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February 5, 2012 / bloggerbarrett

Descriptive paragraph: developing character and establishing setting

This excerpt from “Keeping Faith”, a novel by Jodi Picoult, is a succinct example of a descriptive paragraph (or two). The author links the childhood fascination of the narrator with the description of the circus to both develop the character through a childhood memory and establish the setting.

“My parents took me to the Boston Garden every year when Ringling Brothers came to town, and to say I loved it would be an understatement. In the weeks leading up to the show I’d wake in the middle of the night, my chest tight with flips and my eyes blind with sequins, my sheets smelling of tigers and ponies and bears. When I was actually at the circus, I’d school my eyes not to blink, aware that it would be gone as quickly as the cotton candy that melted away to nothing in the heat of my mouth.

The year I was seven I was mesmerized by the Elephant Girl. The daughter of the ringmaster, glittering and sure, she stepped on the trunk of an enormous elephant and shimmied up it, the way I sometimes walked up the playground slide. She sat with her thighs clamped around the thick, bristly neck of the elephant and stated at me the whole time she circled the center ring. Don’t you wish, she said silently, that you were like me?”

Picoult, J. (1999). Keeping Faith. New York, New York:HarperCollins Publishers. pp 24.

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