I have to write a thesis-driven analysis essay on how Jeanette Walls and her family live a migratory life, why her parents move so often, what are they seeking, whether they find it, and how these...

I have to write a thesis-driven analysis essay on how Jeanette Walls and her family live a migratory life, why her parents move so often, what are they seeking, whether they find it, and how these moves affect her and her siblings.

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Lorraine Caplan | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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To write a thesis-driven essay to cover all that territory, I would first answer all of those questions, just briefly.  Then you need to ask yourself what thesis, what main idea, those answers lead you to.  In other words, there will be some overarching message for you in this book that all of those answers support. 

The parents are clearly selfish, spoiled, unstable people who manipulate their children into believing that they are acting in the children's best interests, and who make their children's lives a living hell. The fact that any one of them managed to live to adulthood, much less thrive, is a remarkable testimony to the resilience of human spirit.  So, the main idea you take from that might be that the human spirit is resilient. It might be that family love conquers all, since Walls did continue to be a good daughter in spite of everything. It might be something about the damage that mental illness and substance abuse can wreak upon generations of a family. You might even want to focus on how society failed these people and their children.  

Whatever thesis you want to focus on as you write your paper, your thesis statement should include that thesis and the points you are developing to support that thesis.  For example, if I wanted to focus on resilience, I could have this as a thesis statement:

In The Glass Castle, Walls shows hers and her brother's triumph over the horrors of their childhood, parents who were constantly searching selfishly for their own gratification and housing and food insecurity, along with the tragic consequences for a third sibling in the family. 

I would write a brief introduction, naming the book and its author and a very brief synopsis of the book, placing my thesis statement as the last statement in the introduction. Then I would use those supporting points to structure my body paragraphs, one for each point I want to develop.  Each body paragraph would contain a topic sentence to let the reader know which point I am focusing on.  And each paragraph would contain evidence from the book to support that point.  That can be with paraphrases or direct quotes.  Finally, I would write a concluding paragraph to remind my reader what my main idea was and to review the points I had made in the body paragraphs. 

So, to review, you need to get those questions answered and then decide what the big picture is, the theme of the book that you see, the main idea you want to show your reader.  This is what it means to write a thesis-driven essay, and all of your writing should be thesis-driven. Otherwise, we tend to drift and let the reader down!

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