QESM: What makes a story memorable?


It is in our nature to tell stories and inform others of our life events. Storytelling, whether factual or fictional, is an intrinsic human characteristic. The most memorable ones are the ones that like Coffeen said,  “a good reading [that] does not reduce or state the obvious: it sheds light on places you didn’t even know existed.” As a way of exploring my question about great stories, I chose to analyze the story of the three little pigs to answer my question and compare it to my reading of The House on Mango Street by  Sandra Cisneros. The things I believe that makes stories memorable are the symbolism and imagery and the similarities they share with other stories.




Throughout my reading of The House on Mango Street, I noticed the recurring symbolism of houses. This factor can be seen in many stories where characters are either trapped inside or attached to it. Esperanza is ashamed of her “sad, red house.” Ironically, it is the red brick house that saves the three little pigs. The connections these stories share along with many others enforce my question. What makes a story so memorable? I looked at the characters, setting, plot, conflict, and resolution. This got me thinking even further. How might these elements affect a memorable story? The video above helps by visualizing it. The houses that the three pigs built represent the different houses we have today in our society. Just like Esperanza, the houses become an embodiment of our wealth and happiness but because the dream house isn’t exactly a reality, Esperanza is ashamed because of it. This ongoing conflict with her inner-self leads to many other memorable stories.

To me, the conflict for Esperanza is similar my own conflict. My calculus grades aren’t the best and in a way, it defines me for who I am. In the three little pigs, the eldest pig’s decision defined him as the wisest and the savior from the evil fox. For Esperanza, her house is her burden. Looking for a way to escape her own meager residences, Esperanza fantasizes about living in a beautiful house in a wealthy neighborhood.

The image of the house is used in another way, too – it can be a symbol of the confinement of women or a sign of women’s liberation and independence. Houses that are owned by men are prisons for characters like Esperanza’s great-grandmother, Rafaela, and Mamacita, who are confined to stay in one place all the time looking outside that window of hope. In this context, windows become an expression of longing, and sort of a teaser of freedom for the women condemned to lives of domestic captivity. Esperanza herself has a window-leaning experience in the story “Sire,” by which we understand that she’s feeling stuck and frustrated. Sally, in contrast, doesn’t even get a window – she contemplates the cage formed by the walls, floor, and smooth ceiling of her new suburban house. We get the picture – Sally is being held prisoner by a new husband who won’t allow her any outlets to the world. The importance of each memory is differentiated by how meaningful it was to him or her. This is why each person is special in his or her own way. The characters stick with us because they are easier to relate to and have a great impact on the story itself. In The House On Mango Street, each and every character drives the plot forward where they all have hope. Eventually, Esperanza gets the house of her dreams and that is where to story ends. In every story, and here I am again comparing it to the three little pigs, there is the one character that symbolizes hope. Whether it be Esperanza, the eldest pig, or myself, hope lights us all and it gives good memories.

According to Shannon Turlington, “The first function of stories, I think, is to escape the humdrum, routine nature of life. Life, we hope, is long, and often quite a lot of time passes between significant events happening. During that time, we do the dishes, brush our teeth, go to work — all of which is not that interesting. A story collapses these events, leaving out the boring bits. Through the story, we can pretend to be somebody else or go somewhere else, without taking on the risks or expense ourselves. We can even do the impossible, like travel through time or explore the universe. Kids play pretend from a very young age, and through various kinds of stories, we never really stop. All these things add up to each other because of how memorable they are. Because of memories, a reflection of the past can turn the future into a success. Overall, memories serve a purpose to our life. Although some can remember more than others, the memories that stand out most are ones most important. 

In all, stories are such a huge part of our lives that we must be hard-wired not only to love them, but to absolutely need them. One of the most meaningful and enjoyable aspects of my life is the time I spend with the things I enjoy. This is what stories are and that’s what make them memorable. In the real world, memories are made forever for you to keep and here are some of my highlights as 2016 nearly comes to an end.





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