Critical Personal Narrative

Critical Personal Narrative

For this assignment, you will use the strategies in Chapter 1 of Longman to write a critical personal narrative essay. A critical narrative is a combination between telling a story and performing an analysis, and it has become a widely used technique for understanding people’s accounts of their lives.

You will choose a significant experience or moment from your life that has influenced you in some key way. Sort through the stories of your life and choose one that is important enough or interesting enough to share with others. Your goal is to think of a way to approach this experience in a personal narrative.

If you cannot think of an interesting story, try writing in response to the following statement: Remember a time when you first discovered that the world was (a) stranger, (b) more wonderful, or (c) more complex than you had thought as a child. Think about how that experience prepared you to be who you are today.

Topics to Consider

The most promising topics are experiences that gave you insights into yourself, and possibly into others as well. Often, such an experience will have led you or others to change patterns of thinking, feeling, or behavior. To identify such topics, consider the categories below and then list whatever experiences come to mind:

Times when you felt secure, hopeful, distraught, appreciated, confident, frightened, exploited, or misunderstood.

Times when you made a decision about lifestyles, careers, education, politics, religion, leaving home, or getting an education.

Events that tested your will, patience, self-concept, prejudices, or goals.

Events that changed or confirmed your assessment of a person, a group, an institution, a religious belief, a political conviction, or a philosophical worldview.


“Problems are at the center not only of thesis-based writing but also of narrative writing. In effective narration, the problem usually takes the form of a contrary; two or more things in opposition—ideas, characters, expectations, forces, worldviews or whatever” (Ramage et al. 151). These are three common contraries found in the plots of autobiographical narratives:

Old self versus new self.

Old view of person X versus new view of person X.

Old values versus new values that threaten, challenge, or otherwise disrupt new values.

Thesis Statement

For this assignment, your thesis should include the significant moment and an argument about how that moment affected your identity. Think of it like this:

significant moment a strong, vivid verb argument = an effective thesis statement

Place your thesis in the introduction of your paper so that it clearly sets the direction for your essay.


Focus on a specific rhetorical purpose

Use writing and reading for inquiry, learning, thinking, and communicating

Understand the relationships among language, knowledge, and power

Explore the multiple facets of issues and use writing to construct informed, critical positions about these topics

Remember, you must choose to talk about a REAL moment from your life, tell the story about what happened, and HOW this moment in time CHANGED you. You may consider writing a list of topics that might work or consider making a bubble map to help you think of possible promising topics.

When you have picked a good topic, start drafting your essay. You can start from the beginning by writing an introduction, or you might start by writing your body paragraphs. Write as much as you can. Do not worry about making mistakes when you first start writing.

Remember: your audience is your classmates and me. We were not with you when this event happened and we don’t understand how you feel about this event. Add adjectives, descriptions, and talk about the five senses (sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell) to help us understand the story. Add YOUR thoughts about the events to SHOW us how your thinking/ beliefs/ ideas about life changed over time because of this event.

Here are some examples of topics students chose in the past:

How a student learned he was braver than he thought he was when he went to school for the first time in the United States.

How a student learned to overcome loneliness when she left all of her friends behind in Vietnam.

How a student changed his beliefs about God from a conversation he had with a friend.

How a student learned survival skills and learned about the kindness of strangers when she walked to the United States from Honduras.


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