Rodriguez writes about the experience of doing manual labor. Have you ever had a job or chore to do that required physical labor? How did that experience affect you?

Reading and Reflection NARRATIVE WRITING

[preview]RICHARD RODRIGUEZ was born in California into a Mexican immigrant family. He has a BA from Stanford University and an MA from Columbia University. He has served as a teacher and an international journalist. He has also appeared regularly on the PBS show News Hour. Rodriguez has written numerous books, including Days of Obligation: An Argument with My Father (1992), which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. His first book, a collection of autobiographical essays titled Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez (1982), caused him to be noticed as a prominent Hispanic essayist in America. His works have appeared in Harper’s MagazineMother Jones, and Time. He writes primarily about the Mexican-American experience and the challenges of assimilation into the American culture. To learn more about Rodriguez, go to . In the essay that follows, Rodriguez writes about the experience of doing manual labor. Have you ever had a job or chore to do that required physical labor? How did that experience affect you?

The Workers by Richard Rodriguez


It was at Stanford, one day near the end of my senior year, that a friend told me about a summer construction job he knew was available. I was quickly alert. Desire uncoiled within me. My friend said that he knew I had been looking for summer employment. He knew I needed some money. Almost apologetically he explained: It was something I probably wouldn’t be interested in, but a friend of his, a contractor, needed someone for the summer to do menial jobs. There would be lots of shoveling and raking and sweeping. Nothing too hard. But nothing more interesting either. Still, the pay would be good. Did I want it? Or did I know someone who did? I did. Yes, I said, surprised to hear myself say it.


In the weeks following, friends cautioned that I had no idea how hard physical labor really is. (“You only think you know what it is like to shovel for eight hours straight.”) Their objections seemed to me challenges. They resolved the issue. I became happy with my plan. I decided, however, not to tell my parents. I wouldn’t tell my mother because I could guess her worried reaction. I would tell my father only after the summer was over, when I could announce that, after all, I did know what “real work” is like.


The day I met the contractor (a Princeton graduate, it turned out), he asked me whether I had done any physical labor before. “In high school, during the summer,” I lied. And although he seemed to regard me with skepticism, he decided to give me a try. Several days later, expectant, I arrived at my first construction site. I would take off my shirt to the sun. And at last grasp desired sensation. No longer afraid. At last become like a bracero. “We need those tree stumps out of here by tomorrow,” the contractor said. I started to work.


I labored with excitement that first morning—and all the days after. The work was harder than I could have expected. But it was never as tedious as my friends had warned me it would be. There was too much physical pleasure in the labor. Especially early in the day, I would be most alert to the sensations of movement and straining. Beginning around seven each morning (when the air was still damp but the scent of weeds and dry earth anticipated the heat of the sun), I would feel my body resist the first thrusts of the shovel. My arms, tightened by sleep, would gradually loosen; after only several minutes sweat would gather in beads on my forehead and then—a short while later—I would feel my chest silky with sweat in the breeze. I would return to my work. A nervous spark of pain would fly up to my arm and settle to burn like an ember in the thick of my shoulder. An hour, two passed. Three. My whole body would assume regular movements; my shoveling would be described by identical, even movements. Even later in the day, my enthusiasm for primitive sensation would survive the heat and the dust and the insects pricking my back. I would strain wildly for sensation as the day came to a close. At three-thirty, quitting time, I would stand upright and slowly let my head fall back, luxuriating in the feeling of tightness relieved.


Some of the men working nearby would watch me and laugh. Two or three of the older men took the trouble to teach me the right way to use a pick, the correct way100to shovel. “You’re doing it wrong, too f____ hard,” one man scolded. Then proceeded to show me—what persons who work with their bodies all their lives quickly learn—the most economical way to use one’s body in labor.


“Don’t make your back do so much work,” he instructed. I stood impatiently listening, half listening, vaguely watching, then noticed his work-thickened fingers clutching the shovel. I was annoyed. I wanted to tell him that I enjoyed shoveling the wrong way. And I didn’t want to learn the right way. I wasn’t afraid of back pain. I liked the way my body felt sore at the end of the day.


I was about to, but, as it turned out, I didn’t say a thing. Rather it was at that moment I realized that I was fooling myself if I expected a few weeks of labor to gain me admission to the world of the laborer. I would not learn in three months what my father had meant by “real work.” I was not bound to this job; I could imagine its rapid conclusion. For me the sensations of exertion and fatigue could be savored. For my father or uncle, working at comparable jobs when they were my age, such sensations were to be feared. Fatigue took a different toll on their bodies—and minds.


It was, I know, a simple insight. But it was with this realization that I took my first step that summer toward realizing something even more important about the “worker.” In the company of carpenters, electricians, plumbers, and painters at lunch, I would often sit quietly, observant. I was not shy in such company. I felt easy, pleased by the knowledge that I was casually accepted, my presence taken for granted by men (exotics) who worked with their hands. Some days the younger men would talk and talk about sex, and they would howl at women who drove by in cars. Other days the talk at lunchtime was subdued; men gathered in separate groups. It depended on who was around. There were rough, good-natured workers. Others were quiet. The more I remember that summer, the more I realize that there was no single type of worker. I am embarrassed to say, I had not expected such diversity. I certainly had not expected to meet, for example, a plumber who was an abstract painter in his off hours and admired the work of Mark Rothko. Nor did I expect to meet so many workers with college diplomas. (They were the ones who were not surprised that I intended to enter graduate school in the fall.) I suppose what I really want to say here is painfully obvious, but I must say it nevertheless: The men of that summer were middle-class Americans. They certainly didn’t constitute an oppressed society. Carefully completing their work sheets; talking about the fortunes of local football teams; planning Las Vegas vacations; comparing the gas mileage of various makes of campers—they were not los pobres my mother had spoken about.


On two occasions, the contractor hired a group of Mexican aliens. They were employed to cut down some trees and haul off debris. In all, there were six men of varying age. The youngest in his late twenties; the oldest (his father?) perhaps sixty years old. They came and they left in a single old truck. Anonymous men. They were never introduced to the other men at the site. Immediately upon their arrival, they would follow the contractor’s directions, start working—rarely resting—seemingly driven by a fatalistic sense that work which had to be done was best done as quickly as possible.


I watched them sometimes. Perhaps they watched me. The only time I saw them pay me much notice was one day at lunchtime when I was laughing with the other men. The Mexicans sat apart when they ate, just as they worked by themselves. Quiet. I rarely heard them say much to each other. All I could hear were their voices calling out sharply to one another, giving directions. Otherwise, when they stood briefly resting, they talked among themselves in voices too hard to overhear.


The contractor knew enough Spanish, and the Mexicans—or at least the oldest of them, their spokesman—seemed to know enough English to communicate. But because I was around, the contractor decided one day to make me his translator. (He assumed I could speak Spanish.) I did what I was told. Shyly I went over to tell the Mexicans that the patrón wanted them to do something else before they left for the day. As I started to speak, I was afraid with my old fear that I would be unable to pronounce the Spanish words. But it was a simple instruction I had to convey. I could say it in phrases.


The dark sweating faces turned toward me as I spoke. They stopped their work to hear me. Each nodded in response. I stood there. I wanted to say something more. But what could I say in Spanish, even if I could have pronounced the words right? Perhaps I just wanted to engage them in small talk, to be assured of their confidence, our familiarity. I thought for a moment to ask them where in Mexico they were from. Something like that. And maybe I wanted to tell them (a lie, if need be) that my parents were from the same part of Mexico.


I stood there.


Their faces watched me. The eyes of the man directly in front of me moved slowly over my shoulder, and I turned to follow his glance toward el patrón some distance away. For a moment I felt swept up by that glance into the Mexican’s company. But then I heard one of them returning to work. And then the others went back to work. I left them without saying anything more.


When they had finished, the contractor went over to pay them in cash. (He later told me that he paid them collectively—“for the job,” though he wouldn’t tell me their wages. He said something quickly about the good rate of exchange “in their own country.” I can still hear the loudly confident voice he used with the Mexicans. It was the sound of the gringo I had heard as a very young boy. And I can still hear the quiet, indistinct sounds of the Mexican, the oldest who replied. At hearing that voice I was sad101for the Mexicans. Depressed by their vulnerability. Angry at myself. The adventure of the summer seemed suddenly ludicrous. I would not shorten the distance I felt from los pobres with a few weeks of physical labor. I would not become like them. They were different from me.


After that summer, a great deal—and not very much really—changed in my life. The curse of physical shame was broken by the sun: I was no longer ashamed of my body. No longer would I deny myself the pleasing sensations of my maleness. During those years when middle-class black Americans began to assert with pride, “Black is beautiful,” I was able to regard my complexion without shame. I am today darker than I ever was as a boy. I have taken up the middle-class sport of long-distance running. Nearly every day now I run ten or fifteen miles, barely clothed, my skin exposed to the California winter rain and wind or the summer sun of late afternoon. The torso, the soccer player’s calves and thighs, the arms of the twenty-year-old I never was, I possess now in my thirties. I study the youthful parody shape in the mirror, the stomach lipped tight by muscle; the shoulders rounded by chinups; the arms veined strong. This man. A man. I meet him. He laughs to see me, what I have become.


The dandy. I wear double-breasted Italian suits and custom made English shoes. I resemble no one so much as my father—the man pictured in those honeymoon photos. At that point in life when he abandoned the dandy’s posture, I assume it. At the point when my parents would not consider going on a vacation, I register at the Hotel Carlyle in New York and the Plaza Athenée in Paris. I am as taken by the symbols of leisure and wealth as they were. For my parents, however, those symbols became taunts, reminders of all they could not achieve in one lifetime. For me those same symbols are reassuring reminders of public success. I tempt vulgarity to be reassured. I am filled with the gaudy delight, the monstrous grace of the nouveau riche.


In recent years I have had occasion to lecture in ghetto high schools. There I see students of remarkable style and physical grace. (One can see more dandies in such schools than one ever will find in middle-class high schools.) There is not the look of casual assurance I saw students at Stanford display. Ghetto girls mimic high-fashion models. Their dresses are of bold, forceful color; their figures elegant, long; the stance theatrical. Boys wear shirts that grip at their overdeveloped muscular bodies. (Against a powerless future, they engage images of strength.) Bad nutrition does not yet tell. Great disappointment, fatal to youth, awaits them still. For the moment, movements in school hallways are dancelike, a procession of postures in a sexual masque. Watching them, I feel a kind of envy. I wonder how different my adolescence would have been had I been free…. But no, it is my parents I see—their optimism during those years when they were entertained by Italian grand opera.


The registration clerk in London wonders if I have just been to Switzerland. And the man who carries my luggage in New York guesses the Caribbean. My complexion becomes a mark of my leisure. Yet no one would regard my complexion the same way if I entered such hotels through the service entrance. That is only to say that my complexion assumes its significance from the context of my life. My skin in itself, means nothing. I stress the point because I know there are people who would label me “disadvantaged” because of my color. They make the same mistake I made as a boy, when I thought a disadvantaged life was circumscribed by particular occupations. That summer I worked in the sun may have made me physically indistinguishable from the Mexicans working nearby. (My skin was actually darker because, unlike them, I worked without wearing a shirt. By late August my hands were probably as tough as theirs.) But I was not one of los pobres. What made me different from them was an attitude of mind, my imagination of myself.


I do not blame my mother for warning me away from the sun when I was young. In a world where her brother had become an old man in his twenties because he was dark, my complexion was something to worry about. “Don’t run in the sun,” she warns me today. I run. In the end, my father was right—though perhaps he did not know how right or why—to say that I would never know what real work is. I will never know what he felt at his last factory job. If tomorrow I worked at some kind of factory, it would go differently for me. My long education would favor me. I could act as a public person—able to defend my interests, to unionize, to petition, to speak up—to challenge and demand. (I will never know what real work is.) I will never know what the Mexicans knew, gathering their shovels and ladders and saws.


Their silence stays with me now. The wages those Mexicans received for their labor were only a measure of their disadvantaged condition. Their silence is more telling. They lack a public identity. They remain profoundly alien. Persons apart. People lacking a union obviously, people without grounds. They depend upon the relative good will or fairness of their employers each day. For such people, lacking a better alternative, it is not such an unreasonable risk.


Their silence stays with me. I have taken these many words to describe its impact. Only: the quiet. Something uncanny about it. Its compliance. Vulnerability. Pathos. As I heard their truck rumbling away, I shuddered, my face mirrored with sweat. I had finally come face to face with los pobres.

From Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez by Richard Rodriguez. Reprinted by permission of David R. Godine, Publisher, inc. Copyright (c) 1982 by Richard Rodriguez.



Considering Ideas

1. How does the narrator of the story feel about manual labor? Is he ashamed to be a college student doing physical work? Explain his attitude toward the work and himself.

2. What details from the story are most memorable to you? Why did those details catch your attention?

3. Discuss the significance of the conclusion of the story and the narrator’s comment about los pobres (the poor). How does he feel about his encounter with them? Does he relate to them? Explain.

Considering the Rhetorical Star

1. What is the main subject of Rodriguez’s narrative? Is the specific topic engaging? Why or why not?

2. Who is the intended audience for the story? How do you know?

3. What is the author’s main purpose (to inform, to interpret, to persuade, to entertain, to express feelings) for the narrative? Does he have a combination of purposes? How effective is his approach? Explain.

4. The author uses narrating as the primary strategy for the story. Does he employ any other writing strategies? What are they, and how do they affect the piece?

5. What is the design of the narrative? Is it effective? Why or why not?

Considering Writing Strategies

1. Rodriguez wrote the narrative in the first person point of view. How would the story have been different if the author had chosen the third person point of view? Would the story have been as powerful? Why or why not?

2. How does Rodriguez’s use of dialogue affect the story? Which comments are particularly important to the narrative? Explain.

3. The author frequently uses sentence fragments instead of complete sentences. Why do you suppose he does that? How does this technique affect the narrative? Give several examples from the story to support your answer.

Writing Suggestions

1. Have you ever had a job or chore to do that required strenuous physical labor? What did you have to do? What was it like to work that hard? Did you learn anything? Write a narrative essay telling about your experience.

2. Write a narrative essay about an experience from your youth that has affected you as an adult. What happened? What, if anything, did you learn from the experience? How do you feel about the memory now?

ESOL Tip >

Write a narrative about moving from your homeland to a foreign land. From where did you move? How old were you? What was the reason for your move?

Reading and Reflection NARRATIVE WRITING

[preview]CONRAD KOTTAK is an anthropologist who has done field work in cultural anthropology in Brazil, Madagascar, and the United States. He has a PhD from Columbia University, and he is a professor and chair of the Department of Anthropology at Michigan State University. Kottak has received numerous awards for his teaching, including the Mayfield Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Undergraduate Anthropology, awarded by the American Anthropological Association. In the narrative that follows, which is an adaptation from one of his numerous publications on anthropology, Kottak tells about the culture shock he experienced on his first trip to Brazil. To learn more about Brazil, visit . Before reading, think about your own travels locally, out of state, or abroad. Have you ever felt out of place? Did you experience culture shock?



Even Anthropologists Get Culture Shock by Conrad Kottak


My first field experience in Arembepe (Brazil) took place between my junior and senior years at New York City’s Columbia College, where I was majoring in anthropology. I went to Arembepe as a participant in a now defunct program designed to provide undergraduates with experience doing ethnography—firsthand study of an alien society’s culture and social life.


Brought up in one culture, intensely curious about others, anthropologists nevertheless experience culture shock, particularly on their first field trip. Culture shock refers to the whole set of feelings about being in an alien setting, and the ensuing reactions. It is a chilly, creepy feeling of alienation, of being without some of the most ordinary, trivial (and therefore basic) cues of one’s culture of origin.


As I planned my departure for Brazil that year, I could not know just how naked I would feel without the cloak of my own language and culture. My sojourn in Arembepe would be my first trip outside the United States. I was an urban boy who had grown up in Atlanta, Georgia, and New York City. I had little experience with rural life in my own country, none with Latin America, and I had received only minimal training in the Portuguese language.


New York City direct to Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. Just a brief stopover in Rio de Janeiro; a longer visit would be a reward at the end of fieldwork. As our prop jet approached tropical Salvador, I couldn’t believe the whiteness of the sand. “That’s not snow, is it?” I remarked to a fellow field team member….


My first impressions of Bahia were of smells—alien odors of ripe and decaying mangoes, bananas, and passion fruit—and of swatting the ubiquitous fruit flies I had never seen before, although I had read extensively about their reproductive behavior in genetics classes. There were strange concoctions of rice, black beans, and gelatinous gobs of unidentifiable meats and floating pieces of skin. Coffee was strong and sugar crude, and every tabletop had containers for toothpicks and for manioc (cassava) flour to sprinkle, like Parmesan cheese, on anything one might eat. I remember oatmeal soup and a slimy stew of beef tongue in tomatoes. At one meal a disintegrating fish head, eyes still attached, but barely, stared up at me as the rest of its body floated in a bowl of bright orange palm oil….


I only vaguely remember my first day in Arembepe. Unlike ethnographers who have studied remote tribes in the tropical forests of interior South America or the highlands of Papua New Guinea, I did not have to hike or ride a canoe for days to arrive at my field site. Arembepe was not isolated relative to such places, only relative to every other place I had ever been….


I do recall what happened when we arrived. There was no formal road into the village. Entering through southern Arembepe, vehicles simply threaded their way around coconut trees, following tracks left by automobiles that had passed previously. A crowd of children had heard us coming, and they pursued our car through the village streets until we parked in front of our house, near the central square. Our first few days in Arembepe were spent with children following us everywhere. For weeks we had few moments of privacy. Children watched our every move through our living room window. Occasionally one made an incomprehensible remark. Usually they just stood there….


The sounds, sensations, sights, smells, and tastes of life in northeastern Brazil, and in Arembepe, slowly grew familiar…. I grew accustomed to this world without Kleenex, in which globs of mucus habitually drooped from the noses of village children whenever a cold passed through Arembepe. A world where, seemingly without effort, women … carried 18-liter kerosene cans of water on their heads, where boys sailed kites and sported at catching houseflies in their bare hands, where old women smoked pipes, storekeepers offered cachaça (common rum) at nine in the morning, and men played dominoes on lazy afternoons when there was no fishing. I was visiting a world where human life was oriented toward water—the sea, where men fished, and the lagoon, where women communally washed clothing, dishes, and their own bodies.


In Arembepe, Brazil, I learned about fishing by sailing on the Atlantic with local fishers. I gave Jeep rides to malnourished babies, to pregnant mothers, and once to a teenage girl possessed by a spirit. All those people needed to consult specialists outside the village. I danced on Arembepe’s festive occasions, drank libations commemorating new births, and became a godfather to a village girl. Most anthropologists have similar field experiences. The common humanity of the student and the studied, the ethnographer and the research community, makes participant observation1 inevitable.

Source: Conrad Kottak, “Even Anthropologists get Culture Shock” from Assault on Paradise: The Globalization of a Little Community, copyright © McGraw Hill Companies.


Considering Ideas

1. Based on Kottak’s story, how does Brazil compare to the United States? Explain some of the similarities and differences.

2. What details from the story are most memorable to you? Why did those details catch your attention?

3. How does Kottak define culture shock? Have you ever experienced it? Explain.


Considering the Rhetorical Star

1. What is the main subject of Kottak’s narrative? Is the specific topic engaging? Why or why not?

2. Who is the intended audience for the story? How do you know?

3. What is the author’s main purpose (to inform, to interpret, to persuade, to entertain, to express feelings) for the narrative? Does he have a combination of purposes? How effective is his approach? Explain.

4. The author uses narrating as the primary strategy for the story. Does he employ any other writing strategies? What are they, and how do they affect the piece?

5. What is the design of the narrative? Is it effective? Why or why not?

Considering Writing Strategies

1. What point of view does Kottak use for the narrative? Would the story be as effective if he had chosen a different point of view? Why or why not?

2. What kind of time sequence does the author use to recall his experiences? Are there any places in the narrative where you become confused about the sequence? Why or why not?

3. Does Kottak use a traditional approach to conclude his essay? What effect does the ending have on you? Why do you think the author chose to leave the readers with those final thoughts?

Writing Suggestions

1. Write a narrative essay telling about a trip you went on with family or friends. Where did you go? What happened while you were there? Why is this memory significant to you?

2. Have you ever been on a trip within the United States or abroad that caused you to experience culture shock (the feeling that everything is unfamiliar and “alien” compared to your own culture) as Kottak did on his first trip to Arambepe, Brazil? Where did you go? What caused you to feel culture shock? Was it a good trip? Why or why not? Did you learn anything from your travels? Write a narrative essay telling about your experience.

Reading and Reflection NARRATIVE WRITING

[preview]LANGSTON HUGHES (1902–1967) was an early twentieth-century writer known especially for his poetry. In the following poem, Hughes writes about a mother giving her son advice. He may be recalling an experience he had with his mother. Hughes has captured an endearing moment when a young boy learns about life’s challenges. Before reading, think about what kind of advice your mother, or another significant role model, gave you when you were a child. How has the advice affected your life?


Mother to Son by Langston Hughes

Well, son, I’ll tell you:

Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

It’s had tacks in it,

And splinters,

And boards torn up,

And places with no carpet on the floor—


But all the time

I’se been a-climbin’ on,

And reachin’ landin’s,

And turnin’ corners,

And sometimes goin’ in the dark

Where there ain’t been no light.

So boy, don’t you turn back.

Don’t you set down on the steps

‘Cause you find it’s kinder hard.

Don’t you fall now—

For I’se still goin’, honey,

I’se still climbin’,

And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

Source: Langston Hughes, “Mother to Son” from The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes by Langston Hughes. Copyright © 1994 by the Estate of Langston Hughes. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.



Considering Ideas

1. What advice is the mother passing along to her son?

2. Why do you think the mother has a need to share this information with her son?

3. What is the theme or overall point of the poem?

Considering the Rhetorical Star

1. What is the main subject of Hughes’s poem? Is the specific topic engaging? Why or why not?

2. Who is the intended audience for the poem? How do you know?

3. What is the author’s main purpose (to inform, to interpret, to persuade, to entertain, to express feelings) for the narrative? Does he use a combination of purposes? How effective is his approach? Explain.

4. The poet uses narrating as the primary strategy for the poem. Does he employ any other writing strategies? What are they, and how do they affect the poem?

5. What is the design of the poem? Is it effective? Why or why not?

Considering Writing Strategies

1. Notice the dialect and missing letters in the poem. Why does Hughes use this style of writing? What effect does he accomplish in doing so?

2. Identify several of the metaphors (comparisons that don’t use like or as) that Hughes uses in the poem. What do these metaphors represent? How effective are they?

3. What aspects of narration does Hughes incorporate into the poem?

Writing Suggestions

1. Write an essay recalling a time when a parent or other role model gave you some advice. What did he or she say? Why has this memory stuck with you for so long? Was the advice useful to you? Has it changed your life in any way?

2. Write an essay to a younger sibling or child about something you have learned through your experiences. Tell a story to fully illustrate your point.

ESOL Tip >

Is there a particular saying or parable in your home country or culture that has significant meaning to you or that can teach a valuable lesson? Write an essay about this saying or parable. What life lessons can others learn from it?


Adrenaline Rush

by Claudia Martinez


Skydiving is a wild and amazing experience. Jumping out of an airplane about 15,000 feet in the air and plunging towards the earth at a speed of 160 miles per hour would give anyone an adrenaline rush like no other. The entire skydiving experience takes no more than 30 minutes, but the memory lasts a lifetime. Skydiving is something I would recommend to everyone to try at least once in his or her life. My first and only skydiving experience had my emotions go all the way from fear, to excitement, to relief, making it the most unforgettable day of my life.


Now just because I agreed to jump out of a plane does not mean that I was not scared or nervous. From the moment I promised my friend, Calixto, that we would go skydiving for our birthdays, I would get that roller coaster feeling in my stomach just thinking about it. Once we arrived at the Sebastian Airport, my fear doubled! I could not believe I was actually there. I almost even backed out when I was filling out the 20-page packet filled with insurance waivers and the words “POSSIBLE DEATH” on every other page I signed. After the paperwork was complete, the instructors prepared my friend and me with harnesses and goggles, and shortly afterwards we were loading the plane. The plane had a total of 15 people on it. The plane climbed up106at such an angle that I had to put my feet firmly on the floor to keep from sliding off the bench on which I was sitting. It seemed like an eternity before we reached the appropriate height, and all I could see through the window was the Atlantic Ocean down below.



After I jumped out of the plane, the excitement I felt falling straight down made me scream at the top of my lungs. There was no way anyone could hear me though because all I could hear was the air rushing up against my body. My instructor and I fell for a minute straight; it was the most awesome feeling in the world. The air hitting my face made my cheeks flap around, and the air coming in my nose was overwhelming. I had difficulty moving my arms towards my face because of the intensity of the wind. When the parachute opened, we were pulled up suddenly. Then we just slowly cruised down to the ground. The view was absolutely gorgeous. I could see some land now and not just the ocean, which made me feel a little more at ease. We glided down for seven minutes, and, surprisingly, landed right where we had taken off.


When I was safe on the ground again, the relief I felt to have survived and enjoyed skydiving is indescribable. I was glad I had the courage to go through with it. My family and friends seemed to be just as relieved as I was once they saw me again all in one piece after I landed. When the crew took off my equipment, I did not have any particular thoughts in my head. I could not hear much either because of the change in altitude. Everything sounded distant. I was surprised at how different the actual experience was from how I had imagined it. As I walked over to my family and friends, I could see the relief on everyone’s faces, especially my parents’. In the end, I think we were all just at ease once my feet were on the ground.


Skydiving is something that I plan on doing again in the near future. I do not think it is something that I will ever get tired of doing because it is a wonderful experience like no other. Although I had never considered doing it before Calixto suggested it, I do not regret it at all. All in all, skydiving is an out of this world experience, and I would recommend that anyone, adventurous or not, should try it.


1. Identify Martinez’s thesis statement. Is it effective? Why or why not?

2. Are the events narrated in a logical sequence? Why or why not?

3. What is the most memorable part of the essay? What makes it memorable?

4. List several transitions used in the essay. Are there enough to keep the essay flowing smoothly? Why or why not?

5. Would you ever want to go skydiving? Why or why not?


Ireland: A Country of Illumination

by Sally Wilson


Traveling in Europe has always been a wonderful experience for me. I have wandered through the lush green, sloping terrain of Scotland, journeyed within the colorful city streets of England, explored the beautiful yet biting cold areas of rural Estonia, and gorged myself on the whimsical history and illuminating country that is Ireland. The trip that made the deepest impression on me is the trip I took with my sister to our homeland of Ireland; we visited Donegal, Glendalough, and Dublin.


The first place we visited was Donegal, and both of us really appreciated our time there. After an eight-hour airplane ride and a four-hour car ride, my sister and I were plopped into a genuine Irish family home (complete with cows, goats, lambs, and a thatched roof) where many boisterous voices stained with Irish accents clamored for our dazed and dwindling attentions. We were staying within the county lines of Donegal, and after only two weeks, I felt like I must have met practically everyone in the county! I respected the families immensely and appreciated how they took my sister and me to a new location every day. One day they took us to a beach, where only the most zealous, extreme surfers would brave the bone-chilling ocean water to catch a beautifully proportioned wave. The beach in Donegal was a sight to behold: clear water reflecting the enormous clouds that decorated the sky and light golden grains of sand mixed with pieces of shiny and colorful shells; the environment was surprisingly virgin in comparison to the molested beaches that I was used to back home, in the United States. I was also lucky enough to explore the historic remains of priories, churches, castles, and other pieces of architecture throughout the country, including a beautiful priory built c. 1508, which was later adapted into a castle, in Rathmullan. Even the local pubs have deep roots in the community, some dating back hundreds of years ago.107The pubs in Donegal were filled with the same local people almost every night, and I found it highly enjoyable to sit with a mug of Guinness ale in my hand and my sister at my side, being entertained by their soon-to-be-all-too-familiar stories and songs; it indicated how close their community was, and has been for generations.


After my sister and I said our tearful goodbyes in Donegal, we were off to Glendalough, where we relished another exciting adventure! Glendalough is translated in English as “the glen of two lakes,” and is located in the Wicklow Mountains. Glendalough is home to the remains of St. Kevin’s Monastery, founded in the latter part of the 6th century. What I found so intriguing was a legendary cave in the mountains called “St. Kevin’s Bed,” where St. Kevin was said to have spent seven years in solitude with nothing but prayer and self-denial to keep him company. My sister and I got to see the round tower, where St. Kevin’s Monastery once stood, but, due to pillaging throughout the ages, not much is left. The last historical site in Glendalough that left an everlasting impression in my mind is an old mining village. A thirty-minute hike through a mountainous forest of pine and oak separates St. Kevin’s Monastery from the ruins of an ancient mining village. Boulders, ranging from smaller than my fist to ten times my size, blanket the steep terrain while shells of crudely made rock homes stand firm, mocking the tests of time. The journey and physical exertion from hiking, climbing, and swimming on the trip left me in a state of content euphoria, and I treasure that memory and the connection I felt with my sister while experiencing it.


The last place my sister and I visited in Ireland was the famous city of Dublin, where the experience was different, yet unbelievably wonderful, and a bit more personal than the other parts of the trip because I was without my sister at least half of the time. I say “personal” because during the time I had to myself I created my own experiences, ones I could separate from my sister’s with more than just subjective reality. My sister found a job not far from the hostel in which we were staying. While she worked I wandered around the streets of Dublin. I saw Trinity College and its beautiful library/museum that houses “The Book of Kells,” which is a historic book that tells a rough story of Celtic beliefs. I also got to stop by numerous shops, pubs, and nightclubs while in Dublin. Good food was hard to come by, but good alcohol was in vast supply!


The articulate mesh of culture, history, geography, romanticism, and beauty that blossoms within Europe manifests itself to me in its diverse people and ancient expressions of art. Although I have traveled to many places, the trip that made the deepest impression on me is the trip I took with my sister to our homeland of Ireland, where we visited Donegal, Glandalough, and Dublin. Ireland showed me that art does not have to be an old painting or piece of architecture—it is all around me, subtly begging to be recognized.


1. Identify Wilson’s thesis. What is her overall opinion about her trip to Ireland?

2. How has the student organized her essay? Is this essay structure logical? Why or why not?

3. Which parts of Wilson’s narrative are especially descriptive? Which specific words help you to visualize her experience?

4. Are any areas unclear? Explain.

5. Do you have a favorite memory of a trip? Where did you go? What did you do?


Sharing a Memory

In pairs or small groups, brainstorm a list of events that the members in your group have experienced. These events can be fun, scary, inspirational, exciting, exhilarating, horrifying, and so on. Briefly discuss the list to see which events seem most interesting to the group. Next, each participant will tell a brief story about one incident so the other students have a good idea what happened during the experience. A representative from each group may share a few of the highlights from the stories with the class. This activity may give you ideas for writing a narrative essay.

Teaching Tip

Online students can complete a modified version of the Sharing a Memory activity by using a blog or threaded discussion.

Sharing a Memory Activity:

Answers will vary.



Now that you have read one or more examples of narratives, it’s time to write your own. You may choose to write about one of the writing options that follow, the advertisement, the image, or one of the media suggestions. Consider your rhetorical star and the qualities of an effective narrative as you begin to compose your assignment.

Writing Assignment Options

Use one of the following topics to write a narrative essay recalling a memory.

1. A memorable childhood experience

2. An entertaining pet story

3. A scary or dangerous event you witnessed or experienced

4. Your best (or worst) vacation

5. A lesson you learned as a member of a team or in a club

6. Resisting or succumbing to peer pressure

7. Your worst (or best) day on the job

8. An event that led to a significant decision in your life

9. Meeting someone new or losing someone special

10. A day that changed your life forever

Teaching Tip

Have students bring advertisements to class from print or digital sources. Students can discuss them in class and/or use them for narrative writing prompts.

Interpreting an Advertisement


Source: Advertisement from Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel, June 2008, p. 134.

This advertisement appeared in Budget Travel magazine. Who is the intended audience for the ad? How do the picture and text interact? Why do you suppose the people are facing the other way? Is the advertisement persuasive? Why or why not? What story does it tell? Write a narrative essay that relates to the ad.



Writing about an Image

Look at several of the images in this chapter and consider these questions: What experience does the image represent? What story does it tell? What emotions do the people in the image portray? What ideas about your own memories does the image conjure? Write a narrative that relates to one of the images in this chapter. You can tell about the people in the photograph and what they are doing. Imagine what happened before or after the snapshot was taken. What other events might have occurred? Another option is to write about an experience of your own that the image reminds you of. For example, you might write a narrative about a time when you went on a camping trip or visited the beach.

Media Connection for Narration

You might watch, read, and/or listen to one or more of the suggested media narratives to discover additional examples of this type of writing. Exploring various media may help you to better understand methods for narration. You may also choose to write about one or more of the media suggestions. For example, you might listen to (or watch the music video of) Brad Paisley’s song “Letter to Me” and write a letter to yourself in the past, offering advice you have learned as you have gotten older and wiser. Another option is to go to the This I Believe website and read others’ essays before writing about a belief of your own and the life experiences that led you to this belief.

Television A&E Biography History Channel Travel Channel Dateline
Film Letters to Juliet (2010) Moulin Rouge (2001) The Joy Luck Club (1993) The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)
Print/E-Reading I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou Reader’s Digest The Color Purple by Alice Walker Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Internet Adventure Blog

This I Believe Diaries & Journals Multimedia Storytelling

Music “Letter to Me” by Brad Paisley Telling Stories by Tracy Chapman Radio Diaries (NPR) “Angels” by The xx



As you prepare to write your narrative, consider the five points of the rhetorical star (Figure 5.1). You might use some of the questions in the chart as you conduct your rhetorical star analysis.

FIGURE 5.1 The Rhetorical Star


Subject Have you had an experience that you have been eager to share with others? Maybe you often tell this story to new acquaintances. If so, that may be the perfect story for you to narrate. You will want to write about a personal experience that has significance for you. Your story could be exciting, humorous, shocking, or terrifying. Maybe you learned something from the experience, or perhaps the experience changed you in some way. If you don’t feel like writing about something from your past, you might try going to a café, watching a sporting event, or attending a concert. You can document your experience in your narrative.
Audience Who are your readers? What do they need to know about your experience? Will the readers relate to your narrative? What emotions do you want them to experience as they read your narrative? Will they be amused, surprised, or horrified by the details?
Purpose What are you hoping to accomplish through your narrative? Is your main purpose to inform or entertain the reader? Or are you combining purposes? Are you writing objectively (sticking to just the facts), or are you writing subjectively (including your feelings and opinions)? Keep your purpose in mind as you begin narrating your story.
Strategy Will you include other writing strategies in addition to narration to tell your story? For example, do you want to use description, process analysis, or cause and effect to enhance your narrative? If you are using other strategies, is narration your main organizational method, or are you using a brief narrative to introduce an essay that uses another strategy?
Design How long should your narrative be? How many details do you need to include to fully explain your story? What other design elements, such as headings, photographs, or diagrams, might help your reader to better understand what happened?




After you have completed your rhetorical star analysis, follow the steps of the writing process (Figure 5.2) to compose your paper.

FIGURE 5.2 The Seven Steps of the Writing Process


1. Discovering: As you begin to explore your topic, you might freewrite everything that comes to mind about your topic, including why it is meaningful to you. Also, you can use the journalist’s questions to help you generate ideas about your topic (Figure 5.3). After you have come up with some ideas, you might tell one of your stories to a classmate or friend to see if he or she becomes engaged in your narrative.

FIGURE 5.3 Journalist’s Questions


2. Planning: Once you have chosen an event or series of events to write about, try listing everything you can remember about your topic. Also, try numbering the events, creating a cluster, or developing an outline (informal or formal) to help you organize your ideas. Remember to follow a chronological sequence for your narrative. You may include flashbacks as well if they are appropriate for your topic.

3. Composing: Earlier in this chapter you learned about the nine qualities of an effective narrative (see pages 89–92). These characteristics are a key part of the writing process:

1. Establish a clear purpose.

2. Identify the time and place.

3. Keep a consistent point of view.

4. Keep the verb tense consistent.

5. Include plenty of details and sensory appeal.

6. Present the details in a logical sequence.

7. Use dialogue effectively.

8. Include visual aids if appropriate.

9. End with a thought-provoking conclusion.112

Write a first draft of your narrative using these nine qualities. Don’t worry too much about grammar and punctuation at this time. Keep focused on retelling the details related to the event. Be sure to keep your overall point in mind as you write.

4. Getting feedback: Have at least one classmate or other person read your rough draft and answer the peer review questions that follow. If you have access to a writing tutor or center, get another opinion about your paper as well.

5. Revising: Using all of the feedback available to you, revise your narrative. Make sure that your narrative is full of specific details and that you have used enough transitions for your reader to easily follow the flow of your ideas. Add, delete, and rearrange ideas as necessary.

6. Editing: Read your narrative again, this time looking for errors in grammar, punctuation, and mechanics. Pay particular attention to your consistency with verb tenses and point of view, as these areas can be tricky for narrative writing.

7. Proofreading: After you have thoroughly edited your essay, read it again. This time, look for typographical errors and any other issues that might interfere with the readers’ understanding of your narrative.


Trade rough drafts with a classmate and answer the following questions about his or her paper. Then, in person or online, discuss your papers and suggestions with your peer. Finally, make the changes you feel would most benefit your paper.

1. Identify the thesis statement. Is its placement appropriate? Why or why not?

2. Could the author include additional details to help you better understand the story? What is missing or unclear?

3. Are the details covered in a logical sequence? If flashbacks are used, are they clear? Why or why not?

4. What part of the narrative is most memorable? Why?

5. Does the narrative include dialogue? If so, does the dialogue flow smoothly and seem appropriate for the speakers?

6. Does the author provide the reader with a sense of completion at the end? If so, how?

7. What kinds of grammatical errors, if any, are evident in the narrative?

8. What final suggestions do you have for the author?



Use the checklist below to evaluate your own writing and help ensure that your narrative is complete. If you have any “no” answers, go back and work on those areas.

1. Are my title and introduction enticing?

2. Have I clearly stated or implied my thesis?

3. Have I included enough details so the reader can visualize my experience?

4. Are the events presented in a logical sequence?

5. Have I used transitions to help the sequence of events flow smoothly?

6. Have I used dialogue to enhance my story?

7. Have I used a consistent point of view and verb tense?

8. Have I ended the story satisfactorily?

9. Have I proofread thoroughly?


1. Narrative writing is about retelling a story so that your readers understand what happened during an important event.

2. Narrative writing is an important part of your education, daily life, and career.

3. Interpreting narrative readings and images can help you to prepare to write a narrative.

4. Carefully analyze your rhetorical star before writing a narrative: subject, audience, purpose, strategy, and design.

5. Use these qualities when writing a narrative: establish a clear purpose; identify the time and place; keep a consistent point of view; keep the verb tense consistent; include plenty of details and sensory appeal; follow a logical sequence; use dialogue effectively; include visual aids if appropriate; and end with a thought-provoking conclusion.



Use this checklist to determine what you need to work on in order to feel comfortable with your understanding of the material in this chapter. Check off each item as you master it. Review the material for any unchecked items.

1. I know what narrative writing is.

2. I can identify several real-world applications for writing narratives.

3. I can evaluate narrative readings and images.

4. I can analyze the rhetorical star for writing a narrative.

5. I understand the writing process for writing a narrative.

6. I can apply the nine qualities of narrative writing.

SmartBook Tip

During the “Recharge” phase, students can return to Chapter 5 and practice concepts that they need to work on.



1  Keenly Sharply.

2  Nominalize To convert a word or phrase to another part of speech.

3  Transcribe To make a written copy of spoken words.

4  Linguists People who study languages.

1  Participant observation when an anthropologist or other social scientist is an active participant, not just an o

Is this part of your assignment? Get trusted writers to serve you on on your task
Our experts will take care of your task no matter the deadline!
Use the following coupon

Order Now