Signet Essay Contest
Announcing the 22nd Annual Signet Classics Student Scholarship Essay Contest
Read the winning essays from previous years »
With an unbeatable lineup of over 300 of the greatest literary works the world has ever known, Signet Classics is the publisher that students, education professionals and the public turn to more than any other. Now, we are proud to host our twenty-second annual Signet Classics Student Scholarship Essay Contest, in which five high school juniors or seniors can each win a $1,000 scholarship award to be used toward their higher education plus a Signet Classics library for their school! Essays must be submitted by a high school English teacher on behalf of students who write an essay on one of five topics for this year’s competition book, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
Select one of the following five topics:
- How is Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl still relevant more than two hundred years after slavery has been abolished? Be specific about how the treatment of oppressed people today reflects the treatment of slaves in the book and what can be learned from Harriet Jacobs’ story.
- Harriet Jacobs’ experiences suggest that slavery negatively impacts not only the slave, but also the slaveholder. In what ways are the masters and mistresses in the book corrupted by slavery? Why does this occur?
- Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl is a story of survival and even success in an almost impossible situation. What about Harriet Jacobs’ character accounts for her ability to overcome?
- What special circumstances did slaves face in motherhood? How do these women cope with or adapt to their situation? In what ways do they protect and preserve the next generation?
- What are the differences between the Christianity practiced by slaves and the Christianity practiced by slave owners? Is religion depicted more convincingly as a force for progressive change or as a way to preserve the status quo?
Official Rules for 22nd Annual Signet Classics Student Scholarship Essay Contest
No purchase necessary. A purchase will not enhance your opportunity to win.
Open to 11th and 12th grade full-time matriculated students who are attending high schools located in the fifty United States and the District of Columbia, or home-schooled students between the ages of 16-18 who are residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia.
How to Enter
- Matriculated students: Four (4) copies of the essay should be mailed by an English teacher on behalf of the student (each English teacher may submit only one junior and one senior essay). Each of the four (4) copies of the essay should include a cover letter on school letterhead and includes the following details:
- Student’s full name, grade, address, e-mail and home telephone number
- Name of high school
- Name, email and daytime telephone number of English teacher submitting essay (please include summer contact information if different from school year contact information)
- Name, e-mail and daytime telephone number of the school’s administration officer
- Topic selected (#1, #2, #3, #4 or #5)
- Certification by teacher that the essay is the student’s original work
Essays submitted without a cover letter on school letterhead or cover letters that do not include the above details will be disqualified.
- Home-schooled students: Four (4) copies of the essay must be mailed by a parent or legal guardian on behalf of the student. Each of the four (4) copies of the essay should include a cover letter on the parent/legal guardian’s letterhead that certifies that the student is home-schooled and includes the following details:
- Student’s full name, address, e-mail and home telephone number
- Student’s equivalent grade
- Name and daytime telephone number and e-mail of the sponsoring parent/legal guardian
- Topic selected (#1, #2, #3, #4 or #5)
- Certification by sponsoring parent/legal guardian of home-schooled student that the essay is the student’s original work
Essays submitted without a cover letter on parent/legal guardian’s letterhead or cover letters that do not include the above details will be disqualified.
- Essays must be at least two and no more than three double-spaced pages, computer or typewritten (please do not staple submissions). Please include four (4) copies (including four (4) cover letters) of each essay submitted. Entries must be mailed to Penguin Publishing Group, Academic Marketing Department, Signet Classics Student Scholarship Essay Contest #22, 375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014. To be eligible, all entries must be postmarked by April 14, 2018 and received on or by April 21, 2018. Submissions by fax, email or any other electronic means will not be considered.
- Entries will not be returned. By entering the Contest, contestants agree to abide by these rules, and represent and warrant that the entries are their own and original creations, and do not violate or infringe the rights, including, without limitation, copyrights, trademark rights or rights of publicity/privacy, of any third party.
- Entries are void if they are in whole or in part illegible, incomplete, damaged or handwritten. No responsibility is assumed for late, lost, damaged, incomplete, illegible, postage due or misdirected mail entries.
All eligible entries received will be judged by a qualified panel of judges chosen by Penguin Publishing Group and winners will be selected on or about June 15, 2018. Winning essays must demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the themes and issues presented in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Submissions will be judged on style, content, grammar, and originality. Judges will look for clear, concise writing that is original, articulate, logically organized, and well supported. Winners will be notified by June 24th, 2018 via email, and will be announced online on or about July 1st, 2018.
There are five (5) prizes available to be won. Each prize includes a check in the amount of one thousand dollars ($1,000.00) to be used toward winner’s tuition and/or expenses related to their higher education. Each prize also includes a Signet Classics Library for the winner’s school library, or public library in the case of a home-schooled winner (Approximate Retail Value (“ARV”) = $1,600.00). Total ARV per prize = $2,600.00.
In the event that there is an insufficient number of qualified entries or if the judges determine in their absolute discretion that no or too few entries meet the quality standards established to award the prizes, Sponsor reserves the right not to award the prizes.
- Open to 11th and 12th grade full-time matriculated students who are attending high schools located in the fifty United States and the District of Columbia, or home-schooled students between the ages of 16-18 who are residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia. Void where prohibited by law. All state and local restrictions apply.
- Employees of Sponsor and its parent company, subsidiaries, affiliates or other parties in any way involved in the development, production or distribution of this Contest, as well as the immediate family (spouse, parents, siblings, children) and household members of each such employee are not eligible to participate in this Contest.
- No cash substitution, transfer or assignment of prizes allowed. In the event of the unavailability of a prize or prizes, Sponsor may substitute a prize or prizes of equal or greater value.
- All expenses, including taxes (if any), on receipt and use of prizes are the sole responsibility of the winners.
- Winners may be required to execute an Affidavit of Eligibility and Release. The affidavit must be returned within fourteen (14) days of notification or another winner will be selected. If a winner is under 18 years of age, their parent/legal guardian will also be required to sign the Affidavit. Because the ARV exceeds $600.00, winners shall be required to provide a Social Security Number or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number to Sponsor for issuance of a 1099 Form. The winner’s school library or public library in the case of a home-schooled winner that will receive a Signet Classics Library shall also be required to provide a Federal Tax Identification Number to Sponsor for issuance of a 1099 form, in connection with its receipt of this portion of the prize.
- By accepting a prize, the winners and their parents and/or legal guardians grant to Sponsor the right to edit, publish, copy, display and otherwise use their entries in connection with this Contest, and to further use their names, likenesses, and biographical information in advertising and promotional materials, without further compensation or permission, except where prohibited by law.
- LIMITATION OF LIABILITY. By competing in this Contest and/or accepting a prize, entrants release Sponsor, its parent, subsidiary or affiliated companies, or the agencies of any of them and the authors and/or editors of any books promoted hereby from any and all liability for any loss harm, injuries, damages, cost or expenses arising out of or relating to participation in this Contest or the acceptance, use or misuse of the prize(s). UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHALL THE RELEASED PARTIES BE LIABLE FOR INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, CONSEQUENTIAL, SPECIAL OR EXEMPLARY DAMAGES, ATTORNEYS’ FEES, OR ANY OTHER DAMAGES.
- Any dispute arising from the contest will be determined according to the laws of the state of new york, without reference to its conflict of law principles, and by entering, the entrants consent to the personal jurisdiction of the state and federal courts located in New York County and agree that such courts have exclusive jurisdiction over all such disputes.
For a copyof the winners list,send a self-addressed, stamped envelope by December 15, 2018 to Penguin Publishing Group, Academic Marketing Department, 375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014, Attention: Signet Classics Student Scholarship Essay Contest #22, or check online after July 1st, 2018.
Penguin Publishing Group
Academic Marketing Department
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
The title for the 23rd Annual Signet Classics Essay Contest will be Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. Essay topics will be posted on our website after July 2018.
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The resiliency and determination of human nature cause people to strive for the highest ground—even a position that was once lost. However, the process of reclamation may result in a change in personality, sometimes for the worse. In Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Prospero sees himself as an honest, caring man who is trying to find his way back to his former life. However, while executing his elaborate plan, Prospero belittles the spirits he controls, often by ridiculing their intelligence and insulting their appearances. Ultimately he becomes a dictator who does not understand how his actions affect others, which is more dangerous than a dictator who is aware of his or her consequences. His decision to surrender his powers at the end of the play was wise, because he was already conceited, as well as on the path to corruption, and could not have found a middle ground to retain his powers yet still be moral.
Prospero is initially presented as a well-rounded man who is thoroughly educated and had everything he could have desired. He describes himself in his former life to his daughter Miranda as, “The prime duke, being so reputed / in dignity, and for the liberal arts / without a parallel”. Prospero was at his height when he was driven from Milan. Yet all this is from Prospero’s perspective, so he is portrayed as the wronged man. Prospero decided that his books were more important than the dukedom and handed over his position of power to his brother Antonio. Prospero’s anger at Antonio and his anguish at the loss of his dukedom are not fully justified because he himself had provided the opportunity for wrongdoing. In addition, Prospero’s increasingly condescending nature is already apparent when he describes his supporters as “the creatures that were mine”. Even at the beginning, he saw those who stood by him as objects under his power. Prospero may portray himself as a wronged man, but his seed of corruption existed early on.
Magical powers only succeeded in increasing Prospero’s haughtiness, although he still views himself as a righteous person. Prospero commands the spirits of the island, including Ariel, and Caliban, the son of a witch. Although they carry out his orders, Prospero denigrates them at the slightest protest. When Prospero encounters Caliban later in the play, he addresses Caliban with a series of insults, not limited to “thou poisonous slave, got by the devil / himself” and “hagseed”. When Ariel asks Prospero about his promised freedom, Prospero is instantly angered and says, “thou liest, malignant thing!”. Ariel requests that Prospero remember his “promise / to bate [Ariel] a full year”. However, Prospero insists that Ariel is ungrateful for being freed from the witch, Sycorax, and makes Ariel continue to do his bidding. Prospero does not treat those he commands with kindness, even those who efficiently aid him in his plan.
A softer, kinder side of Prospero is also seen in the play as well, but not as often as his harsh actions. Miranda does mention that her “father’s of a better nature… than he appears by speech” . This “better nature” is observed most prominently when Prospero tries to bring Miranda and Ferdinand, the Prince of Naples, together. Prospero is the kindest when attending to his daughter and her future, but he can be rough with her as well. While he tells Miranda about his past, he repeatedly interrupts his story to ask her, “Dost thou attend me?”. Ironically, while portraying himself as an honest, wronged man, his behavior indicates his more overbearing nature. Prospero furthers his claim to be a wronged man in his encounters with Caliban. He initially treated Caliban “with humane care, and lodged [him]”, but now sends spirits to “mow and chatter at [him], / and … with cloven tongues/ do hiss [him] into madness”. While his kind actions are generous and sweet, they are outweighed by numerous insults.
Prospero is a rather pompous person when in a position of power, but is reduced to nothing without any magical abilities. He puts on a grand display of “some vanity of [his] art” for Miranda and Ferdinand. In the performance, the spirits are named after Ancient Roman goddesses, almost as a suggestion at the extent of Prospero’s power. Yet, at the end of the play, Prospero reveals that his powers come through domination when he says, “now my charms are all o’erthrown, / and what strength I have’s mine own, / which is most faint”. Prospero himself is nearly insignificant without subjects to command.
Overall, Prospero is an arrogant and almost tyrannical man who strongly believes he is kind and was unjustly wronged. All those he mistreats, including Ariel and Caliban, remind him of his forgotten promises and harsh actions, which Prospero immediately dismisses as untrue. Prospero fails to see his own misdeeds and does not realize his authority comes from forced domination over others. Such a failure suggests that he cannot be a moral man as long as he has magical powers. Therefore, Prospero was wise to give up his powers before any lasting damage was done.