Signet Essay Contest 2012 Winners

Signet Classics Announces Winners of the 17th Annual Scholarship Essay Contest


New York, NY, July 2013—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:


  • Daniela Ganelin
    Daniela is in the 11th Grade at Montgomery Blair High School, Silver Spring, Maryland.
  • Lauren Haigler
    Lauren is in the 11th grade at Airline High School in Bossier City, Louisiana.
  • DeeDee Han
    DeeDee is in the 11th grade at Bellaire Senior High School in Bellaire, Texas.
  • Sally Little
    Sally is a 12th grade homeschooled student from Woodbridge, Virginia.
  • Eli Talbert
    Eli is in the 12th grade at  Murrieta Valley High School, Murrieta, CA.

Read the winning essays from previous years »

Essay Subject: 1984 by George Orwell

Topics for the essay contest:

  1. Erich Fromm, in the “Afterword” in the Signet Classic edition of 1984, states:

    “George Orwell’s 1984 is the expression of a mood, and it is a warning. The mood it expresses is that of near despair about the future of man, and the warning is that unless the course of history changes, men all over the world will lose their most human qualities, will become soulless automatons and will not even be aware of it.” (p. 313)

    What specifically is the warning about? Cite examples from the book that highlight Fromm’s concerns.

  2. In 1984 the Party is able to generate enthusiasm for war, no matter the enemy or the local conditions. What methods does it use to build support for war and how do the citizens respond? What does this suggest about human behavior?
  3. How is Julia characterized? In what ways is she different from Winston? What are her major interests and concerns? Why is she willing to rebel against the Party?
  4. One of the most frightening aspects of 1984 is “Newspeak,” the systematic deterioration of language as a medium of truth, e.g. “War is Peace,” “Freedom is Slavery.” Why do the people in the novel accept these so-called truths? How are they used as tools to manipulate opinion and reinforce the total dominance of the state? Can you find examples in our own day of the corruption of language as a dependable reflection of reality?
  5. Would Winston have been better off not challenging the party and keeping his rebellious thoughts to himself in order to preserve his personal safety and dignity? In the face of totalitarian rule, is it better to dissent in silence and close one’s eyes to atrocities and excesses in order to survive? Is there any way he might have succeeded in challenging the party? Explain your point of view using Winston and Julia’s experiences.
  6. Some of the surveillance technologies that appear in 1984 are now realities that we take for granted, such as closed circuit television cameras and GPS devices. Discuss the use of technology to control public and private behavior in 1984 and in the present. What limits do you think should be placed on the use of technology to avoid the kind of totalitarian excesses represented in 1984?


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.

1984 by George Orwell

The designated title for 2011-2012 was Emma by Jane Austen. The book selected for the 2012-2013 Signet Classics Scholarship Essay Contest is 1984, by George Orwell.

For more information on the 2012-2013 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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