Langston Hughes' Defining Moment: A Close Reading/Descriptive Writing Exercise


Read the essay below. To fully understand the context of the story, it is necessary to know something about the author, about when he lived and what his life was like, so read the short biography of this very influential 20th Century writer, Langson Hughes. Then we will read his story about a defining moment in his life. The primary question we will explore when we discuss the story is how this incident from his own life helps to define him as the man he later became.

What is a "defining moment"?


Langston Hughes


by Langston Hughes





Define the following terms as they are meant in the context of the essay. Since this is a writing class, write your answers in complete and grammatically correct sentences--even the definitions.


1.  revival


2.  knickerbockered


3.  punctuated


4.  ecstatic




5.  Is the thesis of the essay stated outright or implied?


6.  What is the thesis of the essay?


7.  How does Westley’s attitude differ from Langston’s?


8.  Why can’t Langston tell Auntie Reed the truth about his experience in the church?


"Preparing to write" assignment:

Writing Assignment: Based on your discussion of a defining moment in Langston Hughes's life and your own life's timeline with your colleagues today, select an incident from your life which is a defining moment, that is, an incident which, in retrospect, reveals something important about the person that you are, about the person you have become because of the life experiences you have had. You will write a story about this event or incident, this "defining moment." To prepare for drafting your defining moment story, make a chronological outline of the incident itself and include at each phase of your chronology some of the descriptive details that you will include in the narrative in order to show your readers what happened. The parts of the essay that will "tell" about the experience are those in which you say how you felt about what was happening or what meaning you made of the incident. The great bulk of your essay will show what happened, just as Hughes showed us the revival meeting happening.

Showing and telling in the essay, and formatting it:

After drafting:

  1. Paired peer review using the GGW's Editing Checklist.
  2. Revise, edit and turn in your (now) PERFECT defining moment essay.

Homework assignment for the next stage, adding reseach to your essay