Sequence of Events in a Story
When we read, it is important to keep track of the order of events happening in the story. This may seem obvious, but it is all too easy to reach the end of a story and not remember exactly what happened or in what order events took place. Maybe you were reading too quickly, or you kept getting distracted by something else. When things like this happen, it can lead us to wrong conclusions about the story, especially when it comes to using context to figure out what may have happened in a story that wasn’t stated outright. In this video, we will look at the importance of the sequence or order of events in a story and the ways we can use context clues to come to conclusions about events in a story that are not directly stated.
Let’s start off with sequence. All stories are made up of a sequence of events: A happens, which then leads to B, which then leads to C, and so on. For example:
A) The man drove 20 miles over the speed limit.
B) The man was pulled over by the police.
C) The man was given a speeding ticket.
D) The man drove the speed limit the rest of the way home.
This is a simple little story and not all that exciting. But keeping the sequence of events in line is important. If we jumbled up the order, the meaning of the story would become completely different. Imagine, for example, that this story began with the man driving the speed limit, and then he was given a speeding ticket, which led to him driving over the speed limit the rest of the way home. It would be a completely different story.
Now, earlier I mentioned using context when events aren’t stated outright in the text. We use context clues on a daily basis to make feasible inferences about different events. An inference is a conclusion we come to by using evidence and reasoning.
Here’s a simple example. If you hear somebody in another room yell “Ouch!”, you infer that the person has hurt themselves in some way. You come to this conclusion without really thinking about it because you know that “Ouch!” is what somebody exclaims when they are hurt. However, you don’t know for sure if the person is actually hurt—maybe the person just likes to say “Ouch!”—but it is reasonable to infer that the person is hurt. Evidence from past experiences has resulted in somebody being hurt after yelling “Ouch!”
Here’s another example. Your cat runs into the living room, and you hear a crash. You then enter the living room to see that a vase is broken. I’m sure you can put together, using context clues, what happened—at least what is most likely to have happened.
So how does this relate to a sequence of events? Pretend you’re reading a story and the following events happen:
1) Tim goes to the candy store.
2) Tim buys $10 worth of candy.
3) The next day, Tim stays home from school, and his friends overhear that he is at home due to illness.
Seems simple enough. But here’s the catch. The final event, Tim staying home from school, happens 5 pages after he buys the candy. In those 5 pages, several other events happen in the story. This is important, because remembering that Tim bought candy the previous day provides context for his absence from school due to illness. Sometimes there can be a long span of time between one event in a story and the results of that event. You can safely infer, of course, that the candy caused the illness in this case.
Remember that stories are written by authors, and authors give details for a reason. Why, for instance, would an author include the detail of Tim going to the candy store and buying a huge amount of candy for no reason? It is possible that the author is trying to trick you into believing that the candy caused the illness; this is something that authors often do in mystery stories. Assuming this isn’t a mystery story, then 99.9% of the time it is safe to assume that Tim ate too much candy which caused him to become ill.
Finally, let’s go back to the speeding man from earlier. Let’s rearrange it: B) The man was pulled over by the police. C) The man was given a speeding ticket. A) The man drove 20 miles over the speed limit.
How might we use context to make inferences about this sequence of events?
The story begins with the man being pulled over before being given a ticket. Using reasoning and evidence, we can infer contextually that the man was speeding before the beginning of the story.
The ending, however, is much more difficult to figure out! Like many other stories, this one does not have an obvious answer. It is up to us to infer, to make educated guesses. So, what are some possible reasons for the man to speed after just receiving a ticket? I can think of a few:
The man is a rebel; he doesn’t care about authority.
The author might be trying to show that the man hasn’t learned his lesson.
In the end, this is often how stories work. We don’t know the answer for sure. Maybe the man is in a rush for some other reason. All we can do is make educated inferences with the information we’re given; reading on while remembering the sequence of events will likely make things clear in the end.
As you can see, the sequence of events in a story has a very important role in how the story unfolds. Remembering the sequence and using context to fill in missing events can help the reader fully comprehend the story in full detail.
I hope this review was helpful! Thanks for watching, and happy studying!