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How to Revising a Story into an Expository Essay?

gekokujyou 1 / 1  
Nov 4, 2006   #1
First of all, I have the same problem as econsangel. However after reading the wonderful replies to her questions, I still do not have any idea on where to start this paper, where it should go, and how it should end. I am having a problem grasping the idea of expository writing even though it has already been explicitly spelt out in my notes and the forum. It is like when you were a kid trying to make it all the way across the monkey bars. You want to be able to reach that next rung and you try very hard, but somehow you just can't reach it. Right now, as I write, I am not exactly sure I am reaching the goal of this assignment, but this may be the best that it gets. Please pull all my hair out for me!

The question:

"Pick a piece of writing from your portfolio and revise it into an expository essay of around 700-750 words. Your revised essay must have a clear purpose and contain a variety of sentence patterns. It should be coherent, cohesive and uncluttered. In your revision, work on improving the detailing, organization, and voice of your essay."

My few worries are: 1) Is it clear that the flashback in the first paragraph must have happened 60 yrs ago and not recently since Ah Keong is 77 now. 2) By strict instructions, I am supposed to revise my previous assignment but this new piece somehow feels more like a piece written from scratch rather than by revision. 3) The last para doesn't seem to be powerful enough. Any inputs? 4) Tenses! Even after 11 years of English education, I cant seem to write my tenses properly, esp for writings that deal with the past and present simultaneously.

The BOOM was so familiar. Instinctively, Ah Keong fell to the ground and scrambled backward wildly, taking cover behind a door. ``BRAVO TEAM,'' he yelled to his ten year old daughter, Michelle, and her perplexed friends. ``6 o'clock, 300 meters, MOVE!'' Michelle? What the hell was his little girl doing in the war? He wondered. Then, he realized: This was not his army unit. This was not a battlefield in the Malayan jungles. This was his daughter's primary school, and the BOOM was only the sound of a book dropping. This was yet another flashback. This was post war trauma.

Regardless of a former soldier's desire to re-associate himself with reality, the environmental manifestations, such as certain images and everyday sounds, always remind him of the past. Thousands of World War II veterans like Ah Keong struggled with psychological injuries that can surface in a supermarket checkout line or coffee shop. Even though it had been sixty years ago that an armistice was signed at Fort Canning Hill, ending World War II and bringing an uneasy peace to the ravaged peninsula of Singapore, the war still lives on in many war veterans. For Ah Keong and most former war participants, peace is a relative term. A physical peace has for the most part been achieved, but a psychological peace is not yet a part of their existence. Among the symptoms manifested by former soldiers are extreme nightmares, daily regular flashbacks of the traumatic events, uncontrollable aggressiveness, insecurity, difficulty in concentrating, depression and a sense of hopelessness about the future. These symptoms may eventually lead to alcohol or drugs abuse and in a worse case scenario, suicide.

For Ah Keong, 77, the acute symptoms began within weeks of him returning home in October 1945. He barely slept, suffered excruciating migraines and was jumpy. He was often seen in his old army fatigues, constantly patrolling his neighbourhood, checking and rechecking locked doors and windows, scanning tree tops for camouflaged snipers. Otherwise, he would spend most of his time at home in a daze. He could not seem to muster interest in anything. He had received one thousand dollars in compensation for his war wounds, which had allowed him to avoid work for nearly a year. It was clear the impact World War II inflicted on him was especially dramatic; He could never return to his pre-war civilian life.

Other than everyday sounds, certain images are also scorched deep inside of him: what was the few blackened remains of his dead buddy, Ah Jin. January 22, 1945, was the day when Ah Keong had an immediate and powerful initiation into the horrors and traumas of war, of which the experience was to burrow deep inside of him, firmly etching itself in his soul: Ah Keong and Ah Jin's unit was ambushed by the Japanese soldiers that very day. Ah Keong fortuitously escaped uninjured from an Japanese mortar shell which had landed just a few meters away. The explosion however blew Ah Jin 20 meters into the air, splitting him into pieces: one fiery lump of bone and a hundred chunks of charred flesh.

Ah Keong was subsequently captured. As a prisoner-of-war of the Japanese army, Ah Keong endured eight months of hell. Deprived of the most basic human needs: food, water, shelter, sanitation, and medical care, how Ah Keong had managed to survive captivity and preserve his sanity was a mystery to himself. His food had consisted of miserable pieces of half burnt tapioca sprinkled with salt, and once a week some brownish broth with grass floating in it. He grew thin and weak. His ribs grew visible even though he had been a strapping young man when he enlisted.

This is the tragedy of war, which not only the combatants pay with their lives, but risk suffering from long term post psychological trauma. For the most part, World War II had interrupted Ah Keong's life, crushed his dreams, and destroyed his life, and no armistice can remedy those ill. Till today, Ah Keong still struggles with all the what-ifs and frequently replays that ill-fated day. For Ah Keong and other former World War II participants, the war had exacted a heavy toll and the arduous road to recovery continues.

(714 words)
EF_Team2 1 / 1708  
Nov 4, 2006   #2

First, let me say how much I enjoyed reading your initial story! And I think you have done a marvelous job of turning it into an expository essay. To answer your questions:

1) I found the flashback very powerful and well-written, especially the use of short, clipped sentences for impact. But no -- it did not register with me that the flashback occurred many years ago; only after I went back and re-read your question did I understand what you were saying. I think you could fix that easily, though, with one sentence in the third paragraph when you talk about how Ah Keong's symptoms started right away; perhaps after "scanning tree tops for camouflaged snipers. " You could add something like, "The flashback at his daughter's school was one of many such incidents."

2) Although you had to add a lot of material, I think this is probably the only way you could have turned a story like that into this type of essay. I can't speak for your instructor, but if I were grading your assignment, I'd think you did a marvelous job of it.

3) and 4) - I'll suggest changes that will help with tenses (and some punctuation) and also with making the last paragraph more powerful:

"veterans like Ah Keong struggle with psychological injuries"

"Even though it has been sixty years since an armistice was signed"

"drug abuse"

"within weeks of his returning home"

"dramatic; he "

"deep inside of him: one was of the few blackened remains"

"the horrors and traumas of war [I'd pick one, not both horrors and traumas]; this experience would burrow "

"a Japanese mortar"

"The explosion, [b]however[b],"

"Deprived of the most basic human needs -- food, water, shelter, sanitation, and medical care -- how Ah Keong managed to survive captivity and preserve his sanity was a mystery to him.

"This is the tragedy of war: some combatants pay with their lives, others suffer long-term psychological trauma. World War II interrupted"

"those ills. Today, Ah Keong"

"the war exacted"

Sometimes, just chaniging a verb tense slightly, as in the last example, can make your writing stronger, as does removing qualifying statements like "For the most part."

I think you've done some excellent work here and I hope your instructor agrees!


Sarah, EssayForum.com
OP gekokujyou 1 / 1  
Nov 4, 2006   #3
Thanks for the encouragement!

Just two more questions which surfaced after reading back the question to check for things which I might have missed out.

1) From the question "Your revised essay must have a clear purpose", I was wondering whether my thesis statment is clear? I tried to present it implicitly yet it occurs that it might not be clear enough. Yes the reader is intelligent enough to figure out the thesis themselves but well, it is always better to be safe than sorry, especially in a heavily graded assignment. What are your opinions on this matter? By the way is there such a thing call implicit thesis statement? Are we suppose to always spell them out clearly, especially in an expository essay?

2) Is there coherence and cohesion in the essay? I feel that paragraph 2 somehow seems to spoil the flow and comes in suddenly in the middle of the exemplification. Is this caused by the existance of paragraph 1? Is paragraph 1 a redundant narration in this type of expository writing? However from what I know this is how an exemplification essay should be written. Maybe I should relocate the first sentence of my 2nd paragraph?

Once again thanks for all your help!
EF_Team2 1 / 1708  
Nov 5, 2006   #4

These are some very good questions. I've never heard of an "implicit thesis statement." While that doesn't mean one can't exist, it does seem to me to defeat the purpose of a thesis statement, which is to provide a concise and specific statement of the argument you intend to make or the question you intend to address. A strong thesis usually presents a position or assertion that can be argued, rather than just relaying a set of facts.

You could combine the first two sentences of your second paragraph:

"Thousands of World War II veterans, like Ah Keong, struggle with the psychological injuries of post-traumatic stress that are triggered by everyday sights and sounds." - This statement relays facts, but to express a "clear purpose" that takes a position, you might say, "Thousands of World War II veterans, like Ah Keong, struggle with post-traumatic stress that may eventually lead to alcohol, drug abuse, or even suicide."

You have then taken a stronger position, and the instances from Ah Keong's life that you relate will bolster this argument.

I hope this helps!


Sarah, EssayForum.com

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