Theme refers to the central meaning or message in a work of literature. Sometimes it is overtly stated within the book, but often it is conveyed more indirectly with the author expecting readers to take away lessons or insights related to the theme from reading the work. Many works have universal themes, which are ones that are relevant to everyone. There are many universal themes in literature as well as life. After all, art imitates life — or is it the other way around?

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universal theme of overcoming impossible odds

What Is a Universal Theme?

A universal theme is one that focuses on an element of the human condition and deals with concepts or concerns of interest to members of the human race, regardless of where they live, their background, personality type, or other unique factors.

In other words, universal themes appeal to or have meaning to people regardless of individual or cultural differences. Universal themes focus on common aspects of existence that, in some way, impact all people. The fact that they can be relevant to everyone is what makes them universal ideas.

List of Universal Themes About Change

Change is a common universal theme in literature and life.

change resistancecircle of life coming of ageevolving traditionsfading beauty fear of failuregrowing to maturity growing up how the past impacts the presenthow the past impacts the futureinevitability of changeloss of innocencemortalityovercoming impossible oddsprogressrebirthrebellion against expectations some things never changestruggle

List of Universal Themes About Power

Universal themes related to power are common in literature and real life.

abuse of powercontrol of information control over people control over resources corruptiondictatorshipenslavementgovernmental controlorder vs. chaospolitical powerpower dynamicpower motivation/need for powerpower structure quest for power resistance/rising up against powerself-interest tribalismtyranny us vs. themwaterwhat power does to peoplewhat people do to get power

List of Universal Themes About Romantic Love

The universal theme of love is at the heart of human relationships as well as many literary works.

being swept off your feet everlasting love fated to be together feeling completed by a partnerfinding your soulmatefidelity vs. infidelity first love forbidden love heartbreak lost loveloving someone from afar opposites attract overcoming the odds to be together real love the one who got awayunrequited love there"s someone for everyonetrue love conquers all

List of Universal Themes About Friendship and Family

Friendship and family are central to the human experience, so it"s a common universal theme in literature and life.

belonging and acceptancebonds of friendshipbrotherhoodcompanionship fatherhoodfamily traditions importance of communication lifelong friendshipsmotherhoodreunion sisterhood ties that bindtrust among friendsunbreakable bondsunconditional lovewho you can rely on

List of Universal Themes About Money

Money is a common universal theme in life and literature.

being judged based on socioeconomic statusbuilding a nest eggcapitalism"s impact on people and societygreed and corruption greed leading to someone"s downfall living paycheck to paycheckold money vs. new money other people"s money (debt)overcoming poverty privilege of wealth rags to richesrisk vs. rewardsaving for the future striving for financial security struggles of the working classvicious cycle of povertywhat people will do in the pursuit of money

List of Universal Themes About Knowledge and Education

Knowledge is a common universal theme in life and literature.

critical thinkingdangers of ignoranceeducation opens the door to many possibilitiesexpertise matters facts vs. opinions forming and testing hypotheses importance of education information is power intelligence matters knowledge is power multiple intelligencesovercoming ignorance through education role of education in civilized societysuccess in life begins with education testing assumptions the value of scientific study

List of Universal Themes About Politics/Freedom

There are many universal themes related to politics and society.

communismdemocracy discriminationfree and fair elections governmental oppression governmental intervention justice vs. injusticelaws and regulations racismnational pride nationalismoppressionpatriotismsocialism social programs voting rights

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List of Universal Themes About Technology

Technology is one of the most common universal themes. It"s featured in science fiction and other literary genres, as well as virtually every aspect of daily life.

advances in medicineaccess to informationartificial intelligence big brother is watchingcommunication advancements helplessness of humanity vs. technologyincreased leisure time for humansjobs lost to technologyman losing control of technologyman versus machinesprivacy violationsrise of the machinessimplifying manual tasks social stratification the future of workunlimited energytechnology taking on a life of its own

Theme and Motif in Literature

Even though this is a long list of universal themes and ideas, it"s not all-inclusive. Many universal concepts pervade the human experience and find their way into literature. Of course, when you"re focused on literature, theme isn"t all that matters. It"s also important to consider motif, which is often confused with theme. Explore theme vs. motif to help make sure you understand the difference.