In fiction, there is always a central idea. Whether it be a poem, a short story, or drama; these are centered on a theme. In most cases, the theme is the generalization about the meaning of the story.
Leo Tolstoy once told a friend:
The most important thing in a work of art is that it should have a kind of focus, like where all the rays meet or from which they issue. And this focus must not be able to be completely explained in works. This indeed is one of the significant facts, about a true work of art - that it's content in its entirety can be expressed only by itself.
Readers interpret texts as they see life. The author writes a human experience in different ways to express an idea that branches into a lot more of profound thoughts.
Death in the Woods by Sherwood Anderson shares a theme about a woman who lives in the woods. And there in the woods, she dies, too.
An ordinary woman in the beginning becomes extraordinary in the end. In fact, the story connotes that she can be more beautiful than the others, "I remember the picture in the forest, the men standing about the naked-girlish looking figure, face down in the snow..."
Anderson, in the story, refers only to "She" as one of the nameless ones who hardly anyone knows. And once in the story calls her name Grimes, who lives with a mean husband and ungrateful son on the bank of a small creek miles away from the town.
Grease, grime and woman where in some instances, become a domestic woman's affiliation. Grime means filth, and being covered with unclean things. The occupation and daily routine of this woman becomes to be feeding the animals in her home, and in the woods. Her sad past life, buries her to chores like getting everything fed.
Falling snow, frozen body in the white snow, and alone dying in the woods make the theme so human but spectacular. The howling dogs could not eat her body, as hyenas would eat a corpse in a full moon. They only bite into the cloth of the old woman keeping the dog-meat. The story says, "I had seen the oval in the snow, like a miniature race-track where the dogs had run, and had seen how the men were simply mystified..."
Life, obviously, brings something true in death, that barren sadness and everlasting peace. And sometimes, that miracle of God, of a holy body never to be torn or broken, but a plain magnificence of oblation.