This essay was first published in The Atlantic Monthly and then, online, in the "Atlantic Abroad" section of the Atlantic's Website,. It is used here with the kind permission of the editors of The Atlantic Monthly. At Atlantic's Web site, you can also find hyperlinks to several other fine examples of descriptive writing. Read Mark Twain's little piece (below) about the troubles he has with his new watch, as another example of narrative writing. (There is very little in the way of paragraphing in this narrative, and as you read along you might want to think about how you would break this piece into smaller units of thought for your reader.) Answer the questions we pose after Twain's essay. My watch: An Instructive little tale by mark twain from "Sketches New and Old copyright 1903, samuel Clemens. This text is placed in the public Domain (Jun 1993, 16). (Written about 1870.) my beautiful new watch had run eighteen months without losing or gaining, and without breaking any part of its machinery or stopping.
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Hoots and warbles percolated in from the detention foliage; rain began to fall but its drops, intercepted by the manifold layers of leaves above, hardly touched. "I tell my people in church to abandon these beliefs for God." His voice rang loud in the amphitheater of great trees. Our American pastors have a lot to say about how ignorant we are. We are trying to change, but these beliefs persist. Life is hard in our country. The people want to insure themselves, so they worship God and these idols. Don't you agree?" "Why did you come here then?" i asked him as we walked back to the road. "To see the skilled work of our artisans." That was as good an answer as any. At the gate we tipped the guide and parted ways. Jeffrey tayler is a freelance writer and traveler based in Moscow, and is the author of Siberian Dawn (1999). He contributes regularly to The Atlantic Monthly and files frequent dispatches for Atlantic Abroad.
There were no locals about, i noticed. Dodging oversized ferns, our guide hopped down the trail, and we followed him. Debel!" yardage he said, pointing with disdain at a pug-nosed bust with an evil smirk standing amid a tangle of roots. The pastor's face retained its pinched expression. "Of course, this man is ignorant he said to me, waving his arm in dismissal. Up at a promontory above the river we found Olu Igbo the lord of the forest. Placing his stick in his back pocket, the little man fell silent and bowed. It was indeed an awesome sight a giant stone effigy standing among great trees, with huge eyes and long arms spread out like wings.
Our guide then led us down to the river. The water ran bright green between the trees; monkeys jumped around the canopy above. Arising from a mess of roots was with Oshun's statue, which occasioned a monologue from the little man. "What is he saying?" i asked the translator. "He says locals bring sacrifices to the gods here. Maize, moi-moi, cola nuts.". Father paul shook his head, his brow wrinkling, his lips pursing.
"you come to look at the Grove?" he asked, shaking my hand. A young woman emerged from the trail. Her wardrobe, too, could have been bought on sale at jc penney's, but unlike pastor paul, she was fit, with fresh eyes. "my interpreter pastor paul said, pointing to her. "Of course i can't understand these people. We have our own language in Benue state.". The little man talked up a storm in Yoruba, but the interpreter said nothing.
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We stopped in front of a many-headed statue. "ako alumawewe he blurted out, sucking on the stick. He nodded and spat, then headed down the trail to another stone effigy, that of Egbe. After kissing the ground at its base, he held forth at length in mellifluous Yoruba. Since i spoke no yoruba and he, it turned out, no English, it became clear that my visit wasn't going to be as edifying as I had statement hoped.
i looked back up the trail. A nigerian man in penny loafers was making his way gingerly around the puddles and heading our way. He was young but a belly was already spreading under his white izod shirt; he wore tight beige highwater trousers. It was clear that he was living a life of relative plenty. He introduced himself as Pastor paul, from a church in Benue state.
The surrounding rain forest was dripping with humidity; wraiths of mist wandered between the big trees. I got off, paid him, and entered. The sacred Grove of Oshogbo was one place i had been looking forward to visiting in Nigeria. As prevalent as indigenous religions still are in West Africa, it is often hard to find public expressions of them in towns and cities; the Christianity brought by european slavers and colonialists has taken root and pushed most of these religions out of mainstream life. But in the sacred Grove shrines honor all the local deities, including Obatala, the god of creation, Ogun, the god of iron, and Oshun, the goddess of water, whose aqueous essence is made manifest by the river running through the trees.
The place is unique in the yoruba religion, and that intrigued. As I passed through the gates I heard a squeaky voice. A diminutive middle-aged man came out from behind the trees the caretaker. He worked a toothbrush-sized stick around in his mouth, digging into the crevices between algae'd stubs of teeth. He was barefoot; he wore a blue batik shirt known as a buba, baggy purple trousers, and an embroidered skullcap. I asked him if he would show me around the shrine. Motioning me to follow, he spat out the results of his stick work and set off down the trail.
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When writing a narrative, it gender is easy to get caught up in the telling of the story and forget that, eventually, our reader is going to ask. and there had better be an answer. Read Jeffrey tayler's "The sacred Grove of Oshogbo" (first published. The Atlantic Monthly, used with permission) and try to determine exactly at what passage in the text do you become aware of the point of tayler's essay. Take note of the rich detailing of the forest, the caretaker, and the minister from the city and try to describe how the details lend themselves toward the purpose of the article. Another Atlantic essay, jeff Biggers' "Searching for El Chapareke filled with wonderful details of a remote town in Mexico is also available here. May 26, 1999, the driver steered his moped down the corrugated red mud road outside of the nigerian town of Oshogbo, north of Lagos, with me bouncing along on the back seat. In front of a wooden gate he wobbled to a halt.
few seconds of the shooting can take in this paragraph. You can read the entire text of george Orwell's story by clicking. Here, and you can read additional essays by this famous author. Animal Farm and, nineteen Eighty four at "The political Writings of george Orwell.". Do not forget that the business of the essay is to make a point. In his essay, orwell succeeds in portraying the horrors of an imperialist state, showing how the relationship between the oppressed Burmese and the British oppressor is dehumanizing to both.
The most important thing to remember is that your job as writer is to show, not tell. If you say that the tree is beautiful, your readers are put on the defensive: "Wait a minute they think. "We'll be the judge of that! Show us a beautiful tree and we'll believe." do not rely, then, on adjectives that attempt to characterize a thing's attributes. Lovely, exciting, interesting these are all useful adjectives in casual speech plan or when we're pointing to something that is lovely, etc., but in careful writing they don't do much for us; in fact, they sound hollow. Let nouns and verbs do the work of description for you. With nouns, your readers will see; with verbs, they will feel. In the following paragraph, taken from george Orwell's famous anti-imperialist essay, "Shooting an Elephant see how the act of shooting the elephant delivers immense emotional impact.
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Writing a, narrative composition appeals to one of humankind's basic instincts, the impulse to share stories. Sometimes the aim of the story-teller is simply to entertain, to provide a moment of escape from the business of the day or the horrors of the night, but sometimes the aim of the story-teller is to instruct, to help others in their understanding. The best part of teaching in this way is that our listeners' natural resistance to heeding the words of others is low and they are not always aware that they are being taught anything until it's too late we've got them. The skills needed to narrate a story well are not entirely the same as the skills needed to write a good essay. Some wonderful short fiction writers are not particularly good essayists and vice versa. Still, it is useful to look at those elements that make up a good narrative and know how to apply what we fuller learn toward making our essays as dramatic as possible whenever that is appropriate. Review, also, the elements of the. Personal Essay, as the personal essay and the narrative essay have much in common. The ability to describe something convincingly will serve a writer well in any kind of essay situation.