Thesis

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Writing an Analytical Essay
AP Literary Analysis
Thesis statement focuses on HOW and
WHAT:
• How the author uses language…
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Structure and organization
Point of view (who’s telling the story)
Diction (which words are used)
Syntax (how words are put together)
Tone (attitude of the narrator/writer)
Imagery (how the words appeal to the senses)
Figurative language (using words creatively,
beyond their ordinary meanings)
AP Literary Analysis
• In order to do WHAT?
Examples:
• Express or reveal a theme (a main
idea/message about life, society, human
nature)
• Develop a character (person in the story)
• Describe the nature of conflict (central
tension/problem)
• Build a compelling plot (events and
action)
THESIS
• The most important statement
in the whole essay.
• Usually one sentence in
length.
• Must be crystal clear.
• Must be an opinion.
• Is a statement of what you
believe and want to argue
using evidence.
• Usually, the last sentence of
the first paragraph.
Thesis
• Again, in 3 steps:
1) Clear and Specific
2) An opinion, not an established fact
(“arguable”)
3) Possible to prove (or “show”) using
evidence
Check Your Thesis
Is your thesis:
• Arguable?
• Specific?
• Surprising/Interesting?
• Provable through textual evidence?
– Check: Could someone make a reasonable
argument against yours?
– Is your thesis interesting, or merely a
restatement of the facts of the story?
– Are you saying something specific about
the story, or generally bringing up a topic?
Examples:
– In The Hunger Games, Collins reveals that the
only way Katniss can be free within the
oppressive system of the Capitol is by playing by
its rules, at least to a point.
– Through an elaborate and horrifying description
of a society not so unlike our own, Collins’s The
Hunger Games provides a clear warning about
the dangers of governmental control.
– Collins depicts the struggle of one girl to survive
in a violent, fragmented society in order to reveal
the depth of human resiliency.
– In The Hunger Games, Collins characterizes a
strong female as one who _____________.
Good Thesis Statements
• Question: In Romeo and Juliet, which is
more powerful in shaping the lovers’ story:
fate or foolishness?
• Thesis: “Though Shakespeare defines
Romeo and Juliet as ‘star-crossed lovers’
and images of stars and planets appear
throughout the play, a closer examination
of that celestial imagery reveals that the
stars are merely witnesses to the
characters’ foolish activities and not the
causes themselves.”
• Question: How does the bell jar function
as a symbol in Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar?
• Thesis: “A bell jar is a bell-shaped glass
that has three basic uses: to hold a
specimen for observation, to contain
gases, and to maintain a vacuum. The bell
jar appears in each of these capacities in
The Bell Jar, Plath’s semiautobiographical novel, and each
appearance marks a different stage in
Esther’s mental breakdown.”
Question: Would Piggy in The Lord of the
Flies make a good island leader if he were
given the chance?
Thesis: “Though the intelligent, rational,
and innovative Piggy has the mental
characteristics of a good leader, he
ultimately lacks the social skills necessary
to be an effective one. Golding emphasizes
this point by giving Piggy a foil in the
charismatic Jack, whose magnetic
personality allows him to capture and wield
power effectively, if not always wisely.”
Thesis
• Is the following a good thesis?
– You will have 10 seconds to discuss with your partner,
then you will need to be able to explain your answer.
NO
Collins uses emotions to reveal
a theme.
Thesis
• Is the following a good thesis?
– You will have 10 seconds to discuss with your partner,
then you will need to be able to explain your answer.
NO
Collins uses diction to reveal a
theme in her popular book,
The Hunger Games.
Thesis
• Is the following a good thesis?
– You will have 10 seconds to discuss with your partner,
then you will need to be able to explain your answer.
Collins uses simple,
straightforward diction to
develop a meaningful theme,
hardship, in The Hunger
Games.
NO
Thesis
• Is the following a good thesis?
– You will have 10 seconds to discuss with your partner,
then you will need to be able to explain your answer.
Collins uses stark, powerful
diction to reveal how
perseverance through
hardships can lead to clarity
and conviction.
YES
Thesis
• Is the following a good thesis?
– You will have 10 seconds to discuss with your
partner, then you will need to be able to explain your
answer.
In The Hunger Games, the
government is really
controlling.
NO
• Is the following a good thesis?
– You will have 10 seconds to discuss with your
partner, then you will need to be able to explain your
answer.
In The Hunger Games, the
government controls the
citizens primarily through
physical separation, fear, and
control of information.
YES…
• Is the following a good thesis?
– You will have 10 seconds to discuss with your
partner, then you will need to be able to explain your
answer.
The society in The Hunger
Games is similar to our society
in the United States.
NO
• Is the following a good thesis?
– You will have 10 seconds to discuss with your
partner, then you will need to be able to explain your
answer.
Despite clear differences, the
societies in The Hunger Games
and United States are strikingly
similar in values, organization,
and entertainment.
YES
Your Turn!
1. Question: Why does Collins create the
cruel world of The Hunger Games?
2. Question: Who should Katniss pick:
Peeta or Gale?
3. Question: How and why does Katniss
change during the Hunger Games?
Claims
CLAIM 1
+ CLAIM 2
+ CLAIM 3
=THESIS
Must clearly
support the
thesis.
Must be specific
opinions.
CLAIMS
• Once you’ve got a great
thesis, it’s time to create
claim
supporting claims.
• Remember, these also must
be ideas (opinions).
• They are also typically one Thesis
sentence in length.
• They also must be crystal
clear.
• They must be proven with
claim
well-chosen evidence and
specific, developed
commentary.
• Ev.
• Ev.
claim
• Ev.
• Ev.
• Ev.
• Ev
CLAIMS
• Let’s say that this is your thesis:
Though the Capitol tries to control the
players in the Hunger Games, the
players ultimately hold the power of
free will, as shown in their strategies,
their behavior towards others, and their
willingness to sacrifice themselves.
Now you need claims. How might you break
down this idea into 3 claims?
THESIS: Though the Capitol tries to control the players
in the Hunger Games, the players ultimately hold the
power of free will, as shown in their strategies, their
behavior towards others, and their willingness to
sacrifice themselves.
Here are 3 possible claims/topic sentences:
1. The players are all forced to compete in the
Games, but each is free to choose a strategy for
survival.
2. The players demonstrate free will through their
behavior towards others.
3. Perhaps most dramatically, some of the players
demonstrate free will in the face of governmental
control through self sacrifice.
WHAT DO YOU NOTICE ABOUT THESE CLAIMS?
Your Turn: Break Down the
Thesis Into Claims!
1. Thesis: In The Hunger Games, Collins reveals that
the only way Katniss can be free within the
oppressive system of the Capitol is by going
against her own values: appearing to value the
Hunger Games, playing a character to earn favor
with the audience, and lying to someone close to
her.
2. What do you do when the claims aren’t directly in
the thesis? Thesis: Collins’s view of a hierarchical,
violent society presents a warning for our own
society’s future.
Concrete Evidence
• Use primarily quotations
• Make the quoted passages as short as
possible
• Introduce all evidence with context
• Cite evidence. Example:
– On the train to the Capitol, Katniss takes
her first shower, which feels like “summer
rain, only warmer” (27).
Context: Introducing Quotes
• You cannot just drop a quote into an
essay, like this:
– Katniss and Gale spend time together in the
woods. “Every day we go hunting together,
collecting plants and berries as we go”
(Collins 12).
– The people are forced to participate in the
Hunger Games. “On Reaping Day, all the
people have to go to the square” (Collins 17).
You Must Introduce the Quote!
– Like this: Katniss and Gale spend time
together in the woods. While describing
her morning with Gale, Katniss explains,
“Every day we go hunting together,
collecting plants and berries as we go”
(Collins 12).
– Or, even better, integrate the quote into the
sentence: Katniss and Gale hunt daily
together in the woods, “collecting plants
and berries as [they] go” (Collins 12).
• Notice the change from “we” to “they” is in
brackets [ ].
Or…you can use a colon (with
appropriate context):
• After volunteering to take her sister’s
place in the Games, Katniss feels torn:
“I felt relieved and terrified all at the
same time” (Collins 26).
Context
Bad context (no transition, little information):
• Collins writes, “You fool!” (224).
Okay context (some who/what/where/when but no
transitions):
• Katniss tells Peeta, “I’ve had worse” (225).
Good context (transitions smoothly and places
the evidence who/what/where/when):
• Additionally, Katniss’s anger at being betrayed
leads her to tell Peeta that she “couldn’t care
less” if he lives or dies (237).
Context
But even bad context is better
than no context at all.
NO EVIDENCE CAN STAND
ALONE! CONTEXT MUST
INTRODUCE ALL EVIDENCE!
Your Turn: Fix these quotes
1. Collins describes the Capitol as rich and
out-of-touch with the poverty of the
districts. “Excellent! You almost look like
a human being now!” (Collins 62).
2. Katniss and Rue become allies during the
games. “Rue has decided to trust me
wholeheartedly” (208).
3. The Gamemakers make the arena
artificially cold. “So cold, so bitterly cold
tonight” (279).
Introductions and conclusions
• Your introduction should state:
– Text/author
– Literal meaning (surface-level context for the
thesis)
• 5Ws: Who, what, when, where, why
– Beyond the literal information transitioning to
the thesis
• What do we learn about characters/plot/theme/etc?
– Thesis
Introductions
• A good literary essay intro:
Irish author Oscar Wilde’s farce of the 19th
century upper class criticizes a society in which
people say everything and mean nothing. The main
characters restrict their conversations to harmless
flirtation and trivial, though somewhat cruel, gossip.
Their society is one in which a title of nobility is
rewarded more than intelligence and wealth is
considered more important than kindness. Oscar
Wilde crafts characters who reveal his satirical tone
towards the absurd hollowness of 19th century high
society.
Conclusions
• Your conclusion:
• A basic conclusion is the restating of your
ideas (thesis-claims).
• An advanced conclusion goes beyond
restatement to show how the use of literary
techniques builds meaning. It may be a
synthesis of your ideas and a statement of
the ramifications (consequences) of your
ideas.
Conclusions
• A good prose commentary conclusion:
Oscar Wilde effectively uses ironic humor
and mockery to criticize the Victorian upper
class about their elitist attitudes in his play
Lady Windermere’s Fan. He manages to
make fun of the absurd aristocracy with a
touch of humor than makes his satire less
obvious and more palatable. Through this
humorous style, modern readers from across
the economic spectrum may recognize, laugh
at, and question their own hubris and
hypocrisies.
Commentary Writing
Claim claim claim claim. Context
context, “concrete evidence” (author page
number). Commentary commentary
commentary “word from evidence”
commentary commentary. Commentary
commentary, commentary commentary,
“word from evidence” commentary.
Commentary commentary. Context context
context: “concrete evidence” (page
number). Commentary…
Note that most of a good body
paragraph is commentary
woven with evidence.
Commentary Writing
Commentary must:
1.Show specifically how a particular
piece of concrete evidence proves a
particular claim.
2. Do #1 clearly and specifically
3. Do #1 without repeating information
4. Do #1 with unique evidence
5. Do #1 by using the evidence for what it does—
not what we’d like it to do.
Commentary Writing
If the Duchess of Berwick makes the patronizing upperclass look awful, Lady Windermere does nothing to salvage the
picture. Actually taking the Duchess’s self-important attitudes
seriously, she represents the Ladies of London as simpering
sycophants, ready to do the beck and call of their betters to be
approved by and invited among the “right people” (Wilde
83). Lady Windermere not only reforms herself to fit the
Duchess’s standards, but she ends up imitating the Duchess’s
attitude towards men, specifically Lord Darlington, and society.
She immediately humbles herself before the Duchess, making
her ball seem smaller to become a mere dance and vowing that
she will invite only the proper company, of which the Duchess
approves. Towards the end she teases Lord Darlington in a
similar manner to the Duchess’s, calling him trivial, and lightly
reprimanding him about his “foolish insincerity” in a playful
tone (167). Wilde mocks Lady Windemere’s attempts to
impress the Duchess as he mocks the absurdities of the class
system as a whole.
Commentary Writing
The adjectives and imagery which convey the poem’s
mood also contribute to “Evening Hawk’s” extended metaphor for
the passage of time – the central message of the poem. A hawk is
an animal; it experiences no emotions and, in the poem, does not
know that its flight is causing the “crashless fall of the stalks of
time” (Warren 11). Like time itself, the hawk simply passes of its
own accord. The bat is also stated as having “ancient…and
immense” wisdom while the speaker alludes to the sagacious
Plato while describing a star (13). The speaker describes the
earth on its axis and metaphorically equates history to the steady
leaking of water (14-16). All of the poem’s metaphors (the major
literary device) implore readers to ponder the indiscriminate and
slow and steady passage of time. Robert Penn Warren’s “Evening
Hawk” provides readers with a clarification of the passage of time
in life; it is as precise as the scythe, as regular as the passing of
each day, as unconcerned with human interest as the hawk, and
as steady as a leaking faucet.
Commentary Writing
Here’s an example section-by-section.
• CLAIM:
– In the first stanza, Keats establishes the relationship
between the speaker and the “Bright Star.”
• Context/Evidence:
– Keats opens the poem with the apostrophe, “Bright
Star,” accentuated with an exclamation mark (1).
• Commentary:
– In so doing, Keats creates a tone of admiration;
indeed, the speaker appears awestruck as he
addresses the beacon in the night sky. The speaker
declares his desire to be as “steadfast” as the Star
(3).
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