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Universal Themes: 180 Examples for Literature and Life

A universal theme is a concept that resonates with a wide variety of readers, regardless of their background, culture, or personal experiences.

These themes explore elements of the human condition that are relevant and relatable to people from different walks of life.

Universal themes are often found in literature, where they shape the stories we read and help us learn more about ourselves and our shared human experiences.

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One of the key aspects of universal themes is that they delve into concepts and concerns that are of interest to the human race, transcending geography or cultural differences.

Examples of universal themes include love in its many forms, journeys of self-discovery, and power struggles that influence individuals and societies alike. From novels to movies, these themes have the power to reveal insights about the world we live in and the human experiences we share.

As you explore the concept of universal themes, remember that they can be found in various forms and manifestations, connecting across different types of content and genres. These themes not only enrich our understanding of literature but also enhance our appreciation of the shared human experience.

Key Takeaways

  • Universal themes are relatable concepts that resonate with diverse audiences.
  • These themes explore elements of the human condition and our shared experiences.
  • Literature and other forms of storytelling often incorporate universal themes to broaden their appeal and impact.

180 Examples of Universal Themes

Here are 180 universal themes grouped into common categories:


  • True love conquers all
  • Love at first sight
  • Love triangles
  • Unrequited love
  • Forbidden love
  • Everlasting love

Good vs Evil

  • Good triumphs over evil
  • Evil is punished
  • Struggle between good and evil
  • Morality tale
  • Loss of innocence to evil
  • Corruption by power


  • The hero’s journey
  • Overcoming obstacles
  • Sacrifice for others
  • Rags to riches
  • Underdog story
  • Triumph over adversity

Coming of Age

  • Loss of childhood innocence
  • Transition to adulthood
  • Self-discovery
  • Maturation
  • Growing pains
  • Generation gap


  • Conformity vs individuality
  • Nature vs nurture
  • Class struggles
  • Gender roles
  • Racism and prejudice
  • War and peace


  • Fear of death
  • Value of life
  • Afterlife
  • Grief and loss
  • Memento mori
  • Cycle of life


  • Man vs nature
  • Transcendentalism
  • Appreciation of beauty
  • Harmony with nature
  • Survival in nature
  • Environmentalism


  • Faith vs doubt
  • Sin and redemption
  • Divine intervention
  • Religious allegory
  • Spiritual enlightenment
  • Eternal life


  • Search for meaning
  • Existential dilemmas
  • Mind over matter
  • Artistic expression
  • Living in the moment
  • Contemplation of time


  • Magic and witchcraft
  • Mythical creatures
  • Epic quests
  • Alternate worlds
  • Escapism
  • Superhuman abilities


  • Parent-child relationships
  • Sibling rivalry
  • Family secrets
  • Inheritance/birthright
  • Dysfunctional families
  • Family loyalty
  • Found family


  • Vengeance
  • Retribution
  • Vendettas
  • Payback
  • Getting even
  • Righting wrongs


  • Vaulting ambition
  • Blind ambition
  • Ambition vs ethics
  • Cost of ambition
  • Unfulfilled ambitions
  • Ambition and ruin


  • Abuse of power
  • Corruption of power
  • Struggle for power
  • Power of love
  • Loss of power
  • Power and responsibility


  • Miscarriage of justice
  • Taking the law into own hands
  • Balance of justice
  • Poetic justice
  • Social justice
  • Divine justice


  • Fight for freedom
  • Loss of freedom
  • Freedom of choice
  • Freedom of expression
  • Intellectual freedom
  • Escape to freedom


  • Value of friendship
  • Loyal friends
  • False friends
  • Childhood friendship
  • Opposing friends
  • Friendship and sacrifice


  • Accepting fate
  • Fighting fate
  • Twists of fate
  • Destiny
  • Serendipity
  • Self-fulfilling prophecy


  • Power of memory
  • Fond memories
  • Painful memories
  • Fading memories
  • Manipulation of memory
  • Memories relived


  • Meaning of dreams
  • Pursuit of dreams
  • Dreams vs reality
  • Shattered dreams
  • Recurring dreams
  • Prophetic dreams


  • Embracing change
  • Resistance to change
  • Coming of change
  • Winds of change
  • Change is inevitable
  • Adaptation to change


  • Race against time
  • Value of time
  • Passing of time
  • Time heals all wounds
  • Time travel
  • Seizing the moment


  • Betrayal by loved ones
  • False betrayal
  • Revenge for betrayal
  • Forgiveness after betrayal
  • Betrayal of ideals
  • Self-betrayal


  • Descent into madness
  • Mad genius
  • Love turned to madness
  • Method in madness
  • Madness and creativity
  • Curing madness


  • Man vs machine
  • Dangers of technology
  • Dehumanization by technology
  • Technological progress
  • Love/hate relationship with tech
  • Tech dependency


  • Journey of self-discovery
  • Fish out of water
  • Internal journey
  • Quest for knowledge
  • Escapism through travel
  • Wanderlust


  • Search for truth
  • Moment of truth
  • Hard truth
  • Subjective truth
  • Universal truth
  • Truth and lies


  • Overcoming prejudice
  • Social prejudice
  • Racial prejudice
  • Religious prejudice
  • Cultural misunderstandings
  • Tolerance and acceptance


  • Triumph of courage
  • Cowardice and bravery
  • Courage in adversity
  • Moral courage
  • Courage of convictions
  • Finding inner courage


  • Power of perseverance
  • Never give up
  • Overcoming obstacles
  • Patience and determination
  • Endurance and resilience
  • Hard work pays off

Universal Themes in Literature

Themes of Coming of Age and Loss of Innocence

In literature, universal themes often deal with the complexities of human life. One such theme is coming of age, which deals with how characters transition from childhood to adulthood and navigate the myriad challenges that come their way.

This theme often highlights the loss of innocence, as the character matures and learns about the harsh realities of life. As you explore these themes in literature, notice how different authors and genres might approach this transformation with unique perspectives and scenarios.

Themes of Love and Relationships

Another universal theme in literature is love and relationships. This encompasses not only romantic love, but also familial love, friendship, and various other types of interpersonal connections.

The power of love has been a central focus in countless stories, as it is an emotion that almost everyone experiences in their lives. The themes related to love and relationships can showcase different facets, including first loves, unrequited love, forbidden love, or the lengths to which people go to protect those they love.

Themes of Power and Trust

Power dynamics often come into play in literature as both overt and subtle influences on the story. These themes can take many forms, such as physical strength, political power, or even the power of ideas and beliefs.

Trust is another universal theme closely tied to power, as characters may struggle with trusting themselves, others, or even the systems around them. As you read literature that deals with themes of power and trust, consider how these elements shape the characters’ experiences and development.

Understanding Change Through Themes

Change is an inevitable part of the human experience, and therefore, a common theme in literature. Characters may face change on various levels, including personal transformations, societal shifts, or even physical changes in their environments.

The way they respond to and process these changes can tell us a lot about the human condition and our own experiences with change. As you delve into stories that address themes of change, observe how the characters adapt to or resist change, and whether they ultimately find acceptance or growth in the process.

Structural Order of Universal Themes

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When examining universal themes, it is crucial to understand their structural order. This order brings organization and coherence to the diverse concepts that connect various subjects and disciplines, enabling you to better comprehend the themes and how they interrelate.

As you begin exploring universal themes, you will find a pattern in their structure. Generally, universal themes are based on abstract, one-word concepts like power, conflict, change, relationships, and order.

These themes serve as a foundation for numerous topics, making them applicable to a wide range of subjects. To better illustrate this, consider how the theme of power connects to various fields like science, literature, sports, and history.

Understanding the structural order of universal themes helps you identify the connections across different topics, making it easier for you to see the broader picture. This kind of comprehension promotes higher-order thinking and supports your ability to draw conclusions based on diverse viewpoints.

Furthermore, these connections encourage deeper analysis, fostering critical thinking skills and the ability to synthesize various pieces of information.

As you study universal themes and their structural order, make sure to approach them with a confident, knowledgeable, and neutral perspective. It is essential to maintain a clear and focused viewpoint that rationally connects the concepts and does not exaggerate or make false claims.

By doing so, you ensure the integrity of your understanding, allowing you to effectively engage with these themes and apply your insights to both academic and real-world situations.

The Building of Themes

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When constructing a universal theme, it’s essential to first understand what it encompasses. A universal theme focuses on an aspect of the human condition that is relevant to people regardless of their location, background, or unique factors. This type of theme is easily relatable to a wide variety of readers, making it integral to the building blocks of successful storytelling.

As you begin building your theme, consider the common concepts and concerns that resonate with a diverse audience.

Themes like love, power struggles, and the journey of self-discovery are all examples of universal themes that have gained prominence in literature and life. By grounding your work in these core ideas, you can create a story that speaks to a broader range of readers.

When crafting your story, remember to develop characters and plotlines that will emphasize your chosen universal theme. Strong, well-built characters and a captivating story will help convey your theme to your readers more effectively. Additionally, explore multiple facets and variations of your universal theme to provide depth and nuance, ensuring that your work remains engaging and thought-provoking.

Incorporating symbolism, motifs, and allegory can also strengthen your universal theme. By using these literary tools, you can subtly reinforce the theme throughout your narrative, guiding your readers to connect the dots and grasp the underlying meaning of your work.

As you build your universal theme, remember to maintain a confident, knowledgeable, neutral, and clear tone. This will allow your readers to connect with the theme on a deeper level, making your narrative even more compelling.

In conclusion, when developing a universal theme, ensure that it resonates with a broad audience, explore variations of the theme, and utilize literary tools like symbolism and allegory to reinforce its message. With careful planning and a clear understanding of the human condition, you can build a captivating and impactful narrative that will endure the test of time.

Frequently Asked Questions

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What are examples of universal themes in literature?

Examples of universal themes in literature include the journey of self-discovery, where characters explore self-doubt, inspiration, and personal growth; love in its many forms, such as true love, unrequited love, and familial love; and power struggles that can impact characters, governments, and individuals.

How do universal themes differ from specific themes?

Universal themes are overarching ideas that resonate with readers from diverse backgrounds and cultures, while specific themes are more narrowly focused on a particular topic, setting, or character type. As a result, universal themes tend to be more relatable, whereas specific themes may only apply to a certain group of readers or within a specific context.

What are the essential components of a universal theme?

A universal theme must be able to evoke a common human experience or emotion that a wide range of readers can relate to. It often explores core values or fundamental aspects of human existence, such as love, fear, or identity. Additionally, a universal theme should have a timeless quality, meaning it can be relevant and relatable throughout history and across different cultures.

Can universal themes be applied across different cultures and time periods?

Yes, universal themes have the unique ability to resonate with readers from various cultures and historical time periods because they tap into fundamentally shared human experiences and emotions. This is why they are considered “universal” in nature, as they can transcend cultural and temporal boundaries.

How are universal themes utilized in theme parks?

In theme parks, universal themes can be used to create immersive experiences that appeal to a broad range of visitors. For example, Universal Orlando Resort has attractions and areas based on various themes, each offering unique adventures for guests of all ages. They aim to create enjoyable experiences by tapping into familiar stories and emotions that resonate with people from diverse backgrounds.