The Accidental Tourist Thesis Statements and Important Quotes

Below you will find four outstanding thesis statements for “The Accidental Tourist” by Anne Tyler that can be used as essay starters or paper topics. All five incorporate at least one of the themes in “Accidental Tourist” by Anne Tyler and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a short summary of “The Accidental Tourist” in terms of different elements that could be important in an essay. You are, of course, free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot of “The Accidental Tourist” or themes to them for your essay. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from “Accidental Tourist” by Anne Tyler at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1 : The Meaning of the Title of “The Accidental Tourist" by Anne Tyler

Macon is in the paradoxical and ironic position of being a travel writer who does not like to travel, writing books for people who would rather be at home than on the road. In short, he writes travel literature to make the traveling experience as close to the daily rituals that guide and stabilize people who are xenophobic, much like him. The people Macon is writing for then using the title of the “Accidental Tourist" are very much accidental tourists themselves as they are abroad for reasons of necessity rather than a sense of innate wanderlust. In his journey that begins upon meeting Muriel and, almost by complete accident, falling for her and shedding his safe life of upper-middle class living and highly structured ritual and habit, he is embarking on an unplanned trip and becomes the novel’s accidental tourist. When the reader looks back over the course of the text and discovers that the protagonist of “The Accidental Tourist" only grows when he embarks on such journeys and that these journeys are never planned and are fraught with the peril of the unknown and outside of ritual, the idea of Macon being an accidental tourist becomes even more clear. Interestingly, while the title only implies a singular accidental tourist, Rose is also an accidental tourist and the essay that spawns from this topic should look at the lives of the characters who change the most, including Alexander, Macon, Julian, (and well, almost anyone but Sarah and Macon’s brothers) and reflect on the accidental tours that led to the unknown destination.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2 : The Stifling and Confirming Nature of Family Relations

In the novel “The Accidental Tourist" by Anne Tyler, family relationships are presented as being both comforting, confirming of the innermost parts of one’s self, but also, in addition to these more positive aspects, often stifling. Just as in a marriage, and especially in the case of Macon’s marriage to Sarah, his family proves to be a place where he seeks comfort in the familiar (the familiar being a very important place for Macon, who is not much of an experimental person) but when the initial comfort of the familiar is gone, all that is left is a sense of the inescapable. While Macon takes great pleasure in the nightly games of Vaccination and falls immediately into the routines and rituals that govern the eccentric nature of his divorced brothers and unmarried sister, this begins to become stifling and Macon no longer finds comfort in family and looks outward, finding Muriel—a woman far distant than all that used to comfort him and more like the outrageous and free spirited mother he and his siblings had conflicted feelings about.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3 : The Importance of Having a Dog (Edward) as a Central Character

To perform a character analysis of Macon in “The Accidental Tourist" by Anne Tyler, one need only look to the dog—the more uninhibited expression of Macon’s desires and feelings. Edward, the loyal dog who is equally as fastidious as its owner, Macon, serves a number of valuable functions throughout “The Accidental Tourist" by Anne Tyler. For one thing, Edward provides a bit of welcome comedic relief within the context of a family tragedy and the failed marriage that comes along with it. More importantly, from a narrative perspective, having Edward the dog as one of the central characters allows readers to reflect on the universality of the major themes in “The Accidental Tourist" as many of the emotions that form the thematic and symbolic backbone of the novel rely on base emotions that even a dog can sense and feel. The need for love and attention, loneliness, adherence to ritual and a fundamental dislike of change, competition, are just a few of the emotions that Macon feels and that the dog externally projects through its behavior. The fact that Edward, paralleled with Macon, is at the end of his rope and is all but rabid with the course of his life, needs a trainer, is a symbol of how Macon too was in need of a trainer; someone to help him sort out his emotions and learn to be obedient to something outside of himself and his id. For this essay on “The Accidental Tourist" by Anne Tyler, examine the parallels between Edward and Macon and remark on how, by using a dog to project outwardly the many awful feelings of Macon, the universality of some of the major themes in the “The Accidental Tourist" are made even more apparent.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic # 4 : The Importance of Time Period and Setting of “The Accidental Tourist"

Having a novel set in the 1980s, a time of record-setting numbers of divorces in the United States; a fact which generated an unprecedented amount of commentary from the media and social groups and, of equal importance, a novel set in Baltimore, which has long been seen as a microcosm of intense class divisions and tensions, makes some of the themes in “The Accidental Tourist" immediately apparent to those who recognize the time period and physical setting. Macon is surrounded by the failure of marriage in his own marriage to Sarah and also by his brothers, both of whom are divorced. This is a rather depressing set of circumstances and reflects some of the social concerns of the 1980s when divorce rates were at the top of many social agendas. Furthermore, the element of tension between social classes is heightened by mere fact of Baltimore being the setting of the novel. Baltimore is a historically violent city and also has large divisions between rich and poor urban neighborhoods. Throughout “The Accidental Tourist" class issues are not at the forefront of any direct dialogue, but a constant distaste for any but the middle class and upper class neighborhoods and people is looked upon with disdain. For this essay and thesis statement on “The Accidental Tourist" by Anne Tyler, consider the intersection of social concerns such as record-setting divorce rates and a tense city with a violent record of race and class divisions. This will be a thesis statement for “The Accidental Tourist" that you will want to support with qualified census and other data on divorce, crime, and economic data.


This list of important quotations from “The Accidental Tourist” by Anne Tyler will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from “Accidental Tourist” listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes and explanations about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned and explained. Aside from the thesis statements for “The Accidental Tourist” above, these quotes alone with page numbers can act as essay questions or study questions as they are all relevant to the text in an important way.

“They played something called Vaccination – a card game they’d invented as children, which had grown so convoluted over the years that no one else had the patience to learn it. In fact, more than one outside had accused them of altering the rules to suit the circumstances" (73) (Bonus: This line alone will help you apply this quote to an entire essay based on the symbolism of Vaccination in title, rules, and based on who is playing it)

“As much as he hated the travel—he loved the writing—the virtuous delights of organizing a disorganized country, stripping away the inessential and the second-rate, classifying all that remained in neat, terse paragraphs" (10).

(Macon of Sarah) “Oh, he’d raged at her and hated her and entirely forgotten her, at different times. He’d had moments when he imagined he’d never cared for her to begin with; only went after her because everybody else had. But the fact was, she was his best friend. The two of them had been through things that no one else in the world knew of. She was embedded in his life. It was much too late to root her out" (122).

“Seated in a stenographer’s chair…he wrote a series of guidebooks for people forced to travel on business. Ridiculous, when you thought about it: Macon hated to travel. He careened through foreign territories on a desperate kind of blitz—squinching his eyes shut and holding his breath…" (9).

(Macon of Rose; a comment on breaking free of stagnation) “Since she’d met Julian she’d grown so airy…so flippant, lacking in depth" (246).

(Muriel working with Edward) “Edward looked uncomfortable; he gazed off toward the street and gave a sort of a cough. Then slowly, slowly, one forepaw crumpled. Then the other. He lowered himself by degrees until he was lying down" (169).

(Sarah to Macon) “You just go on your same old way like before. Your little routines and rituals, depressing habits, day after day. No comfort at all" (3).

“He’d always had a fondness for method, but now what you would call a mania. Thinking then of Sarah’s lack of method, he wondered if that had got out of hand too. Maybe all these years, they’d been keeping each other on a reasonable track. Separated, demagnetized somehow, they wandered wildly off course" (9).

Source: Tyler, Anne. The Accidental Tourist. New York; Ballantine, 2002.