How does a story become more meaningful?

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Stories are an important part of everyday life. They allow people to give information or anecdotes in an engaging and more memorable way. There is something about stories that makes it interesting and relatable, but what is it? How does a story become more meaningful? I believe that everyone can relate to a story if its message has enough importance to connect with an audience. A story does not require certain literary devices to make it more engaging; the story itself is what is most important.

Connecting this question to The House on Mango Street, I realized that this book answers the question in a different way from mine. Because the story is told through the perspective of a young girl named Esperanza, the author, Sandra Cisneros, is able to connect with the readers on a level she wouldn’t be able to if she wrote through the perspective of a narrator or neutral party. The novel is told in a unique way, consisting of many short chapters with simple thoughts that frequently shift in topic, just like a child’s wandering imagination, to create a story that successfully grasps the persona of a young girl. The story focuses on the use of language to make Esperanza’s story more meaningful, making the reader feel as though they are experiencing her story themselves.

In the chapter Hairs, Esperanza describes her mother’s hair as being, “like little rosettes, like little candy circles all curly and pretty because she pinned it in pin curls all day, sweet to put your nose into when she is holding you, holding you and you feel safe, is the warm smell of bread before you bake it, is the smell when she makes room for you…” Esperanza compares her mother’s hair to the warm smell of bread before it is baked, representing the wonderful memories she has had with her mother. Associating her hair with the warm smell of bread gives the mother a gentle and warm atmosphere about her. This makes the mother a more significant character, since the author describes her in an interesting way, making the story more meaningful.

However, in the chapter My Name, the book somewhat contradicts itself by relying more on a meaningful message than the use of diction. Esperanza explains, “It was my great-grandmother’s name and now it is mine…She looked out the winder her whole life, the way so many women sit their sadness on an elbow…I have inherited her name, but I don’t want to inherit her place by the window.” Unlike the previous two quotes, this one reveals a surprisingly deep and dark story about the origin of Esperanza’s name. She smoothly transitions from the strong dislike she has towards her name to the tale of her great-grandmother. When the author states, “the way so many women sit their sadness on an elbow,” this creates a better connection with the readers, as many of them can relate to this sorrow feeling her great-grandmother was feeling at the time. This quote proves that stories can be more meaningful through language, because the message is what stands out and gives the story significance.

In the article, “Why Do Stories Matter? That’s Like Asking Why You Should Eat”, Joe Lazauskas explains that in order to be a great story teller, you must, “be adventurous, honest, and a little bit weird. Stories are compelling when they have a real emotion or sentiment attached to them which the audience can engage with. Be passionate, be funny, be willing to push the envelope…just don’t ever be boring.” He acknowledges that a story is meaningful if it has “real emotion or sentiment” that will engage the audience; the meaning behind a story itself is what will make the story significant. However, he also explains that the way a story affects its importance to an audience. If the story is boring, people will not be engaged.

Furthermore, in the blog post, “Why are stories so important?” by Shannon Turlington, she mentions how, “Stories connect us to one another. Even though we know they are fiction, stories elicit powerful emotional responses in us. While we are immersed in a story, we can see the world through someone else’s eyes…Sharing our subjective experiences through stories enables us to connect and empathize with one another. By sharing through stories, we are better able to live together.” Her interpretation as to what makes a story meaningful is similar to mine, that it is the story itself that makes it so significant. It is the experience of seeing a world through someone else’s perspective is what makes us so immersed in a story.

After researching extensively on the question, “How does a story become more meaningful?”, I realized the question cannot be answered solely with just one answer. It is a combination of factors that makes a story so engaging. The purpose of a story integrated with the manner in which the story is presented is what makes a story so special.

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Image by iStock

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