Rail yard background, from the Library of Congress

Connections

A Hypertext Resource for Literature

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Five Ways of Looking at a Thesis
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4. A thesis says something about the text(s) you discuss exclusively.

If your thesis could describe many works equally well, it needs to be more specific. Let's return to our examples from above:

A: By telling the story of Westley and Buttercup's triumph over evil, The Princess Bride affirms the power of true love.

B: Although the main plot of The Princess Bride rests on the natural power of true love, an examination of the way that fighting sticks--baseball bats, tree branches, and swords--link the frame story to the romance plot suggests that the grandson is being trained in true love, that love is not natural but socialized.

Try substituting other works:

A: By telling the story of Darcy and Elizabeth's triumph over evil, Pride and Prejudice affirms the power of true love.

Sure, that makes sense. Bad sign.

B: Although the main plot of Pride and Prejudice rests on the natural power of true love, an examination of the way that fighting sticks--baseball bats, tree branches, and swords--link the frame story to the romance plot suggests that the grandson is being trained in true love, that it is not natural but socialized.

Um, nope. Even if you have never read Pride and Prejudice, you can probably guess that such a precise thesis could hardly apply to other works. Good sign.

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