Sample Essay Outlines
The following paper topics are designed to test your understanding of the novel as a whole and analyze important themes and literary devices. Following each question is a sample outline to help you get started.
Compare and contrast Claudia and Pecola in terms of their ability to fight injustice. How does this ability affect them later in the novel?
I. Thesis Statement: Pecola and Claudia both live in a cruel world that does not allow innocence in children. Their survival in such a world depends upon their ability to fight injustice. Claudia is able to survive a cruel childhood because she never stops fighting. Pecola, on the other hand, retreats into a world of fantasy whenever she is attacked. Eventually, she must live her life in this world of fantasy because she can no longer passively defend herself from cruelty.
II. Claudia aggressively fights for herself while Pecola is passive.
A. Claudia stands up for herself.
1. She gets revenge against Rosemary Villanucci.
B. Pecola stands by while people abuse her.
1. She is teased by a circle of boys.
2. Louis Junior attacks her, then manipulates his mother into attacking her.
III. Claudia attempts to defend Pecola.
A. Claudia helps rescue Pecola from a group of boys in a playground.
B. When Maureen Peal insults Pecola, Claudia immediately responds.
IV. Cholly’s rape of Pecola instigates her downfall.
A. She responds to the rape by asking Soaphead Church for blue eyes.
B. In her madness, she not only believes that she has blue eyes, she also tells her “friend” that Cholly “didn’t do anything.”
V. The people of Lorain force Pecola and Claudia to defend themselves or perish.
A. People feel that Pecola “ought to carry some of the blame” for Cholly’s rape.
B. Claudia never let herself be bullied, while the townspeople have contempt for Pecola because she lets herself be pushed around.
C. In this town, “the soil was bad for certain kinds of flowers,” and a frail flower such as Pecola could never survive.
Focus upon the characters of Maureen Peal and Geraldine. What characteristics do they share? Do these characters support Pecola’s belief that pretty people have pretty lives?
I. Thesis Statement: Geraldine and Maureen Peal are considered beautiful by society but are unable to deal with others in personal relationships. The two characters develop a hatred of dark-skinned blacks because they consider themselves beautiful.
II. Maureen Peal has learned that beauty is wonderful without sacrifice.
A. She attains instant popularity at school.
B. Pecola and others will do anything to be her friend.
C. Maureen is aware of her own beauty and believes that she is special.
III. Geraldine has chosen beauty over passion in her life.
A. She has resisted sexual relations and passion in favor of order.
B. Her son brings her no joy.
C. Because of her own beauty, she develops a hatred for “niggers” that masks her own self-loathing.
IV. Both Geraldine and Maureen Peal are unable to handle personal crises.
A. Maureen Peal can only defend herself by calling others ugly.
1. Her statement “I am cute! And you ugly!… Black and ugly!” indicates her awareness that people consider her beautiful because she is light-skinned.
B. Geraldine reacts to the death of her beloved cat by blaming Pecola.
1. Pecola’s ugliness arouses hate in Geraldine.
2. Geraldine believed that “she had seen this little girl all her life,” and had devoted her life to distancing herself from girls like Pecola.
C. When faced with a difficult situation, Geraldine and Maureen can only console themselves with their own beauty.
How do the light-skinned male characters reconcile their appearance with society’s belief that blond, blue-eyed girls are beautiful? Focus upon Soaphead Church and Louis Junior in terms of their relationships with girls.
I. Thesis Statement: Louis Junior and Soaphead Church have a lot of anger directed towards women and girls, because they are unable to form relationships with other...
(The entire section is 1,085 words.)