As I read the opening chapters of Johnathan Gottschall’s The Storytelling Animal, I came to realize that the world in which we live would not be the same without stories. We owe essentially every inch of our knowledge to the stories we have heard and told from the time we were born to the present moment. All the real life events that have taken place in the past, from the Civil War to the Holocaust, have been remembered and learned through the act of storytelling, enlightening those who were not there to experience the events themselves. Hearing the stories or reading about them cannot even compare to what it must have been like to actually experience them, but we have the ability to empathize with those who suffered and perhaps it is our personal detachment from these stories that makes us so engrossed in them. Although our feelings and emotions seem to be the most intense and important when they are directly related to our own personal relationships and the events occurring in our lives, we often get equally emotional and passionate about stories that have nothing to do with our lives, even when it comes to fictional ones. I constantly find myself sobbing at the end of a fictional movie, allowing its tragic ending to affect me even weeks later. I am aware that this sounds ridiculous and perhaps dramatic, but I find that these emotions are justifiable because unlike in your own life, you cannot take control over the life of another person or of a fictional character, and are forced to be a helplessly passive observer who must merely accept the fate of the character, which is often more tragic than any of the horrible things you have tried to imagine occurring in your lifetime.
While reading the passage from Moby Dick, I naturally began to drone off, but Gottschall’s use of rhetorical questions brought my attention back to the reading, as he prompted readers to reflect on what exactly they were thinking about while reading the passage.
I particularly enjoyed Johnathan Gottschall’s humorous writing style and detailed descriptions because it made the reading much more interesting and enjoyable. Furthermore, his humor mixed in with his personal accounts and opinions made the reading relatable, and I began laughing to myself as he described so eloquently his distaste for country music, as I share his exact sentiments. I was also reminded of the film Zoolander in the opening paragraphs illustrating the monkeys in the presence of computers.