Okay, so let us begin by asking, what is theme? In general, you can say it is what a story is about, but it can also be said to be something more. It tends to be more abstract. It's an idea that runs central to a story, but is never stated. A quote from Falnnery O'Connor.
-People have a habit of saying, "What is the theme of your story?" and they expect you to give them some statement: "The theme of my story is the economic pressure of the machine on the middle class"-or some such absurdity. And when they've got a statement like that, they go off happy and feel it is no longer necessary to read the story.
Some people have the notion that you read the story and then climb of it into the meaning, but for the fiction writer himself the whole story is the meaning, because it is an experience, not an abstraction.-
Personally, from that quote I take the fact that themes in stories happen. People may go in and analyze them and so forth, and find little bits of meaning about the story. This brings several points to my head.
1. Themes happen. It's like shit. Themes that you don't intend will happen. So even if you are not trying to write with a theme, perhaps it would be good to know what themes you are writing.
2. Themes are not the whole of the story. Sure someone can go and read one of your stories and say, "This is about the 'dark night of the soul', and be content with that. In essense, they may have picked up on the general gist of the story, and maybe learned a moral from it. But in the end did they truly get the point of the story? Did they take note of the language and the storytelling? Did they enjoy it? Did the story make them feel some emotion?
3. Do I need to use them? Okay, so if themes happen no matter what, do I really need to use them? How will putting specific emphasis on certain events and ideas effect the story?
4. In coop with the previous idea, if I choose to heavily theme my story, how do I do it well? What does it add?
I don't know. Personally, I find things that are heavily themed are a little one sided. I think that part of this is because I'm being forced to look at one thing so much, that it makes it harder to pick up on the smaller tidbits. Yet, when I find a theme I like, I really like it and want to see more of it. So what is my opinion on the whole subject?
They're cool, because they can hint at deeper meanings and prompt you to think about things you normally wouldn't. Yet, while cool, not really necessary. Whatever is written should be read as a whole, and when you cut down on the story by summarizing it into a theme, you're only trying to come up with a way to share a story with another without them reading it. In order for them to fully comprehend that theme and to discuss it with you, they need to read the story themselves.