Question on a Question

It is undeniable that storytelling has been one of the foundations of human life. We use it for everything from entertaining to teaching valuable lessons. One of the main things we use stories for is to move people. So, how do stories that matter move people? They do this by inciting emotion and there are many ways an author can do this, such as the use of diction, elements of cultural background, or even controversial topics to start. For example, in House on Mango Street, the author’s diction and use of their own background allows the reader to put themselves in the shoes of the main character. In Francine Christophe’s interview, she uses tone and imagery of her dire situation to touch the hearts of the reader.  Even the belligerent Mr. Donald Trump has been able to win over America with his aggressive tactics that triggered reactions on both sides of the scale.

“Your abuelito is dead, Papa says early one morning in my room. Esta muerto, and then as if he just heard the news himself, crumples like a coat and cries, my brave papa cries.”(HoMS, 56). In the book, this is the scene where Esperanza first discovers the fact the her grandfather is dead. The author chooses to use Spanish words, such as abuelito and esta muerto, meaning “grandpa” and “he’s dead”, to show how the grandfather kept Esperanza and her father close to their cultural roots. For many people who bilingual, they tend to use their native language during times of extreme emotional distress. The way the author writes this scene allows for the reader to put their feet in the shoes of the characters. The word “abuelito” in this case is special because the “ito” ending of the word is similar to an endearment. The reader can relate the character’s relationship to their grandfather to their own. This causes the reader to feel sad alongside with Esperanza and her father, further proving that this event is emotionally intimate to the both Esperanza and the reader.  

One of the most controversial elections of all time in American history happened this year, 2016. The results have rocked the nation and many question the reason why Mr. Donald Trump is going to be our next president. Viet Thanh Nguyen, of the New York Times, believes that it is the way that Trump told the story of “who we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re going” that helped him win over America and rise above Hillary Clinton. In all of the presidential debates, Trump has spoken about controversial topics like his stance on the economic situation at hand, immigration, and international affairs. His aggressiveness and consistency on “Making America Great Again!” sparked feelings of trust and hope from Americans who have affected by the economy and are afraid of Hillary’s willingness to compromise. Trump also uses “the good-versus-evil, us-against-them” method to incite fear. Fear is the driving force which leads people to make hurried decisions, as they did with this election. Even though I was against his campaign, I truly commend that his methods were almost genius and that he knew how to pull the heart strings of those whom he may not share any common ground with.

In an interview about her experiences in WWII, Francine Christophe retells the instance where a piece of chocolate saved a life and later brought with it nostalgia and happiness. As a Jew in WWII, she was sent to a concentration camp as a child of a prisoner of war alongside her mother. She recounts the promise, between her and her mom, where her mom will give her chocolate when she is at the breaking point of exhaustion. However one day, she says, a pregnant woman from the camp was going into labor and Christophe gave up her piece of chocolate for the lady. The lady ended up safely giving birth. The way Francine says it so carefully and so softly, as if she was envisioning herself back at the camp as a young girl, breaks the heart of the reader. It leads the reader to ask how could someone do this to innocent people. It also incites the feeling of respect for this woman because she still gave up something that was precious to her for a person that was in greater need. Near the end of the story, Francine brings it back to modern day times. In doing so, the reader begins to become curious as to what happened to the baby that was born with the help of Francine. She ends her story by talking about how a woman came up to her ,at one of her lectures, and gave her a piece of chocolate. This brings immense happiness to the audience because they’ve finally reunited and the curiosity had been resolved. Christophe takes the reader on an emotional rollercoaster in order to leave a profound impression on them.

Although inciting emotions can “move” the reader, it doesn’t always happen because the reader can’t exactly relate themselves to the situation at hand or have never experienced what the character is experiencing. When Esperanza tells us of how she got her name,“In English, my name means hope. In Spanish it means too any letter. It means sadness, it means waiting.” I could only understand that that was how she felt. I wasn’t able to go deeper into her emotions and my own because I’ve never hated my name. I have never looked into the history of my name or why it was given to me and most of all, I’ve never attached any feelings of despair or sadness to it either. I could only analyze as a piece of text, not something that transcended the pages of the book and into my being.

Humans are interesting creatures. We retain information better when it’s in a story than when the information is laid out on a list or chart. The same goes for feelings and emotions. The story of one’s struggle through WWII will always have a greater impact than statistics of the death rate or economy. A story can move people, from miles away or even centuries apart. A story always leaves the reader with something that they can take away from and carry over into their own lives. Stories move us in the way that we move other people to do things, through the funny little thing that we call emotions.


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