Signet Essay Contest

Announcing the 19th Annual Signet Classics Student Scholarship Essay Contest

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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 eighteenth 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 six topics for this year’s competition book, Pygmalion and My Fair Lady.

Essay Subject

Pygmalion and My Fair Lady 

Topics

Select one of the following six topics:

  1. Henry Higgins, the leading man in Pygmalion and My Fair Lady, may be considered an anti-hero, a character who acts in ways contrary to conventional literary representations of heroism. What qualities mark him as an anti-hero?
  2. When Eliza threatens to leave Henry in Act 5 of Pygmalion, Henry defends himself, saying, “I care for life, for humanity….What more can you or anyone ask?” In light of Henry’s behavior throughout the play, does this self-justification seem satisfactory? What are the pitfalls of caring for life and humanity in general, as Henry does, but neglecting to consider the needs of individuals?
  3. At the end of Pygmalion, Henry is amused when Eliza goes off to marry Freddy. In My Fair Lady, Eliza returns in a scene that suggests she and Henry have a future together. Given your understanding of Eliza and Henry, do you think one ending fits better than the other? Would it work to switch conclusions—end Pygmalion with Eliza’s return and My Fair Lady with Eliza’s departure? Why or why not? What changes did Lerner make to Shaw’s play to make his new ending plausible?
  4. At the beginning of Pygmalion, we are introduced to Alfred Doolittle, Eliza’s father. Alfred reappears—surprisingly, almost as an afterthought—toward the conclusion of the play. In My Fair Lady, by contrast, his role is greatly expanded in additional scenes and songs. How do these additions affect your view of Alfred’s character and his life philosophy?
  5. Both plays poke fun at the middle class, most notably its emphasis on proper speech and appearance. In what other ways does the play satirize middle class values? What middle class preoccupations and interests are undermined? Do you believe members of the middle class today share attitudes illustrated in the plays? Use examples to illustrate your point.
  6. In Act 5 of Pygmalion and almost verbatim in Act 2, Scene 5 of My Fair Lady, Eliza claims Col. Pickering showed her how to act like a lady by behaving well himself: “I shall always be a flower girl to Professor Higgins because he always treats me like a flower girl, and always will; but I know I can be a lady to you, because you always treat me as a lady, and always will.” Do you agree with Eliza’s assessment of Col. Pickering as a true gentleman? Illustrate your answer with references to his behavior throughout the play.
Official Rules for 19th 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
  1. Matriculated students: Four (4) copies of the essay must be mailed by an English teacher on behalf of the student (each English teacher may submit only one junior and one senior essay), along with a cover letter on school letterhead that includes the following details:
    • Date
    • 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 #5 or #6)
    • 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.

  2. Home-schooled students: Four (4) copies of the essay must be mailed by a parent or legal guardian on behalf of the student, along with a cover letter on the parent/legal guardian’s letterhead that certifies that the student is home-schooled and that includes the following details:
    • Date
    • 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 ,#5 or #6)
    • 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.

  3. 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 the cover letter) of each essay submitted.  Entries must be mailed to Penguin Group (USA) Inc., Academic Marketing Department, Signet Classics Student Scholarship Essay Contest #19, 375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014.  To be eligible, all entries must be postmarked by April 14, 2015 and received on or by April 21, 2015.  Submissions by fax, email or any other electronic means will not be considered.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
Judging

All eligible entries received will be judged by a qualified panel of judges chosen by Penguin Group (USA) Inc., and winners will be selected on or about June 15, 2015.  Winning essays must demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the themes and issues presented in Pygmalion and My Fair Lady . 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, 2015 via email, and will be announced online on or about July 1st, 2015.

Prizes

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.

Eligibility
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
General
  1. 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.
  2. All expenses, including taxes (if any), on receipt and use of prizes are the sole responsibility of the winners.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Any dispute arising from this Contest will be determined according to the laws of the State of New York, without reference to its conflict of law principles, and 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.
Winners List

For a copy of the winners list, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope by December 15, 2015 to Penguin Group (USA) Inc., Academic Marketing Department, 375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014, Attention: Signet Classics Student Scholarship Essay Contest #19, or check online after July 1st, 2015.

Sponsor

Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Academic Marketing Department
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014

 

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The title for the 20th Annual Signet Classics Essay Contest will be Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Essay topics will be posted on our website after July 2015.

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