Distinguishing Between Theme & Motif

Theme vs Motif

Theme and motif are terms that people commonly confuse due to their underlying similarities and overlapping aspects. Motif is used in narratives, art, and literature to create a mood or sentiment. It is often repeated in a piece to signify its importance to the story or artwork. Motif is closely related to the concept of theme, which is the central idea or message that the author of a story or play wants to convey to the audience. Despite the similarities, there are distinct differences between motif and theme, which will be discussed in this article.


The dominant or central idea in a story, play, or piece of visual art is known as its theme. However, multiple themes can run concurrently in a story. Themes are ideas that are universally recognized and understood by people of different cultures, such as discrimination, hatred, love, and compassion. Writers have used these values and ideas as themes in plays and stories for centuries.


In a work of art, there are often patterns and sequences that are repeated frequently. Similarly, in a story or play, some events may be used repeatedly to reinforce an idea that is central to the story. The images, shapes, colors, numbers, sounds, and events that are frequently repeated are called motifs, and they serve to reinforce the theme of the literary work or piece of art. Motifs keep the audience’s attention focused on a central idea or theme. Motifs always have symbolic value, as they represent something else. The artist uses these symbols in a specific sequence to remind the audience of the message they want to convey.

Key Takeaways

– Motif is the visual or audio clue that reminds audiences of the theme in a piece of art, story, or play.
– Motifs may be symbols, distinct colors and shapes, sounds, or events presented in a sequence or pattern to keep the audience focused on the central idea or theme of the work.
– Theme is more dominant and central, while motifs are symbolic and suggestive in nature.

Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard is an accomplished writer with expertise in creating engaging articles and content across various platforms. His dedication to research and crafting high-quality content has led to over 5 years of professional writing and editing experience. In his personal life, Gil enjoys connecting with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. His curiosity and eagerness to learn from others fuel his passion for communication. He believes that engaging with strangers can be both enlightening and enjoyable, making it easier to strike up conversations and expand one's horizons.


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