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The Characteristics of an Autobiography and Some Impressive Examples

Example of an Autobiography
A good example of an autobiography is all it takes to help your students understand it better. This article will help you with a couple of such examples, and also give you some pointers on how you can go about writing one.
Sujata Iyer
Last Updated: Mar 13, 2018
An autobiography is a story of sorts. It tells you about a person, his life, his experiences - little and big, his joys and sorrows, his trials and tribulations. The peculiar part is that the story is told by the person himself. The protagonist of the story is the writer himself. Did you know that this form of writing was called an 'autobiography' for the first time by the poet Robert Southey in 1809? Even though the form of writing was prevalent even before that, it was named 'autobiography' by Southey, using the Greek terms 'autos' meaning self, 'bios' meaning life, and 'graphien' meaning in writing. In this article, you will learn how to write an autobiography, and also see a couple of rough examples of the same.

Characteristics of Autobiography
  • Story: An autobiography is essentially a story of the life of a person. It revolves around the various happenings in a person's life.
  • First Person: Another characteristic of an autobiography is that it is ALWAYS a first person account. That means, the story is written and told as the person has experienced it himself.
  • Chronology: Generally, an autobiography follows a chronology. That is, it begins with the beginning, and the story unfolds in the same order that the events in the writer's life have taken place in.
  • Important Events: A common misconception is that an autobiography is a written account of ALL the happenings of one's life. In fact, it is basically an account of only the major events or those events that have made an impact on the person's personality and played a major role in the person that he has become when he writes it.
  • Self-evaluation: It is in an autobiography that the writer evaluates the various events and happenings in his life, and tries to establish a cause-effect relationship between them and his overall personality and the decisions that he has made in his life.
  • Forms: An autobiography can be in any form. It can be written in a book form, or can be an oral autobiography. Even the daily entries of a person's journal or diary can be termed as an autobiography of sorts.
Examples of Autobiographical Books
  • The Story of My Life ~ Helen Keller
  • Mein Kampf ~ Adolf Hitler
  • The Story of my Experiments with Truth ~ Mahatma Gandhi
  • An Autobiography ~ Jawaharlal Nehru
  • The Way I Am ~ Eminem
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X ~ Malcolm X
  • Are You There, Vodka? It's Me Chelsea ~ Chelsea Handler
  • Pieces of My Heart ~ Robert Wagner
  • My Life ~ Isadora Duncan
Examples of Autobiographical Essays

Autobiographies are quite often requested from applicants by colleges. This is the manner in which they gauge the applicant's true intentions, his capability, and most of all, his commitment to join the institution for the right reasons. Here are two examples of autobiographies that you can get some tips from to write one for your college application.

Example #1
The Brain Game
I began to wonder about how humans function, after watching a documentary on television when I was six years old. It told me how the brain is the center of all our bodily functions, and how the brain is the organ that helps us to carry out our day-to-day activities smoothly. Ever since I watched that documentary, I have been fascinated with the human brain. I read voraciously on the brain and its functions, all through middle school and high school. My award-winning science fair projects, all revolved around different aspects of the brain. I headed the science club at my school all throughout high school. I attended all the seminars and debates that were brain related. All in an attempt to get to know the human brain so well, that even if someone woke me up from a deep slumber, I would be able to tell them anything about the brain and its functions (which has happened on occasion).

It has been my dream to be a part of your prestigious institute, to learn more about the riveting things there are to know about the human brain. Ever since that six year old boy watched that documentary, he has been yearning to get himself acquainted with every little aspect of the brain that is there to be acquainted with. And I found this opportunity by applying for a place in your college, to pursue my dream of becoming an expert neurosurgeon.

I request you to take the time to go through all the achievements and awards that I have won, deliberate over them, and grant me a position in your institute. I will not be a disappointment to you, or your institution. That much I can guarantee.

Example #2
My Dancing Shoes
The person reading this is sure to relate to me when I say that in everyone's life, there's bound to be one thing from his or her childhood that his or her elders remember vividly. There's always this one thing that they say when you happen to meet them after a considerable period of time. Some may sound really far fetched considering the person you are today. However, for me, it's something that I can totally believe. Almost everyone who knew me from my childhood says that ever since I was a little girl and learned to walk, I have always been inclined to dance. Even a collection of claps was enough to get me shaking, and in quite a rhythmic pattern at that.

It is this inclination and passion for dance that prompted my parents to enroll me in the local dance school. Growing up in a small town like Arsenal in Alabama gives you limited chances to explore your talent as much as you would want to. However, seeing my determination to excel at something that I was so passionate about, my parents and dance coaches left no stone unturned in entering me in numerous state level competitions. With the powerful combination of passion, talent and the love showered upon me (minus unnecessary pressure), I have successfully won quite a number of said competitions in different kinds of contemporary dance.

The only place that I can think of going from here is higher. Having completed my school education, I aim now to be one of the best dancers in the country. One of the people who can make me realize this dream is reading this essay. Being a part of your prestigious dance institute will give me just the boost I need to test for myself on a much greater level whether I have it in me or not to become one of the best dancers this country has seen. I know I can, I just need you to see that I can too. Attached with this letter is a complete list of my accomplishments as a dancer, along with videos of my performances since I was young. Should you feel that I am indeed worthy of a spot in your student list, I will be humbly gratified.

As you can see, it is quite easy to jot down and write about things that have happened to you, especially those events that have influenced your decision to apply to the specific institution. But that's for adults. The best way to explain an autobiography to children, would be to give them an autobiographical story to read. There are plenty of those available in bookstores and even online. So explain to them, using some good examples, and you'll surely get your point across.