A novel that has a theme - that is, something to say, a message - has a weight to it that a novel without a theme cannot achieve. I'm sure there are those that might disagree with this, but I believe it is generally accepted as true.
With the above in mind therefore, where does this weight, or power, come from? Here's what I mean:
It is widely known that you should not preach to your reader, or come right out and express the theme (save in certain circumstances). This, unsurprisingly, leads to an amount of camouflage where the theme is concerned.
Every now and then, I will come across a novel that has overused this camouflage. The theme is so well hidden that I do not see it, sometimes until the novel is well over.
Here's my question: In books like this which over-hide the theme, is the power of the theme still present, even though the reader doesn't see it? Or does the reader have to see the theme in order for it to have an effect on the reading experience?
I ask because it can sometimes be difficult to keep the level of 'theme camouflage' in the comfort zone - that is, not staring the reader in the face, but still apparent enough to be seen. If, however, I can bury the theme as far as I want with no risk of losing the power it conveys, this job is made infinitely easier.