The Absurd Man Says Yes
Student essays from Sisyphean High
The first kind of student-written work to highlight is the the essay that emulates a model text to some extent:
These are classification and division essays, using Stephanie Ericsson’s “The Ways We Lie” as a model. Their subjects run the gamut from types of fear to types of failure.
Common Topic Essays
Next, there are the essays written on a common topic, but without any prescribed arrangement or approach:
These examples all deal with lying, like Ericsson’s essay, but the essays are varied. Here is one that expands on Po Bronson’s “Learning to Lie” through narratives about the author’s childhood:
While this one unpacks the dishonesty that lies beneath the stress placed on students in high school:
Then there are what we call river essays, taking that metaphor from Paul Graham’s essay, “The Age of the Essay,” which argues for authors to experiment, explore, and always follow an interesting path.
Here is one of the most powerful pieces written by a student in the last few years — an essay that manages to balance literature and argument, that addresses the author’s contemporaries in a meaningful way, and that establishes a unique and authentic voice:
This next essay emulates Tom Bissell’s “13 Ways of Looking at a Shooter,” using the mentor text’s strange, engaging structure to explore her own relationship to video games:
Finally, here is an essay written by a student inspired by George Orwell’s “Shooting an Elephant.” This is a very nearly blow-for-blow recreation of Orwell’s structure and style, but it never feels derivative. Instead, this student invokes the original story to deepen her own:
In Brewster, in lower New York, I hated the life I had built.