Descriptive Essay


The Bridge

Jason Holland


Almost everyone has a special place, either in the present or past, that represents any number of emotions, pleasure being first among them. For Jason Holland, that place was a bridge and the time was when he was in high school. He is now a student at Valley City State University in Valley City, North Dakota, having decided to attend VCSU because of the academic and athletic opportunities the university provided. When he began his first semester composition course, he says that he was somewhat skeptical of his writing skills, but began finding it was easy to write about memorable moments, particularly those spent with his friends in high school. He used writing about these incidents as an outlet as well as a coping device to accommodate himself to the difficulties of college life.


What to Look For: If you are having a difficult time giving your reader a vivid picture of your scene, you might try writing down as many adjectives and adverbs about various objects or people that you associate with the place. After you have done this, then you can choose the most appropriate ones. That is what Jason Holland did when he was coming up with his descriptive essay about his adventures with his friends on a condemned bridge. As you read the essay look specifically at the detail be uses to enhance his essay.


1          I can see it now. The four of us sitting out on the wood bridge puffing on our cheap, Swisher cigars. The smoke rising above the rusty, cast iron sides and filtering up to the full moon above. As the moon reflects off the Goose River my friends and I sit and talk about everything from girls to UFO theories. We sit without a worry on our minds.

2          The bridge looks like it's something from a surreal movie with a midnight atmosphere. Located two miles out of town, it's hidden on a winding, gravel road that sometimes gets washed out if it rains heavily. Because of the lack of maintenance the bridge has old oak and maple trees leaning against it. The wood tiling on the bottom is spaced far apart almost to the point where our feet could fall through.

3          When we were at the bridge we felt as though nothing could go wrong. We thought that all our problems and fears would go away if we stayed out there long enough. We felt as though our parents, teachers, and coaches had no control over us. We could talk about anything and anyone without even thinking about the consequences. No one could touch us. We were like 1920 bootleg gangsters that the law couldn't catch up with. We were almost invincible as we smoked our cigars and talked about our dreams and aspirations.

4          As we sat and smoked it felt as though we were the only people on earth. The world revolved around us. It was like we could control the world while we were out at the bridge. It was a rickety, old bridge, but it seemed to empower us to the point where we felt as though we could control our own destiny. My friend who didn't do well in school was a smarter and more insightful person when he was at the bridge. My friend who wasn't good at athletics felt like he was as good an athlete as any professional. My friend who didn't have a girlfriend seemed like he was a savvy, babe magnet. The bridge had the power to give us confidence.

5          The bridge was county property but my friends and I felt like we were the owners. It was a mutual relationship. We owned the bridge, and the bridge owned us. On the long, cool summer nights we knew that the bridge needed company so we would get our cigars and take a ride down the long, windy road and leave our problems behind.; We sat out at the bridge for hours basking in the sounds of an occasional swat of a mosquito, the cooing of an owl in the distance, the splashing of a fish in the river, with the cool yet comfortable, windless night.

6          I haven't yet found a place where I could be so much in my own world and in my own element as I could when I was at the bridge. Having my best friends and cheap cigars made me enjoy it even more.


Guide to notes on the descriptive essay


Thesis and Organization

  • Paragraph 1 tells you where the scene takes place and who is there. What else does it do?
  • Examine paragraphs 2-5 and in one or two words list a subject or main idea for each one. What progression do you find?
  • Considering the ideas you identified in question 2, what does the bridge represent to the writer?
  • State the thesis of the essay in your own words. Where in the essay does the writer place the thesis?


Technique and Style

  • Look at Holland's second and third sentences. What are they missing? Explain whether the two sentences are acceptable fragments.
  • Reread paragraph 2. Which sentence functions as a topic sentence? What words in the other sentences are related to it?
  • Reread paragraph 5 looking for details that appeal to the senses. What are they?



Essay Ideas

  • Almost everyone has at least one "special place" that represents a particular mood or feeling, either positive or negative. To write an essay about such a place that holds meaning for you think first about an emotion and then about the place you associate with it. Here's one list to consider but other ideas will probably occur to you as well:







  • Once you've decided on a topic, then you can start accumulating details that will make your scene and the way you feel about it come alive for the reader.