Monday, August 23, 2010

Post Your Thesis Here!

Hello, my literary scholars, or as our good friend Laurence Perrine might call you, my "mature readers." Please post a draft of your thesis for literary essay #1.

Think of this space as a kind and helpful message board through which you may solicit feedback. Try posting a couple of thesis statements and ask the class to vote on their favorite, for example. Or perhaps you're simply struggling with word choice. Please be sure to return the favor and offer a little feedback here and there as well.

If you need more inspiration, I offer you a quote from someone who understands your struggle:
"I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of hunger for life that gnaws in us all."
~Richard Wright, American Hunger, 1977
Now hurl some of your own words out there and wait for an echo.


  1. Ok guys, so I’m really struggling to pull out a thesis from my book…so here is what I have so far,

    Humbert Humbert’s reference to apples in Vladimir Nabakov’s Lolita signifies his sexual adulteration as well as the forbidden nature of his relationship with Lolita.

    Any help or criticism would be greatly appreciated!

  2. I have two options I'm not sure which is better...

    1. The use of magic, specifically that of escape lessens the mental harship of Joe Kavalier through diverting his lonelyness into an art form.

    2. Joe Kavalier, in The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon, is parallel to the sacred Golem of his homeland through their shared experiences and destruction.

  3. In Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, the minor character Firs represents the importance of the balance between clinging to the past and omitting it

  4. @Ray: Interesting thesis. I find it fascinating how your thesis brings up a very noticable parralel to Adam and Eve and their battles with the forbidden fruit (which, if I recall, was an apple). Just make sure you can find enough textual support for your arguments as it seems as though it may come from one passage (but I haven't read your book, so I wouldn't know).

    @Alison: Both are very strong thesises and you could make either into a great essay. That said, I feel the first one will be more interesting to write about. While the golem connection is unique, from the thesis alone it seems like you wouldn't be able to take it beyond surface level.

    Your wording on both of the thesises are strong. Just make sure the commas at the begining are truely neccesary as they break up the flow of the sentances.

    @S.M.: I'm not noticing much wrong with it. I'd recomend you find someone else who read your book to critique, though, as I have nothing to add at all.

    Alright, here are mine. I noticed as I was reading that the word "value" kept re-appearing, so that is what I decided to focus on at this point. As I found two different directions I could take my essay, I wrote two very different thesises (or whatever the plural is):

    1) In "The Sun Also Rises", Hemmingway asserts that a relationship is mearly an "exchange of values," and that both sides must be "getting [their] money's worth" in order for a relationship to survive.

    2) In "The Sun Also Rises," Hemmingway reveals that people are always seeking out items or people that have a "value" in belief that only that item can bring about happiness.

    I can't make a decision bassed on only the logistics of the essay alone (that is, I found 5-6 great passages that I could use in either essay). If I had to choose one of these right now, I'd probably choose the second purely since it clearly relates to what we are writting about and it is easier to support. The first one, however, delves deeper into the meaning of the work as a whole and re-occures in more places than I orriginaly found. In addition, there is one passage in particular that, even when I was first reading the book, thought that it would be perfect for the essay. In other words, I'm open to imput.

  5. In Atonement, by Ian McEwan, McEwan uses different ages of characters to point out the differences in how humans feel "love" and connections between each other.

    ^very rough, might go a different direction. For now this will keep me thinking.

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  7. Here's several thesis statements I came up with, and I need help deciding which one to choose:

    1. In Atonement, the written word is used as a bridge to build relationships, but also allows utter destruction, crumbling everything the characters know best.

    2. The significance of writing in Atonement, creates the juxtaposition between destruction and closure of events, marked by its own written words.

    3. The power words can bring; destroying lifetimes, and mending consequences; is revealed in Ian McEwan's Atonement.

    Ray- What if you just reworded it? You could put the title at the beginning of the sentence. You could even just choose a different word for forbidden, like illicit.

    Allison- I like both of those, and I think you have some great ideas for them. I haven't read that book, so I'm not familiar with it, but is there anyway you could combine them?

    SM- I like how you worded this, its specific and straight to the point.

    Austin- I think I prefer the second one, it seems like you could make a solid argument out of it.

    Mark- I hadn't even thought about the ages in the book, thats a really good point, and I think you could create a really solid argument out of it.

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  9. This was a struggle for sure and probably too long. Let me know what you think.

    In Katherine Stockett’s book, The Help, Skeeter’s purse develops into a metaphor depicting characters attempts to conceal their feelings and deepest secrets in an insecure place. Katherine Stockett utilizes this metaphor to demonstrate that while it is the southern tradition to mask feelings of racism; the secret feelings always escape causing upheaval in the community.

    Allison - maybe focus more on the little picture instead of the big picture, but the first is very nicely written.

    Austin- what is your "little focused idea" in the second thesis? It is very unclear as a reader what your metaphor or person is trying to describe about the book as a whole.

  10. I read Atonement and here are three thesises (thesi?)

    1) In Atonement, habitual references to water serve to illuminate the distortion of reality by the watery lens that is one’s accumulation of knowledge, which magnifies, distorts, and changes the character of Briony’s reality.

    This one seems a bit verbose... so here's an edit

    2)In Atonement, McEwen surrounds his narrative with scenes of water, illuminating the distorting effects of preconceived notions and judgments on reality’s appearance.

    3)Cecilia’s failure to force wildflowers into “artful disorder” reflects the inevitability of mental symmetry – the mind’s tendency to compare alien experiences to accumulated knowledge and form volatile preconceived notions such as those polluting Briony’s mind prior to the incident.

    Wordy again... oh well.

    Ray - I really like yours. Really.

  11. I have a few ideas I'm considering right now:
    In Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, Celia Foote’s overdone makeup and appearance highlight her struggle to belong in a discriminating society.
    In Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, Aibileen’s prayer book illuminates the value of written words.
    In Kathryn Stockett's The Help, the recurring mention of toilets brings light to the epidemic of racism that plagued the South in the 1960’s.
    Caitlyn- Your first thesis is my favorite. I really like the wording of it.
    Sabrina- I love the idea of your thesis and think it will make for a great paper. I do think it would be good to make it more concise though.
    Hannah- I like your first thesis the best. I think it’s a really interesting and original idea!

  12. This is a really shallow thesis; I am having a hard time digging deeper directly in the thesis because it then becomes far too long. So this is what I have thus far….

    Lily Briscoe’s painting in Virginia Woolf’s “To the Lighthouse” exemplifies Lily’s change in perception of herself suggestion that defining one’s self is as simple as a brush stroke or a different shade of green as long as the perception has changed.

    Any and all suggestions are appreciated. Thanks!

  13. I have found multiple passages that would work, but I have yet to decide if they will be strong enough to create a whole essay. But this is what I am running with now:

    The contrasting representation of the color green in The Shipping News illuminates the reoccuring antithesis in Quoyle's life and his ultimate growth.

    The ending of this is really weak and I hope to find a way to write "his ultimate growth" in a more poetic manner.

    Sabrina- I love how easy your thesis is to follow and how clear it is. You may want to try and find a way to combine the two sentences by trying to eliminate "Katherine Stockett utilizes this metaphor" and taking out a few words/ideas to save for the analysis in the essay.

    Phoebe- I'm sorry I can't offer much help but I love the ideas you have; they are very intriquing. But I have a hard time following it (possibly because I didn't read the book). You may want to simplify it, such as take out one of the metaphors in "as simple as a brush stroke or a different shade of green."

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  15. I really struggled with coming up with a good thesis for my essay. I read East of Eden by John Steinbeck.

    THESIS : Una, a minor character in the novel, allowed good to triumph over evil as seen by the distraught reaction to her sudden death.
    Okay so it’s pretty weak but I struggled with making it sound good. In my book the theme that I found very evident was the theme of good versus evil. Una a very minor character brings a great amount of distraught to her father after her sudden death. The book only talks about Una as being very good. There is one line in the book that helped me come up with an idea for my thesis and why Una would be in the book, “It seems to me that if you or I must choose between two courses of thought or action we should remember our dying and try so to live that our death brings no pleasure to the world.” Here death brought no pleasure to world.
    Any suggestion or comments would be greatly appreciated.
    @ Caitlin I like #1 but be more specific about “knows best” part. #2 I love. #3 I thought it kind of seemed too simple but I couldn’t really figure out why.
    @Hannah I like all of your statements. I really like #2 because it’s simple and easy to follow but yet I think you could go deep with it. But I haven’t read the book so I think any of your thesises would be good.

  16. In To The Lighthouse, Woolf uses the act of painting to reveal Lily’s desperate desire for both secluded personal gain and intimacy that is lacking from her relationships.

    I like this concept but I am still a little unsure of the wording.

  17. This is very rough. I just can't seem to place my thoughts with this into words in an eloquent way. If anyone else read the Poisonwood Bible I would appreciate the help!

    In The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver uses the image of the kitchen to represent Orleanna Price's doubt and frustration with her unfamiliar life in the Congo and her husband.

    Phoebe- I really like the part of your thesis that says "defining one’s self is as simple as a brush stroke or a different shade of green as long as the perception has changed." Although I have never read "To the Lighthouse before", I think you could do a lot with your essay with this thesis.

  18. I don't think I like this thesis very much, and would very much appreciate any suggestions you might have. Thanks in advance!

    In "Brave New World", Aldous Huxley uses the character of The Savage to comment upon the inability of an individual to be truly at peace within a communal world by show his life in the reservation, in london, and in isolation.

  19. I have a new one:

    Cecilia’s failure to force wildflowers into “artful disorder” parallels man’s inability to experience true spontaneity of opinion; just like flowers fall into symmetry, the mind falls into contextualizing new experiences with past ones, causing volatile preconceived notions such as those polluting Briony’s mind prior to the incident.

    Too long? It kind of looks like a whole paragraph...

  20. In Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, the legendary Golem of Prague is used to illustrate Joe Kavaliers alienated, defensive and almost guilty persona while presenting the idea that no matter how hard one tries to escape, they are always tied to their roots.

    @Kelsey - I would use Virginia Woolf's full name in the thesis instead of just Woolf. Otherwise it looks good!

  21. The book that I had chosen was "The Magus." I've had a hard time with coming up with a thesis because there is a slew of metaphors to choose from. Not to mention my thesis' are fairly wordy. But here is what I have:

    1.)In reiterating the color grey throughout “The Magus” John Fowles shows that everything in his story and in life is a grey area: the blur between truth and lie, reality and dream, and mask and person.

    2.) Let us begin with a simple statement: reality is not real, but ever changing. Odd isn’t it? None the less it is true, for reality is nothing but a definition of perception. In John Fowles “The Magus” he points out that reality is all about perception through the use of lies, masks, and logic in his book.

  22. I chose "The Screwtape Letters" by C.S. Lewis and I am choosing to focus my thesis around a quotation but I am still trying to work out a real wording for it, I only have a general idea of what I want to say.

    "The safest road to Hell is the gradual one- the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts."- p. 61

    When C.S. Lewis states that the "safest road to Hell is the gradual one... without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.", he brings to mind the thought that one does not have to commit a great evil to go to Hell, the separation from is all that matters, not how one gets there.

    But this is WAY too wordy for my liking, any comments? Suggestions?

  23. I chose to read The Sun Also Rises. There were way too many things to choose from but I ultimately came up with this:

    In Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises, Brett's eyes reveal that in order to truly see the oppurtunities in life, one must first be looking, which complements Hemingway's central idea about unrealized second chances.

    I think I have way too much going on to handle and I need to be able to cut it down but I'm not sure how...

  24. Hannah- I had a comment for you, but it got deleted before I posted it so I'm going to type the shortened version for sake of time and the fact that I want to go to bed... keep what you have after the semi colon as your thesis and develop everything prior to that into your intro as to utilize the length.

    I have some scattered thoughts and am still working on centralizing my ideas but this is what I have so far…

    In her novel, To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf, uses art to illustrate a sense of both peace and purity.

  25. i'm super tired so i'll write a better thesis later...

    In Peace Like a River by Leif Enger, Reuben's asthmatic (sp?) breathing problem represents the inevitable obstacles we all have to face and try to overcome.

  26. In Katherine Stockett's novel The Help, the image of an ugly mimosa tree embodies society's fear of the truth, as well as comfort in unspoken lies with underlying issues such as racism and unfair judgements.

    Is this too broad? Does it even make sense?? Does it relate to a theme/ make a statement larger than the book itself? Help, please.

    Also, sabrina: i really liked yours! Try to get it to one sentence, but its nicely written and it both relates to the book and to a bigger theme.

  27. hey guys.
    still developing a good thesis... but here goes! (a rough rough draft)

    The Inferno by Dante ALighieri, more commonly known as Dante's Inferno follows Dante as he treks into Hell lead by the poet Virgil. During his journey, he speaks with many of the damned souls. From this experience he takes his new knowledge to better understand humanity and how to better his own life.

    rough draft!!!!! let me know what i need to fix!! thanks.

  28. ok this is my thesis on Atonement by Ian McEwan. From looking at all of yours,I need to make my thesis much longer. I focused on the vase that is broken during the fountain scene.

    The shattered vase in Atonement by Ian McEwan is aa symbol of Briony's guilt at ruining an innocent mans' life.

  29. In his Revolutionary Road, Richard Yates poses the question that already lingers in our everyday lives: what is the 'American dream' and what exactly does it mean?