Essays are not stories. Stories are imaginative creations, fictions invented by a writer, and they are usually organized chronologically. For example, the classic children's fairytale begins with "Once upon a time" and ends with "They lived happily everafter." Some people confuse stories and essays because there is a kind of essay that also involves telling a story. This is called a "narrative essay."
But there are important differences between a narrative essay and the fictional creations called stories. While a narrative essay, like a story, provides a chronological structure, the story itself will be an account of real events either witnessed by or reported by the author rather than a creation of the imagination.
And even though the recitation of events provides a structure for the narrative essay, the overriding purpose is not to tell the story but to develop the idea that the story illustrates. Thus, the author will draw inferences and interpret the story with explicit comments that precede, conclude, or periodically interrupt the narrative. This makes the entertainment value of the story, which is paramount in fiction, secondary to its illustrative function in a narrative essay.
It is true that in fiction a writer may also sometimes interrupt the recitation of his story to interject comments on the characters and events. When this occurs, he is called an intrusive narrator. For example, in a didactic or polemic novel, the author may expound on the lessons illustrated by the story. However, in most such writing, the story is still is a creation of the imagination and takes precedence over the lessons abstracted from it. The more frequent and intrusive the didactic or polemic elements are, the closer the work comes to being an essay that simply uses the story as evidence to support the writer's thesis.
Typical narrative essays are "Shooting an Elephant" and "A Hanging" by George Orwell," "Once More to the Lake" by E. B. White, "The Death of the Moth" by Virginia Woolf, and "Salvation" by by Langston Hughes.
As Willliam Harmon remarks, "Classifying the essay has eluded human skill"; therefore, it is to be expected that there will be many cases in which it will be hard to distinguish between a narrative essay and a story as the terms are defined above (A Handbook to Literature).
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