The theme of a work of literature is rightly understood to be a statement of a universal truth that the piece conveys or that the author wishes to communicate through the work. The text of the work must provide evidence for the theme, and the theme must be central to...
The theme of a work of literature is rightly understood to be a statement of a universal truth that the piece conveys or that the author wishes to communicate through the work. The text of the work must provide evidence for the theme, and the theme must be central to the plot and characters. Ideally a theme should be expressed in a complete sentence rather than in just a word or two. With that said, a work can have more than one theme, and different readers can find different themes within the same work.
In Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour," an obvious theme is that marriage, even a good marriage, infringes on one's freedom. Mrs. Mallard does not dislike her husband, and she has not been unhappy in her marriage. But upon hearing of her husband's death she begins to imagine the freedom she will now experience, and she delights in the thought so much so that learning suddenly that her husband did not die is such a shock to her that she herself dies of a heart attack.
One could take a more feminist approach to the story and suggest a theme that relates to gender roles in the time period of the story or to gender roles within a marriage. In that case, one might state the theme as follows: "Because of society's expectations of women in marriage, a woman often feels stifled while married and can only enjoy true freedom as a widow." The same evidence could be used to support this theme as the more general, non-gender-specific theme stated previously. True, Chopin points out that both men and women seek to assert their wills over each other, but a feminist perspective would point out that historically men had much more freedom in movement and decision-making than women did.
Another theme one could derive from the story is that love must be very strong to compensate for the lack of freedom that marriage brings. In the story Mrs. Mallard admits she loved her husband, except when she did not. Because her love for her husband wavered, she experienced a greater sense of freedom than of grief when she heard of her husband's death.
Another theme of the story could be that husbands and wives often do not know the deep, hidden thoughts of their spouse. Mr. Mallard apparently had no idea of his wife's longing for freedom, and she took that secret to the grave with her.
These ideas are several possible themes from "The Story of an Hour," which is a simple, brief story that overflows with meaning.