Great descriptions of places? The floor was like.....
March 22, 2011 10:07 AM   Subscribe

Great descriptions of places or scenes?


I'm teaching a class tomorrow and the students will have to write a description of a scene or a place. I need some great examples to demonstrate to them how it can be done.

Does anyone know any great, preferably one page or one paragraph, descriptions from books?
posted by mooreeasyvibe to Education (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
John Ruskin was part of a 19th-century movement to instruct the masses in art; specifically, he taught his students to sketch. Not because he wanted to make them great or even good artists, but he wanted them to learn to focus their attention and to think about aesthetics. Here he is offering a description of his aims:

Let two persons go out for a walk; the one a good sketcher, the other having no taste of the kind. Let them go down a green lane…The one will see a lane and trees; he will perceive the trees to be green, though he will think nothing about it; he will see that the sun shines and that it has a cheerful effect; and that’s all! But what will the sketcher see? His eye is accustomed to search into the cause of beauty, and penetrates the minutest parts of loveliness. He looks up, and observes how the showery and subdivided sunshine comes sprinkling down among the gleaming leaves overhead, ‘til the air is filled with the emerald light. He will see here and there a bough emerging from the veil of leaves, he will see the jewel brightness of the emerald moss and the variegated and fantastic lichens, white and blue, purple and red, all mellowed and mingled into a single garment of beauty. Then come to the cavernous trunks and the twisted roots that grasp with their snake-like coils at the steep bank, whose turfy slope is inlaid with flowers of a thousand dyes. Is not this worth seeing? Yet if you are not a sketcher you will pass along the green lane, and when you come home again, have nothing to say or to think about it, but that you went down such and such a lane.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:12 PM on March 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Thomas Hardy's work is full of gorgeous description of landscape, in particular.

But, how old are the students? Are you looking for more contemporary writing? Ian McEwan's Atonement also has some fantastic scene portrayal. Don't have copies at hand right now, but really, with both of these authors, even cursory flipping through will get you good examples.
posted by bardophile at 12:13 PM on March 22, 2011

Bit short of time, but The God of Small Things has some of the most descriptive passages I have read. Clicking "look inside" will let you see the first pages.
posted by Iteki at 12:46 PM on March 22, 2011

I've always liked this short chapter from Wind in the Willows:

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.
posted by elendil71 at 1:21 PM on March 22, 2011

Any of Gay Talese's descriptions of New York City in Fame and Obscurity.
posted by SisterHavana at 9:55 PM on March 22, 2011

This previous question has some good suggestions: Books that vividly describe a city or town?
posted by amyms at 10:26 PM on March 22, 2011

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