Essential Elements of Personal Essay

Essay by tommylaiCollege, UndergraduateB+, March 2007

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Personal essay is a narrative that focuses on a theme about the author or author's life and is supported by a variety of events from the author's own experience. As a kind of informal essay, the personal essay is so popular due to its unique characteristics such as "conversational element", "contrarious role", "humor", "Irony", "honesty", "vulnerability" and "self-disclosure". Among these qualities, "honesty", "vulnerability" and "self-disclosure" are essential in order to be successful in the personal essay and these three elements are clearly shown in Woolf's, Orwell's, and Forester's essays.

First of all, being honest is the basic principle of ethic in the personal essay. According to "The Art of the Personal Essay" by Phillip Lopate, "the struggle for honesty is central to the ethos of the personal essay" (xxv). As a personal essayist, he must be a reliable narrator. In order to make readers feel secure, the personal essayist needs to be sincere to himself first.

In this way, readers will be able to learn the true aspect of the author from his essay. In the article "Shooting an Elephant," George Orwell says that "I had already make up my mind that imperialism was an evil thing and the sooner I chucked up my job and got out of it the better" (35). This quote reveals Orwell's moral dilemma which he hate imperialism but have to be there as a British police officer. His confession makes readers understand his attitude on colonialism easily. In short, honesty is the cornerstone of morality in the personal essay.

Furthermore, being vulnerable can fulfill authors' purpose. Orwell also says that "I had committed myself to doing it when I sent for the rifle" and "the crowd would laugh at me" (38). These quotes present Orwell's vulnerability. In that situation, he does not want...