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Personal Essay

            In order to understand what a “personal essay” is on needs a clear definition and understanding of the term. Although there is no dictionary definition for the term, one can look at the definitions of “personal” and “essay” in order to make a conclusion to what a piece of writing means to be a “personal essay.” Personal refers to the idea of something relating to an individual and essay is a composition on any particular subject and it may consist of a moderate length. Therefore, if one must define the term “personal essay,” it can be claimed to be a composition of a moderate length on any subject that relates to the individual who is producing the piece.

            Personal essays come under the genre of Autobiographies, this is because by definition an autobiography is self/individual writing. It is an individual’s own story. A personal essay is an individual’s recollection and account of what happened, this can be during a particular period in their life, it can be about a particular event, a specific feeling, or time which the writer wants to express. Personal essays are written in prose.

            Personal essays have been written for thousands of years, one of the earliest writers well known writers who have written personal essays is Seneca the Younger who lived from 3-65 A.D., who was born in Spain. Seneca the Younger was a well-known writer especially for his essays “On Noise” and “Asthma.”  Personal essays have been written by other various well-known authors such as George Orwell, who wrote “Such, Such were the Joys,” Virginia Woolf, who wrote “Street Haunted”, E.B. White, who wrote “The Ring of Time,” F. Scott Fitzgerald, who wrote “The Crack Up,” and James Baldwin, who wrote “Notes to a Native Son,” among many other authors we read today.

            Personal essays can be written and compiled in a variety of ways, they can be in the form of journal entries, consolations, listings, lectures, memoirs, portraits, letters (which can also be considered epistolary essays), and poems and prose among many others.  They can discuss any aspect or issue that the writer would like, such as marriage, death, birth, way of life (city or country), family, education, drugs, illness, music, art, nature, love, as well as reading and writing. It can truly be whatever subject the individual would like to discuss.

            Although the topic and style of writing a personal essay can be anything and anyway that the individual writing it feels, the author usually does find some way to interact with the individual reading it. This can be in the manner of the writing being open for interpretation or the topic being one that in some way or another relates to others. The author does also sometimes include emotional ties to the events which reminds the readers of how they felt during a certain event that occurred within their own life.

            There are two particular works that we have read this semester which are classified as personal essays the first is “The Story of My Life in 3,500 Words or Less” by Nora Ephron and the second one is “Repeat After Me” by David Sedaris. Although these are both personal essay they are very different relative to one another. Ephron writes her work in the form of journal entries that are compiled together in order to present the reader with the important parts of her life and as she said within 3,500 words. Ephron speaks of her writing and her career. Sedaris on the other hand tell his story in a different manner altogether, he expresses his experience and emotions as a story.  Both of the writers express what they feel is most important to them.

            A personal essay in conclusion is an individual’s essay about what is important to them. About what is significant in their own life. It is what matters to an individual in their own life. It is written by themselves for themselves, no other individual is writing their story. The authors words are needed to be taken with a grain of salt, because the reader does not know whether something is a stretched truth or pure fabrication.

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