Hey there, I've been struggling to find a good topic/thesis for my bachelor thesis for SO long now that I decided to seek help in this forum. It is driving me crazy and all I think about is just...

Hey there, I've been struggling to find a good topic/thesis for my bachelor thesis for SO long now that I decided to seek help in this forum. It is driving me crazy and all I think about is just quitting my studies right before the finish line.

I study American Studies.

I am not even sure what topic I should write about but I am really interested in the culture of fear in the USA, fear of an apocalypse and the consequences of such fears (for example: preppers).

Does anybody have an idea for me? I know this is a very  vague question, and I don't want anyone of you to do the work I have to do, but some ideas would be really appreciated.

Thank you so much!

Expert Answers
kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The culture of fear in any particular culture is a manifestation of each nation’s historical enmities and biases.  In the United States, and even before the establishment of the United States, irrational and rational fears have been major characteristics of society.  From the Salem witch trials of the late 17th Century to the fears of another terrorist attack today, fear has driven public policy for centuries.  Fears of “the end of days” among some fundamentalist Christians constitutes another category – a category very much in tune emotionally with current-day developments in the city of Jerusalem.  People in all cultures are susceptible to paranoia and mass hysteria. 

One of the more significant periods of mass hysteria in modern American history was the period known as “McCarthyism,” during which anybody suspected of belonging to the Communist Party or of having communist sympathies was vulnerable to prosecution or to being blacklisted from his or her profession and rendered unable to earn a living.  The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Un-American Activities, established in 1938 to investigate possible infiltration of the United States by Nazi Germany, became the main instrument for pursuing suspected communists in the entertainment industry, in U.S. government agencies, and in virtually all areas of life.  Blacklisted actors, screenwriters, and directors had to work under aliases (an impossibility for actors, whose faces were obviously well-known) or try to eke out a living in other professions.  

The period, of course, was named for Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy, who went to extreme, and highly unconstitutional lengths to ferret out suspected communists in the government.  On February 9, 1950, Senator McCarthy famously announced to the public that he had a list of over 200 communists in the U.S. Department of State who posed a serious threat to national security.  McCarthy’s declaration, entirely unproven, precipitated a modern-day witch hunt (providing a historical allegory for playwright Arthur Miller to use in his script for The Crucible, about the aforementioned Salem witch trials).  Senator McCarthy’s reign of terror ended with his public humiliation during the so-called McCarthy-Army hearings during the spring and summer of 1954. Building upon his “successes” in ferreting out communists from the federal government, McCarthy decided to focus his attentions on the U.S. Army, a highly-revered institution soon after the end of World War II.  His efforts, however, ran aground when legal counsel for the Army Joseph Welch, in front of the newly-introduced television cameras, attack the senator’s integrity and rendered the latter politically impotent. 

Now, the context in which all of this occurred is essential to any paper on this subject.  The Cold War was a major international and domestic issue, with U.S. and Soviet armies facing off across the divided continent of Europe, especially in Berlin, where tensions remain high for decades.  The Soviet Union’s successful detonation of its first atomic bomb in 1949 fueled American fears of a Soviet attack and of communist infiltration in the United States.  The communist regime in North Korea, prodded and supported by the Soviet regime, attacked South Korea, precipitating a bloody three-year war, and communist insurgencies and activities in southern Europe also contributed to fears here at home.  Seriously exacerbating the situation was the discovery of a Soviet spy ring inside the American atomic bomb program that had been providing the Soviet Union with enormously sensitive technical information on atomic weaponry.  The trial and subsequent execution of Julius Rosenberg (his wife was also tried and executed, but history has demonstrated that she was a victim of hysteria and not guilty of any crime worthy of the death penalty) and the exposure of the full extent of the spy ring increased the sense of panic across the country and fueled further anti-communist hysteria.

That the Soviet Union had, in fact, been more successful in infiltrating U.S. Government agencies than previously thought – information only divulged following the end of the Cold War and the declassification of previously secret information, and by the revelations of Vasili Mitrokhin, the former chief archivist for the Soviet intelligence service who defected to Britain with a wealth of documentation – does not detract from the sense of mass hysteria that existed in the United States during the early 1950s.

Or, a student could focus on the post-9/11 terrorist attacks and the mass hysteria concerning the potential for additional attacks involving nuclear, chemical or biological weapons by terrorist organizations, all of which fueled the development of large industry devoted to detecting such weapons at our borders.  In any event, these are two high-profile cases of fear in America for which much information is available.

William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Kipling2448 provides excellent advice and suggestions. However, since you mention the word "preppers" in your question, I would like to suggest that you consider writing about some aspect of that subject. Truthfully, I had never heard of "preppers" before and had to look it up on Google. The advantage of writing about such a subject is that it seems relatively new. If I haven't heard of it, there must be a lot of other people who haven't either. You wouldn't have to cover the whole subject but just one aspect, preferably the aspect you know the most about, even if it is only that television show. Unless required to do so, you wouldn't have to discuss this so-called "culture of fear," which is a big subject that could bury you in research material and force you to write a book the length of War and Peace. Keep it simple. Less is more. Start with what you know already. 

Just because a thesis statement comes first in an essay doesn't mean that it has to be written first. You can write your thesis statement any time. You can write it last if you want to, and then move it up front. You should be prepared to write several drafts, so don’t worry if the first draft is a mess. I believe that theses and thesis statements cause students more problems and are more likely to create writer's block than any other aspect of composition. How can you know what you're going to say before you say it? Just get started. Start in the middle, if necessary. Say what you feel like saying. Don't get buried under tons of photocopied articles. Don't worry too much about what other people think. Say what you think. You don't have to write the whole composition in a single day--unless you have a tight deadline. Write a hundred words and quit. Ernest Hemingway it was, I believe, who said you should always stop while you still have something more to say. That way it's easier to get started the next time. 

I like Preppers. It's new, it's modern. Yet it’s just another aspect of the human condition.

Composition is, for the most part, an effort of slow diligence and steady perseverance, to which the mind is dragged by necessity or resolution, and from which the attention is every moment starting to more delightful amusements.
                                                                    Samuel Johnson

Dimidium facti qui coepit habet.
(He who makes a start has half the work done.)