Thesis Statements To Kill a Mockingbird - DOC

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					Thesis Papers: To Kill a Mockingbird
7-1 Core
Spring 2008

        Next week, you will write an in-class thesis paper on To Kill a Mockingbird. You
will follow the same steps that you executed for your test essay on Animal Farm and
related materials, as well as your paper on a classic novel. As a reminder, here are the
steps for writing a thesis paper, whether it is about literature, history, or both:

Step One: Active reading and Prewriting:

         For this novel, I asked you to write papers from different points of view, trying to
put yourself in different characters’ shoes. These papers were forms of “prewriting,” in
that you thought about themes and character development. In addition, you highlighted
passages that related to these themes, as well as Jem and Scout’s growing awareness of
these issues.

        Here are themes that we have discussed, either in passing or in depth, in
class. Your highlighting and study guide notes should have focused on some or all of
these issues:

      Empathy: standing in someone else’s shoes or skin; feeling what that person
       might feel;
      Stereotyping (by family, tradition, social class, race…)
      prejudice and racism;
      courage;
      standing up for something in which you believe strongly, regardless of
      gender roles;
      sibling relationships (rivalry, love/hate, learning, dependence, modeling…)
      mother/child or father/child relationships (positive and negative models, needs of
       children and parents)
      socio-economic classes; who is respected and powerful, and who is not (refer to
       your class notes about our “ladder.”)
      individualism; the importance of being yourself and thinking for yourself
      hypocrisy;
      appearance versus reality, people who appear one way on the outside, but are
       really different on the inside.
      Other? I’m sure that there are more; this is a rich novel. See me if you wish to
       choose a different path.
Step Two:
        Create a thesis statement about some way in which Jem’s and/or Scout’s
awareness of themselves or others has grown during the years and events described
in this novel. This thesis statement will be the main point of your paper; a strong
literary analysis, or a strong research paper, will not be successful without a strong
thesis statement.

       Assignment for Friday, May 30: Review the themes listed above, reflect upon
your creative writing papers, and review your books. Then, write three GOOD thesis
statements about three different themes/topics. Ask yourself, “What ideas does the
author convey about this theme?” Each of you will meet with me in class on Friday to
review all three statements, choose one and rephrase it, if necessary.

       An interesting thesis statement should include the following elements:

1. It should not be a statement of fact. It should not be a statement of your personal
opinion. For example, you might have hated this Pulitzer Prize novel. I hope not!
However, that is beside the point in a thesis paper. As a thesis paper writer, it is your
job to interpret the novel, to read between the lines and explain an idea that the text
conveyed to the reader. In other words, what ideas did the author and the book
communicate to you? Other readers might not see the novel in the same light. Your
thesis should provoke discussion, even debate. (No, Josh, you may not argue that men
are superior. Sorry! Harper Lee would object, no doubt. She was feisty.)

2. Here is a weak thesis: “Harper Lee demonstrates that many racist attitudes existed in
Alabama in the 1930’s.”

        Problem: This is obvious; few readers would disagree. The paper would turn into
a collection of examples of racist actions and comments.

Improved: “Although Atticus Finch views most people as good, when you really see
them, To Kill a Mockingbird conveys a less optimistic view of human nature. The
majority of Maycomb’s citizens are motivated by the need to scapegoat other people for
misfortunes that befall them.”

3. Here is another weak thesis: “Jem and Scout learn that it is important to put yourself in
another person’s shoes.”

        Problem: Although this has more substance that the first thesis, it is not debatable,
either. To most readers, this point is clear.
Improved: “By learning to empathize with others, Scout learns that many people act out
of a fear of rejection and a need for love.”

4. Still another weak thesis extends beyond the book, making general statements
about the world, the human race or the meaning of life. Do not do this! Stay within
the confines of the novel. Example:

Weak: “People stereotype other people because of lessons that they have learned from
their parents.”

       Better: “Because Maycomb is so isolated and ingrown, family stereotypes thrive
and limit an individual’s ability to break free of them.”

5. Your thesis statement should be sufficiently narrow to develop in the time and
space permitted by the assignment. This paper should be 3-4 pages, double spaced,

Here is an overly broad thesis: “Through the children in To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper
Lee demonstrates that young people are more accepting and less judgmental than adults.”

Better: “As Dill experiences events surrounding Boo Radley and Tom Robinson, he
experiences a loss of innocence and faith.”

Step Three: Reread your thesis statement and circle or underline the main
subtopics in your statement. What are the main points that you will have to prove to
your readers?

     Assignment for Monday, June 2: Circle the subtopics of your thesis statement and
write a topic sentence outline. We will begin this step in class on Friday.