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English 10 Honors: American Literature
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English 12/LIT 115
English 10 Honors: American Literature » Personal Reflective Essay

Personal Reflective Essay Personal Reflective Essay

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The Personal Narrative Essay


Purpose:  The goal of this assignment is for you to reveal yourself as a character through an essay reflecting on a memorable experience.   The essay should reflect your voice and focus on a single event.  You should be able to discover your own voice.


Method:  We have discussed a personal essay by Russell Baker, an excerpt from his memoirs, Growing Up.  This gives us significant insight into the author's persona.  Similarly, the essay you are about to write should not simply recall events, but demonstrate your voice and reflect your persona through the presentation of a single pivotal event in your life.  Your paper should have a point (similar to a thesis statement), and readers should "get to know you" by reading your essay.

            The most difficult part of this assignment is jogging your memory to come up with a topic that is both memorable and interesting to your readers.  The main question you want to answer is, "How has my life been different ever since?" Is the difference specific and real?  Brainstorm by jotting ideas down as they come to you.  Here are some questions that might help you explore your memory:


·        Did you ever have to choose between two equally appealing alternatives?  What was the result?

·        In making an important decision, did you ever succumb to peer pressure?  Why did you make the decision, and how did you react to the consequences?

·        Have you ever been appalled after witnessing someone you knew express insensitivity or inappropriate behavior?  Were you satisfied with your reaction, or did you wish you had done more?

·        Have you misjudged someone and later your opinion of him or her changed?  Did you grow from the experience?

·        Has there ever been a moment in your life where you decided to change direction – develop an entirely new attitude?  What precipitated the change and why?

·        Have you ever rebelled against authority or deliberately broken a rule?  What did you learn from the consequences of your actions?

·        Has a relationship with someone or an experience in your life led to an epiphany?  Describe the new insight and how it came about.


After determining a topic, the next step is to organize the paper so the events become alive to the reader. Consider specific details because you want the reader to "see and feel" your experience as you develop your character.  Remember that you have to assume your audience does not really know you and will learn about you from this essay.  Therefore, you want to cover all the bases.  You may want to follow the journalist's model of who, what, where, when, why, and how. Place the events surrounding your experience in logical sequence (even though they may not necessarily be in chronological order).   You want to hook the readers with your opening paragraph and maintain their interest throughout the paper.  You want the ending to provide a sense of finality – you do not want to leave your readers hanging. 



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