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Theme, Tone, Thesis, and "An Outpost of Progress"

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Samantha Neal

on 3 March 2016

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Transcript of Theme, Tone, Thesis, and "An Outpost of Progress"

Oh my!
Tone, Theme, and Thesis
How Do They Connect?
A common issue with your theme statements is that you are writing about TOPICS instead of THEMES. So what's the difference?

I read a lot of essays that talked about topics as a theme. Something like suffering, or depression, or abuse - all topics. What is the author saying about the topic? His message about that topic is the theme.

Topic: Suffering
Theme: Suffering is a path to redemption.
"An Outpost of Progress"
As you saw in the trailer for "King Leopold's Ghost," the colonization of Africa by Belgian King Leopold II was brutal and destructive. Conrad explores his experiences with colonialism in his writing, focusing not only on the destruction to the people living in areas being colonized, but also, as we see with Carlier and Kayerts, that it is destructive to those in power as well.

Topic: Colonialism
Theme: Colonialism is destructive to all parties involved.

1. Choose another topic explored in "An Outpost of Progress," then determine Conrad's message about that topic.
Topics and Themes in "An Outpost of Progress"
Textual evidence points to theme. If you can't find specific places in the text to support your theme, it's probably not a valid theme.

Example Theme: Colonialism is destructive to all parties involved.

2. What evidence from "An Outpost of Progress" supports this theme?

"'I always thought the station on this river useless, and they just fit the station!' 'They will form themselves there,' said the old stager with a quiet smile" (Conrad 684).

"And suddenly it seemed to Kayerts that he had never seen that man before. Who was he? He knew nothing about him. What was he capable of? There was a surprising flash of violent emotion within him, as if in the presence of something undreamt-of, dangerous, and final" (Conrad 694-695).

Identify at least four specific examples from the text that support the theme you came up with for part 1.
How Do You Know?
3. Craft commentary that shows how the evidence provided supports the theme that colonialism is destructive to all parties involved.

Example: Kayerts, initially characterized as lazy, undirected, and apathetic, has absorbed the darkness that surrounds him. After six months of living in isolation, his own mind has turned against him, making him paranoid and rash, quite different from the "perfectly insignificant and incapable" individual he began (Conrad 684).
Sample prompt: How does the tone of "An Outpost of Progress" affect the meaning of the work?

In order to sufficiently answer this prompt, you must identify a clear tone and theme in your thesis statement.

We discussed in class that after only five paragraphs, Conrad develops an ironic tone. If we want to continue working with the sample theme (colonialism is destructive to all parties involved), we must first consider if Conrad's ironic tone contributes to the development of that theme.

Conrad's text practically drips with sarcasm, leading you to understand that in his continual praise of the civilized over the savage, he in fact points to the lack of civility and progress at the outpost. It is clear that Carlier and Kayerts, who perceive themselves superior and civilized, are ultimately destroyed by the practice of colonization. Therefore, Conrad's ironic tone supports the development of the theme colonialism is destructive to all parties involved.
Now You Try
Using the same sample prompt, identify a tone (you cannot use ironic) which helps develop the theme you came up with in part 1.

Craft an introductory paragraph that engages your audience using insightful details. The introduction should introduce the name of the story ("An Outpost of Progress" - denoted with quotation marks) and the full name of the author. Highlight your thesis. It should be the last sentence of your introductory paragraph.
Keep on Truckin'
Now craft a body paragraph to support your thesis.

Use at least two pieces (three would be stronger) of textual evidence that demonstrate the tone and theme you have chosen. The evidence should be embedded in your commentary, not simply dropped or introduced.

Highlight your commentary in a different color than your thesis. Check your work! If you have merely summarized the text, the quote, or any other part of the work, try again. The focus of your commentary should be in demonstrating how the evidence supports your thesis.
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