Comments on a Personal Essay

by Dr. Bob Marrs

Seasons Changing: The On-Campus Walk [1]


We [2]sat on the bench for close to two hours, staring at the bell, huddled close together on that brisk night in late August.[3] She barely said anything, simply listened to all my dumb stories about my friends back home and then responded to them with an appreciative laugh. We had been here all of two weeks but I could already feel a sort of bond forming. [4] I was glad I had found someone I could talk to so soon. The green leaves that hung above us ready to twirl to the ground in the coming weeks, now rustled softly in the cool breeze.

The Victory Bell sits all alone, off in the northwest corner of the Coe College campus, [5] the least used corner of all. [6] Though it may be [7]overlooked by most people everyday that isn't the first and last day of school, [8] it plays a central role in my existence here in Iowa. It is in this place where I will sit and reflect on my assignments and my purpose in college, and I have made many important decisions here. If it wasn't for the Bell and its accompanying Bench, who knows where I would be today. Maybe floating around aimlessly in outer space or swimming in a Florida swamp or running a paintbrush shop in Arizona. [9]

The Bell [10] is housed under a nifty little stone structure made of a faded yellow rock. The house starts with two columns four feet apart from inside to inside, and maybe about two feet wide and deep, that proceed up ten feet before slanting in towards one another and forming an arc fifteen feet from the ground. [11] It looks as though someone took a two-pronged fork, jammed it into the ground and then broke off the handle in disgust. [12]

Shadows dominate most of the structure (for we are only here in the dark of night) [13] but I can still see the true, khaki-like color of the stone in the weak orange light of Eby. [14] The bell hangs suspended from an iron bar curved like a U between the two columns. It's black even in the light, but then again I guess it would be black any time. [15] Both the bellhouse and bench sit on a circle of red bricks in the ground that has been riddled [16] with fallen twigs and leaves. Sometimes I throw those twigs at the bell and it makes a faint, bell-like dong. That makes me happy. [17]

Despite popular belief, the bell has not been here since the world was spawned out of oblivion,not even since the founding of Coe College. [18] The Bell was first rung in 1913, its house dedicated in 1944 by the Coe Twenty-two, twenty-two soldiers sent to serve the country in World War II. It was rededicated in 1975 with a new bell, and then again in 2000 when the second bell, which had cracked, was replaced by a newer, louder bell. Amidst all this commotion, the Bell was also moved from near the building that stood where Marquis Hall stands today, to its current location outside Eby. [19]

When it became increasing cold and into the early morning hours, we decided to call it quits and head for our respective rooms. We left the Bell that night knowing that we had both made a new friend. We haven't returned [20] since, for our conversations have been inspired elsewhere. [21] But it had all began at the Bell. A chilled breeze blew a few premature fallen leaves across our dull-lit path that headed back towards Murray. [22]


From wherever you look at Murray, it's always huge. It towers above the rest of the campus, going where no residence hall has gone before. Then it finally stops about one hundred feet up, but then lets its sleek antennae take over and reach even closer to the heavens. We look at it now, the sun setting just to the right of the Trophy, a vibrant orange ball trying to make [23] its way through the clouds, below the interstate and out of the sky for today.

As we stand there, we talk about nothing in particular.[24] One little blip about a paper she has to write somehow leads me to talk about hot dogs. We stand there only because [25] neither of us wants to go back to our rooms and face what could be waiting for us there. As far as I'm concerned, [26] everything else can wait. I'm busy here. [27]

Murray stands proudly [28], the east side of the building growing darker, but all its features still visible: the red brick, the concrete stripes going from top to bottom in the corners, the two rows of glass windows down the center, the four pillars across the front holding up the top floors. [29] A description I once read of Murray described it as 'tall and lanky.' No, it's more like tall and fat. Those pillars look like they could give up at any moment. [30]

But never fear. The usual crowd is gathered in the front of the building, smoking a pack of cigarettes like they always do, some sitting in the broken chairs they must have [31] found in the dumpster, but some leaning up against the concrete pillars, providing much needed [32] support for the weight of eight floors. They never laugh, just sit or stand there, leaving a thin cloud of gray immediately overhead. [33]

I truly appreciate Murray's gigantic [34] stature, accommodating rooms and elevator. It's a nice, quiet place to live and get things done, when I'm motivated enough. [35] On the other hand, the Trophy's greatness is overlooked by all who don't live within its walls; their allegiance is to some lesser, shorter residence hall.

The time I dreaded then came, [36] when she says she really had to go [37] to her room (not in Murray) and get something done. So, [38] feeling ambitious, she walks back to her room while I, feeling lazy, [39] turn the other way and head towards the quad, wondering where I am going, and if I would ever finish my homework.


Whenever I leave or am returning to my home in Murray, I always walk through a small planting of trees I like to call The Forest. [40]

The Forest consists of evergreen and deciduous trees that encompass me for about seven seconds as I walk through them, so in other words [41] there aren't very many of said trees. But I love to walk through them because for those seven seconds they remind me of my time spent surrounded by trees just like these in Washington and Tennessee. [42] It also reminds me of Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods, his account of hiking the Appalachian Trail, which I aspire to tackle as well. Every time I read his descriptions of the forests and hills and rocks and everything, I want nothing more than to revisit nature and stay there for a long time. [43]

When I walk through The Forest, I purposely take the paths less traveled by, brushing past branches and leaves, trying to imagine myself engulfed in nature, [44] away from college and people and civilization and alone amongst the trees, towering hundreds of feet [45] above me, slivers of sunlight dotting the trail. I no longer need the company of a friend or the coziness of a warm room or a college education, I am one with nature and nothing else matters. [46]

But once I emerge, I remember where I really am and head to class. [47]

1.What I expect in this kind of essay is a series of experiences and reflections, a sense of the writing exploring a topic-to gain some insights into a writer's process of discovery.

2."We" and "She": I like the pronouns, not rushing to give too much information

3. First sentence: good length, effective details

4. Key issue in good writing is eliminating unnecessary words; in this paragraph consider cutting such words as all, my, then, all of

5. First sentence: could use more information or description of bell & college

6. Need this repetition? "the least used corner of all"

7.Too many prepositional phrases right after another.

8. Consider cutting unnecessary words: "everyday that isn't the first and last day of school"

9. Appealing: the haphazardness of possibilities

10. Effective use of bell at beginning of paragraphs, provides continuity


11. Confusing: can't work out details in this way

12. Good image

13. In this passage, too many words for the point that it's at night

14. Second half of sentence is nicely done

15. You can cut "It's black even…"

16. Eliminate: "that has been"; "riddled" right word?

17. Let action speak for itself.



18. Mixed feelings about effectiveness of joke.



19. Don't forget limitations of audience: readers may not be familiar with Coe. Consider making this more informative or revise so it is familiar to those who don't know.

20.The tension between "new friend" and "haven't returned" is probably not needed.

21. Keep focus on what happened that night

22. More positive feeling





23. Simplify: "trying to make" can become "making"-another example of cutting unnecessary words

24. Effective use of pronouns-right touch of ambiguity

25. Consider eliminating "somehow", "we stand there only because"

26. Eliminate: "As far as I'm concerned"

27. You want to keep the conversational tone, but keep words tight to make writing more efficient

28. Anthromorphizing is dangerous.

29. Good description, works well.

30. Hard to reconcile these images


31. Consider eliminating "they must have"

32. Consider changing "providing much needed" to "which provide"

33. I like basic paragraph design and the contrast in description from last

34. Need "gigantic"?

35. Missing some development, need more on this being a good place to live


36. Do you want this cliché?: "The time I dreaded then came"

37. Writing gets bogged down: "had to go to"

38.Eliminate "so"? Always keep an eye on cutting words you don't need

39. Need "I" after "feeling lazy"?


40.Would it help to put first sentence in first paragraph?


41. Consider eliminating unnecessary words in "so in other words…"


42. Trees, these, Tenessee = nice rhyming!


43. No specific imagery, nothing new learned in last sentence.



44. Use nature too much, get us on the AT.

45. Eliminate: "hundreds of feet"

46. Effective reference to Bill Bryson, blends personal experience with larger observation

47. Good use of simple, one sentence paragraph



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