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A List Of Great Topics For Your Essay On The Scarlet Letter

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:

Gender inequality

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.

Historical Context

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:

  1. What factors motivate Hester to wear the Scarlet Letter once given the option of removing it?
  2. How does the theme of freedom resonate throughout the novel?
  3. How does Hester’s treatment reflect the differing perceptions of male and female sexuality at the time?
  4. Compare the major themes in “The Scarlet Letter” with those found in the Salem witch trials
  5. How does Hester cope with the taunts of the village children about her faith?
  6. What does the novel say about the relationship between mother and child through Hester’s Interaction with Pearl?
  7. What role does the narrator play in providing a unique perspective to the book?
  8. How does irony affect the relationships between some the book’s main characters?
  9. What does the use of the scarlet letter ‘A’ say about the values of Puritan culture?
  10. How does the comparatively minor character of Mr. Wilson serve to keep the narrative in motion?

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.

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