Choose one of the prompts below to respond to in an essay. You must have a clear and focused thesis statement, and you must also quote the novel at least three times (additional references in the form of paraphrases are also necessary).
Download the “Literary Analysis Outline” handout to help you organize your essay. The “body paragraph” page of the handout can be re-copied for each body paragraph you need to include.
1. The conflict created when an individual opposes a group or society is the recurring theme of many novels, plays, and essays. Pick a character in The Scarlet Letter who fits this description. Analyze his or her conflict and discuss how his or her opposition affects both the character discussed and the group or society opposed.
2. Select a character you consider to be a villain from The Scarlet Letter. Then analyze how the character’s villainy enhances the meaning of The Scarlet Letter. Do not merely summarize the plot.
3. In some works of literature, a character who appears briefly, or does not appear at all, is a significant presence. Choose such a character from The Scarlet Letter and write an essay in which you show how such a character functions in the work. You may wish to discuss how the character affects action, theme, or the development of other characters. Avoid plot summary.
4. Choose a complex character in The Scarlet Letter who might – on the basis of the character’s actions alone – be considered evil or immoral. Explain both how and why the full presentation of the character in the work makes us react more sympathetically than we otherwise might. In other words, explain how, by the end of the novel, we feel sympathy in relation to this character. Avoid plot summary.
5. An effective literary work does not merely stop or cease; it concludes. In the view of some critics, a work that does not provide clear “closure” has ended in a faulty manner. A satisfactory ending is not, however, always conclusive in every sense; significant closure may require the reader to deal with ambiguity or uncertainty. Discuss the ending of The Scarlet Letter. Explain how and why the ending appropriately or inappropriately concludes the work. Do not merely summarize the plot.