I need help with my thesis statement on Henry David Thoreau. I have to put free thought, importance of nature, and self reliance all into a thesis statement, no questions. Current thesis statement: "Henry David Thoreau was not like the average American because he was not materialistic, which is showed in his free thought, importance of nature, and self-reliance?"

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I like it. The initial thesis draft is solid. It could use some tweaking, but it is starting in a good place. Make sure the final punctuation of the thesis is not a question mark. A thesis statement is exactly that; it is a statement, not a question. Additionally, it...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

I like it. The initial thesis draft is solid. It could use some tweaking, but it is starting in a good place. Make sure the final punctuation of the thesis is not a question mark. A thesis statement is exactly that; it is a statement, not a question. Additionally, it needs to be a statement that argues something. It can't be "Thoreau lived during the Transcendentalist movement." There is nothing to prove, because that's a statement of fact.

The other thing that I would consider with the thesis statement is whether or not you want the thesis statement to be a positive argument about Thoreau or a negative argument against Thoreau and his worldview. The initial premise provided to eNotes does show that you already realize that Thoreau is an outlier. He is not like the average American, and your thesis could be about how and why that is a good or bad thing. You could certainly argue that his eschewing of materialism and emphasis on free thinking and self reliance is ultimately something that is subversive to the average American mindset. You could argue that his actions fundamentally work against notions like capitalism and standard educational systems. This thesis might look something like the following thesis statement: "Although Thoreau's emphasis on nature and man's independence seems heroic, his thoughts are quite subversive to the stereotypical materialistic American Dream."

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

If you were writing this thesis for one of my classes, I would like to see it establish more of the relationship among these ideas. You might try something like this:

Unlike the average American, Henry David Thoreau rejected materialism as a result of his free and independent thinking, his belief in the importance of nature, and the value he placed on self-reliance.

This sentence retains the distinction you make between Thoreau and the average American, and it retains the three ways in which you plan to support the thesis (with discussions of his free thought, the importance of nature, and self-reliance). However, it links the rejection of materialism to these three discussions by making clear their relationship: Thoreau rejects materialism as a result of or because of these beliefs and values that he does have.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I think your thesis is a good one. I would only revise it to say:

Henry David Thoreau was not like an average American because he was not materialistic which is shown in his value of free thought, importance of nature, and self-reliance.

Possible thesis statements below:

Because he valued free thought, importance of nature, and self-reliance, Henry David Thoreau lived as an individual who did not need materialism.

With a decision to avoid materialism, Henry David Thoreau lived off the land, practicing free thought and self-reliance while valuing the importance of nature.

As a unique American who did not need materialism, Henry David Thoreau valued free thought, self-reliance and the importance of nature.

I hope these thesis statements help. I have included some enotes links below that may help.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team