Story Evolution

Humans communicate through stories. This is a fact that has become obvious to me lately (and to many specialists who actually research these things.) We began telling stories around the fire thousands of years ago, and our story telling has evolved into books and movies and gifs. But is this evolution of stories adding new depth to our cultural understanding, or are we destroying the tales that connect us?

Dry facts don’t captivate an audience. That was the first lesson I learned in speech and debate, and I learned it the hard way. My speech started out with a haphazard spew of statistics. I packed my speech full of facts and studies and citations. No one could contest my facts!  And no one ever did. Mostly because everyone fell asleep.

I took this lesson to heart, and began experimenting with storytelling. What I learned is that a good speech is both full of stories, and formatted like a story. A funny personal story to start off the speech, stories relating to the topic in each paragraph, a sad sob story at 8 minutes and the funny story again to rap it all up. These stories are woven throughout the speech, which has the traditional plot structure of a book. Rising action, getting more and more serious with every paragraph. A serious and emotional climax with a funny and passionate resolution.

People may care that ¼ of women in college are raped or that climate change is causing rising sea levels, but they can’t relate to the facts. We need stories of people just like us struggling with something in order to humanize an issue.

When listening to a story, we follow along with the character’s journey. We feel their emotions and experience their life. In order for us to experience a story, we must empathize with the characters. This empathy can bridge gaps and create understanding.

Stories teach lessons and connect people, as they have for thousands of years. They began as legends told around the campfire, a way to pass along knowledge during long nights. As writing developed, stories developed with them. We began writing down our legends and stories, making them far for accessible and accurate. Stories became actual records of events and people. With the invention of the printing press, they became widely circulated. Stories brought people together in a way they never had before. Books like Uncle Tom’s Cabin caused social change through the stories they told.

Recently, stories have come to the screen. Instead of reading or listening, we watch stories unfold. When you read, you imagine the characters and make the story your own. You add your own interpretations, which increases your connection with the characters and provides the empathy. But with movies and TV shows, we are just passive watchers. We don’t empathize with characters as much because we did not bring them to life ourselves.

Full-length movies may not instigate as much connection, but they still can tell heartfelt stories that inspire people. As the national attention span has decreased, however, so has our tolerance for full stories. We watch TV shows instead of movies. If YouTube videos are over 8 minutes they are rarely watched the whole way through. Instead of clips, we now have gifs. Just a few frames and a line or two of text have replaced thousands of years of story telling around the fire.

We have gone from novels to Reader’s Digest to Sparknotes to 2-minute video summaries. There is no way to gain the same level of empathy or knowledge from a summary as you gain from a book. However, we can read a larger number of summaries than books.

Our society may have truncated our stories, but perhaps we are boiling them down to their cleanest, shortest forms. What is a story, anyways? There’s the beginning, the middle and the end. Perhaps the shortest stories are simply jokes, and our society has chosen to relate our knowledge through humor rather than epics.  

Daddy Issues

My dad knows everything. I know I’m not supposed to think that anymore. I’m eighteen, I’m an adult, and now my father should be an archaic idiot who means well but doesn’t have a clue about the ‘modern’ world. It’s one of the basic stages of life; first dad is wise, then dad knows nothing. I’ve tried to embrace that stereotype, but it has proven difficult.

            When I was about twelve, I sat myself down and decided it was time to prove that dad didn’t really know EVERYTHING. I researched what seemed like an incredibly large array of subjects (about 3) and smoothly integrated them into conversation.

            “Charlotte do you want a salad?”

            “Sure! Hey did you know the little ice age had an effect on violin sound?”

            “Of course.”

            He would then launch into an hour-long lecture covering all of my research and reaching far beyond it.

            Everyone believes dad know best when they are young. Children unconditionally, and regardless of circumstances, love their fathers and accept the information and attachment that is given in return as normal and accurate. We believe what our parents believe. Why else would be blindly accept that there is a giant bunny that hops around laying candy eggs or that leprechauns hide their gold at the end of the rainbow when a much more logical place is under their mattresses or in the bank? The stages of life can also be viewed as: first we believe in Santa Claus, then we don’t, then we are Santa Claus.

            Fathers teach their children how relationships work and how to approach problems and disagreements, and therefore have a strong impact on their children’s lives. This impact is explored at length in many literary works.

            The quintessential literary work addressing a father’s relationship with his daughters is undoubtedly King Lear. Lear is dividing up his kingdom, is deciding his daughter’s share based on flattery. Goneril and Regan, the oldest two, see no problem in satisfying their greed for power by flattering their father. The youngest daughter, Cordelia, refuses to lie because she really does love her father. In return, she is banished and ends up dead because this is Shakespeare and everyone cool always dies. 

            King Lear is supposed to address the different types of relationships between fathers and children, but it kind of ignores the grey areas (and therefore most real relationships that exist.) For example, if I knew I would get no inheritance and would never see my father again if I refused to say something nice to him, I might find it in me to exaggerate just a little. Although dividing up property based on love is silly anyways. My father would be much more likely to base our shares on GPA (in which case I would be queen of everything.)

            There may be some children like Goneril and Regan who would gladly lie in order to get what they want from their parents, and then destroy their parent as soon as they can. Actually I know there are, I see them on ads for sweet 16 Reality TV shows all the time. But they are the exception, as are children like Cordelia. Most of us are somewhere in the middle.  

I like to think that I’m the perfect daughter. I get good grades, I react to every comment my parents make, adjusting my actions accordingly. Being a good daughter is a lot more than being good, though. Cordelia is the “good daughter” who refuses to lie to her father. Because of her refusal to exaggerate just a little bit, she dies, her father goes mad and then dies, half the other characters are killed or commit suicide and whole country is pretty much in ruins. That’s less than ideal.

So, what should have happened? Would Cordelia have been a better daughter if she lied to her father but saved everyone all that trouble? Or was Lear just being a really crappy father when he banished his daughter for refusing to flatter him?

I’m definitely not Cordelia. I love my father, but I’m also smart enough to know how to get what I want. I have an end game in mind just like Goneril, but my end game is a lot less nefarious. Usually it involves food. 

My dad is also a lot more reasonable than Lear. Unless it comes to making up math tests, and then all bets are off!

Shakespeare did his darndest to explore the relationships between fathers and their children, but he barely scratched the surface. There are as many classifications of relationships as there are fathers and children- a whole lot. 

A World of Books

The deep walnut doors of Widener Library swing open easily but slam shut with a resounding thud that echoes around the grand entryway. The library is a vast building that holds many rooms for reading and studying, as well as an extensive collection of books hidden away in the Stacks. An imposing structure with long rows of steps to climb in front, the contrast between white marble columns and red brick walls makes Widener dominate the landscape of Harvard Yard.  

Held up by numerous white stone columns marbled with milky veins of grey, the entry is a grand and beautiful testament to the value of education. But the clean white also seems cold and sterile, and in the empty space every misstep echoes, exposed for all to hear. The grand staircase leads forward and up to sister murals, fifteen feet tall, that guard another door. A golden chandelier is suspended below a domed skylight that shines softly on the pale stone, lighting the space up from within. Upstairs, many richly decorated, mahogany-paneled study chambers are filled with rows of students, ready to glare at the pupil who slams a book too loudly or has the audacity to sneeze. But while the empty spaces and vaulted rooms of Widener echo with the rich history of Harvard, the sweeping staircases and intricate ceiling moldings are only the beginning. 

When you enter Widener for the first time, the Stacks can be very easy to overlook. While the architecture boldly asserts itself, the books themselves don’t appear at all. But through a small and unobtrusive door marked “circulation/stacks” is the 

entrance to a world of the written word. The Stacks consist of ten separate floors of tall, narrow shelves, each level filled to bursting with cluttered shelves of old books. When the industrial and stone grey door to the Stacks is opened, you are greeted with a gust of stale air carrying the safe and welcoming scent of musty old leather books. The rows of books show only bindings, many ripping or crumbling at the seams from being lovingly read so many times, by so many people. Cranberry and emerald bindings decorated with gold stand out among the multitude of charcoal and deep leather books. Every volume holds a story in its pages, a vast collection of life experiences and knowledge written down for readers to explore. The books seem ancient and secret, the kind of volumes you expect to find ancient treasure maps or love letters that were never sent sewn within the covers. The structure of Widener; the giant murals, intricately carved scrollwork and soaring columns, are only half of the magic of the library. Within the books themselves is the true power, and true soul, of Widener. 

Barbie Isn't All Bad

Anorexia, bulimia, self-harm, self-loathing, materialistic tendencies, encouraging torture- all of these have been blamed on a hunk of plastic marketed as “Barbie.” Played with by generations of young girls, Barbie is now under attack by moms for her “perfect” looks and figure. Barbie may not look like a real person, as she is just a doll, but she can be a good role model for young girls to look up to. 



Barbie has been under fire recently for skewing young girl’s expectations for their bodies. Her blond-haired, blue-eyed beauty and tiny measurements that are unattainable for 99% of women have made her the poster doll of anorexia, skewed body image and everything that is wrong with America’s daughters. If Barbie were life sized, she would have the very not-live-sized measurements of 5’9” tall, 39” bust, 18” waist, 33” hips and a size three shoe, according to an article in the Huffington post. With such a large bust, Barbie would be unable to walk upright comfortably and may be forced to crawl or slide elegantly along the ground in her sparkly pink ball gowns. She would also likely not be cursed with menstruation because of her lack of any body fat whatsoever, the article says. Barbie is blamed for her body. Barbie is thin because she exercises and takes care of herself. That is not a reason to despise or hate her. She appears to have some sort of birth defect causing abnormally long limbs, and yet people blame her for her looks. Barbie is bullied and made fun of for her “perfect” body as much as any person is. She is blamed for problems that she does not, intentionally at least, cause. But some girls do decide that Barbie embodies the ideal of beauty, and harm their physical and emotional health to look like her. Girls starve themselves, following weight loss instructions in one of Barbie’s books, stored in the bathroom of one of her first houses, that reads simply “do not eat.” 



However, Barbie can enrich and encourage young girl’s dreams as well. She can be thought of as a quality female role model, telling girls they can be anything they want to be. Barbie is a doctor, astronaut, lawyer, engineer, veterinarian and volunteer firefighter who tells young girls to dream big. Although she does appear to spend a large amount of money on material objects, working over twenty full time jobs makes that reasonable. Barbie also never lets gender stereotypes define her. She is an independent woman who doesn’t rely on on-again off-again boyfriend Ken for income, and is always “sold separately” from her male counterpart. All of her possessions; dream house, dream car, dream pool, and dream cruise ship are in her name. Barbie is not the ditzy rich girl, spoiled by her daddy and bf. No career is off limits, and Barbie has crossed the gender line to become a NASCAR driver, pilot, and even President. Now, some may say that this is also setting young girls up for disappointment. The five-year-olds playing with Barbie now will not likely all grow up to be extremely successful and well payed members of society, fighting fires and saving lives with nary a long blond hair out of place. But they are also not likely to live in a plastic pink house, eat plastic food or switch between being a fairy, princess and mermaid in their own series of magical adventure movies. Barbie is always happy and does her best to help the world (she has a Recycling Time accessory pack and fights for world peace), and makes news friends where ever she goes. Little girls can look up to her as much as they can look up to any one of their other dolls. 


That is one important thing to remember about Barbie. She isn’t real. Barbie is a doll made of plastic with painted eyes and lips and a head that pops off. She isn’t a real person and no one should make her out to be one. Children realize this. Barbie spends more time with her blond hair in the dirt or matted into a wad as she dives for treasure in the bath tub than intimidating girls with her utter perfection. Barbie is something of a dying breed- a toy that is nothing but a toy. She doesn’t talk back and isn’t only online. In her purest form she is simply a hunk of plastic with a shock of straight blond hair. Girls get to make her what they want her to be, dress her up and play with her and use their imaginations. They can be veterinarians too, or run for President! Maybe Barbie will spend hours drinking tea with Mr. Bear and Mrs. Rabbit, her perfect smile never slipping. Some children have a different take on play. Barbie is often subjected to torture, mostly by brothers or groups of male children. They burn her, tear off her limbs and cut off her carefully conditioned golden locks. Barbie has been cut in half, had her fingers slowly melted and been flung from moving vehicles or from great heights. Perhaps this is sexism at its roots- boys lashing out and trying to knock a successful and beautiful women down out of intimidation and fear. Maybe Barbie is just a martyr for successful females everywhere. 


Whatever Barbie is, she is to the individual. She may look different than any other human, but just because she looks different is no reason to take her from the loving arms of young girls. Barbie has a story to share and a lesson to teach. Be anything you want to be, she says. And she means it. Barbie has done everything she can, and all for the little girls who love her. Parents need to realize that this piece of plastic with her blond hair and sparkly attitude and wardrobe is no threat to girls. As long as children have other role models and see real people every day, they will be fine. They must teach girls that, just as no dog looks like Scooby and no train looks like Thomas, no girl looks like Barbie. And that’s just fine.


Have you seen them? The monsters living among us. They are so well integrated into our society that many do not even notice them. It could be your neighbor, your best friend or the love of your life. It could even be you. Reeking of bodily fluids and stale pizza, and with an inferior sense of smell, these beasts watch others of their kind fight to the near death for entertainment. Veins burst from their too tall frames and chemicals that exist in no other human pump through their skin. They walk among us, composing nearly fifty percent of our population. These hideous mutations of biology cannot be avoided except in select areas of department stores and in most kitchens. Yes, the problem is testosterone-pumped, brutish and small-minded men.

These poor creatures are not the way they are on purpose, and cannot be blamed for their situation. It is not their fault that they were born without the second x chromosome necessary for superior intelligence and good taste in clothing. “Male Syndrome” is a degenerative disease passed from father to son through the stunted y chromosome. It causes violent behavior, a shorter life span, and prompts pores to release the strong scent of rotting pizza. No women have ever been infected because of their excellent immune systems. The inferior male variant of Homo Sapien has long been allowed to think they were in control of the world and the female gender. But the time has come to put these poor overgrown children in their place- or out of the picture all together.

Men’s cocky nature and pompous attitudes have caused wars, destroyed the environment and created more demon spawn through violent mating rituals and the passing of the y chromosome. Men do have superior strength, this is true. But this strength is not matched by intelligence and leads men to the incorrect assumption that they are equal to, or even greater then, women. This kind of sexist thinking is unacceptable and another example of men’s piggish manner. Because “Male Syndrome” stunts one of the x chromosomes necessary for intelligent life, men are more susceptible to genetic diseases such as color blindness, which contributes to their extreme lack of fashion sense. They do not menstruate as women do, leading to shorter lifespans and an inability to reproduce. It is obvious that men evolved from women as men still have shriveled breasts attached to their chests, although they are nearly useless for feeding the young they cannot produce. Men are vermin who live in the shadowy corners of society, such as dark alleys and sports bars. And like vermin, their population needs to be kept strict under control.

Women have tried everything. Treating men as superiors worked for a while but increased war and led them to feel too highly of themselves. Letting men believe that they are equal has lately been effective but is not a strong enough measure. The only true, long-term solution to the problem that is men is partial extermination.

The male population should not be killed all at once. While the physical male body is not necessary for the continuation of the human species, their genetic material is. Sperm should be gathered over time and stored for future generations, as the male population is slowly allowed to die. New males who are born through the artificial insemination of females can either be raised in compounds until genetic material can be harvested or used for manual labor. Because natural selection should not be allowed to end, lest the human species cease to evolve, men will live in compounds where they are constantly competing for their lives. Competitions will include hunting, gathering, fighting other men to the death and “expressing feelings.”

A world with out men would be a much better place. Overpopulation would no longer be an issue, and food and water shortages would cease to be a problem. The only reason women ever fight is over men, so peace would reign over this X-chromosome-only utopia. Young females would no longer be distracted by males in school, so a smarter, more intelligent society would develop. The only reason women ever fight is over men, so peace would reign over this X-chromosome-only utopia.

Some express worry that society could not continue without men. Who will protect the children from an alien invasion? Open the pickle jars? Throw the footballs? But women can create peace treaties with aliens, use hammers to open those pesky jars, and footballs aren’t terribly necessary for the survival of society. Within a few generations, no one will miss those smelly brutes. Men will be just a memory.

Is This Real?

Many years ago, on a day that only shows its face every four years, a little girl was born into this world. She grew up climbing- climbing trees, climbing rocks, climbing mountains- and finally, she climbed her way into a hard metal desk with a chair welded to it. She felt trapped in a concrete box of limited analysis and stagnant mindsets. She wanted nothing more than a way out, but lacked the conviction that a better world existed outside. So there she sat, day after day, absorbing ideas and information until her attention span filled to the brim and ideas began to overflow. Her eyes would follow her drifting thoughts out the window and out into the world. With these thoughts, she painted.

Splashes of red and orange and yellow became a city, far away, with one yellow brick road climbing upwards, always climbing. She could not see where it ended, but she knew that it was a path she could take. Still painting her surroundings, she ran. The air seemed thin and her pace was effortlessly fast as she drove herself forward with her mind. It was all so easy. And she was accomplishing so much. With every step, the words in her minds eye bloomed into ideas and creations beside her, growing upwards as she ran.


Then one errant thought triggered a small blue stone to jut out of the yellow bricks. This one small idea caught her foot, and she stumbled, falling as though in her arms flailing as she fell through the now thick air. She sprawled on the stone, and lay there for what felt like ages, unable to move. Then she rose again, dazed, to find a dark blue world surrounding her. The smooth yellow path had turned to grey dirt, with many rocks and cracks and side trails leading off to nowhere. The path, once to clearly straight and upwards, now meandered and headed downwards. She pushed on. No matter how hard she ran, the air held her back. She pushed on. Every motion was sluggish and drained her energy away, and she ran as though in a dream. She pushed on. Her limbs felt unconnected to her body, and the ideas that had once flourished beside her now lay dying in the dust. She pushed on. She could barely move, her mind was numb, her words had left her. She fell onto her knees on the cold, hard dirt and curled up into a little ball. There she stayed until a drop of water fell on her cheek. Then another, and another, until a torrential downpour was soaking her skin and washing the blue smudges from her face. The path became a river, carrying her along in the current. Still she clasped her legs close to her and kept her eyes closed shut, unable to move.  Unable to stop the flow of water bringing her down, down.

Then the rain stopped, and a bird began to sing. She opened her eyes to find a world of orange and yellow. In a city, far away, with one yellow brick road climbing upwards, always climbing. She could not see where it ended, but she knew that it was a path she could take. Still painting her surroundings, she ran. She forgot the world of blues and let the ideas flow and take her up, always up. Until the blues caught up and brought her tumbling down again. Her thoughts kept her locked in her own mind, trapped in this wheel of colors, of ideas, of emotions. Then one day, a new thought took seed. It began as an errant thought, just a little idea. Cycle after cycle it grew and grew in the fertile soil at the back of her head. Running up the yellow path, this idea grew beside her. Then one day, the idea blossomed, and a question she hadn’t dared to ask suddenly became all that she was.

Is this real? The thought was quite at first, but grew in intensity as she ran and crawled her way upwards and then was swept down once more. Is this real? It seemed real, the blues and yellows and reds, the birds chirping and the flowers growing in this city all alone, far away. Is this real? Is this all that there is? Is this the world? She yelled it at the sky, and there was no sky. Is this real? She screamed at the city, and it ceased to be. Am I doing this to myself? Is this my fault? Is this real? IS THIS REAL? And the ground fell away from her feet and she was falling, falling down through the colors and words and pictures and images and thoughts and is this real?


She fell into a blackness, then climbed into a hard metal desk with a chair welded to it. She felt trapped in a concrete box of limited analysis and stagnant mindsets. She wanted nothing more than a way out, but lacked the conviction that a better world existed outside. So there she sat, day after day, absorbing ideas and information until her attention span filled to the brim and ideas began to overflow. Her eyes would follow her drifting thoughts out the window and out into the world. With these thoughts, she painted. Is this real?