Holden’s desire to protect the pure and the innocent
Holden’s crusade against phoniness
Holden’s attitude toward sex and love
Turning a topic into a Thesis Statement
Any work of literary analysis must contain a thesis—a position taken by a writer with the purpose of proving it by argumentation. Your goal as you write your critical paper is to prove that your thesis, which you state in your introductory paragraph, is viable and true. First, however, you have to generate the thesis itself.
The topics you have been given are not written in sentence form. Your first step, therefore, is to develop that topic into a statement of opinion. You should not use phrases like “I think” or “I believe.” In expository writing, you should simply state your idea as if it is a fact and then provide sufficient detail and analysis to support your thesis.
Once you have generated a sentence that expresses an opinion about your topic, you will go on to find support for this thesis from both the text as well as articles written by literary critics. In writing your paper you will use the critics’ ideas to support and validate your own, being careful to document (or cite) which ideas you have taken from the critical articles.
Your thesis will grow and take shape as your research progresses since it should, in addition to making a statement of opinion, reflect the overall structure of your paper. So, the first thesis you submit may be less complex than the final thesis. A strong thesis will include references to the major areas of development within the paper.
Take a problem solving approach
Ask yourself: What do I want to prove? What is my goal?
Example: Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front What do I want to prove? Paul Baumer’s thinking is greatly affected by his war experience.
A good start, but pretty general. Let’s get more focused.
Possible solution: As a result of Paul Baumer’s war experience, he sheds his illusory thinking and realizes the harsh truths of war.
Now that we are focused on what we want to show, let’s make it more inclusive. That is to say, we should try to include the support areas that we will use to reach our goal.
Let’s finish off our thesis statement by making it focused and inclusive:
As a result of his experiences in the trenches, Paul Baumer sheds his illusory thinking and realizes that youth is fleeting, that war is not a glorious adventure, and that adults have lied to his generation. This is a pretty complete thesis. It states a clear opinion: Paul sheds his illusory thinking when he learns what war is.
It includes three areas to develop: that one’s youth can be lost, that war is not glorifying, and that the older generation can be manipulative.
Let’s see it in context:
Before their experience in the war, Paul and his comrades have the illusion that their service in war will be a great adventure filled with heroics. They believe that they are indestructible, that the German side is the right one, and that their teachers, parents, and politicians are there to help them. Sadly, as the war goes on, Paul and his friends encounter unimaginable terrors including gas attacks, machine gun firing, rats and amputations. As a result of his experiences in the trenches, Paul Baumer sheds his illusory thinking and realizes that youth is fleeting, that war is not a glorious adventure, and that adults have lied to his generation.
1. Choose a topic you feel committed to. ______________________________________
2. Ask yourself: What do I want to prove? What is my goal? ________________________________________________________________________
3. Now, write a sentence that answers your question. ____________________________
4. What three areas might you use to prove your position? Write this on an index card and submit as your working thesis. On the back side of the index card, include a full heading. Hand it in.