The Scarlet Letter Culminating Essay

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The Scarlet Letter Culminating Essay

Requirements: Introduction, three body paragraphs, and a short conclusion. This essay will be written in class on your block day. You must bring to class an outline. You may bring in note cards with topic sentences and quotes to use (three note cards). Also, write your introduction and thesis before your block day.


  • Provide background information that is necessary for your thesis to make sense.

  • End your introduction with a thesis statement. Consider the following examples:

    • Through the characters of Hester, Chillingworth, and Pearl, Nathaniel Hawthorne teaches principles for living life with positive results as well as life lessons that serve to caution against destructive behavior that yields negative results.

    • Nathaniel Hawthorne’s development of the character of Hester clearly supports the notion that suggests The Scarlet Letter is indeed a feminist novel.

Body Paragraphs:

  • Begin each body paragraph with a topic sentence that relates to your thesis. If you choose number 6, this statement should be a reason. (The novel should be taught because it teaches important life lessons that are relevant to teens today.)

  • Follow the (A-E-C method for developing a paragraph: make an assertion—topic sentence,

followed by evidence—examples from the text, including some textual evidence (quotes), followed by commentary—explanation of the evidence and how it supports your assertion.


  • Read through your essay and determine what needs to be said to conclude your essay.

  • Include your insights regarding the topic you have just discussed.

  • Don’t simply repeat your introduction (that’s just not that interesting!).

Remember the following tips for writing an effective literary analysis:

  • Use specific details from the story to support your assertions.

  • Write at least 7-8 sentences per paragraph.

  • Use correct grammar and formal language (no use of you, contractions, or slang words).

  • Also use present tense verbs (contends, asks, teaches, regards, uses, explains, argues)

Essay Topics: (Choose one. Choose the one about which you are the most passionate. Ok, if this suggestion is a stretch for you, choose the one you could do the best job on with the least amount of research--digging into the text to find evidence)

  1. Hester is considered the first great American heroine in an American novel. What can you infer about Hawthorne’s concept of an American heroine based on his depiction of Hester in the novel? Discuss her attributes that define her as a heroine..

  2. Discuss Hawthorne’s view of human nature using his characterization of Hester, Chillingworth, Dimmesdale, and Pearl as evidence to support your observations.

  3. What can you infer about Hawthorne’s view of society and the individual based on his depiction of both in the novel?

  4. What life lessons does The Scarlet Letter teach through the main characters in the novel? Choose three characters and discuss what lessons about life and how it should be lived can be taught through the study of these characters and how they react and respond to adversity, sin, guilt, etc.

  5. Can the novel be read as a feminist novel? What evidence is there that Hawthorne regards women as an undervalued sect of society meriting equal rights and treatment to establish them on a “surer ground of mutual happiness” ( 227) with men. Be sure to discuss evidence that conveys Hawthorne’s attitude toward Hester that reveals he supports and admires her as a character.

  6. Consider the following scenario: The English department at PHS is considering removing The Scarlet Letter from the curriculum because the novel is considered no longer relevant to the lives of teenagers in the 21st century. Write a letter to the department arguing that the novel remain in the curriculum, citing and developing three reasons why the novel is still relevant to the lives of teenagers today.

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