There are four levels of themes, and if you are aiming for the 90s, you need to get as close as you can to a level 4 theme in your literary essays.
Level 1 – topics are written for themes: Regret
Regret is not a theme; it is a topic. A theme is a statement that makes an assertion about the topic.
Level 2 – themes that sound like morals: Apologize for your mistakes
“Apologize for your mistakes” is a theme. However, themes that express a moral are too simple for a literary essay in high school.
Level 3 – themes that sound like factual statements: Regretting and redeeming are not easy tasks.
“Regretting and redeeming are not easy tasks” is a theme; however, it is rather a factual statement, meaning there is nothing enlightening or controversial about the theme. Such themes are not food for thought.
Level 4 – themes that contain nuances (enlightening or controversial) Achieving redemption can help one build character.
“Achieving redemption can help one build character” is a more enlightening or controversial theme because it contains nuances. Nuances are subtle differences in or shades of meaning, which make the themes more intriguing as well as enlightening.