Scroll Top

Theme vs. Topic: A Side-by-Side Comparison

Have you ever read a book or watched a movie and found yourself struggling to articulate the main idea? Or have you been in a discussion about literature where someone used the terms “theme” and “topic” interchangeably?

A theme refers to the underlying message or central idea conveyed in a literary work or artistic piece. It represents the deeper meaning or insight that the creator intends to communicate. While a topic refers to the subject matter or specific subject discussed or explored within a work.

Theme vs. Topic

Theme refers to the underlying message or central idea conveyed in a literary work or artistic piece. It is the deeper meaning or concept explored throughout the work.Topic refers to the subject or subject matter of a conversation, discussion, written piece, or research. It is the specific area or aspect being addressed or explored.
It focuses on the abstract and universal concepts, emotions, or insights explored in a work. It goes beyond the surface-level plot or events.It focuses on the specific subject or area of interest being discussed or studied. It is more concerned with the factual or informational aspect of the subject.
Theme encompasses the overall message or moral lesson that can be extracted from a work. It may be applicable to a broader range of works or situations.Topic has a narrower scope, referring to the specific subject matter being discussed within a particular context or piece of work.
They require interpretation and analysis to uncover the deeper meaning or significance embedded within the work. Different readers or viewers may interpret the theme differently.They are more straightforward and can be objectively identified based on the subject being addressed or discussed. They do not necessarily require interpretation beyond identifying the subject.
Themes often explore timeless and universal human experiences, values, or ideas that resonate with readers or viewers across different time periods and cultures.Topics are more context-specific and can vary depending on the subject matter being addressed, which may change with time and context.
Examples of themes include love, courage, betrayal, justice, or the struggle between good and evil.Examples of topics can vary widely and depend on the context, such as climate change, social media, artificial intelligence, or the history of the Roman Empire.

What is the theme and topic?

A theme is a central idea that runs throughout a piece of literature. It is often a subject that the author revisits in different ways, or from different angles. Themes are often universal, which means they can be interpreted in many ways and relate to the human condition.

A topic refers to the subject matter or specific subject that is discussed, addressed, or explored in a particular context. It represents the main focus or subject of a conversation, written piece, research study, or any other form of communication.

Topics can range from broad to narrow, encompassing various subjects, issues, or areas of interest. They provide a specific subject for discussion or analysis, serving as a starting point for exploring ideas, sharing information, or engaging in conversation.

Examples of themes and topics in literature

  • For example, the theme of J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye is alienation. This is evident in the protagonist Holden Caulfield’s feelings of isolation and disconnection from the world around him.
  • Another example of the theme can be seen in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. In this novel, the theme of love and its various forms (such as unrequited love, lost love, etc.) is explored through the relationships between the characters.
  • A final example of the theme comes from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. One of the main themes in this novel is racial injustice, which is exemplified by the trial of Tom Robinson near the end of the book.

How to summarize a text by theme or topic

The theme is the central idea or message of a text. It’s what the author is trying to say, or what the text is “about.” To find the theme of a text, look for recurring patterns and ideas. What does the protagonist want? What motivates the characters’ actions? How do they change over the course of the story?

The topic, on the other hand, is more specific. It refers to the subject matter of a text – what it’s literally about. For example, if you were asked to write a paper on Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, your topic could be something like “Themes of Racism and Slavery in Huckleberry Finn.”

Key differences between Theme and Topic

  1. Definition: A theme refers to the underlying message or central idea conveyed in a piece of literature, art, or discourse. It is a broader concept that explores the deeper meaning or purpose of the work. On the other hand, a topic refers to the subject matter or specific subject discussed or written about, without necessarily delving into the deeper meaning or message.
  2. Scope: Themes are universal and overarching concepts that can be applied to various works or situations. They are more abstract and can be inferred through analysis and interpretation. Topics, on the other hand, are specific and concrete subjects that are discussed or addressed within a work or a specific context. They are more focused and can be easily identified.
  3. Focus: Themes focus on the underlying ideas, emotions, or philosophical concepts explored in a work. They offer a deeper understanding of the work’s purpose and allow for interpretation and exploration of its implications. Topics, on the other hand, focus on the surface-level subject matter or issues addressed within a work. They provide a starting point for discussion or analysis but may not encompass the broader implications or meanings conveyed in the work.
differences between Theme and Topic


The difference between theme and topic will help readers analyze literary works more effectively. They should pay attention to the themes that authors present in their works as well as consider what topics are being addressed throughout them. This deeper level of analysis can open up a new set of insights for readers, allowing them to explore literature beyond its surface-level narrative.

Featured Posts!
Most Loved Posts
Clear Filters