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Expository text is nonfiction or informational text.
In literature, we have two basic kinds of text: expository and imaginative. Imaginative literature is fiction, and expository text is nonfiction.
When you see the word “expository,” think “exposition” or “explanation.” The key is that the text is informative. The study guides on enotes are expository text. Consider this excerpt from a page on the French Revolution from enotes.
Despite their privileged position, many of the more liberal nobles were dismayed by the lack of political and civil rights afforded to the average French citizen and sought to redress the inequality. (enotes, French Revolution)
This is expository text because it is explaining an aspect of the French Revolution. It describes how some aristocrats did not appreciate the others’ abuses of the poor. This is a page from a history book.
Now consider an excerpt from the enotes e-text of A Tale of Two Cities, a piece of imaginative literature about the same time period. In this quote, a young aristocrat is explaining to his uncle that he does not think the family is treating the poor well.
Even in my father’s time we did a world of wrong, injuring every human creature who came between us and our pleasure, whatever it was. (Book 2, Ch 9, p. 80)
The nephew is trying to explain to his uncle why he does not want to continue the ways of the family in treating the poor like slaves. The uncle does not appreciate his point of view.
Both of these selections cover the same time period, but to different purposes. Each gives us part of the picture the time period. In the first case we have an explanation of the fact that not all aristocrats were equally loathsome, and in the second case we have a fictional story about an aristocrat and the nephew who disagrees with his uncle over how he treats the poor.
There are many uses of expository text for informative purposes. You use it in your science and history classes to learn about the world. You use it when you are looking up information on the internet. In fact, you use it in many aspects of your everyday life.
A drama addition: the exposition is the explanation of the dramatic situation before the immediate action of the play begins. In Scribe's well-made play formula it is often voiced by minor characters in an opening scene, such as Maid (to butler): "I see Sir Windham is coming home today. I wonder what he wll say about Lady Windham's new companion and his circle of rebellious upstarts." In other words, the situation's first complication is foreshadowed by expository dialogue that tells the audience where the drama is going to take place--its mise-en-scene, its social class, etc.
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