Essay Writing Summary

A summary is a condensed version of an original text. It contains no opinions, but rather only the main ideas of the original. It should be clear, accurate, brief, understandable to a reader who has not read the original text, and non-biased.

The structure of a summary is simple. The first sentence or two should introduce the text (author and title) and give a sense of what the text is all about. The rest of the summary should cover all the main points of the text. No conclusion is necessary.

Example of a Summary Essay written by a Chabot student

English 102

Assignment: Write a brief summary (2 pages maximum) of “No Name Woman,” an excerpt from Maxine Hong Kingston’s memoir Woman Warrior.

[Instructor comments appear in bold, italic font within brackets below.]

Summary of “No Name Woman”

The essay “No Name Woman,” by Maxine Hong Kingston, was written in 1975. Kingston’s mother tells her a story about a family secret, which is never supposed to be spoken of again. [Good introduction of author and text]It has been forgotten by her family for many years. [You might explain that it was deliberately and publicly “forgotten.” Obviously, Kingston’s mother didn’t really forget it.] It is a secret about Kingston’s aunt who mysteriously gets pregnant, kills her baby, and herself when it is born. Kingston ponders about what happened, with whom, and why this had happened to her aunt, because she will get no more answers, not even her aunt’s name. 

The story begins with Kingston’s mother telling her about seventeen weddings in 1924 which were held to make sure that the men who left to America would come back to their homes to take care of their wives and responsibilities. After Kingston’s aunt’s husband had left for many years, her aunt became pregnant. Maxine’s mother and the village realized her aunt had committed adultery, because it was not possible for her aunt to have been pregnant by her husband after he had been gone for so many years. Kingston’s mother told her that the night the baby was born the villagers raided their house. The villagers threw eggs, rocks, and mud at their house. They slaughtered their livestock, and smeared blood all over their walls and doors, ruining their house. When they left, the raiders took many of their possessions and objects to bless themselves. Later that night, Kingston’s aunt gave birth to the baby and took its life in the morning, drowning herself and her child in the family well. Her family forgot she ever existed after this, and her father denies he even ever had a sister. Kingston ponders if her aunt was forced to have sex with someone she worked with or bought products from in the market, [if the father of the baby was] someone she was just having sex with, or if the father was her secret lover. Kingston also imagines how her aunt felt when she was having the baby and what she was thinking and feeling before she killed herself. Kingston ponders and tries to imagine what happened to her aunt because she cannot ask her family or her mother any more about what happened; they do not speak of her. Kingston says her aunt haunts her because she is telling everyone about her suicide after her aunt had been forgotten for fifty years.

Instructor end comment:

[This is a very clearly written summary of a tough text. You cover the main ideas, stay neutral, and omit unnecessary details, which is key. You might have mentioned the reason why Kingston’s mother told her the story, however, as well as some of the inferences Kingston makes about why the village punished her aunt: the low value of women in that poor village, how it would have been perceived for a woman to break the rules of society and give birth to an illegitimate child who would need food when food was scarce, etc. Of course, making a summary complete while staying brief is always a tricky balancing act. Though you might have weighed in too heavily on the side of brevity, you did quite a nice job over all.]

** Minor mechanical errors/typos have been corrected by the creators of CHARLIE