Sample Essay Outlines

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The following are topics on which you can write a substantial analytical paper. They are designed to test your understanding of major themes and details from the book as a whole. Following the topics are outlines you can use as a starting point for writing an analytical paper.

  • Topic #1
    Several times in Invisible Man, a character states that another character is crazy. Pick two examples of this, and describe what is happening. What do these moments have in common, and why does one character say that the other is crazy?

    I. Thesis Statement: In several scenes of Invisible Man, a character states that another character is crazy; each character seems to have a specific reason for saying this.

    II. The scene at the narrator’s grandfather’s deathbed
    A. The dying man is thought to be crazy
    B. The children are rushed away
    C. The narrator hears his grandfather’s words
    D. The advice turns out to make a lot of sense

    III. “The vet” tends to Mr. Norton at the Golden Day
    A. Mr. Norton asks about the vet’s history
    B. The vet comments on Mr. Norton and the narrator
    C. Mr. Norton says the vet is crazy
    D. The vet doesn’t sound crazy, but is in an insane asylum

    IV. The narrator says that Ras the Exhorter is crazy
    A. The narrator and Tod Clifton are fighting with Ras
    B. Ras is disappointed with them, and tells them so
    C. He is eloquent, and his words hurt them
    D. The narrator tells Ted Clifton that Ras is crazy

  • Topic #2
    Pick three specific actions by characters other than the narrator. What does each action reveal about the character, and how can we judge these people on the basis of what they do?

    I. Thesis Statement: The specific actions in Invisible Man tell us much about the characters and give us a basis for judging them.

    II. Dr. Bledsoe blames the narrator for what happened to Mr. Norton
    A. Bledsoe protects himself, doesn’t take a risk
    B. He is unwilling to oppose the power structure
    C. Shows the narrator that principles are useless
    D. One cannot fight against a “machine of people”

    III. Lucius Brockway attacks the narrator
    A. Brockway does not wait for the narrator to explain
    B. He is paranoid about losing his job
    C. It does not occur to him that he cannot win the fight
    D. When it is over, he seems pathetic

    IV. Sybil asks the narrator to act as though he is raping her
    A. She sees the narrator as “a black buck,” not as a person
    B. She wants the narrator to participate in her fantasy
    C. She does not wonder if the idea offends him
    D. She does not consider that he has emotions

  • Topic #3
    The novel describes various aspects of the narrator’s life, when he was in different places, doing different things. Which part of his life do you think was the best for him? Why?

    I. Thesis Statement: This novel describes various aspects of the narrator’s life, in some of which the narrator was happier and more fulfilled than in others.

    II. His college years
    A. He remembers those times with loving detail
    B. He remembers his teachers with admiration
    C. He wanted to do a good job of chauffeuring Mr. Norton
    D. He dreaded leaving the college

    III. Coming to New York
    A. He was very excited
    B. He found all of the new stimuli fascinating, and tiring
    C. He has dreams about his future
    D. He made at least one friend: Mary

    IV. Working for the Brotherhood
    A. He believed strongly in the work that he did
    B. The work utilized his public speaking skills
    C. He was encouraged to think of all people as equals
    D. He was given a lot of responsibility

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Critical Context