A Story Lacking Audience is Nothing but Dissonance

The worthiness of a story is a subject against which all authors struggle. Some may say that it is defined by the meaning behind the story, or possibly even the moral delivered at the end. Some conclude that if a story doesn’t have a lesson, it isn’t worth writing. Although these are all important components of a story, none of them are as important as the interest of the audience. Even after recounting the conclusion to a story full of morals, twists, and meaning, a story would just be a worthless clutter of words if the audience did not care.

In Water for Elephants, Mr. Jankowski often reflects on the meaning of his life and how he has never shared his amazing stories with his family or friends. In one account, he mutters to himself, “My platitudes don’t hold their interest and I can hardly blame them for that. My real stories are all out of date. So what if I can speak firsthand about the Spanish flu, the advent of the automobile, world wars, cold wars, guerrilla wars, and Sputnik – that’s all ancient history now,” (144). This quote illustrates his realization that, without an audience that gives a damn, his stories mean nothing. However, later in the story, he comes across a man in the circus that values his narrative. The man, realizing that he was in the middle of one of the biggest circus disasters in history, says, “You’re a living piece of history, and I’d surely love to hear about that collapse firsthand,” (396). Because he was part of a modern circus, he bore the interest and respect that made Mr. Jankowski’s story finally worth telling.


A Story Lacking Audience is Nothing but Dissonance

Because the worth of stories is determined by the interest of the audience, it is hard to determine whether most stories should be told or not. From a subjective and objective standpoint, Water for Elephants was an excellent novel well worth the read. The novel sparked much interest in me, capturing me from the very beginning and holding me close until the final pages in the author’s notes. Objectively, it was a story worth telling because it piques the interest of young readers who have yet to realize how fleeting time can be so impacting on our lives.

The story relates to the life of the readers, who are just starting out in the world, while also beckoning forward to days to come, bearing forewarnings as well as comforts, as illustrated in this quote from the novel, “All eyes are trained on me. ‘What?’ I say loudly. ‘Is that so much to ask? Doesn’t anyone else here miss real food? Surely you can’t all be happy with this . . . this . . . pap?’ I put my hand on the edge of my plate and give it a shove,” (93). This line exemplifies both the frustration and drive to overcome age that occurs alongside getting older. Everyone does or will struggle with this problem in old age, which makes it an easy problem with which the readers can identify. These similarities between the audience and the story are what make Water for Elephants a book of the highest excellence, alongside its themes in romance, poverty, friendship, sympathy, time, and human determination.