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09/04/2019

Thesis Statements… in the form of a rhetorical question?

QUESTION
Thesis Statements… in the form of a rhetorical question?
Can a thesis statement be in the form of a rhetorical question (i.e. The question is: Can someone still keep their faith alive when surrounded by torture, the horrific and the inhuman, and if history were to repeat itself, would faith endure the repeated events? – a thesis statement for an essay pertaining to the Holocaust and Jewish Faith.

ANSWER
A rhetorical question, by definition, is nothing more than a statement in question form. It isn’t a true question, because it is not meant to elicit an answer. For example, if your friend says, “You actually like diet coke?” he isn’t asking you whether you like diet coke or not; he is telling you that he can’t believe you like diet coke.

What exactly is the statement you are trying to make with that “question”? If you are trying to argue that a person cannot keep his or her faith alive when surrounded by such horrific events, then you are probably better off expressing it as a statement. It doesn’t look like a rhetorical question to me; it looks like you are actually pondering whether Holocaust survivors can keep their faith alive. That is fine as a topic for your paper, but it is not a thesis. A thesis needs to be a definitive conclusion about your topic.

My first English professor in college defined a thesis statement simply as “the point you are trying to prove.” What exactly is your paper trying to argue? Are you arguing that faith is impossible to survivors of the Holocaust? Or are you arguing that the Holocaust presents challenges to faith, but not insurmountable ones?

Once you answer those questions, your answer should be the thesis. If you choose to express your thesis in the form of a rhetorical question, make sure that the point you are trying to make is obvious, and that the reader doesn’t interpret the “rhetorical question” as an ordinary question in need of an answer.