English Essay on “The Day Everything Went Wrong” English Essay-Paragraph-Speech for Class 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 CBSE Students and competitive Examination.

The Day Everything Went Wrong

I won’t forget that black Wednesday when things went wrong one after another with me. On Tuesday, I came from school with heavy assignment of mathematics home work. That night I could not miss my favourite movie and quiz programme on T.V. I thought that I would get up at 4 a.m. and finish the task. I was out of luck. There was power failure just as I was picking up my exercise book. I tried to finish the job in the morning light when the dawn broke. I worked feverishly yet got delayed in the process. Somehow I ran to the bus stop with my back pack on. The bus had gone. I decided to run to the school. Only a few strides had I taken when a banana peel sent me cart wheeling in the air and crash down. My ankle got twisted and I returned home wobbling. I had to stay in bed for two days. I cursed my luck when I learnt that mathematics teacher had taken leave on that day due to illness.

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A Day When Everything Went Wrong Essay

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Students , Life , Breakfast , Dreams , Night , Library , Horror , Education

Published: 03/10/2020


One night, last semester I could not sleep soundly. The night passed as I tossed and turned in bed. I could only remember one of the numerous dreams I had in the night. The dream was based on activities in a birthday party I had attended, and we enjoyed all kinds of finger-leaking food and drinks. I woke up extremely jovial and related the dream to my father. He gazed at me as he shook his head and told me that it was a horrible dream, and I advised me to take care of my activities during the day. To me the dream seemed joyful, and I could not attach any horror experience to it. I took a bath and was ready for school. Our house-help has already prepared my breakfast- bacon and tea. I hurriedly took the breakfast on my left hand and held the teapot in the right hand as I walked to the dining room. Accidentally, my foot was caught in a cloth that lied on the floor, and I lost balance and fell over. The teapot and the plate smashed into pieces with the bread landing on a heap of dust that had been swept that morning. I had to go to school hungry since there was no more breakfast in the house. However, the previous weekend my uncle for helping him in cleaning his car had paid me some money. There I was sure I would buy something to eat when I got to school. Since I always have early lectures every Monday, I had to hurry up. I rushed to the bus stop so that I may catch a bus to the university. I was not lucky since as I approached the bus stop, the university bus was rolling out of the bus stop after waiting for me for some time. As an option, I had to catch a bus that would drop me at the gate of the school. I hurriedly got into a bus that was at the stop. It had not yet gotten into my senses that this day was the most unfortunate day of my life. We were almost two kilometers to the university when one of the rear tires busted. It was the most scaring experience I have ever had. The bus landed into a ditch as almost everyone cried for help. Luckily, I escaped with no injury. However, I lost my school bag in the process. I was already late for my first lesson. I even wondered how I could have attended it without my bag, which I believe was in the ditch. I hanged around the lecture hall so that I may catch up with the activities of the day. It is at this time that the horror of horror struck. My best friend approached me and confronted me “Have you submitted your assignment?” I could not remember that I had my assignment in the lost school bag. My lecturer had no chance to listen to my flaw. All I believed is that I had committed the worst mistake of my academic life. I approached the lecturer after the lecture pleading with him as I explained my situation. He warned me against late submission of the assignment but allowed me to submit it in the afternoon. The challenge was how I would handle the assignment under extensive mental pressure. Little did I know that my bad day had indeed arrived. The security officer at the entrance was new to the job, and he had to be as strict as his calling demands. When I handed him the card, he asked me to look up as he compared my face with the picture in the card. He could clearly tell that I was not the owner of the card. He held my hand directing me to the library director’s office. The administrator had heard of the habit but had not confirmed of its existence. Little did I understand that I was to become a clear example to the other students. He took me through the regulations of the library and informed me that I should not use another student’s card to enter to the library. Following the incidence, I was expelled from the institution for two weeks, and I had to put up with the agony of my dream. When I got home, I could not explain what had happened during the day. My father had predicted my day would be bad if I were not keen. However, the unfortunate rolled the day, making it the worst day of my life.


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The Day Everything Changed: Narrative Essay

It was 11:58 p.m. on June 28, 2020. I was 15 years old at the time. I had been checking my phone repeatedly waiting for that text. That one text that would change things forever. I sat there anxiously awaiting the high-pitched ding that would fill my soul with immense feelings of anger and regret. I slumped down on my grandma’s bed and with every adjustment of my body, a creaking sound would follow. I let out a sigh of distress as I felt a single warm tear roll down my right cheek. My face began to feel hot, and the color red began to replace the white ivory that once was my complexion. Ding. There it was. I had racked my brain wondering how I could prevent such an awful sound. I could have turned my phone off. I could have silenced my ringer. I could have done something – anything to avoid that sound. An unbearable weight, grief, sat upon my chest and resulted in a kind of pain that could only be explained through the fall of a tear or a quiver of a lip. I lifted the phone that lay next to me on that creaky bed. “She’s gone.” Those weren’t the only words on the screen but they were certainly the only ones that mattered. No advice or encouragement could have prepared me for the passing of my aunt. 

The weeks following her death seemed to mesh together in an endless cycle of futility– nothing seemed to matter. The trees weren’t as green as I remembered. The cool breeze that filled my shirt on a hot June day didn’t feel as relieving as before. My aunt’s death impacted me more than my teenage brain could even begin to understand. I often wondered how things would ever get better and my life could return to the normalcy I craved. But, even though life seemed dark at the time, light awaited me at the end of the tunnel. 

Looking back on my Aunt Cathy’s honorable life gave me peace of mind during that difficult time. At birth, my aunt was diagnosed with a congenital heart disease called Epstein anamoly. This sickness caused fluid to build up in her heart and caused a variety of complications. The doctors informed her parents that she would not make it past a couple months of age. When her first birthday came around, she was told that five years old was as long as she would make it – if she was lucky. This trend of death predictions continued in five-year increments until she reached 68th birthday. 

My aunt treated me like a child of her own because she was not able to conceive. Her heart had too much trouble sustaining her own life, therefore it was nearly impossible to sustain another. Because of her trouble conceiving, she treated me as the child she was not given. This provided me with the privilege of looking up to her and her ways. She was the most God-fearing woman that I have ever had the pleasure of encountering. She served the Lord diligently and let the Lord’s light shine through her; brightly, and for all to see. She was patient, loving, kind, and gentle – from the way she spoke, to the way she looked for light in all of life’s struggles.

My Aunt Cathy has taught me that trials should not be taken for granted. In comparison to the rest of my family members, my Aunt lived a relatively short life.  In that time, I never heard her complain about the daily pain she endured. Just like my aunt, we all have a mortal body and it will fail eventually. This supplies life with all of its beauty. My Aunt Cathy showed me that life should not be taken for granted because it is temporary. I don’t have unlimited time on this earth and that’s what makes it so cherishable. I won’t always be able to wake up and form memories with loved ones. I won’t always have the ability to hug your parents before going to school or a sleepover. Being able to hop out of bed without pain or aches in my body is a luxury that I are not guaranteed in the future. It is a miracle that I have the opportunity to experience all life has to offer. My aunt was a living and breathing example of this because despite her health complications, she held onto the faith that the Lord had a greater purpose for her pain.

My aunt’s struggles with pregnancy led to her calling to help others who battled with the same thing. When my aunt was around the age of 30 years old, she got a job at a pregnancy clinic that helped young women in her area support their children. This is a beautiful example of how the Lord turned my Aunt Cathy’s pain into a greater purpose. She could not have a child, so she walked alongside women who could.

The passing of my aunt has taught me to seek much joy out of life and not take the pain I may endure for granted. Just like my aunt Cathy, I have the power to make an impact on someone’s life that goes beyond my mortal body. All trials and tribulations that I have yet to endure, all work for a greater good. I am grateful for having someone like my Aunt Cathy in my life showing me that, I too, can live a life that leaves a lasting impact on the people around me.

narrative essay on the day everything went wrong

My name is Kaylee and this is the story about how my Aunt Cathy's death changed my perspective on life.

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narrative essay on the day everything went wrong

School Essay

Essay On A Day When Everything Went Wrong

  • Post category: Essay
  • Reading time: 5 mins read

It was the tenth of March. The day everythink went wrong with me. It is generally believed that thirteen is an unlucky number. But my experiences on the tenth of March of a certain year made me feel that I was right in considering ten as an unlucky number and not thirteen.

That day I had to get up earlier than usual. | wanted to revise my lessons before going for my exam. My alarm clock did not ring. I remained asleep. I suddenly woke up when it was bright. The room was flooded with light. I jumped out of bed at 7 a. m. I had only half an hour to get ready and catch the bus to go to school.

I dressed in a hurry and went to swallow a glass of milk. There was no time for break-fast. Picking up my-books, I rushed to the bus-stop. I found that the school bus had just left. I had to wait for the public bus. That meant a further delay. At long last, the bus came but it took only two passengers. I was third in the queue. I begged of the conductor to take me in, but he refused. He pushed me out when I tried to enter the bus forcibly. I fell on the road. All my books were scattered about. I felt very unhappy and, humiliated. I picked up my books, and waited for the next bus.

The next bus took me to school ten minutes late. The teacher shouted at me as I tried to enter the class. He sent me to the Principal. The Principal scolded me for coming late. I had already lost thirty minutes. I would not be able to finish my paper as was going to start late.

The paper was given to me. I found it difficult to write anything. In my nervousness, I had forgotten everything. I gave up a blank paper. The whole day went badly for me.

I returned home unhappy in the evening. My elder brother met me at the gate. He said that my fouryear-old brother had fallen and hurt himself very badly. He had probably fractured his arm.

My mother was very upset. My little brother had been admitted to the hospital. Thus the entire day was unlucky for me. I hope I shall never have such a bad day in my life again.

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  • How to write a narrative essay | Example & tips

How to Write a Narrative Essay | Example & Tips

Published on July 24, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on July 23, 2023.

A narrative essay tells a story. In most cases, this is a story about a personal experience you had. This type of essay , along with the descriptive essay , allows you to get personal and creative, unlike most academic writing .

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Table of contents

What is a narrative essay for, choosing a topic, interactive example of a narrative essay, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about narrative essays.

When assigned a narrative essay, you might find yourself wondering: Why does my teacher want to hear this story? Topics for narrative essays can range from the important to the trivial. Usually the point is not so much the story itself, but the way you tell it.

A narrative essay is a way of testing your ability to tell a story in a clear and interesting way. You’re expected to think about where your story begins and ends, and how to convey it with eye-catching language and a satisfying pace.

These skills are quite different from those needed for formal academic writing. For instance, in a narrative essay the use of the first person (“I”) is encouraged, as is the use of figurative language, dialogue, and suspense.

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narrative essay on the day everything went wrong

Narrative essay assignments vary widely in the amount of direction you’re given about your topic. You may be assigned quite a specific topic or choice of topics to work with.

  • Write a story about your first day of school.
  • Write a story about your favorite holiday destination.

You may also be given prompts that leave you a much wider choice of topic.

  • Write about an experience where you learned something about yourself.
  • Write about an achievement you are proud of. What did you accomplish, and how?

In these cases, you might have to think harder to decide what story you want to tell. The best kind of story for a narrative essay is one you can use to talk about a particular theme or lesson, or that takes a surprising turn somewhere along the way.

For example, a trip where everything went according to plan makes for a less interesting story than one where something unexpected happened that you then had to respond to. Choose an experience that might surprise the reader or teach them something.

Narrative essays in college applications

When applying for college , you might be asked to write a narrative essay that expresses something about your personal qualities.

For example, this application prompt from Common App requires you to respond with a narrative essay.

In this context, choose a story that is not only interesting but also expresses the qualities the prompt is looking for—here, resilience and the ability to learn from failure—and frame the story in a way that emphasizes these qualities.

An example of a short narrative essay, responding to the prompt “Write about an experience where you learned something about yourself,” is shown below.

Hover over different parts of the text to see how the structure works.

Since elementary school, I have always favored subjects like science and math over the humanities. My instinct was always to think of these subjects as more solid and serious than classes like English. If there was no right answer, I thought, why bother? But recently I had an experience that taught me my academic interests are more flexible than I had thought: I took my first philosophy class.

Before I entered the classroom, I was skeptical. I waited outside with the other students and wondered what exactly philosophy would involve—I really had no idea. I imagined something pretty abstract: long, stilted conversations pondering the meaning of life. But what I got was something quite different.

A young man in jeans, Mr. Jones—“but you can call me Rob”—was far from the white-haired, buttoned-up old man I had half-expected. And rather than pulling us into pedantic arguments about obscure philosophical points, Rob engaged us on our level. To talk free will, we looked at our own choices. To talk ethics, we looked at dilemmas we had faced ourselves. By the end of class, I’d discovered that questions with no right answer can turn out to be the most interesting ones.

The experience has taught me to look at things a little more “philosophically”—and not just because it was a philosophy class! I learned that if I let go of my preconceptions, I can actually get a lot out of subjects I was previously dismissive of. The class taught me—in more ways than one—to look at things with an open mind.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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If you’re not given much guidance on what your narrative essay should be about, consider the context and scope of the assignment. What kind of story is relevant, interesting, and possible to tell within the word count?

The best kind of story for a narrative essay is one you can use to reflect on a particular theme or lesson, or that takes a surprising turn somewhere along the way.

Don’t worry too much if your topic seems unoriginal. The point of a narrative essay is how you tell the story and the point you make with it, not the subject of the story itself.

Narrative essays are usually assigned as writing exercises at high school or in university composition classes. They may also form part of a university application.

When you are prompted to tell a story about your own life or experiences, a narrative essay is usually the right response.

The key difference is that a narrative essay is designed to tell a complete story, while a descriptive essay is meant to convey an intense description of a particular place, object, or concept.

Narrative and descriptive essays both allow you to write more personally and creatively than other kinds of essays , and similar writing skills can apply to both.

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Caulfield, J. (2023, July 23). How to Write a Narrative Essay | Example & Tips. Scribbr. Retrieved June 26, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/academic-essay/narrative-essay/

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A narrative essay is one of the most intimidating assignments you can be handed at any level of your education. Where you've previously written argumentative essays that make a point or analytic essays that dissect meaning, a narrative essay asks you to write what is effectively a story .

But unlike a simple work of creative fiction, your narrative essay must have a clear and concrete motif —a recurring theme or idea that you’ll explore throughout. Narrative essays are less rigid, more creative in expression, and therefore pretty different from most other essays you’ll be writing.

But not to fear—in this article, we’ll be covering what a narrative essay is, how to write a good one, and also analyzing some personal narrative essay examples to show you what a great one looks like.

What Is a Narrative Essay?

At first glance, a narrative essay might sound like you’re just writing a story. Like the stories you're used to reading, a narrative essay is generally (but not always) chronological, following a clear throughline from beginning to end. Even if the story jumps around in time, all the details will come back to one specific theme, demonstrated through your choice in motifs.

Unlike many creative stories, however, your narrative essay should be based in fact. That doesn’t mean that every detail needs to be pure and untainted by imagination, but rather that you shouldn’t wholly invent the events of your narrative essay. There’s nothing wrong with inventing a person’s words if you can’t remember them exactly, but you shouldn’t say they said something they weren’t even close to saying.

Another big difference between narrative essays and creative fiction—as well as other kinds of essays—is that narrative essays are based on motifs. A motif is a dominant idea or theme, one that you establish before writing the essay. As you’re crafting the narrative, it’ll feed back into your motif to create a comprehensive picture of whatever that motif is.

For example, say you want to write a narrative essay about how your first day in high school helped you establish your identity. You might discuss events like trying to figure out where to sit in the cafeteria, having to describe yourself in five words as an icebreaker in your math class, or being unsure what to do during your lunch break because it’s no longer acceptable to go outside and play during lunch. All of those ideas feed back into the central motif of establishing your identity.

The important thing to remember is that while a narrative essay is typically told chronologically and intended to read like a story, it is not purely for entertainment value. A narrative essay delivers its theme by deliberately weaving the motifs through the events, scenes, and details. While a narrative essay may be entertaining, its primary purpose is to tell a complete story based on a central meaning.

Unlike other essay forms, it is totally okay—even expected—to use first-person narration in narrative essays. If you’re writing a story about yourself, it’s natural to refer to yourself within the essay. It’s also okay to use other perspectives, such as third- or even second-person, but that should only be done if it better serves your motif. Generally speaking, your narrative essay should be in first-person perspective.

Though your motif choices may feel at times like you’re making a point the way you would in an argumentative essay, a narrative essay’s goal is to tell a story, not convince the reader of anything. Your reader should be able to tell what your motif is from reading, but you don’t have to change their mind about anything. If they don’t understand the point you are making, you should consider strengthening the delivery of the events and descriptions that support your motif.

Narrative essays also share some features with analytical essays, in which you derive meaning from a book, film, or other media. But narrative essays work differently—you’re not trying to draw meaning from an existing text, but rather using an event you’ve experienced to convey meaning. In an analytical essay, you examine narrative, whereas in a narrative essay you create narrative.

The structure of a narrative essay is also a bit different than other essays. You’ll generally be getting your point across chronologically as opposed to grouping together specific arguments in paragraphs or sections. To return to the example of an essay discussing your first day of high school and how it impacted the shaping of your identity, it would be weird to put the events out of order, even if not knowing what to do after lunch feels like a stronger idea than choosing where to sit. Instead of organizing to deliver your information based on maximum impact, you’ll be telling your story as it happened, using concrete details to reinforce your theme.


3 Great Narrative Essay Examples

One of the best ways to learn how to write a narrative essay is to look at a great narrative essay sample. Let’s take a look at some truly stellar narrative essay examples and dive into what exactly makes them work so well.

A Ticket to the Fair by David Foster Wallace

Today is Press Day at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield, and I’m supposed to be at the fairgrounds by 9:00 A.M. to get my credentials. I imagine credentials to be a small white card in the band of a fedora. I’ve never been considered press before. My real interest in credentials is getting into rides and shows for free. I’m fresh in from the East Coast, for an East Coast magazine. Why exactly they’re interested in the Illinois State Fair remains unclear to me. I suspect that every so often editors at East Coast magazines slap their foreheads and remember that about 90 percent of the United States lies between the coasts, and figure they’ll engage somebody to do pith-helmeted anthropological reporting on something rural and heartlandish. I think they asked me to do this because I grew up here, just a couple hours’ drive from downstate Springfield. I never did go to the state fair, though—I pretty much topped out at the county fair level. Actually, I haven’t been back to Illinois for a long time, and I can’t say I’ve missed it.

Throughout this essay, David Foster Wallace recounts his experience as press at the Illinois State Fair. But it’s clear from this opening that he’s not just reporting on the events exactly as they happened—though that’s also true— but rather making a point about how the East Coast, where he lives and works, thinks about the Midwest.

In his opening paragraph, Wallace states that outright: “Why exactly they’re interested in the Illinois State Fair remains unclear to me. I suspect that every so often editors at East Coast magazines slap their foreheads and remember that about 90 percent of the United States lies between the coasts, and figure they’ll engage somebody to do pith-helmeted anthropological reporting on something rural and heartlandish.”

Not every motif needs to be stated this clearly , but in an essay as long as Wallace’s, particularly since the audience for such a piece may feel similarly and forget that such a large portion of the country exists, it’s important to make that point clear.

But Wallace doesn’t just rest on introducing his motif and telling the events exactly as they occurred from there. It’s clear that he selects events that remind us of that idea of East Coast cynicism , such as when he realizes that the Help Me Grow tent is standing on top of fake grass that is killing the real grass beneath, when he realizes the hypocrisy of craving a corn dog when faced with a real, suffering pig, when he’s upset for his friend even though he’s not the one being sexually harassed, and when he witnesses another East Coast person doing something he wouldn’t dare to do.

Wallace is literally telling the audience exactly what happened, complete with dates and timestamps for when each event occurred. But he’s also choosing those events with a purpose—he doesn’t focus on details that don’t serve his motif. That’s why he discusses the experiences of people, how the smells are unappealing to him, and how all the people he meets, in cowboy hats, overalls, or “black spandex that looks like cheesecake leotards,” feel almost alien to him.

All of these details feed back into the throughline of East Coast thinking that Wallace introduces in the first paragraph. He also refers back to it in the essay’s final paragraph, stating:

At last, an overarching theory blooms inside my head: megalopolitan East Coasters’ summer treats and breaks and literally ‘getaways,’ flights-from—from crowds, noise, heat, dirt, the stress of too many sensory choices….The East Coast existential treat is escape from confines and stimuli—quiet, rustic vistas that hold still, turn inward, turn away. Not so in the rural Midwest. Here you’re pretty much away all the time….Something in a Midwesterner sort of actuates , deep down, at a public event….The real spectacle that draws us here is us.

Throughout this journey, Wallace has tried to demonstrate how the East Coast thinks about the Midwest, ultimately concluding that they are captivated by the Midwest’s less stimuli-filled life, but that the real reason they are interested in events like the Illinois State Fair is that they are, in some ways, a means of looking at the East Coast in a new, estranging way.

The reason this works so well is that Wallace has carefully chosen his examples, outlined his motif and themes in the first paragraph, and eventually circled back to the original motif with a clearer understanding of his original point.

When outlining your own narrative essay, try to do the same. Start with a theme, build upon it with examples, and return to it in the end with an even deeper understanding of the original issue. You don’t need this much space to explore a theme, either—as we’ll see in the next example, a strong narrative essay can also be very short.


Death of a Moth by Virginia Woolf

After a time, tired by his dancing apparently, he settled on the window ledge in the sun, and, the queer spectacle being at an end, I forgot about him. Then, looking up, my eye was caught by him. He was trying to resume his dancing, but seemed either so stiff or so awkward that he could only flutter to the bottom of the window-pane; and when he tried to fly across it he failed. Being intent on other matters I watched these futile attempts for a time without thinking, unconsciously waiting for him to resume his flight, as one waits for a machine, that has stopped momentarily, to start again without considering the reason of its failure. After perhaps a seventh attempt he slipped from the wooden ledge and fell, fluttering his wings, on to his back on the window sill. The helplessness of his attitude roused me. It flashed upon me that he was in difficulties; he could no longer raise himself; his legs struggled vainly. But, as I stretched out a pencil, meaning to help him to right himself, it came over me that the failure and awkwardness were the approach of death. I laid the pencil down again.

In this essay, Virginia Woolf explains her encounter with a dying moth. On surface level, this essay is just a recounting of an afternoon in which she watched a moth die—it’s even established in the title. But there’s more to it than that. Though Woolf does not begin her essay with as clear a motif as Wallace, it’s not hard to pick out the evidence she uses to support her point, which is that the experience of this moth is also the human experience.

In the title, Woolf tells us this essay is about death. But in the first paragraph, she seems to mostly be discussing life—the moth is “content with life,” people are working in the fields, and birds are flying. However, she mentions that it is mid-September and that the fields were being plowed. It’s autumn and it’s time for the harvest; the time of year in which many things die.

In this short essay, she chronicles the experience of watching a moth seemingly embody life, then die. Though this essay is literally about a moth, it’s also about a whole lot more than that. After all, moths aren’t the only things that die—Woolf is also reflecting on her own mortality, as well as the mortality of everything around her.

At its core, the essay discusses the push and pull of life and death, not in a way that’s necessarily sad, but in a way that is accepting of both. Woolf begins by setting up the transitional fall season, often associated with things coming to an end, and raises the ideas of pleasure, vitality, and pity.

At one point, Woolf tries to help the dying moth, but reconsiders, as it would interfere with the natural order of the world. The moth’s death is part of the natural order of the world, just like fall, just like her own eventual death.

All these themes are set up in the beginning and explored throughout the essay’s narrative. Though Woolf doesn’t directly state her theme, she reinforces it by choosing a small, isolated event—watching a moth die—and illustrating her point through details.

With this essay, we can see that you don’t need a big, weird, exciting event to discuss an important meaning. Woolf is able to explore complicated ideas in a short essay by being deliberate about what details she includes, just as you can be in your own essays.


Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin

On the twenty-ninth of July, in 1943, my father died. On the same day, a few hours later, his last child was born. Over a month before this, while all our energies were concentrated in waiting for these events, there had been, in Detroit, one of the bloodiest race riots of the century. A few hours after my father’s funeral, while he lay in state in the undertaker’s chapel, a race riot broke out in Harlem. On the morning of the third of August, we drove my father to the graveyard through a wilderness of smashed plate glass.

Like Woolf, Baldwin does not lay out his themes in concrete terms—unlike Wallace, there’s no clear sentence that explains what he’ll be talking about. However, you can see the motifs quite clearly: death, fatherhood, struggle, and race.

Throughout the narrative essay, Baldwin discusses the circumstances of his father’s death, including his complicated relationship with his father. By introducing those motifs in the first paragraph, the reader understands that everything discussed in the essay will come back to those core ideas. When Baldwin talks about his experience with a white teacher taking an interest in him and his father’s resistance to that, he is also talking about race and his father’s death. When he talks about his father’s death, he is also talking about his views on race. When he talks about his encounters with segregation and racism, he is talking, in part, about his father.

Because his father was a hard, uncompromising man, Baldwin struggles to reconcile the knowledge that his father was right about many things with his desire to not let that hardness consume him, as well.

Baldwin doesn’t explicitly state any of this, but his writing so often touches on the same motifs that it becomes clear he wants us to think about all these ideas in conversation with one another.

At the end of the essay, Baldwin makes it more clear:

This fight begins, however, in the heart and it had now been laid to my charge to keep my own heart free of hatred and despair. This intimation made my heart heavy and, now that my father was irrecoverable, I wished that he had been beside me so that I could have searched his face for the answers which only the future would give me now.

Here, Baldwin ties together the themes and motifs into one clear statement: that he must continue to fight and recognize injustice, especially racial injustice, just as his father did. But unlike his father, he must do it beginning with himself—he must not let himself be closed off to the world as his father was. And yet, he still wishes he had his father for guidance, even as he establishes that he hopes to be a different man than his father.

In this essay, Baldwin loads the front of the essay with his motifs, and, through his narrative, weaves them together into a theme. In the end, he comes to a conclusion that connects all of those things together and leaves the reader with a lasting impression of completion—though the elements may have been initially disparate, in the end everything makes sense.

You can replicate this tactic of introducing seemingly unattached ideas and weaving them together in your own essays. By introducing those motifs, developing them throughout, and bringing them together in the end, you can demonstrate to your reader how all of them are related. However, it’s especially important to be sure that your motifs and clear and consistent throughout your essay so that the conclusion feels earned and consistent—if not, readers may feel mislead.

5 Key Tips for Writing Narrative Essays

Narrative essays can be a lot of fun to write since they’re so heavily based on creativity. But that can also feel intimidating—sometimes it’s easier to have strict guidelines than to have to make it all up yourself. Here are a few tips to keep your narrative essay feeling strong and fresh.

Develop Strong Motifs

Motifs are the foundation of a narrative essay . What are you trying to say? How can you say that using specific symbols or events? Those are your motifs.

In the same way that an argumentative essay’s body should support its thesis, the body of your narrative essay should include motifs that support your theme.

Try to avoid cliches, as these will feel tired to your readers. Instead of roses to symbolize love, try succulents. Instead of the ocean representing some vast, unknowable truth, try the depths of your brother’s bedroom. Keep your language and motifs fresh and your essay will be even stronger!

Use First-Person Perspective

In many essays, you’re expected to remove yourself so that your points stand on their own. Not so in a narrative essay—in this case, you want to make use of your own perspective.

Sometimes a different perspective can make your point even stronger. If you want someone to identify with your point of view, it may be tempting to choose a second-person perspective. However, be sure you really understand the function of second-person; it’s very easy to put a reader off if the narration isn’t expertly deployed.

If you want a little bit of distance, third-person perspective may be okay. But be careful—too much distance and your reader may feel like the narrative lacks truth.

That’s why first-person perspective is the standard. It keeps you, the writer, close to the narrative, reminding the reader that it really happened. And because you really know what happened and how, you’re free to inject your own opinion into the story without it detracting from your point, as it would in a different type of essay.

Stick to the Truth

Your essay should be true. However, this is a creative essay, and it’s okay to embellish a little. Rarely in life do we experience anything with a clear, concrete meaning the way somebody in a book might. If you flub the details a little, it’s okay—just don’t make them up entirely.

Also, nobody expects you to perfectly recall details that may have happened years ago. You may have to reconstruct dialog from your memory and your imagination. That’s okay, again, as long as you aren’t making it up entirely and assigning made-up statements to somebody.

Dialog is a powerful tool. A good conversation can add flavor and interest to a story, as we saw demonstrated in David Foster Wallace’s essay. As previously mentioned, it’s okay to flub it a little, especially because you’re likely writing about an experience you had without knowing that you’d be writing about it later.

However, don’t rely too much on it. Your narrative essay shouldn’t be told through people explaining things to one another; the motif comes through in the details. Dialog can be one of those details, but it shouldn’t be the only one.

Use Sensory Descriptions

Because a narrative essay is a story, you can use sensory details to make your writing more interesting. If you’re describing a particular experience, you can go into detail about things like taste, smell, and hearing in a way that you probably wouldn’t do in any other essay style.

These details can tie into your overall motifs and further your point. Woolf describes in great detail what she sees while watching the moth, giving us the sense that we, too, are watching the moth. In Wallace’s essay, he discusses the sights, sounds, and smells of the Illinois State Fair to help emphasize his point about its strangeness. And in Baldwin’s essay, he describes shattered glass as a “wilderness,” and uses the feelings of his body to describe his mental state.

All these descriptions anchor us not only in the story, but in the motifs and themes as well. One of the tools of a writer is making the reader feel as you felt, and sensory details help you achieve that.

What’s Next?

Looking to brush up on your essay-writing capabilities before the ACT? This guide to ACT English will walk you through some of the best strategies and practice questions to get you prepared!

Part of practicing for the ACT is ensuring your word choice and diction are on point. Check out this guide to some of the most common errors on the ACT English section to be sure that you're not making these common mistakes!

A solid understanding of English principles will help you make an effective point in a narrative essay, and you can get that understanding through taking a rigorous assortment of high school English classes !

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Melissa Brinks graduated from the University of Washington in 2014 with a Bachelor's in English with a creative writing emphasis. She has spent several years tutoring K-12 students in many subjects, including in SAT prep, to help them prepare for their college education.

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