Below you will find five outstanding thesis statements for “Petrified Man” by Eudora Welty that can be used as essay starters or paper topics. All five incorporate at least one of the themes in “Petrified Man” 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 “Petrified Man” by Eudora Welty 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 or themes to them for your essay. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from “Petrified Man” 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 Novelty of the Unknown in Petrified Man
In Eudora Welty’s Petrified Man, the theme of the unknown runs throughout the story. More specifically, it is the novelty of the unknown. This fascination begins with Leota’s obsession with her friend Mrs. Pike, and her desire to share herself and her past with the other woman. However, the theme continues when the two women go to see the freak show next door. Indeed, it seems as if Mrs. Pike frequents shows like those quite often. Leota even begins seeing a fortuneteller who will divine her future for her. What is it about the unknown that is so appealing to Leota? Why does she do everything possible to take the mystery out of things?
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: The Concept and Meaning of Satisfaction in Petrified Man
In Eudora Welty’s Petrified Man, the main character, Leota, is never satisfied. It comes to light that she is still infatuated with her high school sweetheart, and that she finds her husband Fred to be one big bad decision. She loves her friend, Mrs. Pike, until Mrs. Pike discovers the identity of a wanted criminal and comes into a large sum of money, which makes Leota jealous. Even when Billy Boy begins to irritate Leota, she over-reacts in order to work out her frustrations towards Mrs. Pike. What do you think Eudora Welty is saying about satisfaction? Do we decide when we are finally happy?
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: Friendship in The Petrified Man
In the beginning of the story, it seems as if Mrs. Fletcher and Leota share a fragile friendship that has grown from the length of Mrs. Fletcher’s patronage to Leota. However, it soon becomes clear that Leota has found a new friend in her tenant Mrs. Pike. Mrs. Pike knows things about Leota that even Mrs. Fletcher does not know, such as her still fond thoughts towards the man she used to date. Although Mrs. Pike and Leota’s friendship warms quickly, it is also subject to cooling just as fast when Mrs. Pike’s fortunes improve. What can be said about the characters in this story and the way in which they relate to one another? Is anyone really loyal to their friends, spouses or even themselves?
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4: The Representation of Men in Petrified Man
In Eudora Welty's short story, Petrified Man, it seems as if the women in the story are far more active than their male counterparts. Neither Mr. Pike nor Leota’s Fred have steady jobs, leaving the women to be the main breadwinners. Mrs. Fletcher claims that Mr. Fletcher is wonderful, but it seems as if all of her actions are motivated by him, although she is loathe to admit to it. Even the Petrified Man is inactive, hiding from the police in a freak show where he pretends to be made of stone. Is the Petrified Man a symbol for the other men in the story? Are they all so stunted by their inaction and inferiority to their female others that they too, are becoming “petrified" men?
This list of important quotations from “Petrified Man” by Eudora Welty 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 “Petrified Man” 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 Petrified Man” by Eudora Welty above, these quotes alone can act as essay questions or study questions as they are all relevant to the text in an important way. All quotes contain page numbers as well. Look at the bottom of the page to identify which edition of the text they are referring to.
“"Mrs Pike is this lady from New Orleans," said Leota, puffing, and pressing into Mrs. Fletcher’s scalp with strong red-nailed fingers. “A friend, not a customer."" (2289)
“So a week ago, Sat’day Mr. And Mrs. Pike moved in. Well, I kinda fixed up the room, you know—put a sofa pillow on the couch and picked some ragged robbins and put in a vase, but they never did say they appreciated it." (2296)
“Does Mrs. Pike know everything about you already?" asked Mrs. Fletcher unbelievingly. “Mercy!" (2293)
“Well, honey, what Mrs. Piked liked was the pygmies. They’ve got these pygmies down there, too, an’ Mrs. Pike was just wild about ‘em." (2292)
“Used to go with this boy until he got married to this girl. Oh, shoot, that was about three and a half years ago, when you was still goin’ to the Robert E. Lee Beauty Shop in Jackson. He married her for her money. Another fortune-teller tole me that at the time. So I’m not in love with him any more, anyway, besides being married to Fred." (2292)
“So Mrs. Pike gits five hundred dollars. And my magazine, and right next door to my beauty parlor. I cried all night, but Fred said it wasn’t a bit of use and to go to sleep, because the whole thing was just a sort of coincidence—you know; can’t do nothin’ about it." (2297)
“She says, ‘You ain’t worked a lick in six months, and here I make five hundred dollars in two seconts, and what thanks do I get for it? You go to hell, Canfield.’" (2297)
“Sure. See, the fortune-teller—I went back and had my other palm read, since we’ve got to rent the room agin—said my lover was goin’ to work in Vicksburg, so I don’t know who she could mean, unless she meant Fred. And Fred ain’t workin’ here—that much is so." (2295)
Baym, Nina, ed. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Shorter 6 ed. New York,
NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 2003