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Genre vs. Theme: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on November 8, 2023
Genre is a category of art or literature with similar form or style, while theme is the underlying message or main idea.
Genre vs. Theme

Key Differences

Genre categorizes literature and art into types based on stylistic criteria, while theme refers to the central topic or message of a work. Genres are broad classifications such as comedy, tragedy, or science fiction, helping audiences know what to expect in style and content. Themes, on the other hand, are more about the work's deeper meanings, such as love, war, or betrayal.
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Nov 08, 2023
The genre of a book or movie guides its narrative structure, setting, and characters, setting up a framework within which the story unfolds. Themes delve into the moral and philosophical questions posed within that framework, cutting across any number of genres. For instance, the theme of 'good vs. evil' can be explored within genres ranging from fantasy to drama.
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When selecting a genre, writers and creators conform to a set of expectations and tropes associated with that category. In contrast, the theme is where they express their unique perspectives, regardless of the genre constraints. A romance genre typically has a love story, but the theme could be the transformative power of love or the tragedy of lost love.
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Genres are practical, helping organize works for marketing and distribution, influencing how stories are told. Themes are conceptual, conveying the underlying messages that resonate with readers and viewers on a personal level. For example, a genre like horror sets the stage for fear and suspense, but within that, it can explore themes of isolation, sanity, or societal breakdown.
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Comparison Chart

Definition

Category based on style
Underlying message or idea
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Function

Organizes works
Provides deeper meaning
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Variability

Fixed categories
Unlimited possibilities
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Influence

Affects form and structure
Impacts narrative's message
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Example

Mystery novel
Theme of justice
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Genre and Theme Definitions

Genre

A category of artistic composition characterized by similarities in form or style.
The film's genre was sci-fi, featuring advanced technology and futuristic settings.
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Theme

An underlying message or the moral of a story.
The fable's theme taught the importance of honesty.
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Genre

A type of painting or visual art defined by subject matter and form.
She studied the genre of landscape painting, capturing the natural world on canvas.
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Theme

The subject of a talk, piece of writing, or exhibition.
The theme of the conference was 'Innovation in Technology'.
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Genre

A style of music distinguished by form, content, and style.
Her favorite music genre is jazz, with its complex melodies and rhythms.
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Theme

A topic of discourse or discussion.
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Genre

A classification of literature based on its technique, tone, content, or length.
He preferred the epic genre in literature, with grand heroes and sweeping narratives.
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Theme

A subject of artistic representation.
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Genre

A grouping for films or television shows sharing similar themes and styles.
The new series falls into the fantasy genre with its magical elements and medieval setting.
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Theme

An implicit or recurrent idea; a motif
A party with a tropical island theme.
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Genre

A category of artistic composition, as in music or literature, marked by a distinctive style, form, or content
"his six String Quartets ... the most important works in the genre since Beethoven's" (Time).
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Theme

A short composition assigned to a student as a writing exercise.
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Genre

A realistic style of painting that depicts scenes from everyday life.
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Theme

(Music) A recurring melodic element in a composition, especially a melody forming the basis of a set of variations.
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Genre

A type or class
"Emaciated famine victims ... on television focused a new genre of attention on the continent" (Helen Kitchen).
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Theme

See topic.
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Genre

A kind; a stylistic category or sort, especially of literature or other artworks.
The still life has been a popular genre in painting since the 17th century.
This film is a cross-genre piece, dark and funny at the same time.
The computer game Half-Life redefined the first-person shooter genre.
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Theme

A stem.
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Genre

Kind; genus; class; form; style, esp. in literature.
French drama was lisping or still inarticulate; the great French genre of the fabliau was hardly born.
A particular demand . . . that we shall pay special attention to the matter of genres - that is, to the different forms or categories of literature.
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Theme

A subject, now especially of a talk or an artistic piece; a topic.
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Genre

A style of painting, sculpture, or other imitative art, which illustrates everyday life and manners.
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Theme

A recurring idea; a motif.
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Genre

A kind of literary or artistic work
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Theme

A concept with multiple instantiations.
Variations on the theme of entrepreneurial resourcefulness
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Genre

A style of expressing yourself in writing
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Theme

Any of various colors, or color palettes, in which a design is offered; (GUI) any of various skins for an app, affecting the visuals and perhaps other elements such as sound effects.
Switch to a dark theme to conserve battery power
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Genre

An expressive style of music
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Theme

(dated) An essay written for school.
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Genre

A class of art (or artistic endeavor) having a characteristic form or technique
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Theme

(music) The main melody of a piece of music, especially one that is the source of variations.
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Theme

A song, or a snippet of a song, that identifies a film, a TV program, a character, etc. by playing at the appropriate time.
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Theme

(grammar) The stem of a word.
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Theme

(linguistics) thematic relation of a noun phrase to a verb.
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Theme

(linguistics) Theta role in generative grammar and government and binding theory.
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Theme

(linguistics) Topic, what is generally being talked about, as opposed to rheme.
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Theme

A regional unit of organisation in the Byzantine empire.
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Theme

(transitive) To give a theme to.
We themed the birthday party around superheroes.
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Theme

To apply a theme to; to change the visual appearance and/or layout of (software).
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Theme

A subject or topic on which a person writes or speaks; a proposition for discussion or argument; a text.
My theme is alway one and ever was.
And when a soldier was the theme, my nameWas not far off.
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Theme

Discourse on a certain subject.
Then ran repentance and rehearsed his theme.
It was the subject of my theme.
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Theme

A composition or essay required of a pupil.
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Theme

A noun or verb, not modified by inflections; also, that part of a noun or verb which remains unchanged (except by euphonic variations) in declension or conjugation; stem.
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Theme

That by means of which a thing is done; means; instrument.
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Theme

The leading subject of a composition or a movement.
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Theme

The subject matter of a conversation or discussion;
He didn't want to discuss that subject
It was a very sensitive topic
His letters were always on the theme of love
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Theme

A unifying idea that is a recurrent element in a literary or artistic work;
It was the usual `boy gets girl' theme
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Theme

(music) melodic subject of a musical composition;
The theme is announced in the first measures
The accompanist picked up the idea and elaborated it
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Theme

An essay (especially one written as an assignment);
He got an A on his composition
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Theme

(linguistics) the form of a word after all affixes are removed;
Thematic vowels are part of the stem
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Theme

Provide with a particular theme or motive;
The restaurant often themes its menus
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Theme

The central topic, subject, or message within a narrative.
The novel's theme explored the consequences of ambition.
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Theme

A recurring idea that is woven through a literary or musical composition.
The symphony's theme was revisited in each movement, varying in intensity.
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Theme

A motif or unifying idea that is recurrent in a work of art.
The artist's work had a common theme of solitude and reflection.
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Repeatedly Asked Queries

What is a theme?

A theme is a central idea, topic, or point of a story, essay, or narrative that often represents a universal truth or provides insight into the human experience.
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What is a genre?

A genre is a category of artistic composition, as in music or literature, characterized by similarities in form, style, or subject matter.
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How does theme differ from the plot?

The theme is the underlying message or insight presented in a story, while the plot is the sequence of events that make up the story.
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Can a story have multiple themes?

Yes, stories often explore multiple themes that provide deeper meanings and discuss various aspects of life or human nature.
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Is genre specific to literature?

No, genre applies to various art forms, including literature, music, film, and painting, each with their own set of genres.
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Can the same story fit into multiple genres?

Yes, a story can cross over into multiple genres, such as a romantic comedy or a sci-fi thriller, featuring elements characteristic of each genre.
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What is genre in literature?

Genre in literature refers to categories like mystery, romance, or fantasy that group works based on style and subject matter.
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Can a book have more than one theme?

Yes, a book can have multiple themes intertwined in its narrative.
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Can the genre of a book determine its theme?

Genre can influence common themes (e.g., love in romance, good vs. evil in fantasy), but it does not determine the specific theme of an individual work.
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Do genres change over time?

Yes, genres can evolve with cultural and societal changes, and new genres can emerge as artists experiment with style and content.
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Is the theme of a story universal?

Themes often deal with universal concepts, but the way they are presented and interpreted can vary based on cultural or personal perspectives.
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Can genres overlap?

Yes, works of art and literature can cross over into multiple genres, such as romantic comedy or historical fiction.
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What makes a genre unique?

A genre is unique due to its distinct characteristics, rules, and tropes that define it.
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Are themes always explicitly stated?

No, themes are often implied and can be interpreted differently by readers, requiring them to read between the lines.
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How do I identify a story's theme?

Identify a story's theme by looking for recurring motifs, the evolution of characters, the outcomes of conflicts, and the author's overall message.
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Why is genre important?

Genre helps categorize and organize art and literature, guiding audience expectations and aiding in the marketing and selection process.
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How is genre determined in a film?

Genre in a film is determined by analyzing its setting, characters, plot, and the filmmaker's approach to the story.
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Is the theme always stated explicitly?

No, themes are often implied and can be interpreted differently by each reader or viewer.
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How do you identify a theme in a story?

Identify a theme by looking for recurring ideas or messages throughout the story.
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Why is theme important?

Theme is important because it provides deeper meaning and can provoke thought, discussion, or insight.
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Shumaila Saeed
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Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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