What is a descriptive essay?
In more familiar terms, a descriptive essay is a mix of
- aesthetic (vivid, elaborate, flowery) language like you would find in poetry and enjoyable novels
- a plot line (like in a short story)
- a personal essay
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|A picture says a thousand words. Incidentally, the average LC essay is about a thousand words. It's all to play for.|
Think of the tone of The Great Gatsby: you have a story line, vivid descriptions of things (parties, houses) and personal emotion. For example:
“The truth was that Jay Gatsby, of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself. He was a son of God—a phrase which, if it means anything, means just that—and he must be about His Father’s business, the service of a vast, vulgar, and meretricious beauty. So he invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen year old boy would be likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end.”
“That’s my Middle West . . . the street lamps and sleigh bells in the frosty dark. . . . I see now that this has been a story of the West, after all—Tom and Gatsby, Daisy and Jordan and I, were all Westerners, and perhaps we possessed some deficiency in common which made us subtly unadaptable to Eastern life.”
Here is an example from another great book you may be familiar with, To Kill a Mocking Bird:
''Summer was our best season: it was sleeping on the back screened porch in cots, or trying to sleep in the tree-house; summer was everything good to eat; it was a thousand colours in a parched landscape.''
Or Wuthering Heights:
“I have dreamt in my life, dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas; they have gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the color of my mind. And this is one: I'm going to tell it - but take care not to smile at any part of it.”
As its not quite a standard genre of Leaving Cert essay yet, you probably have a bit more creative freedom in this type of essay. The priority in a descriptive essay is to describe vividly. There will be a lot of less common adjectives and adverbs. So unless you are feeling quite eloquent, it's probably best to steer away from this type of essay.
Here are some past questions that came up:
Write a descriptive essay in which you take your readers on an urban journey.
Write a descriptive essay which captures life in Ireland in 2015 from the point of view of an observant time-traveller. The time-traveller may be from the past or from the future.
Write a descriptive essay about what you find beautiful or exotic in everyday life.
Write a descriptive essay based on a variety of glimpsed moments.
Think you may want to attempt this in the exam? Attempt it now - and see how you get on. Generally, students have 2-3 preferred styles. For example, I liked writing speeches, talks, personal essays - anything that involves an analytical discussion.
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What if you are asked to find features of descriptive language in a comprehension?
Easy. Look for:
similes (A is like B)
metaphors (A is B)
reminds me of...
Leaving Cert Sample Answers and Notes