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Sample Narrative Essay

Page history last edited by David Hodges 13 years, 6 months ago


Here's a very brief sample narrative from a textbook called Wordsmith: A Guide to Paragraphs and Short Essays by Pamela Arlov. Check back later for another.


A Painful Meal


     A few years ago, I was invited to a "catch your own" crab supper at my uncle's rented beach house. It was not the pleasant experience I expected. It started enjoyably enough as we lowered baited traps from the dock and pulled them up, sometimes with two or three crabs in each of them. Then we went back to the beach house and Uncle Ed began preparations, using tongs to place the twitching crabs in a large pot, then adding vinegar and water. "Wait a minute," I said. "You aren't going to boil them alive, are you?" Uncle Ed looked at me in surprise, but patiently explained, "That's the way they're cooked. They can't feel anything—crabs are just one step above insects." I watched as he turned on the heat. As the water became warmer, I could hear the crabs scrabbling against the sides of the metal pot. Uncle Ed looked at me and laughed at my horrified expression. "It's just a reflex," he said. But as the water became warmer, the noise from the pot grew more desperate. Finally, there was silence. Uncle Ed took the crabs ffrom the pot and dumped them on newspapers spread on the kitchen table. Uncle Ed looked at me and said, "Mel, you're not still worried about these crabs, are you?" My mother was giving me a warning glance, so I said, "No, it's fine." I felt my stomach do a flip as my uncle put three large crabs in front of me. The crabs' white flesh was tender, but for me, it might as well have been Styrofoam. Since that day, I have not eaten crab. No one can tell me they don't sufffer.


Here's another sample from the same source. It appears to be based on a scene from Fight Club although the details have been changed.


My Last Night at the KwikStop #7


     Just a few months ago, as I worked the night shift at the Kwik-Stop #7, my entire life changed direction. It was about 11:00 p.m., and the store was deserted. A man came in, a baseball cap pulled low over his eyes and his jacket collar turned up to cover his face. In a flash, he was standing in front of me, pointing the metallic nose of a revolver at my head. "Give me all the money in that register. Don't pull any tricks or I'll kill you," he said. I could hear his voice trembling, and I realized he was scared. All I could think of was that a scared robber was more likely to pull the trigger. Time seemed to slow down. I could hear the robber yelling at me to hurry, but I hardly understood what he was saying. Beneath the counter, I saw the red "panic button" that would silently summon the police if only I would press it. I could not. I opened the drawer and placed each stack of bills on the counter, twenties, tens, fives, and ones. The robber scooped them off the counter, jabbed the gun at me, and said, "Don't call the police for at least an hour." I don't know how many minutes passed before I grabbed the keys with trembling hands, loced the door, walked back behind the counter and pushed the red button. The next day, when I took stock of the life I had almost lost, I realized I had lived twenty-three years and had done absolutely nothing I could be proud of. That day, I quit my job at the Kwik-Stop and filled out a college application. I had always said I would go to college someday, but I never thought someone would have to hold a gun to my head to make me do it.



Comments (1)

David Hodges said

at 11:53 am on Jun 8, 2010

As you may have noticed, both of these paragraphs have sentences that act as brief introductions and conclusions. Both follow chronological order to relate their incidents (that is, the actions are described in the order in which they happened). In both cases, the introductions seem to briefly violate chronological order by leaping ahead to the briefest summary of how the story ends. Can you find these statements that predict the outcome? Do you see the value of hinting to the reader how things might turn out?

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