Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel, the Scarlet Letter, takes place in Boston in the 1600’s and follows the life of a woman named Hester Prynn. Found guilty by her community of engaging in extra marital relations she is forced to wear the red letter ‘A’ at all times to remind her of her shame as an adulteress.
Her struggles as well as those of her lover and husband form a story that can be mined for many interesting essay topics. Some of the main issues to remember are:
Hester’s crimes are significant and punishable because of her gender. This is extremely powerful and can be used to comment on modern customs of shaming women for actions that men gain praise for.
Many of the customs of Hester’s community are foreign to modern readers. Still, there are parts of the world where punishments of similar severity are regularly meted out to women who engage in similar actions.
Hester manages to carve some sort of life for herself out of her struggles and can even be seen to grow stronger as a result of them.
With these main issues in mind you can start brainstorming topics for your own use. Some of them may look like these:
With patience and a few thorough readings of the book (and perhaps a viewing of the movie) you may begin to appreciate the characters’ reality and the way it shapes their behaviors.