Theme is not simply the subject of the literary work. Instead, the theme is a major and often recurring idea; the larger meaning of a work, including any thoughts or insights about life or people in general. Often the theme will make a statement about society, teaching a lesson, providing a moral. In stories written for children, the theme is often spelled out clearly at the end with "...and so the moral of the story is... " A good example is Aesop's tales.
The theme in some literary works may be somewhat ambivalent, especially in more modern works.
Basic Universal Themes
Adventure & Physical Risk | Birth & Childhood | Death | Gain & Loss of Money | Love & Loss | Passage from Childhood to Adulthood | Work