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2. Facing the Facts: Morals

"So, the moral of the story is..." 

We've all heard that lead-in. Ever since we were little, we've understood that those few words mean that we are about to learn what we're meant to take away from the story. 

I doubt I have to define what a "moral" is...but I will anyway. A "moral" is the underlying lesson that a story means to convey. It can be blatant or obscure in its incorporation, and may be as profound or petty as the writer wishes. 

Morals have been used for as long as storytellers have been around—which is forever. In ancient Israel, Jesus of Nazareth is known for telling "parables," stories with morals conveyed for religious purposes. (i.e. The Prodigal Son, The Good Samaritan) In ancient Greece, Aesop told "fables," stories with morals in which the characters are animals. (i.e. The Tortoise and the Hare, The Boy Who Cried Wolf) 

You get the point. Nearly every story since the beginning of time bears a lesson underneath it all, whether explained outright or inferred through symbolism.

So, have you ever read a story that has no moral? 

Really think about it for a moment.

Harry Potter? "In the end, good with always overcome evil." A Series of Unfortunate Events? "Life isn't always going to be fair, but you must press on in spite." The Fault in Our Stars? "Live life to the fullest." To Kill a Mockingbird? "It's an abomination to speak ill of something that has done no wrong." The longer and harder you think, the more difficult this question becomes.

However, if you do happen to know of a story that had no real moral, ask yourself something: Was it a good story? 

I'm aware that it's a vague question. For just a moment forget about this novel's purple prose and beautiful descriptions—or perhaps even your bias toward the subject matter, and think, "Was it a worthwhile read?" 

I would place my bets on no.

We, the human race, are obsessed with teaching and learning. When we teach, we become giddy and passionate. When we learn, we are excited and proud. Ancestors have passed down their own life experiences to their kin for thousands of years. It is because of this this we have learned how to live life. Through these stories around the fireplace we are taught the values of life, so that we do not have to venture the hardships as those before us did. 

As I'd mentioned before, the "moral of the story" is the take-away when the back cover folds over. It is what our minds cling onto when we turn off our bedside lamp. It is the reason why we love the series that we do, and obsess over the characters that we relate to the most. It's because we understand it, we take it personally, and we apply it to our own lives. 

Nothing is implied in saying this, but this is one of the reasons why so many beginners' stories, no matter how descriptive and gripping they may be, never surpass a Like or two. Writing, quite honestly, is perhaps the most intimate and vulnerable form of art, because we weave so much of ourselves amongst the words. It's like stamping our own faces onto every page. It's so deeply personal that when someone reveals that they don't like it, we feel attacked. 

But sometimes, you have to ask yourself that disgusting, terrible, gut-wrenching question: Why would anyone want to read this? 

 

-R. Mallory

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