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Page history last edited by David King 12 years, 6 months ago

Rhetorical Strategy: Narrative


Using narrative to convey experience is a pervasive part of our lives. When we meet up with our friends, when we return home from school or work and chat with our families, when we want to make others laugh, cry, or sympathize, or when we relate specific frustrations, losses, successes, sorrows and joys, we use a narrative structure in packaging up the events for our readers and listeners.


In writing for academic purposes, we may need to take a narrative approach in writing a personal response to a text or a situation, or in writing up field notes based on an observation.


Writing an effective narrative, one which involves the reader in seeing, feeling, hearing, tasting, smelling, in sum living the events from the point of view of the writer is also a critical writing activity which gives us practice in reading our writing from the point of view of the audience. In addition, finding the point that our narrative makes, and writing that point at the start of our narrative essay, can help us see the role of preparing the reader for the rest of the text through a thesis statement, which raises a reader’s expectations about the rest of the text.


A useful framework to analyze and to generate narrative is the following:


Narrative Framework



What was this about?

Summarises the point or states a general proposition which the narrative will exemplify


Who?  When?  What?  Where?

Gives details of time, persons, place, situation


Then what happened?

Gives the main event sequence and shows a crisis, problem, turning point, the point at which the protagonist loses balance


So what?

Shows listeners how they are to understand the meaning and reveals the teller's attitude by emphasising parts of the narrative  (not a separate step or stage: evaluation permeates the narrative, especially at and after the turning point)


What finally happened?

Shows resolution to crisis


And now?

Returns readers to a later point in time and highlights the  main point


In giving details of time, persons, place and situation, you will want to draw on the rhetorical strategy of description.



Text to analyze:  ‘Salvation’, by Langston Hughes


Sample Narrative Essays:  "The Encounter"; "Opposites Attract"


CCC Handout



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