John Paul the Great Catholic University believes in the power of story to impact us in profound ways. The “Power of Story Essay Contest” asks prospective students (juniors or seniors in high school) to write an essay reflecting on a story they have experienced (novel, short story, play, video game, or film) that was particularly effective in drawing its audience closer to truth, beauty, and goodness, and explain why the story was so compelling.
The award for the grand prize winner is an all-expense paid two-night trip to our campus in San Diego. Congratulations to Elizabeth Wolfgang for writing the winning essay!
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
As a young child, stories terrified me. I had to be taken out of the theater crying after watching The Tigger Movie, and while my siblings gathered around the television to watch Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, I hid behind the couch. My condition worsened as I grew older, and my fear turned to resentment. I dreaded English class and on numerous occasions crossed “free reading” off my schedule out of spite. This distaste for literature may have continued, and my stubborn refusal to read progressed, had not my frazzled mother introduced me to one of my first audiobooks, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.
At first, I viewed this new installation as boring, unnecessary, or simply too long to waste any of my precious kindergarten time on. But as the weeks wore on and I grew accustomed to seeing its familiar cover staring back at me from the corner of the room, I began to wonder what lay inside. So, finally, induced by a mixture of boredom and curiosity, I picked up the case and placed the CD in our battered disc player. I pressed play, and a whole world of sound and color, triumph and loss, good and evil, poured out of the speakers.
This story shocked me in a way none previous to it had been able. The rich layers of mystery, intrigue, and adventure, effortlessly portrayed through the words of a master, captured my imagination. The focus on dialogue, key to audiobooks, and vivid, fantastical descriptions struck me in particular. I found the story not only engaging, but utterly enthralling. I sat for hours every day in silence, enchanted as if I too was under the spell of the White Witch.
The book’s vivid descriptions ignited my interest in art as well, drawing me closer to the way of beauty. I began to sketch more frequently, my little hands scribbling across paper as I listened to the book, desperate to convey those wonderful images detailed. The stone garden of living statues held particular interest for me, and I made many inexpert attempts to capture that imagery. C.S. Lewis’ haunting picture of an eternal winter, as contrasted by spring following Aslan’s return, was perhaps the image which made the greatest impact upon me. While my crude interpretations could never quite capture his radiant descriptions, they still inspired me to pursue the way of beauty. To this day I strive after not only physical art, but the ultimate perfection of heaven.
As well as forming my appreciation of art, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe also cultivated my admiration for truth and goodness. The malicious cunning and cruelty of the White Witch set a firm example of evil in my mind, while Aslan opposed her as the ultimate good. These two characters served as simple templates of good and evil, instilling into my conscience that vision of clear morality. C.S. Lewis’ depiction of Aslan as glorious and noble molded my views as a child, creating a love for goodness in my soul. On the other hand, his descriptions of the White Witch’s treachery shaped my abhorrence of evil. While I couldn’t comprehend the delicately structured parallels at the time, I now understand that his allusions to Christian morality led me to value that same structure later in life.
Each strand of his story wove together perfectly, creating a fantastic novel that sparked my ambitions and drew me closer to truth, beauty, and goodness. His colorful descriptions entice all readers, luring them into a world rich with beauty and imagination. The balance of good and evil, right and wrong, is so boldly laid out that it influences the reader as well, causing them to value that same morality. His powerful storytelling appeals to all readers, Christian or otherwise, and ultimately leads them back to truth, beauty, and goodness.