Conclusion Strategies: Narrative Essays
1. Reflective Conclusion: Sometimes found at the end of a personal narrative essay. This conclusion looks back over the story
and draws a conclusion about the experience, sometimes sharing a lesson learned with the readers, other times simply offering
some thoughts about the experience.
Sample Reflective Conclusion from a narrative essay:
I have kicked myself mentally a hundred times for that stupidity and don't think I'll ever really, finally get over it.
Evidently what I saw sloshing around was gas in the reserve tank which I had never turned on because I assumed the rain had
caused the engine failure. I didn't understand then how foolish quick assumptions like that are. Now we are on a twenty-
eight-horse machine, and I take the maintenance of it very seriously.
*Note the directly stated thesis in bold. Narrative essays do not always state their thesis.
Closing to an essay excerpted from Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
Sample Reflective Conclusion from a narrative essay:
There was shame there. Now there was shame everywhere. It seemed like the whole world had been inside that
classroom, everyone had heard what the teacher had said, everyone had turned around and felt sorry for me. There was shame in
going to the Worthy Boys Annual Christmas Dinner for you and your kind, because everybody knew what a worthy boy was.
Why couldn't they just call it the Boys Annual Dinner-why'd they have to give it a name? There was shame in wearing the brown
and orange and white plaid mackinaw the welfare gave to three thousand boys. Why'd it have to be the same for everybody so
when you walked down the street the people could see you were on relief? It was a nice warm mackinaw and it had a hood, and
my momma beat me and called me a little rat when she found out I stuffed it in the bottom of a pail full of garbage way over on
Cottage Street. There was shame in running over to Mister Ben's at the end of the day and asking for his rotten peaches, there was
shame in asking Mrs. Simmons for a spoonful of sugar, there was shame in running out to meet the relief truck. I hated that truck,
full of food for you and your kind. I ran into the house and hid when it came. And then I started to sneak through alleys, to take
the long way home so the people going into White's Eat Shop wouldn't see me. Yeah, the whole world heard the teacher that day-
-we all know you don't have a daddy.
*Note this conclusion does not directly state the thesis. It is implied through the actions of the characters and author’s other
comments from throughout the story.
Conclusion (Part I) to essay “Shame” by Dick Gregory.
2. Generalization (Truth) Conclusion: Similar to the reflective conclusion used with the personal narrative, this technique
establishes a general truth or observation learned in the course of the experience or from the analysis completed in an expository
essay or even at the end of a narrative essay.
Sample Generalization/Truth Conclusion from a narrative essay:
If wild animals—and wild nature—were less frightening, perhaps civilization would be less palatable. But the truth is
that civilization does not protect us from wild animals. It attempts, however, imperfectly, to protect us from ourselves.
-- closing of Michael Crichton’s essay “Sharks” in Travels.
3. Question Conclusion: This technique can be used with all kinds of essays.
Sample Question Conclusion from narrative essay:
Throb-throb-throb—was that Father’s watch eating up minutes or was it hop-hop-hop, my golden toad, making his
patient way down the long dusty road, back to the lovely mountain stream where there was no time?
-- closing of Emily Carr’s essay “Time” in The Growing Pains: The Autobiography of Emily Carr.
4. Powerful Image or Figure of Speech Conclusion: This technique is often used in conjunction with another closing
technique and could appear in narrative, descriptive, expository, argumentative/persuasive essays.
Sample Powerful Imager of Figure of Speech Conclusion from a narrative essay:
I could neither reassure her with a lie nor make her face the truth. But I had to do something. I had thought too much
about this already. A good businessman knows when to stop thinking and to act instead. I drew close to my wife, but only briefly
did my arm rise and hold her. That was the same as all the other forgotten gesture of my life. Suddenly I surprised myself and my
wife, too. I stepped in front of her and crouched down, and before either of us could think to feel foolish, I had taken Mai onto
my back and straightened up, and I began to move about the yard, walking at first, down the long dropping lower branch of the
oak tree and then faster along the sidewalk and then up the other side of the house, and I was going faster, and she only protested
for a moment before she was laughing and holding on tighter, clinging with her legs about my waist and her arms around my
Conclusion Strategies for Personal Narratives, Composition Section of Notebook, Page 1
neck, and I ran with her, ran as fast as I could so that she laughed harder, and I felt her clinging against me, pressing against me,
and I felt her breath on the side of my face as warm and moist as a breeze off the South China Sea.
--closing to “The Trip Back” by Robert Olen Butler in Encountering Cultures.
5. Quotation Conclusion:
Sample Quotation Conclusion from a narrative essay:
Like Thoreau, I have “built castles in the air . . . [and am now putting] my foundations under them.” When I started that
little business back in the seventh grade, I would often daydream about where it might lead, and so what began as a dream is
ending as a reality and a rewarding and fantastic career.
6. Web Conclusion: Based on the metaphor of a spider’s web, this approach can be very effective. If you touch a spider’s web
at any point, your touch can be felt at the other points in the web. By analogy, any topic is connected to a web of other
topics. If your essay focuses on one part of the web, you can show in your conclusion how your topic touches another part
of the web. You thus show the significance of your issue by relating it to other issues. The reader sees your essay not only as
a whole but also in the context of the larger issue.
Example: In a narrative essay where the author has told the story of how her father beat her mother and her siblings, a web
conclusion could connect her personal story to current events/issues, a historical incident, or a piece of literature.
Sample Web Conclusion for an expository essay about literature:
Connection to a Current Issue
Domestic violence is a growing problem in our society. Data from a recent study shows that children or spouses in
three out of ten families have experienced some form of physical or emotional damage from a parent. My experience, however, is
more than just a statistic, a cold fact. The bruises are real, the warm blood still close to my flesh, and thousands of others share
the kind of experience I have endured. I am not alone.
Connection to a Piece of Literature (In this essay, the author has told a story of emotional and physical abuse by her
Like Ophelia in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, I have known what it means to be confused by someone who supposedly
loves you. Ophelia, unable to understand the actions of her lover Hamlet, first goes made and then apparently drowns herself.
Unlike her, I came to recognize that the problem was not with me, but with my boyfriend. I saved my life by drowning the
relationship; I dumped the jerk.
7. Hook and Return: This conclusion provides a feeling of closure and completeness by “returning full circle” to some point
or image or idea in the introduction. Your opening or introduction would thus begin with a description of a character or
setting, with a powerful figure of speech (metaphor, simile, personification) Your conclusion would then return to the same
or a similar image or figure of speech. This sense of return can give your essay a strong feeling of unity.
Sample Hook (Character Description) Paragraph (at the beginning of a paper) for Narrative Essay:
Father was a stern straight man. Straight legs and shoulders; straight side-trim to his beard, the ends of which were
straight-cut across his chest. From under heavy eyebrows his look was direct, though once in a rare while a little twinkle forced its
way through. Then something was likely to happen.
Our family had to whiz around Father like a top round its peg.
Sample Return Paragraph – (Returns to the Character Description) (at the end of a paper):
Indeed, Father could be adamantine, as hard as granite with any decision he made. I can still see and feel his cold blue
eyes, fixed like the distant light of the stars, penetrating me, opening me up like X-rays. I may not have liked all of his decisions.
At times, I may have even hated him. Nonetheless, I respected him then, and I revere him now.
Conclusion Strategies for Personal Narratives, Composition Section of Notebook, Page 2