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A Farewell to Arms

by Ernest Hemingway

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What is a good thesis statement about the use of symbolism in A Farewell to Arms?

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This article has been written by Kristen Lentz who is currently a sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh majoring in English, minoring in Spanish. She is also a tutor for WriteLab, Pitt's online writing tutoring program. She can be reached at klentz@pitt.

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Thesis statements can be challenging to write, so brainstorming in advance will be very helpful! Let's look at two steps to get you started on a thesis for this paper.

First, think about the symbols in the book that stand out to you. Kristen Lentz, the previous Educator, already provided...

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some excellent symbols in her answer, and those should provide you with a springboard into developing your own list, if you do not already have one. If you do not have your own list yet, think back through your class discussions. If your teacher is asking you to write about symbols, chances are you already talked about this in class quite a bit and have some in your notes.

Second, choose the type of thesis you want to write. There are two main formats: the three-point thesis and the open thesis. The three-point thesis allows you to outline your paper by choosing three points you'll cover in your body paragraphs. For example, "In the novel, hair is an important symbol of _______, _______, and ______." In this model, you would discuss a new way hair is symbolic in each paragraph. For an open thesis, you actually consider how all of your body paragraphs connect and then describe their connections in the thesis. For example, "Rain plays an important and symbolic role in the novel because it represents _________ each time it appears." The type of thesis you choose is up to you, but choose one that helps you stay organized and one that makes the most sense for your particular assignment.

Regardless of the symbol and thesis format you choose, remember that a thesis for any paper will often take several drafts before it is "ready to wear." Get feedback from your classmates and your teacher, and be open to making revisions to strengthen your thesis. Good luck!

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Your thesis statement should include an opinion or assertion about the topic (symbolism in A Farewell to Arms)and provide the main sub points that will be the basis for your body paragraphs in your essay

The first step is to decide what symbols you want to write about.  Here are some possible choices:  rain, Catherine's hair, Catherine's riding crop, officers' stars, Henry's beard.

Now, you could write a thesis like:  Hemingway uses ___, ___, and _ ___ as symbols in A Farewell to Arms.  BUT, that is not a very high level thesis statement.  The problem with this thesis is that it fails to make an assertion.   If you want to go higher level (and probably get a better grade) then you should connect Hemingway's use of symbols to some deeper meaning or theme in the novel. 

Look at the possible themes from the novel: "patriotism, individualism, war, and identity" (from eNotes/themes page).

When we pull it all together, then we should have a thesis like this:

Ernest Hemingway reveals insight and perspective on the theme of __________(pick a theme) through his symbolic use of_____, ______, ______ (choose three symbols that you can best discuss) in A Farewell to Arms

Example:  Ernest Hemingway reveals insight and perspective on the tragedy of war through his symbolic use of officers' stars, Catherine's riding crop, and rain in A Farewell to Arms.

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