The Scarlet Letter essay

Hawthorne filled The Scarlet Letter with characters whose opinions opposed his own. Why? What is Hawthorne trying to tell us?

Choose one of the following topics for your essay. The thesis of your essay should relate to Hawthorne’s message to the reader. Find two or three arguments to support your thesis, or claim. Use six pieces of textual evidence to support your ideas.

  1. How do locations in The Scarlet Letter reveal Hawthorne’s romanticism? You might want to consider his use of opposing places such as the forest and the town, and whether or not the point of view of the characters in the novel expresses the point of view of the author. Consider forest vs. town, or scaffold/forest/cottage.
  2. How do changes in the characters express the author’s point of view on openness vs. hidden sin? Choose one or more characters from The Scarlet Letter and explain how they change in the course of the novel and how this shows one of Hawthorne’s themes. If you choose one character, show that character at two or three points in the novel. If you choose three characters, show each one both early and late in the story
– that gives you 2 examples x 3 characters = 6 examples.
  1. How does Hawthorne use a Puritan point of view to make clear his ideas? Choose several Puritan concerns and show how Hawthorne uses them to convey one of his themes.
  2. Do we assume that we should be without flaw or sin? Should we never show that we have made a mistake? What does Hawthorne think of this idea?
  3. Does Hawthorne believe society’s values are ones that should be followed by the individual? How do you know?

An outline is required for this assignment. The outline must include the thesis, a topic for each body paragraph, and an indication of the examples that will support your topic sentences. This is most of the work of the essay!

Next, start writing the essay itself, following your brilliant outline. Be sure to use correct MLA style for formatting and textual evidence. Remember to start with an introduction that leads your reader from this world into the subject of your essay, ending with the thesis. The conclusion should start with a restatement of that thesis and broaden out to wider implications of the topic that don’t necessarily fit within the confines of your thesis.

Then turn in your brilliant essay!

Essay (final draft) 100 pts.
Rough draft for revisions 10 pts.
Outline - 20 pts.
Textual Citations – MLA format - 24 pts.
MLA style 6 pts.

160 pts.

Integrating Quotations
  • An essay must be your writing and your ideas, but using passages from the text will strengthen your argument.
  • In the body of the essay, after a topic sentence, use passages from the text to support your position.
  • Offer your reader some context for the passages you cite.
  • Your citation (passage quotation) must start with your words. The words from the text must be part of your sentence.
    • Starts with a signal phrase (your words) leading in to words from the book.
    • Ex.: George gets mad at Lennie, but he often regrets it, as when he sits looking “ashamedly at the flames”(11).
    • Words from the text are put in quotation marks. Do not put a period from the end of the evidence inside the quotation marks.
    • At the end of the sentence include the page number (just the number!) in parentheses. After the page number finish your sentence with a period.
    • If the passage ends in a question mark or exclamation point, put that inside the quotation marks and a period after the page number.
      • He said, “By golly, you’re right!”(427).
      • If you only want to use the beginning and ending words of a passage, put an ellipsis ( . . ., no brackets) where the missing words belong.
      • For this essay, use the page number alone when referring to The Scarlet Letter. However, when you refer to any other writing indicate the author’s name followed by a comma and a page or line number.
      • Check the Purdue OWL with any formatting or citation questions.

Essay Schedule:
  • receive the prompt, develop a thesis, start an outline Wed., Jan. 17
    • feel free to work on this essay outside of class, too
    • work on the essay in class Thurs., Jan. 18
    • work on the essay in class Fri., Jan. 19
    • work on the essay in class Mon., Jan. 22
    • Bring a completed essay to class for peer editing Tues., Jan. 23
      • this is a good opportunity to ask about problems
      • take the essay home for final revision
      • Turn in essay and outline at beginning of class Thurs., Jan. 25