In the second semester of my junior year of college, as I was starting to solidify my future plans for myself, I knew I wanted to write a senior honor’s thesis. Although my university does not require all English majors to complete a thesis, I looked forward to the challenge, to writing about one topic in depth in a way I hadn’t been able to before. Now, I know, some people might think I’m crazy for wanting to do so much extra work in my last year of college, but the truth is that I thrive on being busy. It gets my blood going and forces me to use my time as efficiently as possible, something I’m always trying to do anyway. I had everything I needed to start a thesis: motivation, drive, future plans in which a thesis would prove incredibly useful.
The only problem I faced ended up being what exactly I actually wanted to write about so extensively. I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to write about and felt like I was clawing into a pile of sand – every time I moved some of the sand away more would just fall in its place. In the end, I chose to write about Jack Kerouac’s novel On the Road, mainly because I had just had Kerouac on the brain and because one of my professors was going to teach a class on the Beat Generation, the literary generation made famous by none other than Kerouac himself. I walked into his office and said simply, “I want to write a senior thesis and I was hoping you would be my advisor.”
My professor looked a little stunned and replied in his quiet voice, “Sure, I’d love to…What do you want to write about?”
All I could say in response was “Kerouac’s On the Road.” I didn’t know what else. I had no idea what I actually wanted to say about Kerouac. I actually didn’t even like Kerouac that much and had initially only read On the Road because my older brother had loved it during high school. I didn’t. The book to me felt purposeless; nothing really happens throughout the novel. I quickly realized that this would be my first challenge. I had to figure out what I thought the book was saying and then why that was even important.
That process took me a long time, the better part of my first semester, meaning that I had to write my thesis exclusively in the second semester. I’ll skip to the end and admit that yes, I obviously completed my thesis and am actually really happy with the end result. I won’t go into what my argument was because it’s a long one and not the focus right now (but I’ll link my thesis at the end just in case anyone is curious). The reason I am so proud of this piece of argumentation is because I had to work so hard to find it in the first place. I learned to respect Kerouac through my own study of him, a study that I was convinced at its onset would cause me to dislike Kerouac even more aggressively than I had originally. But it didn’t. I’ve always loved figuring out texts, cracking the code so to say, so it shouldn’t surprise me that untangling my own ideas about Kerouac resulted in a similar respect and interest in his novel.
But it still did. I found myself engrossed in Kerouac’s 1950’s world. I think I would have experienced the same end result regardless of what I choose to write my thesis about, but this long process of refining my own thoughts forced me to understand that it’s not about the author but about bringing your own argument out of that. That’s the fun part for me, and it won’t be for everyone, but for those of us who enjoy reading between the lines the fun part in the pulling apart of ideas.
In the end, I’m happy I chose to write about Jack Kerouac because it taught me that I don’t have to like something to argue about it. I just have to be able to analyze the thing in front of me. The important thing is remaining objective and focusing on the work in front of me.
Here‘s my thesis for those of you who are curious.