Below you will find four outstanding thesis statements for “Travels with Charley: In Search of America” by John Steinbeck that can be used as essay starters or paper topics. All five incorporate at least one of the themes found in the text 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 “Travels with Charley” in terms of the explanation 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. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from “Travels with Charley” by John Steinbeck at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay. Before you begin, however, please get some useful tips and hints about how to use PaperStarter.com in the brief User’s Guide…you’ll be glad you did.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: The Significance of Charley
Charley is Steinbeck’s dog and road trip buddy, a French poodle along for the ride across America. Besides being “man’s best friend," consider the various functions Charley serves as Steinbeck develops his narrative. Think about whether the text would have been the same if Steinbeck’s travel companion had been a woman or a man. Should you choose this topic, you might try your hand at a really creative interpretation: how Charley might define America compared to Steinbeck, how a human companion might have changed Steinbeck’s perspective. You could also write an argumentative essay on “Travels with Charley” in which you make the argument that the book would be drastically different (or, if you’d like a challenge) unchanged with a human presence as opposed to a poodle.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: Lament for the Losses
While Steinbeck finds much to praise about his beloved America, he does not avoid addressing America’s shortcomings and its difficulties. There is much that Steinbeck laments along the way. These laments are for losses both real and imagined, of both objects and ideas (and ideals, too). Examine one or more of these laments and situate it within Steinbeck’s overall evaluation of America. Evaluate how significant the losses are and what they mean for America’s future.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: Finding America
John Steinbeck’s novels are markedly American. In Travels with Charley, which is really a memoir, Steinbeck sets out to find America. Considering the stops and encounters that comprise his journey, write an essay in which you explain how Steinbeck finds America. Identify the lessons he learns and shares with the reader. Offer an interpretation about how you think Steinbeck would define America.
Thesis Statement/Essay Topic #4: Embodying Place
Obviously, this is a road trip novel, and so place plays a crucial role. Yet Steinbeck moves on after awhile, introducing the reader to a new place; we are never in one place too long. Choose one or more of the places that Steinbeck visits and evaluate his response to them. You may choose to format this essay in a compare/contrast style. Consider what appeals to Steinbeck about certain places, and identify where he feels best or worst.
This list of important quotations from “Travels with Charley” by John Steinbeck 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 “Travels with Charley” 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 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 by John Steinbeck they are referring to.
“When the virus of restlessness begins to take possession of a wayward man, and the road away from Here seems broad and straight and sweet, the victim must first find himself a good and sufficient reason for going." (3-4)
“A trip…is an entity, different from all other journeys. It has personality, temperament, individuality and uniqueness. A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike." (4)
“My plan was clear, concise, and reasonable, I think." (5)
“I thought I might do some writing along the way…. I suppose our capacity for self-delusion is boundless." (11)
“I know people who are so immersed in road maps that they never see the countryside they pass through…." (23)
“I fed Charley, gave him a limited promenade, and hit the road." (34)
“The best of learning came on the morning radio, which I learned to love." (35)
“I have demonstrated that I can’t describe Deer Isle. There si something about it that opens no door to words." (54)
“On such a trip as mine, so much there is to see and to think about that event and thought set down as they occurred would roil and stir like a slow-cooking miniestrone." (70)
“[Charley] was delighted to be traveling again, and for a few days he was an ornament to the trip." (124)
Reference: Steinbeck, John. Travels with Charley. New York: Penguin, 1962.