I Have a Story

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I Have a Story

Marie Sager

It was difficult to think of a topic for this paper. With the hope of getting my mind in motion, I decided to sunbathe one particularly hot day, and listen to the sound track from the movie Walk The Line. Finally relaxed, it came to me. My mother, who saw the movie a few weeks ago, avidly encouraged me to rent it and watch it myself. Naturally, in order to convince me, she needed to tell me a bit about it and in telling me this story, she commented on Johnny Cash, the main character. She said, "Growing up, I never liked Johnny Cash- he seemed so bad and rebellious. But after watching the movie, I understand him more- I see now that he really wasn't 'bad' at all! Yes, he had a lot of problems, which made him seem bad, now that I know the circumstances, I understand like I couldn't before." She got me in the end, and I soon went and saw the movie. Though her comment did not affect me much at the time, on this sunny day, her words resurfaced; I began contemplating the movie, which soon led to a consideration of Huck Finn, and finally led me to wonder why people tell stories. I decided that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which contains a number of tales within its covers, and is one itself, draws many parallels with Walk the Line, for they both exemplify the usefulness of telling stories.

Through them, the reader, listener, or viewer, has the
opportunity to truly understand and sympathize with the work's characters. Without a story, one would not have the means to fully comprehend the situations of Huck, Jim, and Johnny. Thus, stories have the power to change judgments through enlightenment and often call for the establishment of a common ground for people otherwise detached.
With a song called "Cocaine Blues" playing in the background, my mind wandered (again) to attitudes towards people with drug problems. At first look, I, and much of society, see only a weak person addicted to drugs- it is their own problem, and one does not usually meet them with much sympathy. It is not until we learn their story, or share a similar one, that we may begin to understand and empathize with the individual. Using Johnny Cash as an example, one finds a man who maintained a rocky, semi-abusive relationship with his father, suffered the painful death of his brother at an early age, and struggled with a marriage and love affair; these events deeply affected his entire life and in many ways shaped his choice to choose drugs and alcohol to help deal with his emotional problems. When one learns these details, judgments often change, for once one sees why a person acts a certain way, they understand and inclined to be much more forgiving. It is this understanding, so crucial in human relationships, that can bridge the gap between people otherwise separated, and there in lies the reason we tell stories.

Though this example may seem off topic, Johnny Cash is an extremely relevant introduction to the utilization of stories in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Similarly, in this manner, Huck, Jim, and Cash are compatible characters, for in order to understand and sympathize with them, one must know their story. Like Cash, Huck appears as an uncontrollable, "bad" boy. However, when one reads about his life's unfortunate circumstances, they better realize and identify with his situation. For instance, writes Huck, "By and by pap got too handy with his hick'ry, and I couldn't stand it. I was all over welts. He got to going away so much, too, and locking me in. Once he locked me in and was gone three days. It was dreadful lonesome...I was scared" (37). Thus, through this piece of Huck's story, one sees the real life, everyday situations that he lived through. Further, now that the reader knows this piece of information, they can better judge his true character, and some may even be able to relate to Huck.

Another instance of the usefulness of stories appears in the stories told by Huck. Though these tales are really "tall tales," they function the same way. For example, when Huck lies to the Grangerford's, he creates a realm of understanding for the family. States Huck,
And I ate and talked... They all asked me questions, and I told them how pap and me and all the family was living on a little farm at the bottom of Arkansaw, and my sister run off...and Bill warn't heard of no more...and Tom and Mort died...me and pap left...and when he died I took what there was left an started up the river...and that was how I came to be here (120). Again, though at first glance Huck appears solely as a lost stranger, and possibly an enemy (a Shepherdson!), once the Grangerfords hear his tale and realize Huck's dire circumstances, they sympathize with him. Furthermore, throughout the novel, Huck's tales, some intentionally and other unintentionally, contain a common feature- they all inspire pity. This pity, however, is the direct result of understanding Huck's, or whoever he pretends to be, situation. Thus, without his tales, no comprehension could exist, and without it lies no hope for help, like in the case of the Grangerfords, Mrs. Judith Loftus, and Aunt Sally.

Through Jim, one views another facet to the usefulness of stories. States Huck, "He was setting there with his head down...moaning and mourning. He was thinking about his wife and children, away up yonder, and he was low and homesick; because he hadn't never been away from home before in his life" (170). Here, through this story, one can see the pain that Jim feels for his family and from this, one garners a stronger appreciation for Jim's situation. Moreover, from it the reader can speculate the reasons Jim stays with Huck; Huck, as a child, may remind him of his own children or through Huck, Jim may find freedom and be able to free and reunite with his beloved wife and children. Again however, this story, told by Huck, allows an outsider to glimpse inside, and from that glimpse, one finds understanding and sympathy. Further, it creates a common ground between any
reader who has ever missed their family or children and can relate with Jim's sadness.
Until now, I focused on the positive effects of stories, but there can also be negatives consequences. Sometimes the understanding created through stories presents the person in a damaging light, and the effects are not sympathy, but rather anger, distrust, and dislike. Still, knowing the story, and recognizing, within oneself, similar circumstances to the story, helps bring understanding. However, what one does with that understanding is unique to the individual. Still, sometimes stories do not tell the whole story. This is potentially problematic, for it does not present an accurate and complete portrayal of the person. Yet, in any situation, there is always more to learn and thus, recognition of the story as part of a larger story helps correct this problem.

Thus, throughout The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck and Jim have the chance to relay their stories, and in discovering their stories, one also discovers the usefulness of the novel. Who Huck and Jim appear to be, and who they actually are, are separate notions, and through their stories, one gains a sounder knowledge and a more sympathetic understanding. Further, Huck's utilization of "tall tales", though false, function accordingly. Hence, as illustrated throughout Huck Finn, and Walk the Line, stories provide an avenue for a man to walk a mile in another man's shoes.

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