Copyright 2009 by Gary L. Pullman
The theme of a story is frequently defined as the point, meaning, or moral of the story, the lesson that the story imparts, explicitly or (more often) implicitly. This definition is true enough, and helpful, but I prefer to think of the story’s theme as the lesson that the main character, or protagonist, learns as the result of his or her experience as this experience is related in the story.
For example, the theme of The Wizard of Oz, which Dorothy Gale learns as a result of her being whisked off to Oz, encountering the enchanted land’s various residents, and defeating the Wicked Witch of the West, is “There’s no place like home.” The theme of The Exorcist is similar to that of the book of Job, that true faith in God persists despite the existence of evil and human suffering. The theme of ‘Salem’s Lot is that, by banding together, a community can defeat a force far greater than any single individual.