How to Write an Essay About Any Book in English Class: Part 2
From Theme Statement to Thesis Statement
If you are here because you need help on your English homework, an essay to be exact, you are in the right place. However, if you haven't read and accomplished steps one and two, you should start by reading this first: How To Write an Essay On Any Book in English Class: Part 1.
Do you have your theme statement ready? Okay, maybe it isn't perfect yet, but does it work well enough to move on? Don't forget, we're still in the thinking, brainstorming, and organizing stage. So far, you haven't made any unfixable mistakes. So let's move on...
Step Three: Prove It!
Look again at your theme statement from #5 in Step Two. Then ask:
- What evidence from the text proves the truth of this statement?
Here's the easy part. You've already begun answering this question. Look at what you wrote down in numbers 1-3 of the same step. Notice that many of these ideas seemed preliminary and slightly unguided. Look again at each example and see where you can combine ideas, eliminate ideas, and add details which show how the plot actually proves your theme statement.
Theme Statement: "Fighting between families almost always leads to disaster."
Ideas for Proof:
- ...Capulets and Montagues hate each other from a long time family feud, a grudge that has never been settled. This leads to Romeo and Juliet hiding their love for one another and marrying in secret.
- ...many characters fight over petty insults... Like whom? Servants in scene one, all the principle male characters at some point. Petty insults and street brawl lead to Prince's decree, which is why when ...Tybalt kills Mercutio... and Romeo kills Tybalt...Romeo is banished...Then, Juliet fakes her death...Romeo kills Paris then himself...Juliet kills herself when she sees Romeo is dead...
- [...Montagues and Capulets fight out of a long time hatred of one another.] Scratch this idea, it is redundant.
Step Four: Create Three Categories of Ideas
If you've brainstormed enough information in steps two and three, your next step is to create three categories of ideas. As you work through this step in the planning process, you will see where you might need to add more examples and ideas to previous steps. For example, if you only have enough stuff for two categories, you know you are going to need to brainstorm a little more. Ultimately, these categories will be listed in your thesis statement and will become the topics of your three body paragraphs.
"Categories of ideas" means label the kinds of examples you are using, according to how they accomplish the author's purpose as stated in your theme statement. A good guiding question for this might be:
- Broadly speaking, how does the author prove the [theme statement] in three ways?
Let's use our Romeo and Juliet example. If we answer the above question, some categories that might encompass all of the brainstormed examples could include:
- [lies], [murder], and [suicide].
Step Five: Create A Thesis Statement
By combining your theme statement with your three categories, you will create a two-part thesis statement, which can be written in one or two sentences:
- In [title of text], the author [name of author] shows that [theme statement]. [Natural segue such as "This is evidenced by/through/using"] [category 1], [category 2], and [category 3].
- In [title of text], the author [name of author] shows that [theme statement], by/through/using [category 1], [category 2], and [category 3].
- In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare shows that fighting between families almost always leads to destruction. Such destruction includes lies, murder, and suicide.
- In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare shows that fighting between families almost always leads to destructive behavior like lying, murder, and suicide.
Notice that by the time you are writing your example thesis statement you might be ready to tweak things to make more sense, sound better, or lead into an easier essay. This two-part thesis is the final step before you are ready to write your rough draft. Each of your three categories will become the topic of one body paragraph.
Step Six: The Five Paragraph Essay Broken Down
A typical high school essay has five paragraphs (you've heard it called the "five-paragraph essay" no doubt). The most difficult part of writing this essay is now behind you. You've got a thesis statement. You've got a whole list of great notes and examples. Now, you just need to put it all together. My final piece of advice for constructing the entire essay is to follow these three formulas (sentence by sentence) for each paragraph.
Introduction Paragraph (3-4 sentences)
- Hook: grab your audience's attention with an opening line that goes along with the overall message in your essay.
- Two part thesis statement: decide to make this one or two sentences
- Segue/transition into the first paragraph: kind of a throw away sentence which is unnecessary if your thesis statement is two sentences long.
Body Paragraphs (5-7 sentences)
- Topic sentence: partially restate your thesis and insert each category one at a time.
- Example #1: use evidence in the form of quotes or paraphrasing from the text.
- Elaboration: explain how your example proves your thesis in two sentences.
- Elaboration: (see above)
- Example #2
Conclusion (3-4 sentences)
- restate thesis: do not recopy the exact same thing as in the introduction, but restate the same idea.
- restate three categories
- give a final conclusive remark: this can be a personal opinion, the big "so what?" or a final nugget of wisdom pertaining to the main ideas presented in your essay.
See the formula? I told you English class could be just like math.