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
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.
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:
What can I do to help my country?
If you had to live in some other country, which one would you choose?
My favourite character in history?
An interesting book I have read
The most beautiful countryside I have seen
Changes I would make if I were head of the school
Home (consider the persons and things that make a home - father, mother, children, the house and its furnishings)
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
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.)
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.'