The motif basically has two different meanings. On the one hand, this means the abstract, invisible motive or the occasion of an action or attitude. This definition or definition is often encountered in everyday life. For when you ask someone, “Why did you do this or that?”, One searches for the motive of the act or utterance.
This definition of motive for psychologists, commissioners, prosecutors and judges has special significance. Psychologists would like to learn about the character structure of their patient about the subject in order to help him. Commissioners, prosecutors and judges want to know about the offender’s motive about the structure of the crime or misdemeanor in order to convict the perpetrators and find the appropriate punishment.

On the other hand, motifs also mean a concrete, visible object in a photo or work of art, which is either the most important thing in the picture, or as a whole has a meaning for the overall context.

For example, if you take a photo of a tree, then at the moment the tree is the most important thing you want to represent and thus the motif of the picture. If you pin a portrait of someone, the portrait is the motif of the photo.
As an individual part, however, there may also be something more secondary. When, for example, a girl’s head is photographed and at the same time a large, blue hair loop is focused, the portrait can be the main motif and the loop the sub motive.
It is the same in painting. For example, you can taste a still life with wine and sausage, and beside it a dog, which snaps after the sausage, is both the still life and the dog motive. Depending on what is at the center of the consideration, the silence or the dog may be main motive. That which has only incidental significance, Becomes a sub motive. And depending on what main and secondary motifs are, the picture is differently structured or structured.

By the way, not only are all the objects or objects represented, but also situations and forms that give the picture a primary or secondary meaning. In a photo where two children hold hands, not only are the children’s motif, but also the situation in which they are. This could be, for example, the motive of sibling love or friendship .

Also in music, a concrete, audible object, but only the smallest musical unity of a composition, is called motif. If this is repeated several times, it becomes the leitmotiv.

Although these two basic definitions of abstract and concrete motifs seem quite different at first sight, they have a common core.
For in both definitions the motive is connected with the idea, motive or occasion of an action or utterance. While the abstract motive itself is the motive, the motif of an artistic, photographic or musical work is motivated by the motive or idea of ​​precisely representing or shaping this motif. The concrete motif is, so to speak, a visible idea or occasion of the work of art. The abstract becomes concrete in the work of art.
What is also common to the two definitions is that the motif is something that gives an action, attitude, or the artwork as a whole a meaningful structure.

Importance in the literature

In the literature, both meanings of abstract and concrete motifs were interwoven in such a way that a third meaning emerged. Here, the motif has both abstract and concrete character.
Abstract is the motive for two reasons. Firstly, because in the literature with motive also the invisible cause or motive for the design of a text means. The intention of the author to choose this or that motif therefore also belongs to the motif of the text. Secondly, the motif is abstract, because it is not bound to specific persons, names, times or places in the text, but can often be deciphered only through the representation of the plot, figures and their conflicts. The subject is therefore related to the topic . However, the motif is clearer and more meaningful than the subject. For example, the abstract theme “Man is not right in his surroundings” is illustrated in the concrete motif “loner” or “Sonderling”.

The motive is concrete or visible in that it has a pictorial character, which becomes evident in the text. For example, if a man stands between two women, “man between two women” is a motif. If someone returns home after years of travel, “homecoming” is the motive. Or when someone goes out to look for his father, the “father search” can be specified as motive.
All three motifs are found incidentally in substance Odysseus of Homer. A material is composed of several motifs. The motif is therefore also described as “smaller material unity”. Like the substance, the choice of motifs changes with time. Or vice versa: the choice of the motifs gives insight into the condition of the respective time. Since the material is bound to fixed names and events outside the actual work, but the motif is not, there can be no motifs without motives, but motifs without fabric.
How motifs can change with the passage of time and their meaning among different authors, incidentally investigates the motivational history.

The author leaves it to the reader to recognize, interpret and decipher the motifs. The better the reader understands both the author’s intention to use these motifs, as well as the individual motifs themselves in the text, the better he will also understand the deeper meaning of the text.

Motif types

There are different varieties of motifs. They can be divided into groups depending on their importance, content and genre . Here is a selection of the most important motifs:

Distinction by importance

Main motif: The main motif is also described as a central or core motif. There is the idea or theme of the text, it structures it substantially and is thus the most important or most significant motif in a literary text.

Secondary motif: The secondary motif is also called Randmotiv. It enriches the text with other meaningful elements and makes the text and its structure more complicated. In a text, there are many minor motifs.

Leitmotiv: In line with leitmotifs in music, the leitmotiv defines a motif that recurs in the same form within the text.

Stupid motif: This is a motif that is encapsulated or insulated from the text and leads the reader to the wrong track. In the case of crime, dull motives make sense, even in folk tales one can find many dull motifs. In other texts they mostly interfere, because they produce an expectation which is then not breast-fed.

Blind motif: This is a motive, which distracts from the actual action and is irrelevant to the meaning. However, it can have a decorative or ornamental function and thus characterize the author’s style.

Distinction by content

Type motifs: There are motifs that describe certain, consistent types. For example , Sonderling , rogue , player .

Situational motifs: These are motives that describe a permanent situation. For example, the triangle ratio , return , brother fight .

Spatial and temporal motifs: these are motifs that include places ( cave , ruin , island ) and daytime or seasons ( ghost hour , winter ).

Differentiation by genre

Certain motifs occur more frequently in certain genres or genres than in others. For the reason they are assigned to certain genres.
For example, lyrical motifs ( farewell , unhappy love , moon ), fairy motifs ( magical helpers , animal brethren , conquest of the princess ) or dramatic motifs ( the unrecognized opponent , fraternity , relatives’ murder ).