Most people are emotional creatures that cannot shield their feelings. When good things occur, people grin from ear to ear, yet when something negative occurs, they drag their feet. It is, really, out of our control. Our emotions compel us to take actions that we normally would not have even considered doing.
Have you ever read a story that inspired, enraged, or discouraged you? Did you believe the source was credible? Did you feel any attachment or resentment towards the speaker? Subliminally, our mind answers all these questions and we reflect our emotions based on our responses. Each and every person is unique their experiences and preferences, but all people are subject to their emotions. So what I have always wondered is: how does the speaker of a story affect the audience?
Originally, I believed that the speaker was a relatively inconsequential component of a story. I thought that factors such as genre or tone would affect the audience a magnitude more. I found myself thinking that a piece of literature’s credibility comes from facts and reasoning, however I was wrong.
Recently, I realized that the speaker of the story is one of the most influential constituents. Like my peers in AP English class, I fell victim to my emotions when reading House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros. The novel was narrated by a young hispanic girl, named Esperanza Cordero, who chronicled her life events. To me, I never once caught myself wondering whether the stories she told us were true or not. I just assumed it to be true because there is some sort of childhood innocence portrayed by Esperanza that created a sense of ethos on me. I found it interesting that I automatically associated truthfulness with young girls. I never needed evidence to support Esperanza’s stories, only her being a young child was enough to convince me to believe her cause. So I answered one aspect of the question that the speaker does directly contribute to the credence of a story.
Furthermore, the speaker does indeed evoke intense emotions from the reader. For instance, there was a recent publication that I read titled Nowhere to run for the children of South Sudan. I was reading through the article unmoved by the statistics of the issue: “children are the biggest victims of the conflict” or “17,000 of them are reported to have been recruited by armed forces and armed groups.” Personally, the quantitative data did not urge me to continue reading the article. However, when a little boy from Sudan began retelling his experiences, it locked me onto the article. The speaker was an eleven year old child named Bol from South Sudan and he told his tragic story:
“Before this conflict my life was very good… Then government forces came to my village on an island in Leer County where I lived. They chased us into the water up to our chins and my younger brother was killed. I got separated from my parents and they still don’t know where I am.”
I was so moved by Bol’s story. I truly believe that the reason this story had such an impact
on the reader was because such an appalling thing happened to him. Reading the first hand recount from a child totally changed my perspective on the article as a whole. I changed from a feeling of indifference to anger. I despised the fact that the South Sudan government has recruited almost seventeen thousand child soldiers. It enraged me that a cowardly government would hide behind children of all ages. It is in human nature to feel sympathy for these South Sudan children. I believe that the audience’s emotions are directly related to the speaker, especially if they are children.
This reminds me of another time in which and audience was infuriated by an awful event taking place concerning a child. Again in my AP English class when we were reading chapter twenty one from the House of Mango Street the unthinkable occurred. We read :
“He said it was his birthday and would I please give him a birthday kiss. I thought I would because he was so old and just as I was about to put my lips on his cheek, he grabs my face with both hands and kisses me hard on the mouth and doesn’t let go” (21.7).
Almost immediately our class began discussing the chapter and the feelings of anger and fury engulfed us all. When discussing the topic, my peers were very emotional and spoke with passion. I vividly remember one of my peers shaking with anger and his voice was strained as he said, “How could someone do that to a child!?” It is only natural for the audience to be livid. My peers who have never talked before in a class setting were lead by their anger to express their disdain.
* I do not own this video – supplied by MetLife Hong Kong – youtube.com
This short clip further proves that the speaker has an immeasurable impact on the audience. Within the comments section, there were many people tearing up after watching this video. The young girl in this video tells her story in such an innocent and heart-touching manner that even the audience begins to feel sympathy for her father.
Universally, the speaker has has a lot of power on the outcome of a story. From credibility to the emotions that the speaker can evoke, the audience is not in control. The speaker influences the readers to take action based on their appeal to emotion.