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Sample Essay Outlines

The following paper topics are designed to test your understanding of the novel as a whole and to analyze important themes and literary devices. Following each question is a sample outline to help get you started.

  • Topic #1

    Discuss Hawthorne’s blend of realism, symbolism, and allegory in The Scarlet Letter.

    Outline
    I. Thesis Statement: The Scarlet Letter is a blend of realism, symbolism, and allegory.

    II. Realism in The Scarlet Letter
    A. Historical setting
    B. Psychological exploration of characters
    C. Realistic dialogue

    III. Symbolism in The Scarlet Letter
    A. The letter and its obvious manifestations
    B. Pearl as a human manifestation of the letter
    C. The settings as symbols
    1. The settlement
    2. The forest
    3. The scaffold
    4. The market-place

    IV. Allegory in The Scarlet Letter
    A. Definition
    B. Character types
    1. The beadle
    2. Hester
    3. Dimmesdale
    4. Chillingworth
    5. Pearl

  • Topic #2

    How are Puritans represented in The Scarlet Letter?

    Outline
    I. Thesis Statement: Hawthorne’s opinion of the Puritans may be understood by examining their actions within the novel and the narrator’s comment on them.

    II. Historical background on the Puritans

    III. Hawthorne’s ancestors as described in “The Custom-House” essay

    IV. The Puritan’s actions in The Scarlet Letter
    A. The ministers
    B. The common people
    1. Attitudes toward work and relaxation
    2. Attitudes toward their religious beliefs
    3. Attitudes toward Hester and Pearl

    V. The narrator’s comments about Puritans
    A. Negative comments
    B. Positive comments

  • Topic #3

    Discuss Hester Prynne’s conflicts with herself, with others, and with Nature.

    Outline
    I. Thesis Statement: Hester Prynne has several conflicts, and as these are resolved, her character is revealed.

    II. Types of conflict possible
    A. Conflict with...

(The entire section is 419 words.)