What sounds like a sort of biology lesson becomes a beautiful final paragraph on the fragility of the human heart and all that it endures in a life time.
This type of essay is thoughtful and meditative, and less likely than the personal experience essay to have a “narrative thread” (i.e., story line). The tone is often informal and conversational. One approach is to tie your reflection to a personal experience that will provide a sequence the reader can hold on to. Driving in a rain storm, for example, or walking to school may be activities that can help ground a work and give it a foundation. Another approach is to focus on a contrast of feelings or emotions. If you are exploring attitudes toward old age, for example, it might be effective to contrast how you felt as a child and your attitude now. Or if street violence is your general topic, you might consider turning your attention back and forth between the mother of a gang member and her son. The third approach is to select an image – something you can see, touch, or hear – and use it as a way to discuss your true concern.” [Borrowed from “Literary Nonfiction: The Fourth Genre” by Stephen Minot].
In “Pay Fierce Attention to the Holy of Everything”, Doyle is reflecting on the importance of creativity, imagination, and stories (perhaps the right stories can change the world . . .?). He “grounds” the story in real life by describing the setting of the school he is visiting to talk to the children. That is his jumping off point for arriving at his real message. In “Joyas Voladores”, Doyle gives us images of animals – from the smallest hummingbird to the largest whale – to talk about hearts. What sounds like a sort of biology lesson becomes a beautiful final paragraph on the fragility of the human heart and all that it endures in a life time. In “The House on Mango Street”, the narrator is writing about an incident of very short duration (a child standing in front of her own house and the nun asking her – “You live there?”) – but her real point is about shame and childhood and unrealized expectations.
If I were to write an essay for this assignment, I might write about going on a trip with my aging parents (81 and 86) and how it made me realize that in the circle of life our parents become like our children on some level and need our love and protection and help the way we needed theirs when we were small. I would be using a story to give my essay a foundation. The trip would not be the focus of the story – but my realization would. Another possibility would be to write about my husband (whom I married at age 48) and describe him (an image) as a way to reflect on how being older (and hopefully wiser!) the things I look for in a life partner have changed from when I was young. A more recent idea (for me) might be to write about my many visits to UF Proton Institute and my husband’s cancer therapy – and how cancer has changed each of us (for the better and the worse) forever. Or – this comes to mind as I revise this paper . . . I remember many years ago being in the bathroom of a department store and seeing a woman breast feeding her child, and how it moved me to tears because it brought my daughter’s infancy back to me in a powerful way. My reflection could be about the primal, powerful bond that can exist between mother and infant. The possibilities are endless – and unique to each of you.
Key Point: The focus, the emphasis – of this essay is NOT a story with a plot (a sequence of events moving from beginning to end). The focus is the reflection, the INSIGHT you are writing about. None of the three essays we read in preparation for this week were a “story” with a well-developed plot or sequence of events. There was no action building to a climax. Keep this in mind as you search for a topic.
The essay should be 2 – 3 pages typed and double spaced, or 500-750 words. You do not need to include any sources. IF you decide you want to, be sure to use MLA citation methods.
Submit via Canvas, which is automatically linked to Turnitin (a plagiarism detection program).