Topic: Rhetorical Analysis of the Scarlet Letter

Assessment #1: Literary & Rhetorical Analysis Essay Prompt


Identify Nathaniel Hawthorne’s argument* in the scarlet letter. Write an essay analyzing what romantic characteristics, literary devices, and/or other rhetorical strategies Hawthorne uses to convey the argument, explaining how those characteristics, devices, or strategies create and communicate the argument. You may want to analyze elements like these to show how they contribute to his argument:

  • Romantic motifs/characteristics
  • Traits of the Romantic hero
  • Symbolism
  • Ambiguity
  • Imagery
  • Figurative language
  • Characterization
  • Point of view
  • Plot choices
  • Any other rhetorical strategy or literary device that helps convey the argument

Your essay must include evidence from the beginning of the book (anywhere in chapters 1-6) and from the end of the book (anywhere in chapters 16-24), plus any additional evidence that helps illustrate the argument.


*There are many arguments to choose from. Choose one.


Due Date

  • Although you’ll have an opportunity to revise, what you submit by this date must be a fully-formed essay.


Page Limit

  • Do not exceed four pages.



  • Use Times New Roman 12.
  • Double space all text, including the heading.
  • Include a 4-line MLA heading at the top left of page 1 (your name, teacher’s name, class and period, due date in this format:
  • Margins should be 1-inch on all sides.
  • Do not use bold or underlined text anywhere in your response.

Assessment #2:  Contemporary Synthesis Socratic Seminar Prompt


Compare and/or contrast the use of public shaming on Hester Prynne and the use of public shaming in contemporary society. You must use evidence from The Scarlet Letter and at least one contemporary source. You may want to consider:

  • What causes people to use public shaming
  • The styles or types of public shaming
  • The effects of public shaming on the victim
  • The effects of public shaming on society
  • The effectiveness of public shaming
  • Any other relevant aspects of this topic

Some contemporary sources have been provided for you in the list below. You may include evidence from other contemporary sources that you find on your own, such as articles, podcasts, interviews, or documentary films.


Works Cited Page

On the day of the Socratic Seminar, you will turn in a HARD COPY of your Works Cited. At the very bottom of your Works Cited, include your thesis. Use the Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL) to correctly format your Works Cited for ALL of the sources you plan to discuss during the seminar, plus your copy of The Scarlet Letter.

  • Use the links listed on the left of the OWL page to learn how to correctly format the entries in your Works Cited page.


Socratic Seminar Dates

  • TBA


Contemporary Public Shaming Sources

  • NY Times Magazine Article – How One Stupid Tweet Blew up Justine Sacco’s Life
  • TED Talk – Monica Lewinsky: The Price of Shame
  • Slate Online Magazine Article – The Shaming of Izzy Laxamana


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