Ask Difference

Plot vs. Theme — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Updated on September 21, 2023
The plot is the sequence of events in a story, while the theme is its central idea or message.
Plot vs. Theme

Difference Between Plot and Theme

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Key Differences

The narrative of any literary work is driven by two significant elements: the plot and the theme. The plot, in essence, is the structured sequence of events or actions that unfold throughout the story.
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In contrast to the plot, the theme delves deeper into the underlying message, idea, or belief that the author aims to convey. It's the intellectual aspect that offers insights or perspectives on human nature, society, or life.
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While the plot keeps the reader engaged with its twists, turns, and progressions, the theme prompts reflection and deeper understanding. A plot might revolve around a detective solving a mystery, but the theme could touch upon the innate human desire for justice.
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Notably, multiple themes can emerge from a single plot. Taking Romeo and Juliet as an example, the plot portrays the tragic tale of two star-crossed lovers, while the themes explore love, fate, rivalry, and the consequences of family discord.
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Conclusively, though intertwined, the plot is the tangible storyline we follow, and the theme is the intangible idea we ponder upon after the final page is turned.
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Comparison Chart

Definition

Sequence of events in a story
Central idea or message of a story
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Function

Drives the narrative forward
Offers insights and deeper understanding
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Complexity

Can be linear, complex, or non-linear
Can be overt or subtle
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Multiplicity

Usually one main plot, with subplots
Multiple themes can emerge from one plot
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Visibility

Overt, directly presented in the story
Often implied, requiring interpretation
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Compare with Definitions

Plot

Sequence of events in a narrative.
The plot of the mystery novel was full of unexpected twists.
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Theme

Central idea or message in a work.
The theme of the poem was the impermanence of life.
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Plot

A secret plan or scheme.
They hatched a plot to overthrow the king.
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Theme

A subject of discourse or discussion.
The theme of the conference was sustainability.
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Plot

The main storyline of a literary work.
The film's plot revolved around a heist.
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Theme

A repeated pattern or design.
The room had a nautical theme.
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Plot

A plan made in secret by a group of people to do something illegal or harmful
There's a plot to overthrow the government
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Theme

A topic or issue.
The main theme of the debate was healthcare.
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Plot

The main events of a play, novel, film, or similar work, devised and presented by the writer as an interrelated sequence
The plot consists almost entirely of a man and woman falling in love
He outlined his idea for a movie plot
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Theme

A topic of discourse or discussion.
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Plot

A small piece of ground marked out for a purpose such as building or gardening
A vegetable plot
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Theme

A subject of artistic representation.
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Plot

A graph showing the relation between two variables.
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Theme

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

Secretly make plans to carry out (an illegal or harmful action)
The two men are serving sentences for plotting a bomb campaign
Brother plots against brother
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Theme

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

Devise the sequence of events in (a play, novel, film, or similar work)
In a crime story you have to plot carefully to achieve the surprise at the end
She would plot a chapter as she drove
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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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Plot

Mark (a route or position) on a chart
He started to plot lines of ancient sites
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Theme

See topic.
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Plot

A small piece of ground, generally used for a specific purpose
A garden plot.
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Theme

A stem.
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Plot

A measured area of land; a lot.
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Theme

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

A ground plan, as for a building; a diagram.
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Theme

A recurring idea; a motif.
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Plot

See graph1.
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Theme

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

The pattern or sequence of interrelated events in a work of fiction, as a novel or film.
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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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Plot

A secret plan to accomplish a hostile or illegal purpose; a scheme.
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Theme

(dated) An essay written for school.
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Plot

To represent graphically, as on a chart
Plot a ship's course.
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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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Plot

To locate (points or other figures) on a graph by means of coordinates.
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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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Plot

To draw (a curve) connecting points on a graph.
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Theme

(grammar) The stem of a word.
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Plot

To write or develop the plot of
"I began plotting novels at about the time I learned to read" (James Baldwin).
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Theme

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

To form a plot for; prearrange secretly or deviously
Plot an assassination.
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Theme

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

To form or take part in a plot; scheme
Were plotting for months before the attack.
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Theme

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

To write or develop the plot for a work of fiction
A good mystery writer must plot well.
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Theme

A regional unit of organisation in the Byzantine empire.
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Plot

(narratology) The course of a story, comprising a series of incidents which are gradually unfolded, sometimes by unexpected means.
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Theme

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

An area or land used for building on or planting on.
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Theme

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

A graph or diagram drawn by hand or produced by a mechanical or electronic device.
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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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Plot

A secret plan to achieve an end, the end or means usually being illegal or otherwise questionable.
The plot would have enabled them to get a majority on the board.
The assassination of Lincoln was part of a larger plot.
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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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Plot

Contrivance; deep reach thought; ability to plot or intrigue.
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Theme

A composition or essay required of a pupil.
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Plot

Participation in any stratagem or conspiracy.
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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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Plot

A plan; a purpose.
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Theme

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

Attractive physical attributes of characters involved in a story, originating from ironic juxtaposition with the original meaning (course of the story).
I'm not sure what's happening in that show, I mainly watch it for the plot.
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Theme

The leading subject of a composition or a movement.
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Plot

To conceive (a crime, misdeed etc).
They had plotted a robbery.
They were plotting against the king.
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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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Plot

(transitive) To trace out (a graph or diagram).
They plotted the number of edits per day.
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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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Plot

(transitive) To mark (a point on a graph, chart, etc).
Every five minutes they plotted their position.
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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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Plot

A small extent of ground; a plat; as, a garden plot.
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Theme

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

A plantation laid out.
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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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Plot

A plan or draught of a field, farm, estate, etc., drawn to a scale.
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Theme

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

Any scheme, stratagem, secret design, or plan, of a complicated nature, adapted to the accomplishment of some purpose, usually a treacherous and mischievous one; a conspiracy; an intrigue; as, the Rye-house Plot.
I have overheard a plot of death.
O, think what anxious moments pass betweenThe birth of plots and their last fatal periods!
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Theme

An underlying motif in artistic works.
The novel's recurring theme was redemption.
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Plot

A share in such a plot or scheme; a participation in any stratagem or conspiracy.
And when Christ saith, Who marries the divorced commits adultery, it is to be understood, if he had any plot in the divorce.
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Plot

Contrivance; deep reach of thought; ability to plot or intrigue.
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Plot

A plan; a purpose.
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Plot

In fiction, the story of a play, novel, romance, or poem, comprising a complication of incidents which are gradually unfolded, sometimes by unexpected means.
If the plot or intrigue must be natural, and such as springs from the subject, then the winding up of the plot must be a probable consequence of all that went before.
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Plot

To make a plot, map, pr plan, of; to mark the position of on a plan; to delineate.
This treatise plotteth down Cornwall as it now standeth.
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Plot

To form a scheme of mischief against another, especially against a government or those who administer it; to conspire.
The wicked plotteth against the just.
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Plot

To contrive a plan or stratagem; to scheme.
The prince did plot to be secretly gone.
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Plot

To plan; to scheme; to devise; to contrive secretly.
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Plot

A secret scheme to do something (especially something underhand or illegal);
They concocted a plot to discredit the governor
I saw through his little game from the start
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Plot

A small area of ground covered by specific vegetation;
A bean plot
A cabbage patch
A briar patch
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Plot

The story that is told in a novel or play or movie etc.;
The characters were well drawn but the plot was banal
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Plot

A chart or map showing the movements or progress of an object
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Plot

Plan secretly, usually something illegal;
They plotted the overthrow fo the government
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Plot

Make a schematic or technical drawing of that shows how things work or how they are constructed
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Plot

Make a plat of;
Plat the town
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Plot

A small piece of land.
He bought a plot of land to build his house.
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Plot

A graph showing data points.
The scatter plot showed a positive correlation.
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Common Curiosities

Can a story have multiple plots?

Yes, a story can have a main plot and several subplots.
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How is the theme of a story defined?

The theme is the central idea, message, or insight conveyed by the story.
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Is it possible for a single story to explore multiple themes?

Absolutely, many stories touch upon various themes simultaneously.
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What does the plot of a story refer to?

The plot refers to the structured sequence of events in a story.
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Do all stories have a clear theme?

Not necessarily. Some stories have overt themes, while others leave it open to interpretation.
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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to askdifference.com. As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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