Follow TV Tropes


Central Theme

Go To

"Central theme, the most important thing.
Central theme, the tie that binds together."
Daniel Amos, "Central Theme"

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 


Different from An Aesop in that the Central Theme is often a question or a general topic rather than a direct precept or conclusion: where an Aesop is a specific moral that is explicates and forced on the audience, a Central Theme will more likely be explored, analyzed, and Played with. 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 reach the conclusion that The Power of Friendship will always prevail (Aesop). The reader may disagree with the author's conclusion, but regardless, 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.

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 story, where does it originate, and what questions or thinking points does this conflict prompt?


Go to a work's Analysis sub-page to find a more detailed exploration of its central theme—or add your own insight. As always, however, be wary of seeing messages where there are none.

An album with a Central Theme will usually be considered a Concept Album.



    open/close all folders 

     Comic Strips 
    Fan Works 
  • Child of the Storm has several:
    • Life is not black and white - hard decisions are necessary and sometimes good people must do bad things, while even evil beings may sometimes Pet the Dog.
    • 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.
  • A Chance Meeting Of Two Moons: Synchronization.
  • Change Up: For the first few chapters at least, appearances matter and perception is reality when trying to make it as a superhero.

  • Infinity Game: Isolation and the importance of real connections between people.

  • The Beach Boys
    • Pet Sounds: The frustrations and anxieties of young adulthood. Particularly in regards to romantic love.
  • Green Day
    • American Idiot: Blindly rebelling against authority is equally as bad as blindly submitting to authority.
    • 21st Century Breakdown: In difficult times, whether remaining steadfast in your beliefs or instigating revolutionary change is necessary to restore order.
  • 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.
  • Wings
    • 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).

    Mythology & Religion 

    Tabletop Games 

    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 
  • In Gifts of Wandering Ice it's immortality achieved by artificial means (memory transfer and other) and its price.
  • 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.
    "where doing it man. where MAKING THIS HAPEN."
  • 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.
  • Rain explores the trials and tribulations that Transgender people, along with many others on the LGBT spectrum, experience, and shows that they a common part of our world. They're people in need of love and understanding just like everyone else.

    Web Original 
  • 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.

    Web Video 
  • 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 Mysterious Mr. Enter: When done right, animation can touch our emotions in many ways, inspire us to new heights, give us direction, and give us purpose.
  • The Nostalgia Critic:
    • Actions have consequences and you need to deal with them. Made especially obvious after Ma-Ti's death in Suburban Knights.
    • Many of his videos highlight the dangers of fanaticism and nostalgia. Most things are not perfect and/or not as good as we remember them, and there are more important things in life than what you watched as a kid.
  • The Nostalgia Chick: Positive Discrimination is more damaging than it seems, and female characters can and should be flawed and interesting.
  • 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.

Alternative Title(s): Theme, Running Theme