At the beginning of the book, with nothing else to cling to, prisoners in the concentration camps hold on to their family members. The most important thing is to stay with your family members as long as possible. For some, all that keeps them alive is knowledge that their family is safe. However, as the book progresses and the suffering of the prisoners increases in intensity, a major conflict in the book arises: self-preservation vs. love and loyalty to family. This conflict is seen especially clearly in the relationship between fathers and sons. Rabbi Eliahu’s son abandons his slow, weak father during the mad run to Buchenwald in order to increase his own chance of survival. When a German throws a piece of bread in a transport car, a son kills his own father just to get the scrap of bread. But the most important conflict of this type is Eliezer’s own personal conflict. Like Rabbi Eliahu’s son, Eliezer, during his moments of weakness, feels his own father a burden and a threat to his own survival.
Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.
Although Eliezer feels internal conflict about supporting his father and does occasionally feel that his father is a burden, Eliezer does not sink to become like Rabbi Eliahu’s son because Eliezer never acts on his negative thoughts and supports his father as best he can.
Although Eliezer occasionally battles with the notion that he could survive better if freed from the burden of taking care of his father, Eliezer is in more danger of death once his father passes away because without his father, Eliezer loses the will to live.
Below you will find five outstanding thesis statements for “Like One of the Family” by Alice Childress 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 “Like One of the Family” by Alice Childress in that they explan different elements that could be important in an essay. You are, however, 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 “Like One of the Family” at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay.Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: The Importance of Voice
One of the significant contributions of “Like One of the Family” is that it gives voice to a woman who represents a group of people who have been traditionally marginalized, and were particularly alienated at the time when Childress wrote this book (1956). This granting of voice gives Mildred authority that she does not and cannot claim in any other area of her life or in other relationships. Write an essay in which you describe the voice of Mildred and explain the significance of the stories that she tells to her friend, Marge. Consider whether Mildred is speaking only for herself, or whether her experiences and emotions might also be representative of a larger community.Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: The Importance of Place
Mildred is conscripted to a very limited physical space, and almost all of the novel’s events occur within this space. Write an essay in which you describe the place that is the setting for this novel. Be sure to draw from the descriptions provided in the novel in order to characterize the space. One you have described the place, comment upon its significance. Consider whether Mildred’s narrative would be different if she inhabited a different place, and how it might be changed.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: Conversational Narrative
Another aspect of the novel that is important, and which also relates to the notion of voice, is the conversational tone that Mildred uses. She is addressing her friend Marge, and her use of dialect and specific details that reveal what she honestly thinks about other people establish a particular intimacy, not just between Mildred and Marge, but perhaps between Mildred and the reader. Write an essay in which you evaluate the efficacy of this conversational narrative style. Explain whether it engaged you as a reader, and why it did or did not and to what effect.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4: Structural Analysis of “Like One of the Family”
The novel by Alice Childress is comprised of many brief “chapters," if indeed they can be called that. Thus, the pace of the novel is quick, and the narrator’s direct address to Marge establishes, as noted above, a particular candor and intimacy. Evaluate the structure of the novel, and offer a judgment as to whether this particular structure is effective for this type of subject. If it is, explain why; if not, offer an idea about how the novel’s structure might have been more effective.
Thesis Statement/Essay Topic #5: Character Analysis
Mildred seems to be a rather straightforward character. She is open with her friend Marge, and speaks her mind about anything that is of concern to her. She is scathing, at times, in her observations about others and society at large. Write an essay in which you provide a character analysis of Marge. Is she as straightforward as she seems, or does her directness belie a profundity the reader might miss? Be sure to pay attention to issues of language, acts of self-representation, and acts of resistance.
This list of important quotations from “Like One of the Family” by Alice Childress 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 “Like One of the Family” 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 Alice Childress they are referring to.
“We just love her! She’s like one of the family and she just adores our little Carol!…We don’t think of her as a servant!" (1)
“Mrs. C…, you are a pretty nice person to work for, but I wish you would please stop talkin’ about me like I was a cocker spaniel or a poll parrot or a kitten….." (2)
“You think it is a compliment when you say ‘We don’t think of her as a servant.’…but after I have worked myself into a sweat…I do not feel like no weekend house guest. I feel like a servant, and in the face of that I have been meaning to ask you for a slight raise…." (3)
“I get annoyed ridin’ Jim Cros because you get a little more than just separate seatin’. You get rudeness, meanness, and less for your money in every other way." (14)
“Marge, ain’t it strange how the two of us get along so well?" (19)
“Now I am a good woman, but if I was not, the law is so fixed that I can’t go around killin’ folks if I want to live myself. But white folks can kill me." (25)
“I’m glad that you are my friend because everybody needs a friend but I guess I need one more than most people ." (33)
“Yes, I know I said I wasn’t particular proud about bein’ a domestic worker, but I guess I am. What I really meant to say was that I had plans to be somethin’ else, but time and trouble stopped me from doin’ it." (37)
“No, I don’t want anybody toleratin’ me because the world tolerate is tied up with so many unpleasant things." (49)
“[Y]ou’ll find nobody comes down to the nitty-gritty when it calls for namin’ things for what they are…." (83)
Reference: Childress, Alice. Like One of the Family. Brooklyn, NY: Independence Publishers, 1956.