September 03, 2015 - Posted to Writing Tips
Nathaniel Hawthorne The Scarlet Letter Essay Topics That Will Work
If you read the Scarlet Letter in high school (and it is pretty standard fare in an American literature course), you will no doubt also have studied about Puritan society in the Salem, Massachusetts colony. It was a pretty intolerant society – so much so that, even today we refer to people as Puritanical if they are fanatic about their religious beliefs and insist upon condemning and judging others for their “moral” failures. The Scarlet Letter essay assignments that you probably received related to the Puritan religion, to the characters of Hester and Dimmesdale, to the plot elements and possibly to the theme of intolerance. The treatment of the novel at the high school level is usually a bit superficial.
Scarlet Letter Essays at the college level will involve a more in-depth and complex analyses of this work, as it certainly can be read on many levels and can be seen as a comment on Hawthorne’s current times as well as our own 21st century circumstances. Some appropriate Scarlet Letter essay topics might fall into the following categories:
- A central theme of the work is the concept of sin. In Puritan society, Hester’s sin of adultery was of course a breaking of one of the 10 Commandments, something that, according to that religion, condemned an individual to Hell, as well as to isolation from current society. Hawthorne also treats other sins that Jesus condemned – hatred, intolerance, and unwillingness to forgive – and condemned the entire town for these sins which he saw as worse than Hester’s. Find examples of these sins in society today.
- Another essay on The Scarlet Letter might relate to identity. Hester identifies herself as a member of the citizenry of Salem and yet also as an individual with a right to independent thought and action. Rather than leave Salem and go someplace where her sin is not known, she chooses to stay and become and force her “identity” on the rest of the town, simply by her presence.
- In many ways, the novel is also a tale of courage. Hester does not name the father of her baby, chooses to stay in Salem, and lives a quiet, moral and somewhat peaceful, non-judgmental existence. In many ways, she depicts more the person that Jesus would have us be, according to the Bible anyway.
- Still another Scarlet Letter essay might discuss how Hester’s concept of sin, guilt, and redemption change during the course of the novel.
- The name “Pearl,” chosen by Hester for her child, holds a great deal of symbolism – how something so perfect can actually come from something that was imperfect – an adulterous relationship.
- Are there religions today that typify the intolerance of the Puritans? Which ones are they and how is their intolerance manifested?
A Nathaniel Hawthorne The Scarlet Letter essay, above all, must not be a mere book review. It will be important that you identify a single aspect of the novel, develop a solid thesis statement and develop a good analysis from that.