Skip to content

What Stories Teach

What Stories Teach – by Justine Gilliland


From cave paintings to blockbusters, stories unveil the colours of our humanity.

This is why I love reading.


My current adventure is Room by Emma Donoghue.


Narrated through the eyes of five-year-old Jack, we learn of the only world he knows – “room”. “Real” people only exist in “room”- his mum whom he cherishes, and the frequent visitor (his mother’s kidnapper) who Jack catches mere glimpses of from inside “wardrobe”.


Jack’s life alters when he and his mum escape “outside”. He is repeatedly assured that “outside” will be a better place. However “outside” is large, new, and overwhelming. His mum struggles in the world she longed for, and Jack continually wonders if he can go back to “room”.


Whilst most will never endure the severe trauma of Jack and his mum, their story raises an important question.


We all have “rooms”, don’t we?


Mine have been built by persistent thoughts, vacant busyness, and unhealthy habits. What are yours made of?


Sometimes we are brought up in a room (like Jack) and we need to realise there is an outside. Sometimes rooms unexpectedly take a grip on our lives (like Jack’s mother).


When we first escape outside, our freedom can be unsettling. The familiarity of our prison cell sings out to us like the Sirens. Thus, some revisit their rooms over and over before they are truly free. Some never realise they are in a room. Sadder still, some realise but do nothing.


As the reader, we celebrate Jack and his mum’s escape. We will them to see that they can cope, that outside is the better place. That freedom, despite its uncertainty, responsibilities, complex relationships, is truly rewarding. We urge them one step at a time, to heal from the wounds of all that happened in room, and to live life to the full. Perhaps we need to be readers of our own life, and to remind ourselves of this on our own journey to freedom.


What stories teach?


Albeit the grave beginnings for Jack and his mum, and the challenges faced in settling outside, theirs is a story of courage. They persisted, they fought, they adapted.



If Jack and his mum can escape the atrocity of their “room” and learn to walk confidently in freedom- we can too.