Symbol Thesis Statement

If you’re going to write a winning essay, you definitely need a thesis. That’s why I decided to make you a step-by-step video on how to write an awesome thesis statement.

Writing a thesis statement is all about figuring out the main idea for your paper, and then explaining that main idea to your reader. But where to begin?

Begin with the question—the question you’re answering with your essay. We’ll use The Scarlet Letter as an example.

Let’s say your teacher gave you the following question as your essay topic:

What role does the scarlet letter A play in Hawthorne’s novel, and why is it important?

Thesis Statement Step 1:

SYMBOLS, not CYMBALS. Find out more about symbols and other terms of literary analysis in the Recap Resource.

Assuming you’ve read the book (and really, you can’t write a paper without having read the book) answer the question off the top of your head.

Question: What role does the scarlet letter A play in Hawthorne’s novel, and why is it important?

Preliminary thesis: In The Scarlet Letter, the letter A is asymbol.

That’s a good start, but you haven’t answered the whole question. Remember that the second part of the question is: and why is the A important?

Thesis Statement Step 2:

Nathaniel Hawthorne was a complicated man. What prompted him to write The Scarlet Letter? Here's one theory. Here's another.

So now you need to refine your answer. At this point, you’ll probably need to look back at your notes about the book to figure out why the A is important. After you do, revise your thesis statement.

Question: What role does the scarlet letter A play in Hawthorne’s novel, and why is it important?

Revised thesis:In The Scarlet Letter, the letter A is more than a symbol; it actually helps define Hester’s identity.

That’s not a bad thesis, but remember that your thesis sends the reader off into your essay not just knowing what you’re going to write about, but how you’re going to make your case. In other words, you want to give your reader a little bit more direction.

This is where examples come in.

Thesis Statement Step 3:

Before you finish refining your thesis, you need to know which examples from the book are going to help you make your case. For this question, we might look at the way the meaning of the scarlet letter A changes over the course of the novel. First, it defines Hester as an adulteress. Later, it shows how “able” Hester is. And finally, it comes to stand for “angel” as Hester takes control of her own identity.

So, with these examples in mind, let’s revise that thesis statement one more time.

Question: What role does the scarlet letter A play in Hawthorne’s novel, and why is it important?

Finalized thesis, version 1: In The Scarlet Letter, the letter A is more than a symbol; it actually helps define Hester’s identity, transforming her from an “adulteress,” to a woman who’s “able,” and finally, into an “angel.”

That’s a great thesis (if I do say so myself), but I want to point out something that happened as I wrote that thesis. Sometimes, when you start working with examples, an even deeper, more nuanced response to the question emerges.

So here’s an optional final step.

Thesis Statement Step 4:

Ask yourself: Am I really saying all I could be saying with my thesis? Am I really saying it in the clearest possible way? Or are my examples leading me to tweak my thesis and say something a little different, a little deeper?

If your answer to any of these questions is yes, revise again.

Question: What role does the scarlet letter A play in Hawthorne’s novel, and why is it important?

Finalized thesis, version 2: In The Scarlet Letter, the letter A isn’t just a symbol of Hester’s downfall; as Hester moves from “adulteress,” to a woman who’s “able,” and finally, to an “angel,” the A becomes a symbol of Hester’s “agency” in defining her own identity.

Thesis Statements: Four Steps to a Great Essay

Get Psyched! Check out our eight-part 60second Recap® video tutorial mini-series, Write a Great Essay!

Let’s look at those steps one last time. To write your thesis statement:

1. Answer the question.
2. Refine your answer, making sure you’ve answered all parts of the question.
3. Refine your answer into a more focused thesis statement by including a reference to the examples you plan to use.
4. Refine your thesis so that it answers the question not just in a focused way, but also in a creative, thoughtful, even profound way.

There you have it: An awesome thesis statement, and a solid foundation for an A+ essay.


Ready to write your A+ Essay?
Step 1: Think Like a Prosecutor. Read about it here.


Thesis Statements: Four Steps to a Great Essay was last modified: October 11th, 2015 by 60second Recap

Two symbols that Fitzgerald uses to represent the American Dream are the colors green and yellow/gold. Both symbolize different aspects of the American Dream that Fitzgerald ties to Gatsby. Green symbolizes the desire of the earliest European settlers to start anew and rebuild Eden, leaving the mess of the past behind. In the green light at the end of the dock that Gatsby stares at and longs for, green also represents his dream of starting anew with Daisy, and leaving the past five years behind.

The color yellow symbolizes the materialism and love of money that is part the American Dream. This color, and money itself, are associated with both Gatsby and Daisy. 

The novel critiques both these dreams as unsound in different ways. You could argue that it says the dream of reclaiming a perfect past is impossible and that money is destructive. To do this, go through the novel and find instances of how Fitzgerald uses these colors to illustrate his ideas about the American Dream. Is it significant, for example, that the car that kills Myrtle, Gatsby's car, is yellow? What does it mean that Nick ties together the color green in the "green breast" of the new continent and the green light at the end of the dock in the following passage:

. . . gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors' eyes a fresh, green breast of the new world.

Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby's house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.

And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby's wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy's dock.

A thesis—and you would want to finesse and narrow this to suit your purposes and ideas—might say, "F. Scott Fitzgerald uses the colors green and yellow as symbols of two aspects the American Dream: green as the dream of recreating Eden and yellow as the dream of wealth, then critiques both parts of the dream."

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