Signet Essay Contest 2011 Winners

Signet Classics Announces Winners of the 15th Annual Scholarship Essay Contest


New York, NY, July 2011—Signet Classics, the imprint of New American Library devoted for more than 40 years to publishing inexpensive paperback editions of more than 300 of the world’s greatest literary works, has announced the winners of the fifteenth annual Signet Classics Scholarship Essay Contest. The Grand Prize Winners, listed in alphabetical order, are:



  • Samantha Whitney Carter
    Samantha is in the 12th Grade at Wayzata High School, Plymouth, MN
  • Sean Neill
    Sean is in the 12th Grade at the High School of American Studies at Lehman College, Bronx, NY
  • Sumaya Quillian
    Sumaya is in the 11th Grade at El Camino Real High School, Woodland Hills, CA
  • Scott Remer
    Scott is in the 11th Grade at Beachwood High School, Beachwood, OH
  • Serina Lee Robinson
    Serina is in the 12th Grade at Lincoln High School, Sioux Falls, SD

Read the winning essays from previous years »

Essay Subject: The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

Topics for the essay contest:

  1. In the introduction to the Signet Classic edition, Alev Lytle Croutier states:

    “The themes of imperialism and sensationalism in Collins’s writings challenged the prejudices prevalent in Victorian England. At the heart of his social critiques was Collins’s contempt for abuses of power, whether at home in Britain or abroad in the British Empire.”

    Cite examples of such criticisms and comment on them.

  2. How do different female characters in The Moonstone embody or defy what we might think of as traditional Victorian or nineteenth-century values and expectations for women’s behavior?
  3. The Moonstone could have been told in the third person by one omniscient narrator, yet Collins chooses to tell the story from the point of view of eight different narrators. Do you believe the novel benefits from this approach? Why or why not? What are the advantages and disadvantages? Cite examples to support your responses.
  4. Many characters in the novel are neither straightforward heroes or anti-heroes, and often seem to do insensitive things in service of what they feel is right. Some characters are attractive overall but exhibit behaviors that are unsympathetic, while characters like the Hindoos fluctuate between appearing villainous and victimized. Choose two figures who reveal different sides to their personalities, and discuss the way these characteristics help and/or undermine their roles in the novel. (For purposes of this question, the Hindoos may be regarded as a single figure.)
  5. Religion and superstition cause many of the characters in The Moonstone to behave in ways the other characters cannot understand. Miss Clack’s religious fanaticism, the actions of the Indians, and the superstitions of Gabriel Betteredge all strike other characters as odd. How do these personalities help you understand what is going on in the immediate environment that the characters inhabit? In what ways do they also comment on larger social issues of the period?


The Signet Classics Scholarship Essay Contest was established in 1996 to encourage greater interest in reading among high school students by offering tangible assistance to the winning students and their schools. It is open to qualifying high school juniors and seniors in the United States. “We are proud to be involved in a unique scholarship program that encourages student appreciation for the great classics,” notes Craig Burke, Vice President and Executive Director of Publicity for New American Library.

Entrants are required to submit a 2-3 page double-spaced, typewritten essay, answering one of four questions relating to the designated competition book. Essays must demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the themes in the book; clear, concise writing; and logical, well-supported arguments. Judges also consider style, content, grammar and originality. Five Grand Prize Winners are each awarded a $1,000 scholarship and a Signet Classics Library for their school (or local public library, in the case of home-schooled students), valued at $1,700.

Emma by Jane Austen

The designated title for 2010-2011 was The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. The book selected for the 2011-2012 Signet Classics Scholarship Essay Contest is Emma, by Jane Austen.

For more information on the 2011-2012 Signet Classics Essay Contest, click here.

Entry forms and full information about the contest will also be available in high school English departments, or by writing to:

Penguin Group (USA)
Signet Classics Scholarship Essay Contest
375 Hudson Street
New York, NY 10014

New American Library is a division of Penguin Group (USA), part of Pearson Plc, the international media group, and includes the imprints Signet, Signet Classics, Onyx, Roc and NAL Trade Paperbacks.

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