Understanding the overall theme of a body of work takes time and is not always an easy experience.

The overall message a story puts forth is referred to as the theme. All stories have one or multiple themes. This can give a solid understanding of how the characters interact and how their decisions influence their individual traits. Writers will often elude to the theme repeated times throughout the body of the story. Major themes are those messages that are given off multiple times throughout the story. There can also be minor themes that are only a select time in the story.

When you are working on this and focusing on determining the theme of any passage start by understanding the setting of the story and the things that were taking place at the time in history. If it is a fictional story focus on character’s mindset as well. That can often lead you in the right direction. The next move is to relate to the protagonist of the story, what do you think their goal is? Is there any level of conflict or situations that would lead you to make other decisions? The last step is to look at the resolution of the story. Who wins and who loses? This is series of practical and skill building worksheets that can be used in coordination with bodies of work that you are exploring. You will be provided with short and extended reading passages that will require you to outline and breakdown the summary of the work. We provide a number of literature language graphic organizers to use with literature that you are discovering with your classes. We will also explore portions of well known works of literature for you to practice these skills with. There are fifteen worksheets contained in this series to help you build upon your recognition skills.

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Printable Identifying the Theme of a Story Worksheets

Click the buttons to print each worksheet and answer key.

Main Concepts Worksheet

Main Concepts

What is the main point of the story? Cite evidence from the text that would support your argument.

Mary and Ruth Worksheet

Mary and Ruth

In this assignment, you will read a short story and determine the theme. The story is about 2 girls.

Title of Book Worksheet

Title of Book

Find three quotes that illustrate the major thoughts and concepts of the story.

Have in Common Worksheet

What Do They Have in Common?

We will work on relating literature titles that we have read in the past to topics and then expand upon them. Follow the example.

Identification Activity Worksheet

Identification Activity

You will read the story of Harry. He is new to a school and was a tall muscular kid. His nature did not fit his physical features. See where it goes and explain what you are seeing.

Take a Position Worksheet

Take a Position Worksheet

You will choose from the topics: family, love, loss, hope, and freedom. You will take a position on that topic and write a journal entry on it.

Identify the Theme Worksheet

Identify the Theme

Read the story. Breakdown what you read and then see how a position is formed and the story revolves around it.

Identify the Theme Worksheet

Your Story

You are looking for the message that an author wants to convey through the story.

Fox and the Chickens Worksheet

The Fox and the Chickens

The story of six chickens that live on the farm and feared the fox.

Recurring Themes Worksheet

Recurring Themes

A recurring theme is a message that occurs in more than one literary work. We will explore this and show you how to find this in what you are reading.

Developed Worksheet

How is it Developed?

Read the assigned text. Fill out the graphic organizer below to help you understand how it is developed through each of the identified story elements.

What's the Theme Worksheet

What's the Theme?

Read the story and show how this message is developed over the course of the story.

Universal Theme Worksheet

Universal Themes

A universal theme is a concept that everyone can relate to. Because it has to do with what it means to be human, it normally transcends gender, culture, and geographical differences.

Expressing Theme Worksheet

Expressing Theme

Some of the lines below are single-sentence summaries of stories. Some are expression of theme. Can you tell the difference?

Icarus and Daedalus Worksheet

Icarus and Daedalus

Read the story. Identify the theme. Then say what happens in the story that tells you this. Remember, they take a position on a topic.

How to Identify the Theme of a Story?

What is the theme of a story, and how do you identify it? Whether you're an avid reader or have just stepped foot into the literary world, you may find yourself puzzled by the same ordeal. Before we begin describing how to identify the theme, let's first dive into determining what it entails.

In simple words, the theme is pretty much the central idea of a narrative. However, this is where it gets tricky. Just about any tale can have several of theme. For instance, while a short story usually has one, a novel often has more than a single theme. Woven throughout the course of the narrative and impacted by the motivations, interactions, actions and characters, the theme can change as the story progresses.

Theme vs Plot: Are They Similar?

The story's moral or plot isn't the same as the theme. The plot depicts nothing more than the events that take place in a tale and their sequence. The moral, on the other hand, is the lesson the writer associates with the characters and the story. Collectively, these factors serve as the overall theme, and the lesson you acquire out of it relates directly to the theme.

In case you find yourself perplexed about the central message of the work, ask yourself the following question:

What exactly is the author trying to convey through the events and characters?

Examples: How Can You Find It?

In the book "The Catcher in the Rye," the actions of Holden Caulfield are primarily motivated by his reluctance to grow up. Hence, the theme we can deduce is "innocence preservation" or "preservation of innocence."

Similarly, the most prominent themes portrayed in the book "Pride and Prejudice" were love, marriage, social status, class and family.

Then, in J.K. Rowling's famous "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," the main character, Harry, visited several homes from his childhood during his quest to finish the Horcruxes. For someone like Harry, who had struggled as an orphan and never truly found where he belonged, Hogwarts was where he felt at home. And so, he chose to hand himself over to Voldemort in order to save the school and the people dearest to him. It was through his actions and thoughts that he conveyed to the readers that home is always worth saving. Hence, it turned out to be the central role of the story.

Here are some ways to identify the theme of a story:

- Dissect the novel's title
- Dissect the synopsis
- Remember that it can keep changing throughout the course of the tale, especially in a novel.

Why Is It Important?

Remember that your story's theme is always connected to the protagonist's internal journey. It connects the external plot with the character's journey, soul, passion, etc. After all, it is the theme that gives the reader a sense of purpose to root for. If that very link is missing, the plot will go nowhere, and you'll most likely lose interest. In simple words, it will be nothing but a soulless story.

It is the theme that turns a good narrative into a compelling one. It shows Harry's willingness to put himself in danger in order to protect his home. It shows Elizabeth's struggles in distinguishing superficial goodness from actual goodness.

Our Final Thoughts

This concept really captures the soul of a story. Without it, it's as good as a waterless pond. However, sometimes determining it isn't as easy as dissecting the first few lines of the synopsis. Hence, we recommend going with the flow and not sticking to a single idea for a theme.