Create an Argument for the Best AP Prompt

Scarlet letterHere’s a funny cartoon to show that we in the Crowsnest have a little sense of humor. After you catch yourself from laughing out loud in study hall or at your day student homework nook, settle down and click on the link below. The wiki page is a list of essay questions collected from previous AP Exams. Please review it well and argue in 5-7 sentences (in Standard English, of course), which prompt would help you create the optimal essay for this work of literary merit.

About Bill Sullivan

I am an English teacher working with great students at Suffield Academy. I also teach seniors in various project-based learning environments. Some of the #PBL topics included global issues, such as Pandemics, Climate Change, and Water; more recently I have asked students to research and identify topics important to our school community and their generation. We curate these topics with a #StudentCenteredPBL. For the past eleven years, I also created a driving question for a class to research a local history mystery and present their findings in a community program partnering with our local historical society. These topics encompass researching the lives of enslaved individuals who were contributors to the foundation of our community.
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16 Responses to Create an Argument for the Best AP Prompt

  1. jteich7 says:

    The 2009 B question of the AP exam is, by far, the best essay prompt for “The Scarlett Letter”. Many political and social issues are present in this novel, and the choices for the most important topic of criticism vary. The satirical nature in which Hawthorne writes of women’s part in society is spot on. Throughout the story, he pushes the concept that Puritans perceive women to be dangerous when insubordinate and Hester needs to be either under the control of a man or made a social outcast for the men to remain in control. Furthermore, one could also argue that socially, Puritans put an exceptional amount of faith in faith itself. Religion is portrayed in a harsh light and the beliefs and biases of the “pure”, “sinless” figures matter above all else in this setting. Whether one interprets the meaning of the book to be that women have a mind of their own or that personal opinions and passions should not cloud perspective, this prompt gives you the choice to write what you will so long as you write it well.

  2. ablyster says:

    Moral ambiguity is without question a key element in describing several of the main characters in “The Scarlet Letter”, which is why the 2002 AP question upstages all of the rest. It is noted that an important component of Romanticism and especially of Hawthorne’s works, is the use of ambiguity whether it be in the plot, character developments, or themes of the novel. Therefore, it only makes sense that the main characters of this classic novel, pose as paragons for characters who in one opinion may virtuous, yet seemingly evil in another. This question provides a vast canvas in which can be covered with a variety of answers based on the fact that Hester, Arthur, Roger, and Pearl can all be described as morally equivocal. To give brief insight to this, Hester Prynne can be used as a prime example to write a well crafted essay to this question because much of the novel revolves around the societal view of Hester as a sinful adulterer, while at the same time Hawthorne makes a point to discuss Hester’s charities and services to the poor on several occasions, thus proving her character to be good amidst the differing opinions of her village. As I mentioned previously, Hester is not the only character who can be argued as having both a positive and negative morale, which leaves this question to be answered in a number of different ways and with several pieces of supporting evidence.

  3. cbauchiero says:

    The A.P. essay from 2010 is the optimal essay prompt for The Scarlet Letter. This prompt not only looks at how being in exile can alienate a person, but it also covers how living in exile can provide a person with a richer and deeper understanding of life and society, which is exactly what exile provided Hester Prynne. Besides from this, the prompt also allows writers to gather evidence and examples from different scenes throughout the entire book. By allowing this, writers not only show off their understanding of the text, but also show their understanding of how Hester both grew and suffered during her time in exile. This is significant to the story as a whole because Hester’s life in exile is what shapes her into the person she is in the story. This prompt is the perfect essay prompt for The Scarlet Letter because, with its unlimited amount of examples, the novel allows the writer to show their deep understanding of the entire story by pulling all aspects, the negative and the positive, of Hester’s life in exile and relating them to how they overall changed and influenced her character.

    • 15nca says:

      The original 2009 AP essay question is without a doubt the most appropriate to answer when writing about “The Scarlet Letter”. This is by far the best question because it is asking what the physical scarlet letter that Hester Prynne wears, represents. The letter A that is embroidered with gold on her chest is the single most important symbol that the reader must understand when studying “The Scarlet Letter”, not only because of the textual significance but due to the fact is also the name of the book! Deprived of understanding the function of the scarlet letter, one cannot fully understand the characters, theme or work as a whole. As a class, this must be our essay topic for the reason that this piece of literary merit purely revolves around Hester’s Scarlet Letter. There is no Arthur Dimmesdale, Roger Chillingworth or Pearl without the patch of Scarlet Hester proudly prances around town in. This prompt is the epitome of the perfect essay for “The Scarlet Letter” because of the numerous interpretations the actual scarlet letter can yield.

  4. Mark Porter says:

    The AP 2009 Form A prompt is doubtless the best for describing the scarlet letter as it plays into Hawthorn’s own beliefs about literature and the importance of self expression in the reader. The prompt which reads: “Critic Roland Barthes has said, “Literature is the question minus the answer.” Choose a novel, or play, and, considering Barthes’ observation, write an essay in which you analyze a central question the work raises and the extent to which it offers answers. Explain how the author’s treatment of this question affects your understanding of the work as a whole. Avoid mere plot summary.” seems perfectly designed for Hawthorne, for whom ambiguity was always an intentional election. He believed that attempting to force upon the reader a direct moral story or message lessened the effect of his works, instead he preferred that each individual reader come up with their own interpretation of the stories he wrote. This is seen throughout the scarlet letter as important plot points are rarely ever delivered with any one message. The end of the Scarlet letter is an excellent example as it does a great deal to provide many different interpretations for what might have occurred. The Pastors erratic and blasphemous behavior coupled with Mistress Hibbins’ hint as to the devil being Pearl’s Father might lead the reader to believe that the message of the story is one of sin and the consequences of rejecting the moral compass of the community. These events could also just as easily lead the reader to consider Dimsdale evil for entirely different reasons such as his willingness to abandon his flock to the machinations of a society he now sees to be corrupt and evil. It could also just as easily be a story of redemption, the pastor revealing his evil to the town has imparted an important lesson and confessed his sins in the eyes of God and man. I could continue to list examples ad infinitum adding to my point that there are a great many ways to interpret The Scarlet Letter and as such, this prompt regarding ambiguity and the reader’s interpretation is perfect for the book and indeed Hawthorne’s collection of works.

  5. Gray Johnson says:

    I strongly believe that the 2002 AP Form B prompt is the optimal choice for an essay on The Scarlet Letter. Not only is secrecy an enormous part of Hawthorne’s classic, but more importantly Dimmesdale’s willingness to reveal the biggest secret of the story is essential for the story to end on a happier note. This prompt is ideal because the Scarlet Letter contains many characters whom must choose to keep or reveal secrets that plague them. I know that I could write an essay on both Hester’s secret of not revealing Arthur Chillingsworth and Dimmesdale’s secret of impregnating a married/widowed woman. While there are some other topics that contain strong symbols and themes of the Scarlet Letter, I would for sure choose this one to write an essay on.

  6. lflynn says:

    Writers are able to highlight cultural values by focusing on a character that has been somehow withdrawn from society. This is why the 1995 A.P. prompt is the perfect one to showcase Hester Prynne’s alienation from others. Her isolation draws attention to the steadfast religious beliefs of the time. Though her transgression is shameful and she is publically criticized for it; in many ways it also gives her freedom from stringent society. In contrast to most women of the time Hester was able to run her own business and live by herself without the demanding husband-figure. Hester’s alienation allows Hawthorne to highlight the religious severity of the time, but it also shows that there can be some prosperity once removed from oppression.

  7. Julia Harris says:

    The 1995 prompt is the best for writing about the Scarlet Letter. This prompt explores a writer’s use of an alienated character to highlight a society’s values. In the Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne is isolated by the people of her town after she commits the sin of adultery. Hawthorne uses Hester as a way to portray the town’s intense focus on Puritan ideals. Throughout the novel, Hester’s and Pearl’s fate are in the hands of Puritan leaders. Everywhere she goes, Hester letter identifies her and she is shamed and avoided by the townspeople. This emphasizes the fact that disobeying one of the Ten Commandments will be treated as one of the worst of offenses by puritan society, whether it is committing adultery or an offense that would be punished in even a nonsectarian court.

  8. hopkinsg says:

    In my opinions, the 2009 A prompt is clearly the most germane for an AP essay on “The Scarlet Letter”. In almost every piece of literature, including the Scarlet Letter, symbolism is such an important part of interpretation. Hawthorne uses various types of symbolism that changes the way in which the novel is interpreted. This prompt allows the reader to explore symbolism throughout the book and therefore focus on key points that Hawthorne is trying to convey. It is critical that readers focus on symbolism in novels (especially the Scarlet Letter) to fully understand the literal and allegorical morals. Because of these key points, the 2009 prompt is without a doubt the most logical choice.

  9. owen hern says:

    I think that the 2009 AP prompt is the best one to write an essay on about The Scarlet Letter. The prompt asks you to choose a novel that focuses on symbols, and symbols are a major part of The Scarlet Letter. Whether the “A” in the sky, the garden, the scarlet “A” on Hester, the scaffolding, the graveyard, or something else, there are countless examples of symbols throughout the story that I could write about in an essay. That is it why this option would be optimal for me.

  10. kdemitrus says:

    The 2007 AP essay is the best essay topic for The Scarlet Letter because this prompt asks the writer to write an essay about parts of a character’s past that help to shape part of the present within the book. The Scarlet Letter’s entire foundation is set upon Hester’s adultery, and this mistake shapes her entire life throughout the rest of the book. This is why the 2007 AP prompt would be the best to write on.

  11. Ingunnu says:

    I believe that the 1988 AP-prompt essay question would be very interesting to write about in comparison to the other prompts. It reads “Choose a distinguished novel or play in which some of the most significant events are mental or psychological; for example, awakenings, discoveries, changes in consciousness. In a well-organized essay, describe how the author manages to give these internal events the sense of excitement, suspense, and climax usually associated with external action. Do not merely summarize the plot”. The many significant events of the Scarlet Letter are events listed in the prompt – discoveries, “awakenings”, and changes in consciousness. Both Arthur, Roger and Hester have experiences like that, Arthur’s emotional confession being one of notable importance. The characters’ phsyces are extremely important and lay the foundation for how we interpret them and their actions. Therefore, with multiple characters’ thoughts to explore, this is a prompt with endless proofs. I think it is an excellent essay question.

  12. anneking says:

    The 2007 AP-prompt would be the most relevant and easily expandable prompt. It asks the student to write about how things that have gone on in the past can negatively or positively affect a character’s present activities, attitudes, or value. Hester’s Past as an adulterer followed her until the day she died. It asks the student to explain how a certain aspect of the past that the character must content with contributes to the work as a whole. On a basic level, the book itself is about something Hester did in the past that a puritan society never forgave her for.

  13. Lindsay Reilly says:

    The 2004B AP prompt, highlighting how a death scene can evoke the true themes of a novel, is best suited for Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter. In chapter XXIII, the highly respected Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale takes his inevitable final breaths in front of the entire town. He wills his own death upon himself after he reveals that he is the father of Pearl Prynne, the illegitimate daughter of Hester Prynne. Not only does this scene solve the mystery of the novel, but it also shows the importance of acknowledging past mistakes as well as the idea that all men have the potential to do evil, as sinning is an inescapable human act.

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