Academic | Essay Contest

Signet Classics Announces Winners of the 11th Annual Scholarship Essay Contest

Gulliver's TravelsNew York, NY, June 2007 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 ninth annual Signet Classics Scholarship Essay Contest. The Grand Prize Winners, listed in alphabetical order, are:

  • Christine Chun
    Christine is in 11th grade, Northern Valley Regional High School at Old Tappan, Old Tappan, NJ
  • Thomas Johnson
    Thomas Johnson is in 11th grade, DeMatha Catholic High School, Hyattsville, MD
  • Dae Smith
    Dae Smith is in 12th grade, Shawnee Mission East High School, KS
  • Julie Gianakon
    Julie is in 12th grade, The Tatnall School, Wilmington, DE
  • Anna Ehrlich
    Anna is in 12th grade, Pioneer High School, Ann Arbor, MI

Read the winning essays from previous years »

Essay Subject: Gulliver's Travels

Topics for the 2007 Essay Contest:

  1. In the "Introduction" to the Signet Classics editon of Gulliver's Travels, Leo Damrosch writes: "Swift's critique of the weakness of human nature is as piercing today as it ever was, and the term "Swiftian" has come to mean a special kind of biting ironic wit. At many points Gulliver is (as his name implies) a gullible vehicle of the satire, a mere mouthpiece for the author's views." Cite examples in at least three of the voyages to support these statements.
  2. What does Gulliver tell the reader about the roles and behavior of women in each society that he visits? Do you believe these descriptions show Swift to be a misogynist (a hater of women)? Why or why not? Support your answer with references to details in at least three of the four books.
  3. In Book II the King of Brobdingnab calls humans "the most pernicious race of little vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth." However, Gulliver meets all kinds of people in his travels. Based on his description of humans (and human-like figures) throughout the novel, do you believe the King's opinion to be justified? Why or why not? Support your answer with references to details in at least three of the four books.


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 Liz Perl, 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.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde The designated title for 2006-2007 was Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift. The book selected for the 2007-2008 Signet Classics Scholarship Essay Contest is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson.

For more information on the current 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.

Penguin Group (USA) would like to thank our friends at Family Education Network and PBS for their support of the Signet Classics Essay Contest.

For more information, please contact
Carolyn Birbiglia, Penguin Group (USA) Publicist, at 212-366-2203.


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