Create a Compelling Argument

This is just to let you know that the technology department in the Crowsnest likes to connect literature to modern movies; enjoy this trailer from the interesting and entertaining teen movie, Easy A. Though by no means a rendition of Hawthorne’s novel, The Scarlet Letter, you will find that the screenplay writers made a modern homage and modernized some issues from Hawthorne’s novel to present day culture:  individual reputations within an intense, hypocritical community, double standards, and the social dynamics when cultural forces treat women as objects. Have you seen this movie? It was released a while ago, but maybe you caught it on Netflix recently. Or that other medium, Television. You can enjoy the movie in your free time, though it will not directly help you with the nuances of the novel’s plot and Hawthorne’s prose. It is just a fun and thought provoking  homage. In the meantime, click on the link below of past AP Essay prompts. Download and review carefully this PDF Document, which lists the essay questions on the past AP Exams. Please reflect on the whole list well and then select what you think is the best prompt to apply to The Scarlet Letter. Argue in 5-7 sentences in Standard English, which prompt would help you create the optimal essay for The Scarlet Letter. You can refer to your prompt simply by the year. Again, compose your 5-7 sentence argument in a Word document so that you can conduct spellcheck and grammar check easily. Then paste your 5-7 sentence argument in the comment thread below this post. In other words, you will make comments on this post just as you did for the comments on the community text. AP_Eng_Lit.Open_Responses


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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14 Responses to Create a Compelling Argument

  1. 1966 is the best prompt that would help me create the optimal essay for The Scarlet Letter. This description of this prompt describes a plot where “an important character violates the laws, the conventions, the rules of conduct of a society” and The Scarlet Letter definitely emits this. I believe that this would be the best because in The Scarlett Letter, Hester (the main character) breaks one of the rules of conduct in her society by committing adultery. I believe that this prompt would be the best option because it perfectly describes exactly what Hester is going through as well as Dimmsdale. Although Dimmsdale is punished by his internal guilt while Hester is externally punished with the Scarlet Letter on her chest. Both of these characters violate the law; however, the reader chooses to sympathize with one or the other, or even both based off of the characters’ response to their “sins”.

  2. AnuDaramola says:

    The best prompt to apply to The Scarlet Letter is 2002 because in the book, many of the morally ambiguous characters are at the heart of the work. They cannot be completely categorized as purely evil or purely good. For this prompt, I would choose Arthur Dimmesdale because he fits this pivotal role perfectly. Throughout the work, he struggles with the internal guilt and shame of having slept with and impregnating Hester. Though he commits adultery and does not own up to his actions, his internal grapple conveys his moral awareness. In a regular situation, one would immediately peg him a coward and immoral character due to his behavior. However, his response to his actions better show the type of person he is. The self-inflicted guilt that eats him up and the shame that he brings upon himself is what makes Dimmesdale morally ambiguous and this moral ambiguity is significant to the work as a whole. It supports the theme of good vs. evil. Essentially, the question of who determines what is good and what is evil comes into play. Then the questions of who decides the punishment and which is harsher: external or internal punishment are explored.

  3. vivianriegel says:

    The prompt that best emulates the ideas of the Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is 2007, Form B. The prompt describes singular or several acts of betrayal of or by the protagonists and their companions. The main character, Hester, commits one of the most hurtful forms of betrayal to this day, adultery. While waiting for her husband to come to Boston from England, she has an affair with the Bostonian minister, Arthur Dimmesdale. This betrayal is crucial because it sets the stage for the rest of the novel as the readers get to see how this betrayal affects everyone in her life and the repercussions of her choice. It shows the external and internal punishment she and Dimmesdale face afterwards, examples including Hester’s scarlet “A” or Roger’s self-loathing. On the other hand, Roger Chillingworth, Hester’s husband, betrays her by trying to get revenge after she cheated on him. Hester asks Roger to leave it be, however, he betrays her wishes in order to fulfill his own need to know the man. Roger is also punished, because Dimmesdale tells the truth to everyone and dies shortly afterwards, leaving no satisfaction in humiliating or killing Dimmesdale. This prompt illuminates the fact that there are betrayals in every story, and very rarely are they gone unpunished.

  4. The prompt that best applies to the Scarlet Letter is from the year 1977, #2 because it highlights parallels found within a novel. In this book, specifically, there are multiple instances where Hester, the protagonist, is found to be in the same place at different times and for different reasons. These occurrences prove to be significant as the story progresses because it shows how Hester’s role in society develops further as her story moves forward. Her transformation is apparent through the interactions she has when she revisits these settings and how society deals with her crime. In this instance, the setting described is the scaffold where Hester is reprimanded for her crime. Later on, she is back at the scaffold but instead is united with Dimmesdale, the man she had an affair with, showing how the scaffold now represents unity as contrasted to sin. This prompt best portrays the significance of the small parallels within a story that later bring out a character’s pivotal transformations.

  5. Caroline Walsh says:

    The prompt that would best help me create the ideal essay for The Scarlet Letter is the 2009 prompt. This prompt stood out to me above all the others because it asks the writer to talk about a symbol and what it reveals about certain characters or themes throughout the literary work. It is evident that the scarlet “A” that Hester Prynne wears on her chest is a major symbol throughout the work. The “A” itself stands for “Adultery” and this “A” symbolizes her character as a whole. It constantly reminds society of her terrible crimes and how she has done wrong to her husband. This scarlet letter also determines how others treat Hester and view her as a person. They avoid her and scold her, and remind her every day that she is a disgrace to her society. Additionally, when Hester takes off her scarlet letter and even throws it, it makes her feel free and alive again. All the burdens that the scarlet letter have placed upon her went away and she finally felt like she was not weighed down by all her sins anymore. This shows the significance of the scarlet letter and the weight it holds upon Hester Prynne’s life. Lastly, this scarlet letter was seen as a bad thing that represented Hester’s sins; however, by the end of the book, it is almost a part of Hester and she can be proud to wear the scarlet letter, as it signifies her strength in the face of hatred and solitude. As a whole, there are many instances throughout this work that support that this symbol builds the basis for the literary work and reveals several things about significant characters and themes.

  6. Claudia says:

    The best prompt to use in regards to the novel “The Scarlett Letter” by Nathanial Hawthorne would be the 1976 prompt. Describing the conflict created when an individual opposes social norms, this prompt focuses on one of the major themes of the story. Hester Prynne defies social expectations by having an affair with the minister while her husband left her alone for two years. Everyone is appalled by her actions and believes that she was blessed to have escaped the punishment of death. In addition, the prompt focuses on the moral implications society and Hester both must endure. The community simply could not accept her evil actions because of their religious beliefs so they felt obligated to chastise her. This punishment had a severe impact on Hester’s life, turning the once warm-hearted and attractive woman into a person with a cold exterior. By society making her an outcast and treating her as if she was the devil, Hester felt it was her moral duty to become a servant of her society as repentance. Furthermore, Hester also had an impact on society. As time went on, Hester became more active in society as the Sister of Mercy, aiding the ill and helping the community. People began to see her less as an adulterer and more as a kind person, somewhat lessening their original harsh views they felt religiously obligated to have of her. She showed the community that she was more than her one poor choice and society almost became more open-minded to this fact. All in all, this prompt highlights a major aspect of this work while also focusing on depicting how society and the individual rebel influences each other. Therefore, this is the best prompt for “The Scarlett Letter.”

  7. Sohi Shah says:

    I believe the prompt from 1971 would best allow for an optimal essay on The Scarlet Letter to be written. The original prompt calls for two stories and the presence of their titles in the work to be compared and analyzed. But, just applying the analysis of the title to one story can still produce an essay with perceptive points about the story itself. The prompt compels the writer of the essay to reflect on the title of the work and how its importance develops along with the story. This is the best prompt because it allows the presence of the scarlet letter to be analyzed and its prominence can be understood. Many times throughout the story, the letter is referred to by different names. The variation of the names provide insight on what the letter symbolizes for Hester and everyone around her. Also, the story shows the viewpoints of different characters and their own opinions and connections with the scarlet letter which further implicate its importance. Lastly, the imagery of the scarlet letter and the way it is described throughout the novel makes it very clear that the impact it has on society as a whole as well as personal lives was enormous. This prompt allows a thorough analyzation of the scarlet letter to be made by focusing on the literary devices used to emphasis the object in the title.

  8. Gabriella Tosone says:

    The best prompt for one to apply to The Scarlet Letter is 1972 because it discusses the way authors choose to introduce the major themes of the text in the first chapter of the work. The opening scene of The Scarlet Letter describes the prison where Hester must spend much of her time because of the crime she committed. One of the most prominent and obvious themes in The Scarlet Letter is the idea of the threshold, and this short chapter mentions the threshold three times. It is introduced in the first chapter of the text, hinting to the reader that the idea is important to the plot development of the work. The prison is located on the “threshold” between the outside community and the gloomy land on which it sits. Throughout the text, two contrasting objects or events are described with the idea of the threshold in order to show the differences between the two and to highlight the theme of the threshold. The rose-bush described in this first chapter also appears throughout the text and is a symbol that is recognized as the common description of the threshold idea. The rose- bush is included throughout the novel to illuminate a contrast between two settings or actions. It represents the threshold, or differences, between the two ideas it appears with. When it first appears, it is between the outside community and the prison setting and highlights the way these two places differ. The way the concept of the threshold is introduced in the first two pages of the text allows the reader to look for it as the story develops. The idea reappears when Dimmesdale has his visions of Hester. The idea of threshold represents the differences between the conscious and subconscious thoughts that Dimmesdale has in this seen and because the idea of the threshold is mentioned in the first scene of the text, a reader is more aware of the common theme and looks for it constantly throughout the text. The 1972 prompt can easily be applied to The Scarlet Letter as it directly parallels with the way the major themes of the text are introduced in the first chapter.

  9. Aiden Miller says:

    The prompt that I would use to allow for the best essay on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlett Letter is prompt 1999. This prompt describes how a character’s mind could be pulled apart by two conflicting forces and how these forces and the conflict within the character reveal something about the work as a whole. This prompt would be perfect for the character Arthur Dimmesdale. As the hidden father of Hester’s daughter, Dimmesdale constantly is at conflict with himself due to the sin he committed and the guilt he carries from it. As a leader of the town and the Minister, he would be cast out and publicly shamed if he ever revealed that he in fact is the father of Pearl. Dimmesdale is at conflict about his commitment to Hester and Pearl and his commitment to the town and his duty as minister. As a character, Dimmesdale’s inner conflict supports one of the larger themes of the work; identity. Many characters in the Scarlett Letter deal with facing their identity. Some characters like Hester accept who they are and what they have done and improve upon themselves. Dimmesdale is the opposite, and constantly rejects his identity in fear of being chastised for who he is. The prompt 1999 is perfect for the Scarlett Letter, exposing one of the books major themes and analyzing a key character.

  10. Justin Hern says:

    In my opinion, 1980 offers the best possible opportunity for a good response about The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. It asks about passion versus responsibility, which is a common theme throughout literature, and asks the student to “clearly the nature of the conflict, its effects upon the character, and its significance to the work”. The reason why this is a great question to form an essay on is because there are several ways to construct it, as the prompt is about a theme that runs throughout the book. It describes a passion as “a personal cause, a love, a desire for revenge, a determination to redress a wrong”, all concepts that are prevalent in The Scarlet Letter. There is the conflict between Dimmesdale’s love for Hester and his responsibility as a pastor and the conflict of Chillingworth’s desire to exact revenge upon Dimmesdale versus his duty as a doctor and husband. This prompt has many different possible interpretations, so it encourages creativity from the reader and tests their knowledge of the work as a whole, not only certain events in the story.

  11. The best AP essay prompt for the story Nathaniel Hawthorne wove in “The Scarlett Letter” would be the 1995 prompt, which describes how a character’s alienation reveals the surrounding society’s morals. Hester is isolated and sentenced as a sinner for committing adultery, despite her admirable strength and willpower, displaying the Puritan values of the village of Boston. Not only does this prompt display the isolation of others based on past experiences rather than the goodness of their heart, but also illustrates the roles of a Puritan society. Hester commits adultery after husband Robert Chillingworth had initially ruined their marriage by prioritizing his studies over his lover, and disappeared for two years, yet Hester, as a woman, must face punishment for being an incompetent match for the physician. The Bostonians succumb to double standards relating to gender, as well as creed. Reverend Dimmesdale is put on a pedestal and admired, despite how he is not-so-secretly crumbling with both physical and mental weight, with his health and also the adultery. This AP prompt invites many different interpretations providing room for a fresh and detailed analysis, as the dark side of Hawthorne’s Puritan society is revealed as the characters blossom.

  12. Michaela Grace Domino says:

    I think that a good AP question for my writing style and specifically for the Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is the 2002 question, Form B: “Often in literature, a character’s success in achieving goals depends on keeping a secret and divulging it only at the right moment, if at all. Choose a novel or play of literary merit that requires a character to keep a secret. In a well-organized essay, briefly explain the necessity for secrecy and how the character’s choice to reveal or keep the secret affects the plot and contributes to the meaning of the work as a whole. You may select a work from the list below, or you may choose another work of recognized literary merit suitable to the topic. Do NOT write about a short story, poem, or film.” The whole book is based around how both Hester and Minister Dimmesdale must keep their affair a secret in order to protect the life of Pearl and Dimmesdale’s reputation. Additionally it is established in the beginning that Chillingsworths identity must also be withheld. Since the novel seems to be clearly based around the publicity of their affair, that being the social aspect of Hester sporting the Scarlet Letter, it is essential that no one knows just who Pearl’s father is. When Rodger Chillingsworth, Hester’s husband, ‘gives her the finger’ as in sushes her, the fact that his identity is a secret is now known to the reader. His goal is to find out who Hester had the affair with and then sabotage and ruin that persons life, that cannot happen if his identity is known. These secrets are very clearly carried throughout the whole story and an essential part of everyone’s lives.

  13. Hailey Williams says:

    The best prompt to write the best essay would be 2016 prompt. This prompt focuses on a character who intentionally deceives others for a purpose. This would be a good question for an essay on Roger Chillingworth because he deceives the whole town about who he is. The prompt says that “the character’s dishonesty may be intended either to help or to hurt.” In this case, he is using dishonesty for harm. His reasons for this are because he wants to seek revenge on the person that Hester committed adultery with. He lies about his identity to protect himself from suspicion of the town so that he is able to get revenge on Dimmesdale without drawing attention to himself.

  14. Sam says:

    The prompt from 1976 would help create the optimal essay for The Scarlet Letter because it describes the relationship between one individual and their own society. This prompt specifically focuses on how this individual feels a strong opposition to the community; while also showing how this idea can portray moral and ethical ideas. The prompt fits in with The Scarlet Letter because Hawthorne continuously shows how Hester is an outsider from her community due to the distinct scarlet letter on her chest. With this, Hawthorne also shows how society reacts to Hester wearing this letter; he conveys the many symbols the “A” represents. Hawthorne highlights how society immediately rejects Hester from the community once this label is put upon her; for example, members of the community would intentionally eschew her, to the point where they would not even touch her. Hester recognizes this reaction and makes the decision to go along with it. By wearing the scarlet letter proudly, Hester shows her opposition to society; she chooses to not care what people think. Hester is willing to use her punishment as a message to her community that one can stand up by doing exactly what is told of them. After some time, Hester starts to gain respect from her community; this shows that time can heal conflict. All she needed was patience. Hawthorne conveys the importance of staying true to one’s motives and not letting society determine what one will be as a person.

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