College Writing Tips

College Writing Tip: Thesis Statement- What? How? Why? (Part Two)

Thesis Statements can be tricky, but they are not impossible!

This is Part Two of my three-post series talking all about those wonderful Thesis Statements. This mini-series contains three separate posts about how to craft a thesis statement for your main three essays in composition courses. Indeed, regardless of the type of essay, I have three questions that you can (and should) ask whenever you start formulating your thesis statement.

What? How? Why?

Today we are going to look at the Literary Essay Thesis Statement and how my three questions apply to its development.

Literary Essay

A Literary Essay looks at a piece of literature, either a short story, a poem, or a book and attempts to understand it in new ways. Often times, students will look at themes, symbolism, motifs, and other literary devices to help decode secret meanings. Think of it as you are the detective and you’re trying to solve the meaning of this piece of literature by putting together all the clues.

For our example, we are going to look at the Grimm’s fairy tale, “Hansel and Gretel.”

First, we must ask: WHAT? In a literary analysis there are often all types of “what”. What symbols are present in the story? What is the overarching theme? What images are repeating? What is the author trying to say?

  • For “Hansel and Gretel” I chose this question. What is with the predominate symbol or image throughout the story? Then it hit me, FOOD! I mean, have you read “Hansel and Gretel” lately? Food is EVERYWHERE!
    • See what I did there? I made an observation (food is everywhere) and turned it into my first question (What are the Grimm Brothers doing with the food?)
  • So here is my answer to my first question: The Grimm Brothers use the imagery of food throughout their story.

Secondly, we must ask: HOW? In Literary Analysis, the how is often referring to how the author is incorporating imagery or symbols, how the author is supporting the overarching theme, etc.

  • So, my question is this: How are the Grimm Brothers using the image of food or the action of eating?
  • Answer: The stepmother’s own greediness concerning food. The witch’s house in intentionally created out of various sugary desserts. The witch herself greedily devours children.

Lastly, we must ask: WHY? Why are the authors using these specifics symbols, these particular images, this key theme throughout? What is their point?

  • So, my question is this: Why do the Grimm brothers associate food with these various characters or actions?
  • Answer: The repetitious insertion of food within the narrative serves as a cautionary warning to children to avoid gluttony and greed.

Finally, it is time to put together our WHAT, HOW, and WHY to form our thesis statement.

In “Hansel & Gretel,” written by the Grimm Brothers, food is a reoccurring motif used throughout the story to symbolize the dangers of gluttony and greed as seen through the step-mother’s abandonment of her children, the imagery of the witch’s house, and the witch herself.

And there you have it: a completed thesis statement for a Literary Analysis Essay! This thesis statement is clearly arguable (stating that the food is more than just food) and it provides the layout for the essay (first we will look at the step-mother, then the witch’s house, then the witch herself).

Image result for your turn

Choose your favorite fairy tale, or a poem, or even a book and ask yourself WHAT, HOW, and WHY. Like before, I would love to read what you come up with!

Image result for be a nerd gif


© KaylaAnn and, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to KaylaAnn and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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