Would this be a good thesis statement? In the novel "To Kill A Mockingbird," Harper Lee uses the character of Atticus to show readers that even if there are discouraging people in the world, there...

Would this be a good thesis statement?

In the novel "To Kill A Mockingbird," Harper Lee uses the character of Atticus to show readers that even if there are discouraging people in the world, there will still be good people like Atticus who believe in equality and justice for all which makes him a true hero. 

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lrswank | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

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You have a great start to a strong thesis statement here, but let’s clean things up a bit. 

It looks like you have been tasked with writing a literary analysis paper.  Your thesis is a good claim, but the components are a little wordy.  I’m going to list them here so you can see (in a different way) what you’ve written. Let’s break it down:

 

  • In the novel
  • To Kill a Mockingbird (remember to italicize titles of novels; don’t use quotes around longer works)
  • Harper Lee
  • there are discouraging people in the world
  • the character of Atticus
  • a good person
  • a true hero who believes in equality and justice for all 

Since you have so many pieces, it might be best to start by simplifying your statement.  What words or phrases aren’t really necessary from those on the list above?  Don’t remove any that get to the heart of what your thesis claims, though.

Any ideas? 

  1. I’d suggest you omit “in the novel.”  Think about it—your reader already knows you’re talking about a novel, so you don’t need to tell him/her that.  This way you avoid unnecessary wording.  This is a very common mistake, but it’s easy to fix!

  2. Don’t forget to italicize the title of the novel (always).

  3. Should you consider revising “discouraging people”?  What do you mean by that?  Are you thinking about anyone from Bob-Ewell to Mrs. Dubose to Dolphus Raymond?  Those three are very different in their discouraging natures, aren’t they?  The word “discouraging” is a little awkward here—there is probably a better word, depending upon where you plan to go with this in your essay.  Generically, perhaps you consider something like “difficult” or “troublesome.”

  4. Omit “in the world.”  You don’t want to broaden your scope from the text to the world—that’s the wrong direction.  We English teachers like it when you keep the focus on the text.

  5. You’ll want to omit “the character of” when referring to Atticus.  You’ll see how much smoother your thesis will be without these words.  Also, I suggest, to keep with the formality of your thesis, you’ll want to use his last name too.

  6. When you say “justice for all,” the “for all” is really implied—and it’s a little cliche, so you’ll probably want to omit that too.

Now let’s put your puzzle back together and see what we have—remember that starting with the heart of the statement is always best.

The true hero of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch, demonstrates that though one must deal with difficult people, equality and justice will prevail if one is of good character.

This is just one way you might go about it.  Remember that thesis statements are a lot like puzzles—but getting them right is so important because your successful paper depends upon it. Also, don't be afraid to tweak your thesis statement if needed as your paper develops. (Consult your teacher--some teachers are more open to this than others.)

I have attached a handout I use in class to help my students create their thesis statements for their Macbeth papers.  Though it focuses on Macbeth, you can use it for any text. 

I have also attached a link to the Purdue Online Writing Lab’s page for thesis statements. 

 

 

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