What is Motif in Literature?

Updated: January 27, 2023
A motif is a recurring idea, image, or symbol in a work of literature. It often serves as a means of conveying the author's central message or theme.
Detailed answer:

A motif is often used to help convey the main idea of a story or poem. Motifs often have a deep and hidden meaning that the author uses to add depth and richness to the story. You can think of them as symbols with multiple layers of meaning that make up something larger than themselves; they are often thought-provoking and have an emotional impact on readers.

A common literary motif is the “Gothic” setting or atmosphere, which is characterized by dark, gloomy castles and manors; ghosts; secret passageways; graveyards (or cemeteries); old books; mysterious strangers; wild animals (especially wolves); witches; magic spells or potions; storms; etc.

As an example, consider this quote from Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Fall of The House Of Usher,” which contains many literary elements that form its overall “Gothic” mood:

There are certain queer times and occasions in human experience when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, yet finds himself utterly unable to detect any point wherein it becomes transparently obvious that what he regards as comical is really serious — at least to any one else than himself.

What is Motif in Literature?. (2023, Jan 27). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/qa/what-is-motif-in-literature/