We humans all live in this little place called Neverland
We humans all live in this little place called Neverland, we love to daydream, watch movies, read novels, spend a night at the theater and so forth. Even sporting events have their own little story that we all get sucked into, its easy to say that everyone loves a good story, whether its a romance, comedy, drama, we crave it all, but why? In the book The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human by Jonathan Gottschall, answers the question on why we crave a fantasy world. Humans are shaped by the stories we hear, Gottschall thinks that stories help us through social situations and help us survive through life. Why and how do we live in a modern Neverland in this day and age?
“The Witchery of Story” chapter of Jonathan Gottschall’s book The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human, it provides an interesting take on how stories shape us and take our minds away from the reality that we live in. Gottschall starts off by saying how human life is so attached to stories that we have gone numb to their weird and exciting content. Gottschall gives many storybook examples throughout this chapter, from Nathaniel Philbrick’s In the Heart of the Sea, to Peter Pan. He also talks about how children spend most of their time in their pretend worlds of princesses and superheroes, he explains how adults grow up out of the pretend world “Neverland” behind but they never stop pretending, we just do it a different way with movies, dreams, books, they are all just different ways adults pretend. We tell stories to ourselves while we are asleep scientist have recently discovered we dream in all of our stages of sleep not just our REM stage. Daydreams are also a form of storytelling Gottschall explains and how it gives us an escape from our harsh realities while also giving us a chance to do things we cannot do in the real world. Humans need conflict, life would be boring if everything was perfect, we like puzzles and adventure. Gottschall also talks about how some of our favorite sports are like a work of fiction, Gottschall gives the example of pro wrestling. We are a people of story, we crave adventure, conflicts and scandal. He also touches on the point that we do not read as much anymore according to recent studies, books have been replaced by the TV screen.
Gottschall uses a great example from In the Heart of the Ocean by bewitching the reader using a paragraph from the book, then Gottschall asks the simple question: “Where were you? Were you still in your chair, noticing the ache in your back…” (3). Gottschall’s examples he uses throughout the chapter are very convincing, also his arguments are very strong on how our minds surrender to story. He explains how we, the readers, do all of the imagining, he compares the writers to painters, how they uses words like brush strokes onto a canvas, how the writer, “creates images that have all the depth and crispness of real life” (5). Although he failed to show some true arguments with this idea, because the writer uses adjectives that bring a character, place or thing alive, the writer brings the story alive with all the very detailed description of everything that is happening. Gottschall thinks that the writer does not determine how we imagine but simply guides us through the writers stories. He also fails to write to a wider audience, the more well read scholar. He does not take into consideration how more well read person receives a story, Gottschall targets the everyday reader when he should have written for a more educated reader.
Children love to play pretend, I personally loved playing Batman with my older brother, I would also have to be Batgirl which I did not personally like, but it was all pretend and I enjoyed every minute of it, being in our own little Neverland. Children spend most of their time in their little worlds of make believe playing house, cops and robbers or anything the child’s heart desires. Sadly adults do not have the pleasure of dressing up and playing make believe, we all have work or school to do, but we spend time in Neverland in different ways, we watch movies, read novels, daydream. Books have been replaced by the TV screen, according to recent studies Americans spend nineteen hundred hours a year sitting in front of a glowing box that projects pictures and stories, according to Gottschall. We also listen to a lot of music, now some of them do not have stories like symphonies, background noise, any songs that do not have any lyrics to them. But the most popular kind of music is the kind that tells a story, usually a love song. A song can transport you from your car to a romance with its conflicts, or it can transport you to a musical, where all you want to do is dance on the stage and show the world how talented you are, but you’re still stuck in the five PM Friday traffic. As you can see, adults have their ways of enter Neverland without really having to get up and pretend, we all have our own was of telling a story to ourselves.
Sports are another type of story we can all get into, even if you do not like sports personally, but athletes have their personal lives and scandal anyone of us can get in too. Pro wrestling was an example Gottschall used saying how all of it was choreographed before the big match also how the wrestlers all have made up backstories, we love the fake pro wrestling, it’s exciting. Gottschall says, “Pro wrestling is pure fiction, but it only exaggerates what we find in legitimate sports broadcasting…” (13). We do not usually know it but, we have already picked a “good guy” and a “bad guy” whenever there is a fight, without fight hype, the fights do not get as much attention. We love to see how a fight turns out whenever there’s a lot of drama between fighters. Also the Olympic coverage of the athletes, we all want to root for the underdog because they “deserve to win” once we hear their story of struggle. Gottschall also made a point that was very interesting, saying that the NFL is targeting more female audiences with, “interpersonal drama” (14). It is the same with ESPN radio and how it is targeted at the male audiences, but it usually only covers a little bit of an actual sporting event, they usually talk about the personal drama going on between each athlete, for example, is OJ Simpson a murder? Or did Tiger Woods cheat on his wife? Is Lance Armstrong using performance enhancing drugs? We all have an athlete we root for, I, for one personally like soccer, so I am going to root for Cristiano Ronaldo, I do not care what team he’s on but I will always root for him because of how sweet of a guy he is off the field, how well he takes care of his children. So sports are not fiction but a work of fiction when it comes to their time off the field, court or ring.
Gottschall also said in this chapter that we cannot escape story, stories are everywhere, he says, “we are soaked to the bone with story” (18). The drive that you had on the way to work, that’s a story, the GEICO commercial with the funny little bulldogs, that’s a story, I personally get captured into a commercial when it is a movie trailer, I want to see what new story the people of Hollywood have created. Gottschall was very successful in his first chapter, it captured me and made me think more about how stories shape us, but his point got repetitive after the second chapter throughout the book, he also failed to write to a wider audience. The first chapter really was successful and I had a hard time finding any flaws I did not agree upon, even rereading the chapter (then rereading it again to try to find some points that were flawed) “against the grain” I believe Gottschall made some very great points in how we are creatures of stories, we love a good conflict, we loved to be bewitched, so I applaud Gottschall in making in his original theory an outlook on how we view and respond to stores.