Words are the Door to Alternate Dimensions

Often in our lives have we encountered articles of prose that make us wonder, “What in the world was the author thinking when they published this piece of nonsense?” Or, we hear people recounting their experiences and we sit there confused as to why the person thought it was a good idea to tell the story in the first place. At the end of the day, we lie in bed with one question left lingering in our minds, “what exactly makes a story worth-telling?” Many believe that a story worth telling is one that has a moral or a lesson that pervades through the text and leads readers to make better decisions in life, such as children’s stories much like The Tortoise and the Hare. This is all well and true, but a story is also worth telling if the story itself is just a thin layer of skin concealing the vast and unexplored abyss of much deeper and probing questions in the universe. Though it is true that silly stories are a joy to read, you may find that nothing really sticks to us much after we put down the book and return to the reality of our lives. Stories that do stick, however, or those that pierce through the letters of the book, makes us think and actually roots itself into our minds just because of the immense amount of curiosity and insight that it causes.

Stories are worth-telling if they are not just words, but feelings and ideas that delve deeper into the intricate web of the unknown. Stories that are on a quest to answer a specific and mind-boggling question, for instance, cause readers to also form their own perspectives from their own experiences. Stories that give insight and probe into human nature are ones that fascinate people all over the world, for we have that exact thing in common: being human. As such, stories are worth telling if they make us question reality and the way things are, just for the enjoyment of futilely attempting to satisfy our own endless curiosity. For example, basically every culture has its own kind of ghost story. A good ghost story is something that is slightly plausible so that people will question their own views of reality. Funny stories on the other hand, also probe into human relationships and situations. It has to do with surprise and misfortune, or the unexpected. Humor is something that you build up and then provide a punch-line that gives an unexpected outcome; most often, from juxtaposition. Stories worth telling, then, are the ones that get the gears turning in your head and make you see the world differently, be it from surprise, shock, fear, or just plain curiosity.

Learning from Mistakes You Never Made

One critically acclaimed book that embodies well this concept of telling an insightful and catalytic story is Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. This story is well worth telling because it details an experience that is completely plausible, thereby giving readers a peek at the minds of human beings that are coping with a certain kind of situation without having to actually live it. It is almost like watching a movie from the main character’s perspective; you get to see and experience what they see and experience without actually having to be them. As human beings, we can all relate to one another, and so this kind of connection leads us to think about how we would feel and do in that situation. For example, readers are sucked into the moment in this Water for Elephants story when, “[Rosie] lifts the stake as though it weighs nothing and splits [August’s] head open in one clean movement—ponk—like cracking a hardboiled egg” (Gruen 396). Jacob, the main character, experiences an actual murder, nonetheless one done by an elephant. Not only would readers be shocked at the twist of things (as the prologue seemed to depict Marlena, a woman, committing this murder,) readers would also have trouble fathoming the fact that an animal could be smart enough to knowingly commit murder. It leads us to completely alter our way of thinking about life and of humans being the only intelligent organisms on this earth.

Also, one of the themes of this novel is one that all people can relate to, and thus can reflect upon using their own lives. This theme is that age is something you only notice when time doesn’t go by as fast anymore. In this novel, Jacob Jankowski is an elderly man of about ninety or ninety-three years old reminiscing about his exciting, youthful life in the Great Depression era in the midst of the dreary and belittling atmosphere of his retirement home. Jacob’s prominent feature in his personality is his determination, which later transforms into stubbornness in his later years, and his resilience. Jacob has always been independent, and after both his parents died in a horrific automobile accident, he is left alone with a dark future under all the debt that his parents left behind to be paid. He, on a whim, unconsciously wanders away in his shock and comes upon a traveling circus, The Benzini Bros. Most Spectacular Show on Earth. He becomes the veterinarian of the circus and encounters many, many trying circumstances in those harsh days of the Depression. However, he meets the love of his life, Marlena, and through a series of events the circus is ruined, and then Jacob and Marlena begin their new path in life with an elephant, a dog, an orangutan, and eleven horses.

In the present day in the novel, however, Jacob is constantly miserable after being forced into the retirement home by his family. He constantly loathes the fact that his body is failing him and that he is treated as someone inferior because he is constantly trying to show he can be independent. “What have they done to me? I cling to my anger with every ounce of humanity left in my ruined body, but it’s no use. It slips away, like a wave from shore” (Gruen 89). This causes readers to imagine just how they would feel to one day look in the mirror and see a failing body, a complete and stark contrast to how they actually feel on the inside. It gives a very scary insight on how fast life actually is, and makes us reflect on how we treat it. Jacob recalls, “but it all zipped by. One minute Marlena and I were in it up tp our eyeballs, the nex thing we knew the kids were borrowing the car and fleeing he coop for college. And now, here I am. In my nineties and alone” (Gruen 416). This story is very worth-telling because it not only gives a scenario where the main person realizes they should have cherished the past because those days will never occur again, but it leads readers to think about how they live their lives and how much they should appreciate those “…salad days, the halcyon years!” (Gruen 416).