"Central theme, the most important thing.
Central theme, the tie that binds together."
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. 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 rather than a direct precept. 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 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; the reader may disagree with the author's Aesop, but the work will still be about the Central Theme whether they disagree or not.
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 does this conflict give rise to?
Go to Analysis
to get a more detailed explanation of the central theme of a work, or even to add your own insight. Make note of being wary of seeing messages where there are none.
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- Infinity Game: Isolation and the importance of real connexions between people.
Religion, Mythology and Folklore
- 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?
- 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.
- The New World of Darkness (like its predecessor has a theme for each gameline. The new ones are:
- Paranoia: The Law (Friend Computer) is crazy.
- Warhammer 40000 - The overarching motif is war. There is always a war in 40k, every last living thing is involved somehow, even when there is no Alien Invasion, no Chaos conspiracy, they make their own wars, their own crusades to fill the void. Even at the cusp of victory, as the Great Crusade came to a close, the Astartes legions turned their guns on one another. There is no escape, no respite, no hope for victory. In the Grim Darkness of the far future, there is only war.
- 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: Teamwork is necessary for survival and is more important than our petty differences.
- A recurring idea in the Walkyverse is hypocrisy. It's most obvious in Character Development, where someone will realise 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.
- 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 bad guys. People who cannot afford trust their allies such as Lord Shojo, think they don't need others to solve their problems like Miko or V in "Don't Split the Party" arc or just want to do what they want, not thinking about their teammates like Belkar get in trouble. Also, Deconstruction of Dungeons & Dragons stereotypes by putting them in contrast with a realistic racial conflict.
- Also, 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, through the application of creativity and intelligence and the exploitation of unforeseen flaws and weaknesses.
- 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 has two. First is that being Badass doesn't mean you'll have good life - most of manly guys have strong problems with adjusting to normal life and traits that made them badasses in their games and shows only gets in the way. Second, especially evident in "Nomura Syndrome" arc, is that you should accept people for who they are, instead of forcing them into what most people think they should be.
- 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.