How can I start writing a thesis statement on theme for the short fiction of "A &P""A&P" by John Updike

Expert Answers
clairewait eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The first step in writing a thesis statement for any essay is to determine what will be the focus.  If your professor has given you a prompt, use it.  If the assignment was left open to you (as in, "Write a 2 page essay analyzing Updike's 'A&P'", you might find the following steps helpful in leading to a thesis statement.

First, you should brainstorm a long list of answers to the following questions:

  • What theme(s) is(are) most prevalent in the short story?  (It is acceptable to choose only one, but at most, choose two that compliment each other.)
  • What literary or rhetorical methods does the author use to develop this theme?  (This is where you would analyze techniques such as setting, point-of-view, symbolism, irony, characterization, tone/mood, imagery, etc.  Brainstorm as many ideas as possible, including examples, then choose your strongest 3.)
  • Through 3 rhetorical techniques, what message is the author trying to send?  What point is he ultimately trying to make?  What is the overriding purpose of the short story?

Remember, when brainstorming, you want to get as many ideas out as possible so you have plenty of material to choose from.  Using your best theme idea with three of the strongest rhetorical techniques, you can then construct a thesis statement in this fashion:

Using the three rhetorical techniques of _________, _________, and ________, John Updike is successful in portraying the message that ______________________ (theme statement).

This sets you up for a well organized essay of almost any length, that focuses analysis in three categories which revolve around one main point.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In addition to the helpful steps to writing process that have been provided, while writing about theme, the reader may do well to consider how he/she deduces what is the theme of the narrative.  For instance, is the theme developed through characters, or through point of view, or setting, or any other element of fiction?  By determining the element which has been used, the reader can then arrive at the theme as well as discuss how the theme has been developed.

On one level, John Updike's story, "A&P," shows the reader the complex world inhabited by adults and the compromise that is needed to navigate this world.  On another level, the reader is show the generation gap in which Sammy acts to protect the girls from the world of adults, only to end up in some limbo between the two worlds himself.  These two levels of experience are developed through the first-person presentation of events in the story that are contrasted to the comments of Stokesie and Lengel that demonstrate an ironic difference between Sammy's view of himself and the reader's view of him that demonstrate the theme of Choices and Consequences, a theme discussed on enotes. [see the site below]