"Central theme, the most important thing.What the story is about; a philosophy, a message, an idea at the heart of a story. Stories were first told for two reasons: Entertainment and Education. The Epic of Gilgamesh was the story of a hero who kicked ass and took names, but it was also a celebration of the culture that produced it, one of the first. In essence this is what separates reality from fiction: Real Life has no central theme, no message or great meaning, save the ones that we transpose on it ourselves.note On that note, be wary of seeing messages where there are none. Different from An Aesop in that the Central Theme is often a question or a general topic rather than a direct precept or conclusion. For example, "The Power of Friendship" or (even better) "The struggles of sustaining The Power of Friendship in a cold, harsh world" are themes in that they are questions or issues that the author is interested in exploring and/or wants the reader to think about, whereas "The Power of Friendship will ultimately overcome all obstacles" is An Aesop in that it is a lesson or conclusion the author wants the reader to take away from the work. Of course, there can be a fine line between them, and the central theme can and often is used to develop and deliver the Aesop, but they are not strictly speaking the same. Using our example above as a demonstration, the writer may have constructed a story that examines the difficulties of sustaining The Power of Friendship in a cold, harsh world (theme), only to ultimately come to the conclusion that The Power of Friendship will always prevail (Aesop). The reader may disagree with the author's conclusion, in that they might not agree that The Power of Friendship will always prevail — but whether they disagree with the author's conclusion or not, the work will still be about the difficulties of sustaining The Power of Friendship and there's nothing the reader can do to change that. Even if the reader gets so incensed that they write their own story that comes to the conclusion that The Power of Friendship will not always prevail, the story they've just read will always be about the difficulties of sustaining The Power of Friendship no matter what. Put simply — the Aesop is the what the author wants the reader to learn. The Central Theme is what the story is fundamentally about. A good place to start thinking about the theme of the work is the conflict it depicts; what is the overall conflict of the work, where is it stemming from, and what questions or thinking points does this conflict give rise to? Go to a work's Analysis sub-page to get a more detailed explanation of its central theme—or add your own insight. Make note of being wary of seeing messages where there are none. Sub-pages:
Central theme, the tie that binds together."
Central theme, the tie that binds together."
— Daniel Amos, "Central Theme"
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- Child of the Storm has several:
- Life is not black and white - hard decisions are necessary and sometimes good people must do bad things.
- Our friends are our strength.
- Revenge rarely achieves anything but more misery.
- Actions have consequences - usually extensive and unforeseen.
- And of course, the classic - With great power must also come great responsibility.
- Mass Effect Human Revolution: Among other themes, at the racial level (as seen with Roegadyn/Krogan, the Fiera/Asari, and even the humans), how do you deal with impending obsolescence?
- Showa & Vampire as many of them, but these four are the main ones:
- Your past isn't the key influence on your life; it's the now the counts.
- Love comes in many kind of forms: romantic love, familial love, a brotherhood-based love, and one based around sacrifice (usually of life) for the other person.
- Once you start the Cycle of Revenge, you must continue that course until your enemies are defeated - or you are.
- Humanity is defined as being able to empathise with one another - the prime example being the vampire Moka being much more human(e) than the cyborg Dr. Gebok.
- The overarching theme of the Contractually Obligated Chaos series is that love (in all of its forms) is stronger than anything, even death.
- In Say It Thrice and its prequel, The Power of Friendship is the central theme.
- In Code Geass Colorless Memories there is an undercurrent theme in the main character Rai's arc in regards to what exactly he is looking for in his search for his memories, what his future could be and The truth behind his past.
- There's also a recurring symbolic them of the moon and the color blue in many of Rai's internal thoughts. All of which seems to have some correlation with his contractor E.E. Who has blue hair, wears silver clothes and has a moon generating a blue aura around herself.
- The meaning of truth and facing certain uncomfortable truths as well.
- Pokémon Story: Sinnoh Journey: The precarious balance between your personal goals and your friendships that may or may not be related to them.
- Infinity Game: Isolation and the importance of real connections between people.
- Pink Floyd
- The Dark Side of the Moon: The pressures of modern life can drive people to madness if left unchecked.
- The Wall:
- The importance of coming to terms with your past, and how easily you can become the very kind of person that you hate if you don't.
- The importance of thinking for yourself, and the perils of youthful rebellion turning into mindless obedience.
- The cyclical nature of violence and oppression, and the unavoidable fact that mindless hate always begets more.
- As ugly as the world may seem, cutting yourself off from society never makes anything better.
- Animals: The dehumanizing effects of social hierarchies, and the roles that greed and complacency play in solidifying them.
- Wish You Were Here: How hard it can really be to lose someone, even if they're not truly "gone". Also, the dehumanising and phony nature of the modern music industry.
- The Protomen: People can't just wait for someone to come along and save them; they've got to fight for themselves. Alternatively, you can't survive on blind hope alone.
- Band on the Run: Although there's no central story or narrative developed across the album, a lot of the songs revolved around the themes of Escape and / or Freedom and the many different forms this can take.
- Most of the songs by Simon & Garfunkel are about a failure to communicate with one another. Becomes Harsher in Hindsight given the duo's split, of course.
- Most instrumental music (symphonies, concertos, suites) uses the term main theme in this way. This musical theme is the core of the whole movement or even the whole symphony. Played straight in programmatical music, like Symphonie Phantastique by Hector Berlioz, where the central theme is the idee fixe symbolizing the Lost Lenore. Dmitrij Shostakhovitch also played with this, as some of his symphonies were statements in their own right (The "Central Theme" of the Leningrad Symphony is a recurring melody symbolizing the German advance).
Myths & Religion
- Arthurian Legend: Humanity's aspirations to transcend its baser instincts (lust, greed, vengeance, distrust).
- Norse Mythology: Heroism in the face of defeat.
- Acceptance of fate.
- Classical Mythology: The folly of Pride. The eternal struggle between parent and child.
- Buddhism: The search for inner peace and contentment.
- The Mahabharata: Stay righteous and do your duty, whether or not it seems to be helping.
- Aztec Mythology: The necessity of sacrifice.
- The Epic of Gilgamesh - The quest for immortality.
- Islam: Peace through submission to God.
- Christianity: Salvation and Redemption.
- Catholicism & Orthodoxy: Sacrifice and sharing in it.
- Protestantism: God's supremacy over man and the need for faith.
- Mormonism: Family.
- Judaism: Man as God's partner in sanctifying the world.
- Atheism: Reason over belief.
- Satanism: Gratification.
- Android- No matter how much technology advances- no matter how far it expands our reach, changes our world, or even if it causes us to question our definition of human- humanity will stay the same- with all the good and bad that comes with it.
- Continuum - If people could travel through time, what kind of civilisation would they build?
- Dark Sun - What will you do if the circumstances are bleak enough?
- The Dresden Files - Power is paradoxical: the more you accumulate, the less real freedom you have.
- Exalted has the many themes, but the two biggest are that every action has a consequence, and that while violence is often the easiest and fastest solution, it's very rarely the best one.
- Every gameline in the Old World of Darkness had its own theme. Some of them include:
- Vampire: The Masquerade - How do you remain a moral person in an immoral society?
- Werewolf: The Apocalypse - How do you keep fighting when the battle seems hopeless? (Alternately: When will you, the player, stop playing games about fighting metaphors and actually go out and fight real-world evil?)
- Mage: The Ascension - How can we build a better world when we can't agree on what that would look like?
- Wraith: The Oblivion - How far can you be pushed before you succumb to your dark side?
- Changeling: The Dreaming - How can we keep from losing our childhood innocence and hope?
- Demon: The Fallen - How do you make up for the mistakes of your past? Is it even worth doing?
- The New World of Darkness also has a theme for each gameline. The new ones are:
- Vampire: The Requiem - How do you pass eternity?
- Werewolf: The Forsaken - How much responsibility do you have for your ancestor's sins?
- Mage: The Awakening - What would you do for power?
- Promethean: The Created - What is the measure of a man?
- Changeling: The Lost - Hang together or be hanged separately.
- Hunter: The Vigil - How do you fight against enemies you don't understand? Do you even have the right to?
- Geist: The Sin-Eaters - What do you do with a second chance at life?
- Fangame Genius: The Transgression takes a swing at one, too - the nature of futility (especially the inability for anyone to control or direct culture/humanity).
- Another Fangame Princess: The Hopeful is about succeeding in the face of all hardships.
- Another Fangame Dragon: The Embers is about divine right facing faded glory.
- Paranoia: Society is inherently insane, and the government is the craziest of all.
- Planescape: What is the true nature of reality?
- Shadowrun: Is it possible to escape the machinations and schemes of those in power?
- Sorcerer: What will you do to get what you want?
- Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 - How do you fight what cannot be fought? Can the most oppressive society imaginable be justified by its circumstances?
- Gunnerkrigg Court is, at heart, all about balance. The Court and the Woods; Magic and Technology; Reason and Passion; Dark and Light. Everything ends up needing a balance, which the main character Annie is slowly becoming. Also: Violence is occasionally a necessary evil, though it should be used sparingly.
- Homestuck: The necessity of teamwork for survival, and the challenges of being a kid and growing up.
- A recurring idea in the Walkyverse is hypocrisy. It's most obvious in Character Development, where someone will realize they've been acting hypocritically, but it also shows up in smaller ways - Mike's favoured technique for inducing suffering is pointing out when someone is being hugely hypocritical (usually by painfully enforcing their own logic), one-shots in Shortpacked! tend to focus on hypocritical fan logic, etc.
- I'm My Own Mascot: What it means to be a member of a Fandom and how, in the grand scheme of things, the world doesn't revolve around us. Driving this home is the main character being both an Author Avatar and the resident Butt-Monkey (especially when he gets egotistical or self-indulgent).
- The Order of the Stick:
- Teamwork and trust are key to victory — the more people trust each other and are willing to cooperate, the more effective they are, even the bad guys. People who cannot afford to trust their allies, such as Lord Shojo, think they don't need others to help solve their problems, like Miko or V in the "Don't Split the Party" arc, or just want to do what they want, not thinking about their teammates like Belkar, and perhaps Xykon will get in trouble.
- Also, Deconstruction of Dungeons & Dragons stereotypes by putting them in contrast with a realistic racial conflict.
- Another theme is the nature of power, and what it means to use this effectively and wisely. A recurring thread through the plot is characters who are supposedly more powerful being undone by their supposedly weaker opponents, often because the powerful get overconfident and/or limit themselves to brute force where the less powerful are forced to apply creativity and intelligence and exploit unforeseen flaws and weaknesses to solve their problems.
- Goblins: Inversion/deconstruction of Dungeons & Dragons Fantastic Racism — just because some races are aligned as "evil" or "monsters" doesn't mean that humans and other player races are any better.
- Tower of God deals with the rifts that are caused between people due to differences in power, luck, ability and resources and how these rifts cause betrayal and sacrifice that have no blame.
- Manly Guys Doing Manly Things: Being badass doesn't mean you'll have good life — most manly guys have strong problems with adjusting to normal life and traits that made them badasses in their games and shows only get in the way in normal life.
- Penny and Aggie explores the bond that exists between individuals of contrasting, even clashing, personalities, and how that bond ends up changing them.
- Strong Female Protagonist: Can one person, no matter how powerful, really make a difference in the world?
- Cobweb And Stripes: Love Redeems, and no one is beyond redemption.
- The Whateley Universe seems to be fundamentally about prejudice. In a super hero world, there's prejudice against mutants and their powers, but in a lot of ways the stories are at least as much about prejudice against LGBT people, since every one in Team Kimba is a mutant who is LGBT in some way, perhaps against their will.
- Worm: People need to learn to communicate with each other, lest we tear each other apart.
- Welcome to Night Vale: Community. Even if the various citizens disagree, or outright menace each other, Night Vale is still a group of people committed to getting through their imperfect lives as best they can with their fellow citizens.
- Atop the Fourth Wall: With great power comes not just great responsibility, but also the need for restraint.
- Critical Role explores the importance and impact of family on a lot of different levels both positive and negative, as well as in terms of blood relations versus or compared with your Family of Choice.
- A secondary theme on the importance of forgiveness for those who have hurt you and for your own past mistakes has also developed between several of the main characters, particularly as the all-but-stated driving theme of Percy and Vex’ahlia’s romantic subplot.
- Don't Hug Me I'm Scared in general: The media conditions children to think in certain ways that are manipulative and unhealthy. Learn to think for yourself.
- "Don't Hug Me I'm Scared": Creativity can be a dangerous thing when repressed and then let loose.
- "Don't Hug Me I'm Scared 2 - TIME": Time will pass, no matter how one distracts him or herself, and take us in the end.
- "Don't Hug Me I'm Scared 3": Love is not something that should be forced upon someone.
- "Don't Hug Me I'm Scared 4": Technology can often distract us from its actual purpose and trap us within it.
- "Don't Hug Me I'm Scared 5": Health and fitness experts are often ignorant, self-contradicting and exploit their audiences.
- Subverted in "Don't Hug Me I'm Scared 6," which is initially about Dreams, but quickly shifts clear to focus on the series's general central theme.
- The Nostalgia Critic: Amidst movie riffing, “actions have consequences and you need to deal with it”. Made especially obvious after Ma-Ti's death in Suburban Knights.
- Also, many of his videos (especially later ones) highlight the dangers of fanaticism and nostalgia. Most things are not perfect and that there are more important things in life than what you watched as a kid.
- The Nostalgia Chick: Positive Discrimination as a trope is more damaging than it seems, and female characters can and should be flawed and interesting.
- The Other Side: Everybody eventually has to pick a side, and it's important to be loyal to your allies.
- The Spoony Experiment: The things you love may not be as perfect as you thought, but that's no reason to not love them anymore.