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What is the difference between a thesis statement and a theme?I'm a little bit...

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paulnguyen | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 25, 2009 at 1:07 AM via web

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What is the difference between a thesis statement and a theme?

I'm a little bit confused. Are thesis statement and theme both one or two sentences which the writer uses to convey the underlying message, the philosophy, the true meaning of the story to his readers? Or are there some differences between those two concepts? Can someone help me out with that and give me some examples of them? Thanks first!

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 25, 2009 at 2:12 AM (Answer #1)

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There are some very strong parallels between both themes and thesis statements.  I think you will find there will be much in the way of responses to how each will be different.  For my bet, I would like to think of themes as something that can be found in writing that expresses the intent of what the author is trying to show.  Themes can be found in literature and other forms of writing where an idea is explored in a complex and intricate manner.  Examples of themes can be courage, the quest for justice, the collision between equally desirable, but ultimately incompatible courses of action, or the notion of identity formation. These themes are proven from a base that is not purely evidential and argumentative, which differentiates them from a thesis statement.  For example, when Homer explore the theme of equally desirable, but ultimately incompatible courses of action, he does not do so in a strictly linear and evidential manner.  Rather, he shows us character who must endure such a theme and how it plays out is built within the development of the character.  Hektor's character evolution is how we, as the reader, see Homer's theme develop.

In contrast to this, a thesis statement is something that is built through evidence, analysis, and persuasion.  It seems to me to be more linear and directed than a theme.  For instance, a thesis statement can be analytical, which analyzes an idea and deconstructs it through a paper.  A thesis statement could also be persuasive, and it hopes to do so through evidence and analysis.  The websites below give examples of thesis statements.  I think I differentiate both concepts as a thesis statement trying to prove something, while a theme seeks to explore it.

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readerofbooks | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 11, 2009 at 4:01 AM (Answer #2)

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That is a great question. A theme is a work is what it is mainly about. So, if you want to know the main theme, you ask asking what it is basically about, what the main point is. A thesis is different. A thesis is an argument a writer constructs that is debatable. It does not even have to be about the theme of a work. For example, if I working on Homer's Iliad, my thesis can be that Homer did not write it. This has nothing to do with the theme. Let me give you another example. If I am writing about Oedipus Rex, my thesis can be that the plague of the opening scene refers to the bubonic plague. This has nothing to do with the theme. A theme, therefore, is the main point. A thesis is an argument.

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coe1019 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted September 4, 2012 at 6:36 PM (Answer #3)

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Themes are generally expressed as a word or phrase to be observed within a work.  In To Kill a Mockingbird  themes of prejudice, courage, and the meaning of family are evident throughout the text.  

On the other hand, a thesis is a statement (sentence) that is the focus of the work itself.  It is the "point" or lesson the author wants us to see.  

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