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What Is An Essay?

Guidance No. 1:

What Is An Essay?: It is a branch of literature and holds its own in our literary life. The books are too many and manifold is the topics which various writers have dealt with in a way peculiar of their own. The style and subject matter vary as life itself is composed of elements which need to be tackled with separately.

When we do not know the exact meaning of a word, we look up for the same in the dictionary. It is really an interesting exercise to compare and contrast the meaning and the definition available in various dictionaries. The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines an essay as ” a literary composition on any subject, usually in prose ” whereas in the Chamber’s Twentieth Century Dictionary essay has been defined as ” a trial; an experiment; a written composition less elaborate than a treatise”. Etymologically, essay means ” to weigh, to balance. ”

When we define a thing, we tend to put a limit, it will, however, not be out of place if a few definitions are cited here. The oft-quoted definition is that of Dr Johnson who defined the essay as ” a loose sally of mind; an irregular, indigested piece, not a regular and orderly composition. ” The definition has been criticized since its very inception – rightly or otherwise. Benson did not attach much importance to the subject – matter but to the charm of personality According to him, ”

The essential point about an essay is not the subject but the charm of personality. ” Bacon, the most renowned essayist said, ” Reading maketh a full man; writing an exact man, and conference a ready man. ” None can become ” an exact man ” until he is conscious of what he writes. An essay is the product of our reading, observation, thinking and practice.

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Dr Johnson defines an essay as ” a loose sally of the mind: an irregular, undigested piece, not a regular and orderly composition,” Literally, the word means “an attempt or an experiment, and the information supplied by the Concise Oxford Dictionary is that an essay is ” a literary composition on any subject, usually in prose, and short ” But it is really a written attempt, within certain limits of time and space to describe, or to arrive at the truth concerning the person, thing or fact, referred to in the subject of the essay.

The school essay is an exercise in the original composition. It may be narrative, or descriptive, or a blend of these, and it may deal with an almost endless variety of subjects. ” Anything will serve the essayist, from the death of great general or a great author to a chalk-mark on the door. ” He can take up any subject he likes ” from the stars to dust – heaps and from the amoebae to man, ” or as Lynd puts it, ” anything from the Day of Judgment to a pair of scissors. ”

Even a pin lying on the road may set him amusing, or he may write an essay on ” Nothing “. Therefore, according to Mr Benson, the essential point about an essay is not the subject but the charm of personality ” which pervades the entire essay. The subject does not matter what matters is ” that the thing or the thought should be vividly apprehended, enjoyed, felt to be beautiful and expressed with a certain gusto.”

You cannot make an essay attractive if you do not give it lightness, grace and case; nor can you make it interesting unless you show, that you are yourself interested in what you are saying . Behind the essay is the man who wrote it. Therefore, if the essay does not convey the impression of the writer’s personality, it loses much of its charm as a work of art.

 

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