Looking at the World Through Stories 

Katrina outdoors in front of leaves.

Stories have existed throughout much of history and even now we are fascinated by them and enjoy them regularly. Katrina reflects on how and why stories offer new ways to look at the world. 

Written by Katrina Sze Ching Soong, Qualitative Data Archivist, Honours Bachelor of Arts, English & Philosophy Double Major, History Minor 

As an English major, and a lover of reading, it is without a doubt that stories and storytelling play a very big and important role in my life. Of course, being a literature student means that reflecting on specific questions, such as why stories are important or why we are so interested in stories and works of fiction, are inevitable.   

My Journey with Stories 

A world made up of different color blocks hovering over an open book.

If I were asked to think of a time when a story strongly impacted me, I would not hesitate to talk about my experience with the anime-manga series Literary Stray Dogs (or the Japanese title: Bungou Stray Dogs). In fact, I ended up choosing my current major—English—because this anime inspired me to delve deeper into the subject!  

Bungou Stray Dogs is a story about different characters with superpowers, named after and inspired by real-life literary authors who solve mysteries and protect Yokohama, Japan, from other superhumans who threaten public safety. After watching the series for the first time and discovering the connections between the characters and literary authors, my newfound passion for literary studies blossomed. Although I took English literature as an elective in my high school for many years, I never had the interest to read, let alone analyze, literature outside of class. Watching the anime turned my lack of interest in literature upside-down. I even started to read academic journals because I wanted to deepen my understanding of my favourite characters by exploring the real-life historical figures that inspired them.  

Gaining New Perspectives Through Stories  

A person with cogs, stars, and hearts in their head, hovering over an open book.

Thinking about it now, the reason the series means so much to me is because it helped me see literature in a new way and renewed my passion for reading. This sentiment is rather similar to a literary theory I learned in class. Zora Neale Hurston, an African-American writer in the 20th century, argues that it is important to see the depiction of regular Black lives in literature since fiction should reflect reality. From my perspective, she believes the depiction of regular lives in literature is important because when we see things we are familiar with presented in an unfamiliar context, like fiction, we are encouraged to reflect on our regular experiences from a new perspective.  

In fact, I think Hurston’s theory applies not only to fiction, but to any kind of storytelling. I am always surprised to learn that partners of the Innovation Hub value our findings as the most insightful when they are presented through student stories because the stories help them understand students’ points of view.  

Stories Change our Lives 

I learn a lot from fiction and stories, not only new perspectives but about my own experiences. Stories encourage me to reflect and find new ways to frame my experiences in life. I felt this sentiment strongly from a quote from Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray: “To influence a person is to give him one’s own soul. He does not think his own thoughts, or burn with his natural passions. […] He becomes an echo of someone else’s music.” Reading this quote made me sit down and question who I am, especially when I am so deeply influenced by so many people in my life. For instance, it was my dad who encouraged me to read from a young age, and if my childhood were different, would I still enjoy reading as much as I do now? Would I be the same person I am today? 

I believe that my tendency to learn from quotes is closely connected to why stories can, at times, affect me emotionally. I can’t help but be reminded of a philosophy class in which we discussed how fiction is linguistically puzzling. When we see the same sentence in a work of fiction and non-fiction, we know that the fiction author is not expecting us to believe what they wrote as true, while the non-fiction author does. Our ability to easily understand what the author is trying to do in both scenarios goes against the linguistic theory that suggests that there is a relation between the grammatical structure of a sentence and how it is intended to be understood. I personally think this shows that just by reading a sentence, it is linguistically impossible to tell whether it is from a work of fiction or non-fiction. Maybe this is why we feel so strongly affected by stories even if they are works of fiction. 

Looking for Stories in our Daily Lives 

Two people with speech bubbles around them and books and stars in the speech bubbles.

Not only are stories entertaining, but they are also impactful to our daily lives in ways we don’t even notice. I would encourage readers to seek out more stories, whether they are fictional, personal, or from pop culture or literature, because through them you too might be able to look at the world in a new way!  

Stories are already all around us. Everyone, including you dear reader, has a story of their own to share based on personal experiences. I would encourage readers to begin by reframing things you hear from others into a story. Put yourself into their shoes and you might just find interesting connections between their stories and your own which encourage you to look at your own experiences in a way you have never thought of before.  


Hurston, Zora (1950). “What White Publishers Won’t Publish”. University of California San Diego. https://pages.ucsd.edu/~bgoldfarb/cogn150s12/reading/Hurston-What-White-Publishers-Wont-Print.pdf.   

Searle, J. R. (1975). “The Logical Status of Fictional Discourse”. New Literary History, 6(2), 319–332. https://doi.org/10.2307/468422. 

Wilde, Oscar (1994). The Picture of Dorian Gray. Project Gutenberg. https://www.gutenberg.org/files/174/174-h/174-h.htm.  

0 comments on “Looking at the World Through Stories 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *