What does the "central idea" mean in literature?
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'Central idea' is just another way of describing the main thought or principal theme of a work of literature. Of course what one person sees as the central idea in a particular play or novel or poem many not be the same as someone else's but that is part of the enjoyment of literary discussion and argument. For example, many see the central idea of King Lear as old age and the frustrating powerlessness that can bring. Others see it a little differently: a once-powerful human being is stripped of everything and left exposed to the wind and weather on a wild moor. In both cases something about the truth of human existence is expressed but with a different emphasis. Many great works produce varying versions of the central idea e.g Hamlet, The Great Gatsby. My advice would be not to worry about it too much. Every reader brings something of herself or himself to the literature and that is bound to affect how we take it in. Just be prepared to defend your ideas by showing that you have read or watched carefully and can provide evidence from the text to support your interpretation. Good luck with your future reading.
In literature, the "central idea" is a another way of saying "theme." A theme is the focus, the lesson or the moral learned in a given piece of literature. If you want to compare it to Disney Land, the central idea or theme is that of cartoon characters...however, the central theme of a story is like that of The Three Little Pigs; never build your house out of straw, be sure it has a solid foundation.
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