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VARIOUS TEXTS: WHAT IS AN ESSAY?

An essay is a form of literature in which the writer tries to entertain the reader with his thoughts on a particular subject. It is not necessarily a very learned dissertation on a subject - the type that is called a thesis and requires many weeks, or perhaps months, in its preperation - but its aim is to present to the reader, in a pleasant manner, the thoughts that occur to the author as he considers his subject.
The first writer of essays was a Frenchman, Montaigne, who lived from 1533 to 1592, while the first Englishman to use this form was Francis Bacon (1561-1626), a great scholar and philosopher.

Characteristics of an essay:

    Choice of subject:
The essayist may choose his subject from the whole range of human activity, and discuss Man's relations with his fellow human beings, his emotions, his aspirations (desires and ambitions); and so an essay might be termed a commentary on Man and his world.
    Length of the essay:
An essay may vary in length from the usual two pages by a schoolboy to the many pages in f.e. Macaulay's critical essays.
    The subject:
One subject is discussed from various viewpoints. The essay is to represent the writer's own thoughts on the matter. He may use the personal pronoun 'I', or he may make no direct reference to himself at all, but he is still to be regarded as responsible for the thoughts expressed. Whether they are original or not is another matter. He usually adds his own opinion on a particular idea. He is expected to state what he thinks and feels, and need not apologize for doing so.
    Style:
The style may be talkative and rambling, or it may be sententious (short, energetic, and to the point). Whichever type it is, the style is a good one if the reader is enabled to realize for himself exactly what it was that the writer thought and felt. The style could be called conversational, for it is intimate and personal, and consequently it reveals the personality of the writer.


Subjects for Essays:
According to the nature of the theme, essays can be divided into the various groups:
1. Debatable subjects:
    The advantages and disadvantages of being young
    The advantages and disadvantages of living in the country
    The advantages and disadvantages of living in a large family
    Who are better off - boys or girls?
    Television - Fact or Fiction?

2. Things about yourself:
    How I spend my leisure
    What can I do to help my country?
    What I hope to become
    If you had to live in some other country, which one would you choose?
    Things that annoy me


3. Descriptive:
    My favourite character in history?
    An interesting book I have read
    The ideal school
    The most beautiful countryside I have seen


4. Speculative:
    If we had no books
    Changes I would make if I were head of the school
    If there were no schools


5. Reflective:
    Home (consider the persons and things that make a home - father, mother, children, the house and its furnishings)
    The power of the media
    The tyranny of fashion


6. Informative, of scientific interest, based on facts:
    Some achievements of modern science
    Have the inventions of the past 100 years made us happier?
    Recent progress in medical science
    World problems of today
    The conquest of space


7. Of general human interest / Abstract qualities:
    Advertisements (where they are found; methods of attracting attention; good/bad advertisements; various types - newspapers, TV, internet, magazines, ; influence on people; hoardings that disfigure the countryside)
    Superstitions (who believes in them? some are useful, some are silly; forms: witchcraft, apparitions, magic, omens, charms, signs etc.)
    Hobbies
    Strange customs
    What should be taught in schools?
    Courage (physical - facing danger; mental - facing problems in which difficulties and opposition can be expected; persevering in spite of failures and discouragement; moral - having the courage of one's convictions)


8. Proverbs and quotations:
    'What is this life if, full of care
    We have no time to stand and stare?'
    'Science has toiled too long forging weapons for fools to use.'



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