Claim Development Strategies (for Theses and Topic sentences)


1.       The Author employs x to signify y


Through the use of mise-en-scene and lighting, Spike Lee conveys the psychological, interior world of Malcolm X and his experiences with both physical and mental oppression.


2.       An Irony or Reversal-of-Expectation

Even though the American flag typically stands as a symbol of freedom, in such scenes as “American Nightmare,” Spike Lee utilizes a specific color schema—red, white, and blue—to underscore, symbolically, the irony of Malcolm’s oppression: he lives in America, the “land of the free,” yet he is deprived of the basic freedoms of which the colors speak: democracy, equality, racial unity.

3.       Cause-Effect

Due to Malcolm X’s traumatic loss of a father at an early age, along with the low esteem he internalizes as a result of growing up in a racist environment, Malcolm clings desperately to the teachings and leadership of other people—black and white—sadly contributing, often, to his own oppression.

4.       Point-Counterpoint

Many people would argue that Gene is fearful and jealous of Phineas, as demonstrated in his description of Phineas in a predatorial fashion: “his back muscles working like a panther’s” (11). However, it is more plausible that Gene’s anxiety about Finny stems from a deep-seeded, unconscious attraction to him, something that he veils through the pretense of rivalry.

Specificity of Language


Instead of….                                             Try….

Society oppresses Malcolm.                          White mainstream society oppresses Malcolm.

Malcolm learns things in prison.                   Malcolm learns the religion of self-love while in prison.

This shows us that….                                  This gruesome image shows us that….

Language is a mechanism of power.             Language is a mechanism of political power.

The boy…                                                  The subservient boy

Men often buy the product.                                      Men, generally middle- to upper-class males, ….

The woman uses Malcolm.                           The beautiful, blonde bombshell Sophia...

Many people follow Malcolm.                      Many people, particularly poor African Americans in the Northern ghettoes, follow Malcolm.

Malcolm conks his hair.                               An insecure, affirmation-seeking Malcolm



Paragraph Coherence Exercise: Linearity of thought

Even though Gene calls Phineas “my best friend” (32), from the onset of the novel, Knowles reveals that Gene’s harbors an unconscious ________ of Phineas. The first picture of this deeply-rooted _________ is unveiled in the way he physically likens Finny’s body to that of a dangerous predator: “He began scrambling up the wooden pegs nailed to the side of the tree, his back muscles working like a panther’s” (11).