Using Descriptive Detail

Narrative Essay

Gilbert Findlay, Departement of English
All writing is an act of definition. The writer uses some terms that are key to the subject. Take for example this passage from Itabari Njeri: 'Because of my family, I learned to see and hear the complexity and grand drama that underlay the simplest of human actions.' The key terms here are 'family,' complexity,' and 'human actions.' Then, the writer is obliged to follow with descriptive detail. It must be concrete in order to 'define' these terms in context. Without descriptive, contextual detail, the reader may only understand 'family' with reference to his or her own family, while what Njeri may be promising about an understanding of culture through family may be 90 degrees off from what the reader assumes. "

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