Narrative Functions

by Christopher Cascio, Demand Media Google
Stories can serve multiple functions, sometimes all at once.

Stories can serve multiple functions, sometimes all at once.

Stories have been told in all cultures since before recorded history. Different cultures use narratives for different purposes, depending upon the relevant moral and ideological codes. A story might serve one purpose to one group but serve another to a different group. For example, a story about children who go on an adventure might simply be entertaining to children, but useful to sociologists who use it to study group dynamics and social arrangements.


Stories are one of the primary ways humans teach lessons to one another. They are so successful because they provide context for the educational material. By experiencing the struggles and adventures of characters in a story we are able to learn from them and grow. Religious texts, folktales and fables all use narratives to convey themes and lessons. Even textbooks often include brief anecdotes periodically.


From prehistoric oral traditions to books to modern television and cinema, stories have persisted as a foundation of entertainment in all cultures. Stories provide an escape for audiences, whether it's the thundering crescendo of an opera, the dramatic struggle of a theatrical character or the spectacle of Hollywood special effects.

Materials for Study

Narratives also provide study materials for learners of all subjects. Schools of literary criticism range from moral to psychoanalytic to new historicism and post-Colonialism. Each critical theory provides a unique perspective on the significance of any given story and vantage points for students who pursue the study of literature to the highest academic levels.

Agents of Change

Stories also be can used to persuade people to think a certain way or even take action for a particular cause. Stories of oppression can be used to rally the oppressed. Sports coaches sometimes tell inspirational stories to their teams before the beginning of a contest. Stories can hurt and heal. Stories can reflect aspects of the real world, which can change how people feel about a given subject and even inspire them to act on those new feelings.

About the Author

Christopher Cascio is a memoirist and holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and literature from Southampton Arts at Stony Brook Southampton, and a Bachelor of Arts in English with an emphasis in the rhetoric of fiction from Pennsylvania State University. His literary work has appeared in "The Southampton Review," "Feathertale," "Kalliope" and "The Rose and Thorn Journal."

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