Adichie and King’s Critiques of the Power of the Story, especially the Single Story
Many stories matter to our lives and our ways of thinking. A story is the only way to activate part of our brain and then make the listeners turn the story into their own idea and experience (Widrich 4). As we know, our lives and our cultures are composed of many overlapping stories. When we are being told a story, things change dramatically. Once we have heard a story, we may always make it as our own knowledge. Then we would like to retell this story to others by verbal form, or turn it into a show or a movie. Every time we retell a story, we like to change some details into what we want or the way we understand. As a result, after the story has being retold a thousand times, the story may be changed into a different story. If we take in all the stories we have heard, then we might risk a misunderstanding adventure. Think about that: if our president gives a speech without any researches and just from others’ stories, then how would people think about him. His speech would just be a joke, and will lose credibility. Therefore, we need to be very careful about the story we heard and the story we are going to tell others, especially if it is a single story. In some cases, the dominant story often becomes a single story, which makes the story be curious and dangerous. Chimamanda Adichie and Thomas King both showed us the importance of the story and the danger of a single story. They showed that the single story makes the differences in people stand out.
In Chimamanda Adichie’s Tedtalk, “The Danger of Single Story,” she begins by telling us a story about what she would think about reading a novel as a child. She would then write stories that were similar to the foreign stories she had read, which contained white skinned children with blue eyes who were nothing like her. Until she found African stories is when she realized that people like her could be in stories (Adichie). Many times, we would feel the same way as Adichie felt. Stories have a power to set us in a dangerous opinion when we are talking about countries, nationalities, religions or any human group. If we hear or read stories about a part of the world, we would tend to perceive that part of the world as the stories describe the whole world. For example, Chimamanda Adichie eloquently tells us if she had not grown up in Nigeria and if all she knew about Africa were from popular images, she too would think that Africa was a place of beautiful landscapes, beautiful animals, and incomprehensible people fighting senseless wars, dying of poverty and AIDS, unable to speak for themselves, and waiting to be saved by a kind, white foreigner (Adichie). However, how many of us hold the same definitions and images as Adichie’s story of Africa? Instead, many people continue to be fed the other side of those stories. Those stories describe Arica as a continent that is full of poverty, disease and the constant fighting. Thus, those stories we receive make us feel certain emotions, like pity, toward the people that live in those places. As Adichie said that stories have been used to “dispossess and to malign but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of the people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity” (Adichie). A story is endowed with a very story power.
Adichie also warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding. She said that “the single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story” (Adichie). When hearing a story, the invaluable lesson is that by only hearing a fraction of the truth (whether in the media, in school, or in popular culture), we are creating damaging misrepresentations. The reason is that “when we show...