Uploaded by Fergal Davey


What is a descriptive essay? In more familiar terms, a descriptive essay is a mix of
- aesthetic (vivid, elaborate, flowery) language like you would find in poetry and enjoyable novels
- a plot line (like in a short story)
- a personal essay
Here are some past questions that came up:
2016, Write a descriptive essay in which you take your readers on an urban journey.
2015, Write a descriptive essay which captures life in Ireland in 2015 from the point of view of an
observant time-traveller. The time-traveller may be from the past or from the future.
2014, Write a descriptive essay about what you find beautiful or exotic in everyday life.
2013, Write a descriptive essay based on a variety of glimpsed moments.
On a related note, what if you are asked to find features of descriptive language in a
Look for: - similes (A is like B) - metaphors (A is B) - smells like... - tastes like... - reminds me of... adjectives - adverbs - elaborate detail
Write a descriptive essay with the title Night Scene
Night Scene
Essay 1
The cold steel door handle sends a shiver down my spine as I pull it down slowly. (One sentence in
the author managed to send a pretty powerful message to the reader: “I am creating a narrative
with aesthetic description that appeals to the senses and aims to relate to the reader – and lastly,
can I have a H1?” I sure hope so! From this point on, I am reading this essay as if I am watching an
ice skater doing impossible tricks, going for the gold medal – and clenching my fists in hopes that
they don’t slip. A strong opening is one of the best ways to get the examiner on your side.) The
dark mahogany door opens with a deep, echoing creak and I feel a trickle of sweat on my
forehead. (Suspense and tension = elements of the language of narration.) I slip through, opening
the door to a minimal distance and taking care to close it gently behind me. I rub my hands together
for warmth as the dark cold night beckons me to start shivering. I inhale and exhale deeply and
heavy clouds of mist form as my warm breath meets the cold air. I can taste the coldness in my
mouth and I start sweating to warm up. (Well, this last bit doesn’t make sense because you only
sweat to lose heat – but luckily, this isn’t a physiology exam. The rest of this essay
is pure description and nothing really happens in it. Few people have the talent of writing so
descriptively about something as uneventful as a walk in a forest. The introduction with the door
handle, trying to avoid being heard and sweating in suspense sets the scene of a Bond film, so
reading about snails and moths for seven paragraphs is a little disheartening. I would rewrite the
introduction so that it prepares the reader for the actual body of the essay. Still, this is a brilliant
My eyes catch the scattered night-time drops of dew as they are illuminated by the pale light of the
moon. They shine, like a million eyes staring back at me from the dark green hue of the hedges.
Among the bushes, a spider builds a silken web. Precisely and carefully, the spider leaps from each
leaf of the thick hedge, constructing its intricate trap. (“Its” used correctly! More brownie
points.) The moon hides behind a patch of greyish, navy clouds. Its light breaks through the wispy
clouds, penetrating their dark cover. The sky is freckled with brilliant, glowing stars. Their intensity
contrasts against the sombre blue of the night sky, and warmth begins to fill me again as I take in
this magnificent sight.
Reaching for my torch, I press my thumb into its switch and it turns on with a click. I start walking,
my feet crunching the autumn leaves that lay on the moist ground. The brilliant reds, oranges,
yellows and browns I saw this morning have changed into sombre blues and dark
greens. (Excellent!) It seems their warmth in colour has succumbed to the chill of the autumn
night. (We know, don’t spell it out too much.) My flashlight reveals a lone snail making its way
across the leaves. It moves without seeming to move at all, taking its time. It leaves behinds a slimy
trail of mucus as it goes, which catches the yellow light of my flashlight. I am startled by the sudden
loud barking of a dog – my neighbour’s hound. This low growl is then followed by a chorus of other
dogs in the suburb, as if in a dog choir. I hear the slow crescendo of an oncoming car. As it gets
closer, I hear the crisp traction of its tyres with the black tarmac of the road. It zooms by with a flash
of white, blinding light and the splash of a puddle.
I continue walking, basking in the now eerie silence of the suburbs. The thin layers of ice on the
pathway crackle under the rubber soles of my shoes. In the distance, a lamppost glows amber. As I
approach it, I see a moth fluttering round the light source. It incessantly crashes into the bulb with a
faint *dink* each time. A gentle breeze hits me from behind, setting me on my way again. The
breeze continues, whistling in my ears and causing nearby trees and bushes to sway idyllically. I think
of my childhood, when I thought the dark did not harvest any life. Night-time was a period of
nothingness, in which nature went to sleep. I feel glad that I was disillusioned at this age, glad to be
able to observe the life and light in the dark of the night.
I point my flashlight on a sign, which reads: ‘Grenwich Forest’. Following the gravelly paths, my
shoes make a gritty sound due to the myriad loose pebbles beneath them. The path grows ever
mossier as I venture further into the forest. The air changes – it is now damper, but fresher. I take in
a deep breath of fresh air, filling my lungs with the natural oxygen of my surroundings. An abrupt
hoot beckons my head to look in the direction of a nearby tawny owl. Its intense round eyes seem to
me to be almost belligerent, and my grip on the flashlight tightens. As I begin my effort to lurk by
this magnificent beast, it takes flight. Its wings stretch into a feathery mass of whites, beige and
browns. It flies off into the forest with a dull flapping sound that dies off after a while.
I take a gulp of the forest air through my nostrils. I smell the vibrant smell of green plants, of
autumnal foliage, of colourful flowers. Looking up, I observe the light of the pale moon as it slithers
between the tops of the forest’s trees. It transforms their dull, dark leaves into a majestic glowing
green. The path has now faded into fully overgrown moss and dew-dappled grass. My shoes now
squelch on the wet ground and with each step, I seem to be sinking deeper into the dirt. The moon
has moved higher into the sky now and I knew it would be time to go home soon.
All of a sudden, I see a large illumination of light to my right. Curious, I trod through the overgrowth
towards the source to look upon quite a striking sight: this collection of light is actually many little
fireflies swarming together. I am awe-struck at their magic quality; how do they manage to capture
that light? They flutter around – in their hundreds – leaving a glowing trail of light after them. Each
insect is as magnificent as the next, flying in harmony alongside each other in the eerie silence of the
I venture back home, with a briskness to my gait. The moon is nearly at the end of its tenure in the
sky, and the myriad sounds of cars tells me I need to get home quickly. I glance into the windshield
of one woman as she is waiting in the early morning traffic. She has dark rings of fatigue around her
eyes open in puffed slits of redness. Yawning, she takes a sip of what I presume is a warm,
caffeinated drink. My own fatigue weighs down on me as I feel my muscles struggle to do my
bidding. My stride becomes erratic, due to my sudden lethargy and I struggle to keep my eyes open.
One deep inhale of the clear dawn air gives me enough fuel to make it to the door of my house.
Faced with the same dilemma as before, I open the door at a snail’s pace, anticipating the dull creek,
and shut it behind me in a similar fashion. I wipe any evidence of the night into the thick, brown
bristles of the doormat. Taking off my tattered shoes, I slink stealthily up the stairs in an effort to
avoid detection.
Once in bed, my eyes succumb to weariness and close heavily. I dream of the night life just moments
Leaving Cert English Papers are marked using “PCLM”
Clarity of Purpose
P: Focus
– a descriptive essay, appropriate to the title Night Scene understanding of genre
– the effective use of some elements of descriptive writing e.g. imagery, use of setting, anecdote,
creation of atmosphere, attention to detail, quality of observation, appeal to the senses, etc.
originality and freshness, etc. All excellently done.
Coherence of Delivery
C: The extent to which the descriptive writing is successfully sustained and developed effective
shaping of the essay sequencing and management of ideas, etc. This isn’t quite as strong because the
introduction doesn’t 100% match the body of the essay.
Efficiency of Language Use
L: Quality and control of descriptive language e.g. style, vocabulary, syntax, punctuation, etc. All
excellently done