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Motif In Literature: Definition, Examples, How to Identify Motif

What Is A Motif in Literature?— A motif in literature is a recurrent idea, object or image that appears in a work of literature. In other words, motif

Motif In Literature


Motif in literature


Motif in literature is one of the very devices that are inherent in literature but people are most likely not to notice it or consider it as important as it seems. Motif works with the central idea of a story. Aside that, it can be easily confused with symbolism due to its symbolic features in a work.

Aside the usage of the word, motif in literature, the word also has some repetitive significance outside the very realm of narrative works. For instance, motif in music is regarded as a short series of notes that repeats throughout  song or track. Whereas, motif in art is regarded as a pattern or design that is repeated in different parts of an artwork, or in different works made by the same artist.

Hence, to have some clarification as to the usage and significance of motif in literature, there's a  need to clearly differentiate it from the others.

In such respect, this article comprises comprehensive information on motif in literature, within each concise section. Each section of the article contains the following:

  • Definition Of Motif In Literature
  • Difference Between Motif In Literature and Symbolism
  • Motif Examples In Literature
  • Importance Of Motif In Literature

Motif Definition (Literature)

What Is A Motif in Literature?— A motif in literature is a recurrent idea, object or image that appears in a work of literature. In other words, motif in literature is a symbolic idea, image or object that strengthens and contribute to the story due to its recurrence or emphasis.

Motifs have symbolic significance that contribute to the overall theme of the work, and this is done through its recurring features or repeated images and languages. In a work of literature, a motif can be a collection of symbols, sounds, actions, ideas or words that helps to develop the central themes of the book or play.

The word "motif" is derived from the French word, motif, which means pattern.

Difference Between Motif In Literature and Symbolism


It is quite easy to confuse a motif with symbolism in a piece of work, however, there's clear difference between both.

Motif as stated earlier na recurring idea, image or object throughout a work in order to reinforce a more deeper central meaning. Hence, while reading through a work, we often encounter them and through their repetitive features, they help us to have a grasp or understand the central idea of the story.

Symbolism on the other hand, refers to an image, idea or word that is used to represent something else. For instance, heart is symbolic or used to represent love. Aside this distinct feature, unlike motif, symbol is not repetitive  It is usually seen just once or twice.

If you’re reading a book for the first time, you might not have a clear idea of the theme until halfway or later in the story. But if you notice and pay attention to motifs, they can serve as major hints to the story’s central message.

Motif Examples In Literature

Below are some of the motif examples that re found in a work of literature.

Some of the examples of motif in literature are The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Arthur Miller's play, Death of a Salesman where motif was created through the use of imagery, structural development and other element n literature such as language. For instance, in Death of a salesman, the flute was used to convey rural and idyllic notions.

Another work of literature where motif was used are Shakespeare's Macbeth, where the repetitive of the words, "fair is foul and foul is fair" is used to narrate the mixed concept of good and evil. Others are Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Importance Of Motif In Literature

  • They help writers organize symbols, plot developments, and imagery into broader patterns that emphasize the main themes of the work.
  • They give a work a sense of structure and continuity by creating patterns that recur throughout the work.
  • They can help writers weave together different and seemingly unrelated parts of a narrative.
  • They enable writers to subtly restate or remind the reader of certain ideas throughout a text using vivid and often memorable imagery.










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Pawners Paper: Motif In Literature: Definition, Examples, How to Identify Motif
Motif In Literature: Definition, Examples, How to Identify Motif
What Is A Motif in Literature?— A motif in literature is a recurrent idea, object or image that appears in a work of literature. In other words, motif
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