By Monday, please email me to let me know the topic (author or theme) that you will write about for your Essay Assignment (I am only requiring one essay for this class). You may focus on readings we’ve done (working from one of your earlier posts perhaps) or even one of this week’s authors: Hawthorne and Melville. You could also focus on a film I’ve recommended throughout this course.  The Final Essay is due Friday, Dec. 17.

Email me your topic at:

Upload your essay draft to our google docs drive: HERE (upload your file from your


HERE IS A SAMPLE STUDENT ESSAY (on Frederick Douglass)



One of the greatest friendships in the history of American Literature is the one between two of our finest authors, Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne. 

Hawthorne was a popular writer of short stories in the 1830s and 1840s but became truly famous with the publication of his novel The Scarlet Letter (in 1850).  The novel is set in the time of the Puritans in New England (in the 1600s) and focuses on a young lady named Hester Prynne who has a child (Pearl) out of wedlock.  The father is none other than the minister of the highly religious community, Reverend Dimmesdale.  Dimmesdale does not confess to his “sin” and leaves Hester to handle the scorn that is thrust upon her by her fellow “Christian” townspeople. 

Please watch this film trailer of the book (starring Demi Moore): HERE

Please watch this film trailer of a fun, updated version of the novel, Easy A (starring Emma Stone ): HERE

Please read Chapter Two (“The Marketplace”) of The Scarlet Letter (1850), in which a pregnant Hester Prynne must step up on a scaffold in the middle of town and face an abusive crowd demanding she confess who the father is.

Hawthorne’s works were very influential to Herman Melville. He too had been a popular writer of sea voyages (he had gone on a two year whale voyage himself).  In 1851, inspired by the truth-telling of Hawthorne, he wrote Moby-Dick, or the Whale, a lengthy novel considered to be one of the greatest works in Western literature. 

Moby-Dick features a narrator named Ishmael who decides to leave his boring day job in New York City in the 1840s to go on an adventurous whaling voyage.  He boards the whaling ship, the Pequod, and quickly befriends a fellow whaleman from the Pacific Islands named Queequeg (adorned with amazing tattoos across his entire body).  The co-star of the novel, however, is the mad crazy Captain Ahab who really only wants to chase down a white whale named Moby-Dick who in a previous voyage bit off Ahab’s right leg (he now walks with a peg leg).  A symbol of revenge and arbitrary authority, Ahab’s obsessive quest to harpoon Moby-Dick (spoiler alert) causes the Pequod to sink.  All but Ishmael survives.

Please read the famous opening chapter of Moby-Dick HERE

Please watch this biography of Melville that includes a discussion of his friendship with Hawthorne: HERE

If you have the time, I also highly recommend watching this recent film version of Moby-Dick: HERE

No need to post on these readings and videos.  Just enjoy and work on your final essay topic.