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Essay and its role in Language
The essay is generally considered the backbone of a language and the same is with the English language. It has been defined by many scholars which can be gleaned from various textbooks. Merriam-Webster defines it as an analytic or interpretative literary composition, usually dealing with its subject from a limited or personal point of view.
Whatever the definition, the fact is that an essay is a personal statement on a subject. It is prose that represents the thoughts of the individual in a composite and logical manner. The Oxford Dictionary has given an excellent definition and brings out two things. Firstly it must be of moderate length; otherwise, it would become a book. Secondly, it can be on any subject and is a composite statement on it, presenting viewpoints from all angles.
The aim of writing an English essay is to demonstrate the love of words. Literary devices like alliterations, onomatopoeia, sibilance, and anaphora are used to make the topic interesting.
Onomatopoeia is used for literary effect. It is the formation of a word from a sound associated with what is named like the word -cuckoo. Anaphora is the word that is used to represent a word already used in the essay to avoid repetition. One has to have a good command of the English language and its nuances to do justice to the essay.
Father of Modern Essay
Generally, Michel de Montaigne is recognized as the father of the modern essay. He was born in 1533 at the Chateau de Montaigne and died at the same place in 1592. He belonged to an extremely wealthy family and it is to his credit that he used life for good purpose.
He was a philosopher who wrote many essays with the sole aim of entertaining a reader and informing on a subject. In this way, he entertained and created interest in the mind of a reader. Montaigne, also known as Lord of Montaigne, was one of the most significant philosophers of the French Renaissance. An essay is supposed to interest a reader, if not what use is an essay that does not entertain and hold the attention of the reader. It is a way to exercise the brain cells of a reader and make him think. A good essay will entrain and ignite the ideas in the brain of a reader.
The essay has not changed much with time and age. Essayists like E.V.Lucas, Robert Lynde, G.K.Chesterton, and A.G.Gardiner immediately come to mind as men of letters who wrote excellent essays. Chesterton wrote around 80 books, several hundred poems, some 200 short stories, 4,000 essays (mostly newspaper columns), and several plays. He has made a name for him in English literature. Surprisingly he also created a priest-detective in Father Brown. Perhaps he had Sherlock Holmes in mind. AG Gardiner was highly regarded as a essayist as were others. Bacon also comes to mind as a man who gave a refinement to an essay.
The essay is a tool of expression and some of the greatest writers of the have used the essay as a tool for bringing out their views and thoughts. They were good observers as well and represented life as seen by them through their eyes. Thus Scott, Maugham observed life around them and wrote in a way to engross the reader's attention. Maugham also wrote many novels which arre an extension of his ideas in his essays.
The essay took over a 100 years to develop. A modern essay is denoted by a freshness and unsophisticated beauty. It is almost lyrical and has an inherent grace. It is a form of expression that has no bounds or limits and a writer is free to express whatsoever he feels.
Next, we come to the style of an essay. Yes, the style has changed over the decades. Modern essays are in simple language with short sentences. The idea is to reach out to the maximum number of people.
Modern essayists like W.P.Ker, Andrew Lang, and Virginia Woolf among others have stamped the essay with their personality. Lastly, we can conclude that an essay is part of prose and is the stepping stone to great literature.
MG Singh (author) from UAE on May 11, 2021:
Thank you sir, for a very encouraging comment.
Prof David Anston on May 11, 2021:
I teach English and I'm impressed with this article. You have touched on the salient points required in an essay and I shall certainly forward it to my contemporaries. Otherwise other than students of literature this topic would appear dry to many people. I laud your courage in penning this short essay.
Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on August 23, 2012:
Thanks for this informative hub. Some great essayists mentioned. Passing this on.