Scarlet Letter Paper

The Scarlet Letter
Research-Based Literary Analysis
- Length: 2-4 pages
- Sources: Minimum of three legitimate sources
(one being our book)
- Times New Roman, 12-point, double-spaced, 1inch margins
- MLA format, including Works Cited page
- Thesis statement that concisely states the purpose
of your essay
Deadline: the day of your exam at the beginning of
the class period
You will choose ONE:
1. Explain how The Scarlet Letter may be
read as a psychological novel. You may want
to focus on the psychological nature of one
or two characters, or you may want to trace
a particular aspect of psychology across a
number of characters. You should
familiarize yourself with at least some basic
concepts of psychology and the appropriate
terms used to describe them.
2. Do you consider Hester to be a strong female
character? Or, to put it in another way, is The
Scarlet Letter a feminist novel? You will need to
provide, first, your own definition of the term
“feminist” before you move on to your argument
about the topic. Had Hester not been a woman,
would she have received the same punishment?
How does the pregnancy factor into this issue?
When Hester takes on her role as a protector and
counselor of women in the book, can we interpret
her actions as pointing to a larger political
statement in the text as a whole?
3. What is the significance of nature in The
Scarlet Letter? What are some of the ways in
which Hawthorne uses aspects of nature or
natural settings in the novel, and what do you
make of these representations? Discuss the
function of various physical settings. What is the
relationship between the book’s events and the
locations in which these events take place? Do
things happen in the forest that could not
happen in the town? What about the time of day?
Does night bring with it a set of rules that differs
from those of the daytime?
4. Dimmesdale is a figure of hypocrisy who
preaches virtue from the pulpit and refuses
to take his daughter’s hand in public, but
pays a terrible personal price for his actions.
What points do you think Hawthorne is
trying to make about organized religion? To
what degree is Dimmesdale responsible for
his own actions and how much are the
townsfolk responsible for forcing him into
his position?
5. “Roger Chillingworth was a striking
evidence of man’s faculty of transforming
himself into a devil.” What role does
Chillingworth play? Do you think he is
morally more degenerate than Hester and
her lover, or do you have sympathy for his
campaign of revenge? Do you think he
redeems himself at all with his bequest to
Pearl at the end of the story?
6. Explain the significance of the three
scaffold scenes. Break down each of the
scenes – consider who is present (or not),
where characters are positioned, what is
said, what is the purpose of the
gatherings each time, etc. Explore any
connections, foreshadowing, or irony
involved in any of these three scenes.
7. If Hester and Dimmesdale had the
same “teachers” (Shame, Despair,
Solitude), why didn’t they learn the same
lessons? Explore these three teachers and
how they play out in the lives of both of
these characters and offer a welldefended analysis that answers the