HOW TO DEVELOP A THESIS STATEMENT (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. (Literary Criticism)
Directions: Create a thesis statement that answers the prompt:
Compare and contrast how two of the poets listed below used figurative language and tone to develop the theme in each text.  As you construct your thesis, you may wish to consider the following:

  • imagery
  • metaphors
  • the poets’ distinctive voices
  • the poets’ specific choices of words
  • the poets’ uses of sentence structure

Selection A:

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  • Kim Addonzio’s “The First Poem for You (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
  • William Shakespeare’s “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun”  (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
  • John Donne’s “The Flea (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

Selection B:

  • Robert Hayden’s “Those Winter Sundays (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
  • Theodore Roethke’s “My Papa’s Waltz (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
  • Seamus Heaney’s “Digging (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.” (p. 348)

Selection C:

  • William Blake’s “A Poison Tree (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
  • Gwendolyn Brooks’ “We Real Cool” (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
  • Emily Dickinson’s “Because I could not stop for Death (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
  • Paul Laurence Dunbar’s “We Wear the Mask” (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

Below are some notes to help:
TOPIC
A topic is the general question you will explore in your essay.  It may be a question about character, relationships among characters, themes, styles (imagery, foreshadowing, symbolism, point of view, narration, setting), structure, historical context, critical overview or media adaptations.  If you have difficulty choosing a topic, here are some suggestions about where to start:
1. Keep a list of questions or interesting observations while reading a text. A close reading of your primary source will help sharpen your ideas. Look for an idea that appeals to you-something that you would like to discover more about.
2. Meet with your teacher to brainstorm ideas for a topic.
4.  Choose a topic that can be adequately developed given the guidelines of the assignment.
6. Keep your topic clear, concise, and restricted. Avoid over-generalizing.
7. Take a stand and be forceful. Assert your conclusions about a subject.
8. Express a unique and insightful argument that can be supported with evidence, not a statement of absolute fact. Make a statement with which reasonable people could disagree.
Write down the title of the literary work you are analyzing and your topic: character, relationships among characters, themes, styles (imagery, foreshadowing, symbolism, point of view, narration, setting), structure, historical context, critical overview or media adaptations.
Thesis statements
A thesis is the central argument that you will make about that topic. The thesis is the controlling idea of the essay; every sentence and paragraph in the essay must provide supporting statements and specific information to prove the thesis. The sooner you can state the thesis clearly and concisely, the more efficient and productive your thinking and note taking will be. Note how each thesis statement below contains a clearly focused argument.  A thesis may be proved affirmatively or negatively.  A thesis may be interpretive.
Supporting statements
Supporting statements are the main points in your argument to prove your thesis.  Supporting statements contain the evidence to support your thesis.  Supporting statements are your conclusions about a subject.
Sample literary thesis statements
TOPIC
QUESTION AND THESIS STATEMENT
Character
In The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne depicts Pearl as alien to her society until her father acknowledges her.
Relationships among Characters
In The Catcher in the Rye, Salinger shows that the relationship between Holden and Phoebe acts as a positive force on Holden.
Themes
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a satire on racism.
Style: Effective use of imagery, foreshadowing, or symbolism to advance character development, theme or artistic purpose
Through the use of images and symbols in The Catcher in the Rye, Salinger reveals many subtleties about Holden’s sensitive personality
Style: The point of view, or narration advance character development, theme  or artistic purpose
The final fifth of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn does not help fulfill Mark Twain’s artistic purpose in the novel.
Setting
The raft on the Mississippi River in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a place with different rules than the towns along the river.
Structure
In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain uses the river journey to illustrate Huck’s increasing awareness of the moral hypocrisy in the “civilized” South.
Historical Context: The social, political, and cultural climate in which the author lived and the novel was created
Arthur Miller changed some of the facts about the Salem Witch Trials in his play,The Crucible, to advance his artistic purpose.
Critical Overview: Background on critical reputation of the novel including controversies
What reasons do critics have for censoring The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn? Subordinate questions: Is the novel obscene? Is the novel racist? Is the language too coarse? Is it immoral?
Media Adaptations
The 1992 movie Of Mice and Men more poignantly expresses the alienation and loneliness of migrant farm workers than the novel.
State your thesis.  Be sure to include the title of the literary work in your thesis.
List supporting statements:
Initial Post Instructions:  Post your thesis statement.  Next, find another classmate’s thesis to critique.  Be sure to offer helpful tips.

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