Twain was a genesis story teller. I think he must have understood how much work goes into choosing the right words or else he wouldn’t have made that statement. When I was in school, if I was told to write about anything I wanted, my brain ran in circles like a dog chasing it’s tail. Therefore, I like to give my writing students a place to start.
If you are using the essay prompts from Living Outside the Lines as part of your curriculum this year you might find this post, What Did Ē-ssay helpful. It includes simple definitions for the various types of essays you might want to assign your child to write and links to a couple of reviews on writing curriculum. If you would like to take the tension out of grading your child’s writing assignments you might find these files helpful. Essay Rubric,General Grading Guidelines for Essays, or A Grading Rubric Helps the Student and Teacher.
If you are reading The Scarlet Letter with us you might like these essay topics.
Essay Questions for High School
Hawthorn’s story portrays revenge as something that twists the soul. What does the Bible say about revenge — what it looks like, how to avoid it and what the effects are. After thinking these things through write an analytical essay about revenge.
Theme: Women and Femininity
Write an analytical essay about women – their roles, the way society viewed them in the mid 17th century. Use points from the story as illustrations for the facts you uncover from history. Here are a few ideas from the story to get your mental juices flowing:
Hester chose to protect the minister from facing punishment with her. Why?
Pearl demonstrates strength in her character. Does the fact that she’s a girl make a difference?
Hester joins the witches after she is invited by Mistress Hibbins. Why?
During Hawthorne’s time period, men were considered dominant. Hawthorne, writing this story in 1850, makes his female characters strong and independent as well as sinful, while he makes his male characters morally weak. Other characters in the story define Pearl as a “demon” child. She is the youngest character in the book, and yet she has the strongest moral convictions of any of the main characters. Write an expository essay that explains why you think Hawthorne wrote the story this way. To call attention to the points you make, use examples from the story so the reader can see more clearly what you are explaining.
Theme: Compassion and Forgiveness
Research Hawthorn’s family history regarding legalism and grace. Then write a research essay that describes a reason that Hawthorne wrote the story as he did. Explain the reason and why you think he wanted to write about this topic. Use examples from the story and connect them to his life.
Knowledge of the author’s history informs us about the story he writes. Research Hawthorne’s life and link it to the themes found in The Scarlet Letter. Then write an expository essay about the connections you see.
Write an essay that compares and contrasts legalism and hiding with grace and forgiveness. Look for examples in the story and wherever you see truth, add the scripture to reinforce the ideas you are writing about. For example, Hester is judged and punished in a legalistic society but she transforms her punishment to wear the scarlet letter into a symbol of grace rather than shame. If this were one of your points you would add a specific scene that shows the reader this fact and then add scripture that enlightens it — Isaiah 61:3, “…to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.”
Reverend Dimmesdale waits seven years to confess his sin because he fears the wrath of a legalistic society. When he confesses, he finds peace — not necessarily from the responses of others, but from God and then within himself. Write a persuasive essay about living in the light – openly living as a sinner saved by grace, not a religious person who acts like she is above certain sins.
Theme: Fate and Free will
The debate about free will and fate is a hotly debated topic among Christians. Think through these three points: Adam and Eve’s ability to choose right from wrong before sin entered the world, the kind of ability to choose that a non-Christian has and the ability a believer has after becoming a Christian.
Analytical Essay Topic: Decide if you believe there is a difference in each of these three positions when juxtaposed to the holiness of God?
If yes, explain yourself in an analytical essay.
If no, explain yourself in an analytical essay.
Answering these questions as you think though your position might help you prepare your thoughts for the essay.
1. Could Adam and Eve have chosen NOT to eat from the tree?
Did Adam and Eve have a special ability regarding choice that would have aided them to avoid eating the fruit before the fall?
If so, what was it? Define what gave them this ability and tell what happened to it when they fell?
If not, then why did God expect them to be able to choose to avoid evil? Is he mean? Unjust?
2. Do non-Christians have the same special ability regarding choice that Adam and Eve had before the fall?
If yes, then think through why they need a Savior, Jesus, if their original ability to choose is unaltered.
If no, then they are in need of a Savior but from what? What did they lose that created a need for Jesus?
3. Do believers who are saved by grace through the blood of Jesus have the same special ability regarding choice that Adam and Eve had before the fall?
If yes, why? How? Were they restored? Restored from what?
If no, then why does anyone need Jesus?
Essay Questions for Kids
What does the Bible say about revenge — what it looks like, how to avoid it and what the effects are? Write a 5-paragraph essay about revenge. To make your essay more interesting, include examples from your personal story, the Bible and stories that you have read that had revenge as a theme.
Theme: Compassion and Forgiveness
Write a cause and effect essay on legalism or grace. Present facts from the Bible to create your argument and then include examples to enlighten the reader about your facts. The examples can be personal examples, scriptures or examples you have read about in a story. Your examples should help the reader understand the position you are taking.
Theme: Guilt and Blame
Write a cause and effect essay about guilt and the different responses we have to it – blame, ignore, lash out, repent, admit, etc.
Theme: Justice and Judgment
Define justice. Define judgment. Write a compare and contrast essay on justice and judgment?
Theme: Fate and Free Will
Discuss with your parents the ideas of fate and free will. Read Ephesians chapters one through four and hear what God says about fate and free will. Write a 5-paragraph essay on providence.