Examples of Theses and Introductions for Literary Analysis
When Whitman captured the voice of “America singing” (“I Hear America Singing, 1) and proclaimed “I [. . .] sing myself” (Song of Myself I.1), he intended to capture the essence of America’s individuality. However, as Langston Hughes suggests in his poem “I, Too,” Whitman may not have reflected every culture of America. Hughes claims the inclusion of his own culture into the experience, but his response carries a unique quality of its own. This is seen in the subject, the tone, and the form. (The essay would then use examples of the subject matter, the tone, and the form to show how Hughes reacts to Whitman’s poem in his own way.)
Katherine Mansfield, a magnificent New Zealand writer of short stories and poems, is known for her great imagery, rhythm, and lyric voice in her work. In one of Mansfield’s short stories entitled “Bliss,” some critics claim that the main character, Bertha Young, is discovering her homosexuality by falling in love with her friend who is having an affair with Bertha’s beloved husband. However, others differ with this characteristic view of Bertha Young, claiming she is a woman that has discovered her own happiness of life and desirement for a loved one. (The student then explains why she interprets the character’s actions as she does by provided specific examples that show Bertha discovering a fulfilling love for her own husband.)
What makes a monster? Some say monsters are born or caused by the lack of control over their own actions. More often, though, “monsters” are usually developed through pain or losses those creatures had to endure. Mary Shelley explores this idea in her novel, Frankenstein, written in 1816. The main character, Victor Frankenstein, created a said monster, but not how he originally thought. (The student goes on to explain how Frankenstein’s creation becomes a monster not because he is made, but because of his experiences. She supports this mostly with examples from the novel, but backs up her ideas where she sees this developing monster with her critics ideas, too.)
Sylvia Plath was born October 27, 1932, in Jamaica Plain, Boston, Massachusetts. She was known as an American poet, short story author, and novelist. With close reading of her poem “Mirror,” one can see a common social perspective represented in the poet’s lines. “Mirror” is a poem that quietly suggests how much women worry too much and are consumed by their looks as they deal with aging and how it can truly drive a woman mad if she does not see her inner-beauty. (The student uses analysis of the language and symbolism to explain this.)
Checking to see if you have a good thesis:
Sample of how to develop a thesis:
Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn is a great American novel.
In Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain develops a contrast between life on the river and life on the shore.
Through its contrasting river and shore scenes, Twain's Huckleberry Finn suggests that to find the true expression of American democratic ideals, one must leave "civilized" society and go back to nature.
More information at: http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/thesis.html
Other good thesis statements:
Because we sympathize with Sonny, the drug addict in the story, rather than with his brother, the narrator, "Sonny's Blues" presents a complex picture of drug use as a means of coping with sorrow and fear. (argument: author’s complex portrayal of drug use created by sympathetic character)
In "If you Were Coming in the Fall," Emily Dickinson uses simile, diction, and syntax to describe how people wait, hoping to fall in love. (argument: author describes people waiting in hope to fall in love)
Through Paul’s experience behind the lines, at a Russian prisoner of war camp, and especially under bombardment in the trenches Erich Maria Remarque realistically shows how war dehumanizes a man. (argument: author shows war dehumanizes)
In Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard,” the author uses a comparison between the remembrance of great historic figures with the lack of remembrance of the common individual to suggest an inequality inherent in one’s life circumstances, such as social status. (argument: author exposes social injustice with comparison)
In her poem Marriage, Marianne Moore recalls the literary, social history of marriage in “sound bytes” and presents it alongside exotic images and a quiet wit. The result is a close look at what marriage is, historically, individually, and socially. (argument: author examines marriage on many levels through allusion, imagery and humor)
Now practice! Use the questions below to help get started.