More about Narrative

I just came across a story that helps explain a point I was making two days ago – using a narrative, rather than a lecture, to make a point.

This example comes from a collection of stories by Kathryn Forbes called Mama’s Bank Account. If you’re old enough, you may have seen the movie based on the book (I Remember Mama, with Irene Dunne) or watched the TV show (with Peggy Wood) back in the 50s.

One of the stories is about teenaged Katrin, who gets a part-time job in a drugstore while Mr. Schiller, the owner, goes home for lunch. Katrin’s friend Carmelita often drops by. They’re constantly tempted by a counter display for a wonderful chocolate candy. At first they eat the candy only when they have money to pay for it, but as time goes by they start taking some for themselves.

When Mr. Schiller finds out, he fires Katrin, and his wife calls her a thief. Mama, though, reassures Katrin that there’s a difference between doing something wrong (fixable) and permanently identifying yourself as a thief (a big mistake). To show Katrin that mistakes can be overcome, Mama tells Katrin a story about herself:

Before her marriage, Mama lived with her Aunt Lena, a woman who baked superb cakes. One time, after Aunt Lena had made one of her famous cakes, Mama sneaked into the kitchen and ate all the frosting. Aunt Lena went ahead and served the bald cake to her guests, who included the man Mama was dating, and she explained why there was no frosting. “What happened when he found out what you’d done?” asked Katrin. “He married me anyway,” said Mama.

It’s a great story about getting unstuck after you’ve made a mistake – and it’s also a great example of using a narrative to make a point.Forbes

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