Use story scenes to convey abstract ideas and emotions

I am musing this morning about the powerful way books and ideas affected my life. I am thinking about this because of a passage from Angela’s Ashes in which the author was hired to read Jonathan Swift’s Modest Proposal to a blind man. It makes me think about how subtle it was for Frank McCourt’s memoir to introduce his relationship to literature through this story device. So I scan my own memory for a scene about a book, and I find one. My father gave me Robinson Crusoe. It had a plain orange cover with no picture. Just a cellophane jacket, and the language was unfamiliar. I was upset and pouted. I wanted a Hardy Boys book. I loved Hardy Boys books so much I used to go to the candy store and just stare at the shelf where they kept the Hardy Boy series. I would pick them up and look at the picture and read the blurb. I refused to read the stuffy boring looking book dad gave me and begged that I be allowed to exchange it for a Hardy Boys book. Finally, he gave in and let me get a Hardy Boys book too, but insisted I keep the Robinson Crusoe. So there it was, sitting on the table next to my bed. I glowered at it for weeks. I knew reading it was the right thing to do. I could feel I was being a brat, but didn’t want to give in. It was a case of pleasure taking priority over conscience. Finally I started to read it. Once I adjusted my mind to the awkward language, I wanted to know more about how this guy survived being stranded on an island. He was clever. I fell asleep with Robinson Crusoe on my chest. The story about my dad giving me the book started with me feeling resentful and pulling away. And because he didn’t give in, he opened my life to a lovely experience, and I became more open and curious about older literature. He ended up expanding my world, and creating a bond between us. Thanks, dad.

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