What is a Thesis in Literature? Definition, Examples of Literary Thesis

what is thesis

Thesis is the major claim or point made by an author in a work of writing. A thesis statement is the sentence in a composition that introduces the main argument or main point of view. It introduces the main idea of the following writing.

What is a Thesis?

Thesis statements can be found in all types of writing and are used by the author to introduce what is the intended topic of focus. A thesis gives a work of writing direction and indicates to the reader what is about to be discussed, supported, or developed.

Since thesis statements help to give context to the following writing, they are found in the beginning of a composition— usually in the first paragraph.

For example, in an essay about a literary work, a thesis statement would look something like this:

  • In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, stories of transformation are told in order to support Ovid’s personal belief that art and art alone allows humans to transcend suffering.

The Importance of a Thesis Statement

Without a thesis statement to guide it, an essay, narrative story, or any other kind of writing, may lack direction. Without a clearly defined thesis, readers can have trouble comprehending and following what the writer plans to explain and develop.

In an essay, a thesis statement will introduce the writer’s main point or argument so that the reader understands what is about to be discussed. A structure and source of direction is developed in a successful thesis statement when it is introduced in the first paragraph. The rest of the essay then follows what the thesis has clearly outlined.

In narrative, or story-telling writing, a narrative thesis also provides a jumping-off point for the story by giving the reader information which helps set context. Narrative theses can be apparent or implied, or hidden. In either case, thesis guides the story towards development and its overall purpose.

The Importance of Thesis in Literature

In literature, a thesis acts as an early source of information about what kind of story is about to be told. Authors can state the thesis outright in a literary work, or they can hide the thesis so that it blends in with the beginning of the story.

The main purpose of a thesis in any type of literature, whether narrative or essay/academic, is to concisely outline the writing that will follow. The function of this is to provide readers with a clear concept of what kinds of material they are about to read.

For example, in an argumentative essay, the thesis will clearly state the argument and how it will be supported. In a narrative thesis statement, some context will be given to the story. This can include hints about setting, characters, and tone or style.

How Theses are Used in Literature

The following examples show how thesis has been used in various ways in classic literary works:

In One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, the thesis serves to frame the overall context for the story that is about to follow:

  • Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliana Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy does a similar thing by informing the reader that they are about to read a story about one unhappy family’s trials and tribulations:

  • Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

The wildly popular contemporary memoir, Wild by Cheryl Strayed uses thesis to provide a framework and also set the plot in motion:

  • My solo three-month hike on the Pacific Crest Trail had many beginnings. There was the first, flip decision to do it, followed by the second, more serious decision to actually do it, and then the long third beginning, composed of weeks of shopping and packing and preparing to do it.

Recap: What is a Thesis in Literature?

Thesis is a tool used to provide context in the beginning of a work of writing that will help the reader to gain an idea of what is about to be argued, revealed, or developed. Thesis statements are necessary to providing structure and direction for the reader and good writing upholds the thesis statement throughout the entirety of the piece.