What is a story?

A story is anything that tells the reader something. Stories paint pictures in the readers’ mind followed by interpretation. One of Hemingway’s stories only consists of six words and can have (depending on the interpretation) great meaning. Hemingway’s piece, argued by some as one of his greatest works, is:

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

This can have a lot of meaning, leading to a number of questions. Why weren’t these brand new baby shoes ever worn? Could something have happened to the baby that it never had a chance to wear them? Could the birth have been a miscarriage? Even this makes up a story, no matter how long it is. A story can be a single object, just like when someone says, “this picture holds a thousand words.” Those words make up a story and can be made up by looking at the object, or in this case, looking at Hemingway’s piece from different angles and analyzing it.

Another one of Hemingway’s pieces, this one a bit longer than the previous one, also tells a story.

While the bombardment was knocking the trench to pieces at Fossalta, he lay very flat and sweated and prayed oh Jesus Christ get me out of here. Dear Jesus please get me out. Christ please please please Christ. If you’ll only keep me from getting killed I’ll do anything you say. I believe in you and I’ll tell every one in the world that you are the only one that matters. Please please dear Jesus. The shelling moved further up the line. We went to work on the trench and in the morning the sun came up and the day was hot and muggy and cheerful and quiet. The next night back at Mestre he did not tell the girl he went upstairs with at the Villa Rossa about Jesus. And he never told anybody.

In this story, a boy seems to be in the middle of a war, and is in a life or death situation, where he depends and prays to Jesus to get him out of his situation. The way he prays shows his desperation and fright, setting a tone to the story. This tiny story shows how the boy looks up at Jesus in a difficult time and begs to live. After he prays, the artillery moves further up the line and the story changes to a happy, peaceful scene. I do not know what the last two sentences can uncover, but they must hold importance.

Both of these pieces are stories because they not only have actions and a little plot, but they create a foundation of a long string of thoughts, one after the other, that uncover more and more as you go on. In most cases there is a character, even if he/she is not mentioned, because they can be created based on what is written. In Hemingway’s story towards the top of the page, there is a baby involved, which can create questions as to how it plays a role in the story. In the second story, there is obviously a character who struggles in a difficult situation and who looks up to Jesus for help. Without these little components, a story cannot exist.


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