Monday, March 4, 2013


Have you ever wondered why we like to read or listen to stories? Ever since Neanderthals told tales around cave fires, the human race has been fascinated by stories. Oral histories, gossip, books, movies, we just can’t seem to get enough.
My theory is that we need all the ideas we can get about life and survival and how other people do it so we can keep up, surpass or simply marvel at the ingenuity, inventiveness, idiocy or dirty rotten evil of our fellow humans.
    We’re told that a good story needs conflict. Why is this? Maybe because readers want to know how to compete, overcome, surmount, conquer and prevail. We empathise when good or bad things happen to the protagonist and we feel we could do as well in the same circumstances or we store the information away for use the next time those circumstances show up in our lives. Haven’t we all sworn we’d never throw ourselves under a train or steal a loaf of bread or swanned around for a few minutes like Scarlett O’Hara, d’Artagnan or James Bond?
    And we particularly like to hate villains because we think they’re not like us. Villains make us feel virtuous and superior. We recognize similar traits in the people we know and feel better armed to deal with them. But we rarely if ever feel villainous or evil ourselves. We know we have good reasons for our bad behavior and that deep down we’re fine, upstanding people. I’ve never met anyone who says wow, I really see myself in Iago, Javert, or Voldemort.
   Reading makes us feel informed, enriched and better prepared for life because of the characters and events we’ve read about. Better human beings, even.
    I always feel as though I’ve eaten a delicious, colorful and fattening meal when I’ve finished a good book. I’m always sorry it’s finished and I need to take a while to digest it before starting another.                                              *


Squibble said...

'I’ve never met anyone who says wow, I really see myself in Iago, Javert, or Voldemort.'

Perhaps not, but Javert is one of my favourite characters because he's so interesting. :)

Nora Lumiere said...

You're right, Javert is interesting and thoughtful and he is ashamed of himself in the end. Perhaps I should have said "les Thénardiers" or "les Jondrettes".
Victor Hugo writes wonderfully rounded vaillains; Frollo from "Notre Dame de Paris" is another, who starts off saintly and turns nasty.
Thanks for your always interesting comments.