to point out a moral lesson. Fables use animals, objects, or forces of nature as characters. These are imbued with human qualities and face dilemmas as do humans. The goal is to teach life lessons in a simple and impactful way.

Let’s look at a theme in a fable before we give examples of themes in novels.

The Boy Who Cried Wolf

One of Aesop’s more popular fables is “The Boy Who Cried Wolf:" 

A young shepherd boy attended a flock of sheep but found it lonely work. He devised a plan to make things exciting for himself and garner sympathy and comfort. He ran to the village, crying out, “Wolf, wolf!” The villagers came to his aid, comforting him. When they discovered no wolf, they returned to their homes. Liking the idea tremendously, the boy pranked the village again. “Wolf, wolf,” he cried. The villagers responded, believing him and giving attention to the boy. Soon, a real wolf emerged from the forest, threatening the sheep. The boy, rightfully agitated, cried out, “Wolf!” more fervently this time. But the people of the village, having been fooled twice before, were having none of it. The wolf subsequently ate the sheep. The boy did not understand why no one came to his aid at this time. He encountered the wise man of the village who told him, “A liar will not be believed, even when he speaks the truth.”

This is a profound lesson, a great theme, and a moral to live by. 

Generally Speaking Novels Have Themes.
Here Are Some Examples

The Man Who Lived Underground

Since themes are profound messages to the reader that often explore the complexities of life, society, and human emotion, writers are sure to keep this in the uppermost portion of their minds. 

One of my favorite novels is Jurassic Park, written by Michael Crichton. It tells of a billionaire who has constructed an amazing theme park replete with prehistoric animals. A couple of types of these animals were dangerous in their time: velociraptors and a T.rex. Things don’t go as planned, of course. And the theme park will never open. The velociraptors kill some of the workers while the T. rex threatens the scientists and eats the lawyer. The other scientific members were able to escape the theme park without physical harm.

Generally speaking novels have themes and can have more than one. One of the simplistic themes I feel is apropos in Jurassic Park is, To Let Sleeping Dogs Lie. (Dogs equate to dinosaurs.)

Richard Wright’s novel, The Man Who Lived Underground is about a Black man named Fred Daniels who is falsely accused of murder. He faces brutality by white officers. Daniels escapes into the sewer and lives underground where he faces horror and despair. additionally, he struggles for survival in dark, wet, and grimy places. 

The themes of racial injustice, social invisibility, and society’s moral blindness are evident here.

George Orwell’s political novel 1984 presents a chilling dystopia dominated by totalitarian regimes. The characters live with exploding bombs, food shortages, crumbling buildings, and suppression of free speech. The government is all-powerful. It forces people to forget their identities and to comply. The threat of severe punishments is pervasive.

The 1984 themes include mind control, conformity vs. individuality, surveillance, and the manipulation of truth. 

Although authors use themes to construct narratives, they also use them to give meaning and enduring messages to their readers. By utilizing themes, authors narrow the gap between just telling a story and creating impactful works that resonate with the essence of human existence.

As you’ve learned, novels have themes that can transform a simple story into a lasting conversation piece. By enriching the narrative, it enhances the reader's understanding of complex social issues.

Writers, make it a point to write your novels with themes in mind. Your readers will thank you.

Images created with Tai

Trottier, David. The Screenwriter’s Bible : A Complete Guide to Writing, Formatting and Selling Your Script. Los Angeles, Silman-James, 1998.