A literary topic is the central concept or underlying meaning explored by a writer in a novel, short tale, or other literary work. A story's theme can be communicated through characters, setting, dialogue, narrative, or a mixture of all of these components. The theme of a work may be apparent from its title or stated in the first line of the text.
The theme of a literary work can also be inferred from the context in which it appears. For example, in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, the theme is manifested in the conflict between two opposing values: pride vs. prejudice. Another example is Hamlet's dilemma about whether to act against his father's will or not; this question manifests itself theme within itself. Yet another example is the struggle for existence that underlies all nature stories; this theme is evident even in fairy tales such as "The Three Little Pigs."
The theme of a literary work can also be inferred from the details in the text themselves. For instance, in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, the theme is kindness toward others. This can be seen in the way Scrooge changes his mind about money after helping poor people on Christmas Day.
Finally, the theme of a literary work can be deduced from the reaction of the audience or reader. For example, Thomas Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge shows us how one man's ambition can destroy him.
The theme of a literary work refers to the major concept or underlying meaning of the piece. It is the story's main concept, what the author is truly attempting to communicate, and what the author wants the reader to take away from the written work. A topic might be stated explicitly or impliedly. For example, in The Scarlet Letter, the theme is sexual repression, while in David Copperfield the theme is personal growth.
Some authors may get confused by these questions because they want to know how their work fits into a category rather than what its theme is. For example, an author could write a novel about two people who are facing death together without this being a love story (i.e., it's not necessarily about love). Or an author could write a novel with a dark theme but without explaining why this piece is important for society (i.e., it's not an analysis).
Finally, some works may have more than one theme. For example, Pride and Prejudice explores class differences between the "lower" classes and the "higher" classes, but also includes a discussion of marriage contracts (which are still popular in some countries).
Love stories, social commentary, and novels about survival will almost always have at least one theme. Some themes are obvious, such as romance or justice, but others, such as family drama or psychological realism, can only be inferred by looking at the details within the work itself.
A theme in literature is a core or underlying notion that might be presented explicitly or indirectly. At least one topic runs through all novels, tales, poems, and other literary works. Through a topic, the writer may communicate human understanding or a worldview. Don't mistake a work's subject with its theme: each Shakespearean play has a subject (love, revenge, death) but only one overarching theme (human nature).
Themes can also include ideas rather than topics. For example, "Man's inhumanity to man" is a theme, while "Ivanhoe; or, The Knight of the Brazen Head" is a topic. Sometimes themes are very broad. For example, "Love is love" is a broad theme that could be explored in many different ways within a single work of literature. Other times they are more specific.
Some authors use theme names as headings for chapters. Others refer to them using details found in the text. Either way, they are important concepts to understand when reading literature.