Below you will find three outstanding thesis statements / paper topics for “The Revolt of the Cockroach People” by Oscar Zeta Acosta that can be used as essay starters. All five incorporate at least one of the themes found in “Revolt of the Cockroach People” 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 for “Revolt of the Cockroach People” offer a summary of different elements that could be important in an essay but you are free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from “Revolt of the Cockroach People” at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent paper.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: The Symbol of the Cockroach
Despite Acosta’s straightforward style and unwillingness to mince words, he nonetheless relies on a number of symbols throughout “Revolt of the Cockroach People.” While the symbolism in this novel can be found several places and with varied meaning, the most important symbol in “Revolt of the Cockroach People” is that of the cockroach—a word which Acosta actually capitalizes in several places. As symbols, cockroaches in this novel are the downtrodden, the minorities, those who have to scurry under the watchful eye of entities far bigger than themselves.
For this essay, find numerous examples of people Acosta calls “Cockroaches” in “Revolt of the Cockroach People” and explore why they might be called such, using one paragraph for each example and concluding with thoughts about why it was such an important symbol it became part of the title.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: Exaggerated Gender Roles in “Revolt of the Cockroach People”
In the novel “The Revolt of the Cockroach People” by Oscar Zeta Acosta, the male narrator and nearly all the male characters are the epitome of masculinity. They brag, swagger, make threats, rebel against society, practice violence, are vulgar, and of course, are with a lot of women. In fact, so much of “The Revolt of the Cockroach People” is given over to detailed accounts of sexual encounters (illegal and otherwise) and misogynistic banter that the sensitive reader cannot help but either cringe or just get used to it and move on. Furthermore, although there are a few “tough” female characters, they are hardly feminist heroes—they’re just women. They are described based on their looks and rarely their deeds. For this essay on “Revolt of the Cockroach People” explore the exaggeration of genders, male and female and consider this in the context of this being a novel about politics as well as sexuality. Another interesting alternative or take on this topic might be to explore the intersection of gender roles and tradition, Latin American (Chicano) and otherwise. If you follow this route, make note of the references to both old traditional culture and pop culture.
(For more information on this topic, visit on gender roles in the novel)
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: Grappling with Racial Identity in “The Revolt of the Cockroach People”
Even though “The Revolt of the Cockroach People” by Oscar Zeta Acosta is a novel about race and politics on a large scale, it is also about one man’s quest to find himself within his own Latin American culture. While on the one hand, Buffalo finds himself firmly rooted in several Chicano traditions and ways of thinking, there are many aspects of his culture that make him downright uncomfortable. For example, consider the ways he often discusses being unable to approach a woman of his own culture or look at the way he talks about his own family or other Chicanos. For Buffalo (who I’m sure you’ve noticed is really Oscar Zeta Acosta barely veiled, if at all) he wants to stand up for Latin American and Mexican culture, but there are barriers. For this essay, find a few instances of this discomfort and explore what this may mean, both on a character analysis level and a larger scale in terms of history and historical circumstances.
* For an excellent freely accessible essay on Revolt of the Cockroach dealing with representations of gender, *
This list of important quotations from “Revolt of the Cockroach People” 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 “The Revolt of the Cockroach People” by Oscar Zeta Acosta 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 about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned. 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.
“All around us, insurance companies with patriotic names are housed in gigantic towers of white plaster. Here prestigious law firms perform their business for rich people who live next to jaded movie stars” (12).
“We were at the home base of the holy man who encouraged presidents to drop bombs on poor Cockroaches in far-off villages in Vietnam” (13).
“All through schools, jobs, and bumming, I haven’t even held the hand of a Mexican woman, excepting whores who are all the same anyhow” (29).
“…my new name, Buffalo Zeta Brown. General Zeta was the hero of an old movie classic…A combination of Zapata and Villa and Maria Felix as the femme fatale” (37).
“The broads are fantastic…the bulging breasts of these savage wenches who move with graceful twists. Since I have come to L.A. I have not touched a woman of my own culture. I swallow my milk and feel my pants bursting with heat” (38).
“Seven fine broads are at his side. They sing songs of the Mexican Revolution which they learned from their grandmothers” (84).
“Here a young girl in high heels wears a bikini, a blue bikini, with blonde hair. Standing next to her is a girl as young as Rosalie, in a mini-skirt and a strap over her little red nipples” (190).
“It seemed that twenty-five thousand Chicanos had marched down Whittier Boulevard. But what had started as a protest against the burning of peasants in Vietnam turned into a massive public declaration by fire of their own existence” (209).
“A hippie is like a cockroach. So are the beatniks. So are the Chicanos. We’re all around, Judge. And judges do not pick us to serve on Grand Juries” (228).
All Quotes from Acosta, Oscar Zeta. The Revolt of the Cockroach People. New York: Vintage 1973.