We know that stories are told to share our experiences and to unite each other through sympathy for the greater good. Stories are told throughout the media and through literary works.
One novel in particular, The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, is an account of a young Latina girl named Esperanza. It depicts the emotional roller coaster throughout her life as she grows and portrays relatable experiences, along with shocking ones. The novel was designed to analyze the concept of storytelling as shown through the stories within the story.
Stories of hope are prominent throughout the book, as exemplified in the following quote:
“…she’s going to get a real job downtown because that’s where the best jobs are, since you always get to look beautiful and get to wear nice clothes and can meet someone in the subway who might marry you and take you to live in a big house far away (Cisneros 26).”
Esperanza is speaking of Marin, a daydreamer who constantly wishes for someone to come to sweep her off her foot and change her life. She tells stories of potential happiness through true love and riches, and generally a better life elsewhere. The stories of happiness that she learns about gives her hope and a reason for her to look forward to the future.
Experiences are told throughout the book as well, such as Esperanza’s first day of work.
Esperanza makes the mistake of trusting a stranger with a kiss, as shown by the piece, “…he said it was his birthday and would I please give him a birthday kiss…I was about to put my lips on his cheek, he grabs my face with both hands and kisses me hard on the mouth and doesn’t let go (Cisneros 55).” This horrid experience would allow her and was purely told to notify the readers to not make the same mistake.
The story of the girl itself reveals the idea that everyone has their own story and not one is the same as another; they’re all unique. Before reading, I believed storytelling was done to receive sympathy, but it’s also done to share experiences to prevent others from repeating the same mistake and to give hope to others who need it the most.
Photography by Jason Hargrove
The reasons for story telling shown in the novel is similar to the reasons shown in Shane Koyczan’s video, To This Day Project. The video is a visual poetry that explains the long-lasting effects of bullying and aims to prevent it and to give hope and strength to those who are suffering by sharing similar experiences and genuine sympathy. He includes anecdotesof people who underwent bullying. All were for different reasons, but they all left a permanent damage on their confidence and mentality. It sends a heartwarming message that despite the cruel names and seemingly-never-ending torture, we continued to fight and we are all still here for a reason. The reason is because, despite the words that are shot through us like piercing bullets, life is all about being happy and appreciating what we have.
So far, it seems that stories are only used for pure good, but many do not realize there’s another side to the spectrum,in which stories can also be used to manipulate others for one’s own benefit. An example is the recent presidential election. Voting for our next president is a huge deal because our president is who leads and represents our nation. They should aim to do what’s best for the people, or rather the majority. In Viet Thanh Nguyen’s essay, Trump Is a Great Storyteller, We Need to Be Better, the writer analyzes Trump’s victory to be due to his use of story about America to appeal to the citizens’ patriotism. Nguyen states that Donald calls to make America great again, to a time when there was plenty opportunity, prosperity, and stability. However, he does not include the exclusion of women and minorities. If Trump is unable to lead America to greatness that doesn’t involve discrimination, then it’s clear that even though he would not have been qualified to lead our nation, but his grand use of storytelling to persuade others to side with him is powerful. In cases such as political affairs, great stories can make or break our future.
Depending on how it’s used, stories can create or destroy hope. Achieving sympathy is the goal for both sides, but why they’re telling the story is an important factor to determine. Stories may seem like a small form of entertainment, but in reality, it’s all around us and has a large effect on everyone.