What values do stories have that matter to our society?
We have been telling stories for centuries, long before we could even write them down. Whether people are sharing experiences, sharing ideas, or purely entertaining someone, stories have had a huge impact on our lives. The question is, what qualities do stories have that value society? What makes stories so special to society? I believe that stories have qualities that help society find a common ground and enjoy the world, despite everyone’s differences. No matter who you are or what you have to say, people can always tell stories and have a good time.
Recently, I read the novel “House on Mango Street” by Sandra Cisneros in my AP English class. This book was an accumulation of short stories about a girl who lived in a small, poor neighborhood in a house that she did not like. While reading this, there were many valuable points that made my opinion change about the value of stories. The book demonstrates that people can use stories in order to share events that have happened in other people’s lives. Society can use storytelling to share events that are important to them, whether they be first hand experiences or experiences from other people. For example, in the chapter “My Name,” Esperanza shares her opinion of her name, along with sharing the story of her grandmother. She is ashamed of her name and does not want to end up like her grandmother. She is rather embarrassed by her name, and sharing her opinion is a big deal to her. She also shares the story of her grandmother, a woman that wasted her life and is stuck sitting by the window. This shows that through storytelling, people can share important opinions that they normally wouldn’t share and stories of other people that they think are important. Another example is in the chapter “Edna’s Ruthie” Esperanza shares the story of Ruthie. She tells the audience everything that she knows about Ruthie, what she likes, what she dislikes, etc. This shows that through telling stories, you are free to say anything you want and express your opinions without judgement. Additionally, in the chapter “Geraldo No Last Name” Esperanza shares a story that doesn’t involve her whatsoever. She shares the story of how Marin met a stranger one night at a dance club and later accidentally hit him with her car. This is a very tragic story that is very personal to Marin. Sharing this story proves that people can share truly important and personal events through the process of storytelling. This also proves that you can share other people’s events, and that the stories you tell do not have to be personal to you in order to have an affect on people. A few quotes that I found particularly interesting in the book were “I like telling stories. I like telling them inside my head.” and “I make a story for my life, for each step my brown shoes take.” These quotes stood out to me because they sent a message about telling stories. Making stories about your life is one way to help cope with the darkest and saddest things in life, whether they be personal or global. After reading this book, my perspective on stories really changed. I realized there was so much more importance to the process of storytelling than simply for entertainment. Stories can impact lives so easily, and without them, the world would be chaos.
In my continuous effort to explore the importance of storytelling, I came across a few articles that also changed my perspective. The first one I found is “The Psychological Comforts of Storytelling”. In this article, Cody C. Delistraty talks about how George Smith cracked the oldest story in the world, which is The Epic of Gilgamesh. This proves the fact that stories have been told for thousands of years. Later on in the article, he discusses researcher Dan Johnson, “who recently published a study in Basic and Applied Social Psychology that found reading fiction significantly increased empathy towards others, especially people the readers initially perceived as “outsiders””. Storytelling is an acquired skill and can come in handy when needed, especially when wanting to send a message to increase empathy, like the study shows.
Another article I found talks about how our brains can become more active when telling stories. Leo Widrich tells us “When we are being told a story, things change dramatically. Not only are the language processing parts in our brain activated, but any other area in our brain that we would use when experiencing the events of the story are too.” For example, if you were being told a story about a delicious meal, our sensory cortex in the brain lights up. So, not only do stories value society by helping us cope with emotions and share experiences, they also work our brain in multiple ways! To further explore the effect stories have on the brain, I found another article, in which Laura Moss talks about how telling or hearing stories can affect us neurologically. “The neural changes that we found associated with physical sensation and movement systems suggest that reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist,” neuroscientist Gregory Berns, lead author of the Emory University study said. In other words, reading a story can actually put you on someone else’s shoes, in a way.
After reading “House on Mango Street” and these fascinating articles, I can say that my perspective on stories has completely changed. At first, I thought that telling stories was purely for entertainment and I didn’t believe it to be that important. I now realize that stories have such an incredible impact on society and how we are today. Telling stories can help people in so many ways, whether it be helping them cope with hard times or working out their brain. We cannot live without telling stories. Before society could even write, we have been sharing our ideas and experiences through storytelling, and it has shaped society to what it is today.