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Journey into The Unknown-Early 20th Century Immigration to the United States

Descriptive Writing
Teacher Page

Do you know how to use descriptions in your writing?


Copyright by Holt, Rinehart and Winston. All rights reserved.



DESCRIPTIVE WRITING EXERCISE: Imagine that you are a witness to the fighting in

the trenches during World War I. Write a detailed description of the trench system and your

reactions to it.


April, 1916

Im Michael Newbury, and I work as a medic here in Belgium. I want to tell you about those

poor soldiers fighting in the trenches up on the front line. Somebody needs to tell their story

because many of them are getting injured or killed serving the Allies. Im a good person to

tell that story because I see these men nearly every day when I make my run up to the front

to pick up the wounded and the dead.

First, Ill give a general description of the trench system. There are three parallel rows of

trench lines: the front line, the support line, and the reserve line. Communications trenches

have been dug to connect these lines to one another. The other medics and I use these

trenches to get from the reserve line, where we are stationed, to the front line, where the

heavy fighting goes on. The trenches are usually 6 to 10 feet deep. The support line is usually

some 70 to 100 yards behind the front line, and the reserve line is another 400 to 600 yards

behind the support line. Each line of trenches has barbed wire running in front of it.

Now Ill tell you about the front-line trenches, where no one would ever want to be. The first

thing you notice about them is how muddy they are and how badly they smell. Staying clean

and dry in these trenches is impossible. The soldiers must get used to having wet feet and a

uniform plastered in mud. Its impossible to escape the horrible smell, which comes from too

many soldiers, many of them ill or injured, living too closely to one another for too long a

time. Most of the time, these soldiers stay in dug-out sections of the trench walls. Each of

these sections has a roof supported by wooden posts on each side. When they are not fighting,

soldiers spend a lot of time talking or sleeping.

Beyond the front-line trenches lies an area called no-mans-land. This blasted section of

blackened and smoking mud is marked by craters of all sizes and is usually between 100 and

400 yards wide. Just across it are the trenches of the Germans.

Nobody should have to live or die in those wretched trenches, where survival requires both

superhuman effort and blind luck. I truly believe that the brave men who serve in the front-line

trenches are the wars greatest heroes, as well as its greatest victims.

ANALYSIS OF MODEL: The author accomplishes several objectives in the first paragraph:

introducing the subject of trench warfare, providing historical background, and establishing

the credibility of the narrator. Throughout the assignment, relevant details appeal to the

audiences sense of sight, touch, and smell. In the last paragraph, the author conveys the

subjects significance by stating a broad conclusion supported by the earlier material.