Difference Between Plot and Theme

Main Difference – Plot vs Theme

Plot and theme are two of the most important literary elements in a story. The main difference between plot and theme is that plot is the sequence of events that make up of the story whereas the theme is the central message or perception conveyed through a piece of writing.

What is Plot

The plot is the sequence of events and happenings that make up of a story. The events in the plot are related to each other through the theory of cause and effect; one event becomes the result or the cause of another. The plot can be defined as the most important literary element in a story.

A plot consists of five main elements: they are exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.

Exposition: This is the introduction of the story. The protagonist, other main characters, and the setting are introduced here.

Rising action: This is the section that begins with the conflict. Rising action contains the build-up of events from the introduction of the conflict until the climax.

Climax: This is the turning point or the peak of the story. The conflict of the story is at its highest. The highest interest and emotions are created in the climax.

Falling action: This consists of events that lead to the ending. The conflict begins to get resolved in this section.

Resolution: This marks the end of the story. The conflict is resolved and the story concludes with either a happy or tragic ending. This is also known as the resolution.Main Difference - Plot vs Theme

What is Theme

Theme can be defined as the central message or insight that is conveyed through a piece of writing. Any piece of writing, either fiction or nonfiction, has a theme. The theme in fiction is not explicit; the writer doesn’t direct state the theme, he only gives us clues about the hint. It is the readers who have to read and understand the theme of the story. In literary theory, the theme is categorized into two categories: they are thematic concept and thematic statement. The thematic statement is the theme that is really intended by the writers whereas the thematic concept is the theme inferred by the readers. This means that the themes often reflect the personal views of the writer or readers since the understanding of the theme differ according to different people.

A text can have more than one theme, but in most books, there is a central theme, which can be found as a recurring idea throughout the book. Themes can be also divided into major themes and minor themes depending on their importance. Theme are considered to be universal since they can be taken out of a text and applied to other texts. A theme can be expressed in one sentence; sometimes it can be expressed in just one word.


Austen’s Sense and Sensibility – the danger of excessive sensibility

Shakespeare’s Othello – jealousy

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby – society and class, love

Difference Between Plot and Theme

Difference Between Plot and Theme


Plot is the series of events and happenings that make up of the story.

Theme is the central message conveyed through a piece of writing.


Plot consists of events.

Theme consists of a message.Difference Between Plot and Theme - infographic

Image Courtesy:

“Image 1” By Antonio Litterio – (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia Commons

“Freytag’s pyramid” by BrokenSegue (assumed based on copyright claims).own work assumed (based on copyright claims). (Public Domain) via Wikimedia Commons

About the Author: admin