Thursday, October 11, 2007

4.3--Thesis statements II

A. Here’s the problem:

Some of the papers I read contain no recognizable thesis. More often, however, the writer hints at an interpretation but fails to state it clearly and specifically. There’s the vague shape of an idea in there somewhere, but its details are fuzzy.

B. What to do:

In this case, the solution is to state your thesis as accurately as you can when you write your draft, then go back and re-write it during revision. You may find that you understood something while writing that you didn’t realize before. In any event, anything you do to make your thesis clearer, sharper, deeper, or more specific is worth the time and effort it takes.

C. Example: Austen meticulously dissects the practices of upper class society and the effects of tremendous wealth on the sanctity of love and marriage.

Revised Version: Austen condemns the snobbery and narrow-mindedness of upper class society while at the same time showing the importance of wealth as one of the necessities of a successful marriage.

D. Now you try—write improved versions of the following thesis statements.

1. Mr. Darcy is one of the most misunderstood and complicated characters; many people view him in very different ways and their views of him change greatly as the novel progresses.

2. Austen’s use of sarcasm cleverly states her opinion of the process of marriage and courtship. She also uses humor to convey the theme of pride and prejudice, two powerful characteristics strongly evident in the characters and their actions in the novel.

E. By way of contrast, explain what makes the following thesis more effective than those we’ve seen so far:

[Forster’s] conclusion is that tolerance is a result of personal moral action, that it can exist only through the courage of those individuals willing to ignore social scorn. [He] makes that argument evident and compelling in several ways: through his use of political inequity as a foundation, through his inclusion of characters willing to take that personal moral action, and through his emphasis on the parallel prejudice, cruelty, and beauty of character in existence on all sides of every great cultural divide.