The film “The Big Fish” is a little confusing when it begins, until the audience realizes that the story is the man. In a way, it is an allegory, since it centers on the fish and we have clues here and there, like the fact that it begins and ends with the fish, and that Edward dries out often and needs to lay down in water, clothes and all. Edward is a “character” and maybe a little crazy, but his son, Will, finds out that he is not a mere liar after all. He tells tall tales, but everyone has a basis in truth. That is when Will realizes that his father has never really hidden anything, just embellished it. What the story shows us is that a man, or woman, is his or her story.
Steven King is a master of storytelling, and yet, I believe that there is part of him in every story and the stories are certainly in him. When we hear his name it is his stories that we think of, because that is how we see him. Where writers are concerned, that is how we see all of them. That is also how Edward’s friends and wife saw him, as did Will when he was young, and it is also how he saw himself. We are our stories.
Everyone tells stories. None of them is perfectly true, because it is colored by what we want, what we remember, and what we believe. What we remember best and longest are stories. That is why we have trouble memorizing things that do not have a story, such as foreign language vocabulary or atomic tables and things like them. Bare lists have no story. So they are hard to remember. All of our memories are stories, and we tell them over and over, to others and ourselves.
The stories we tell ourselves become how we see ourselves. The stories we tell others are how they see us. Each of us knows if and how we embellish the stories we tell ourselves. They are secret, so they may be more truthful, but we all embellish the stories we tell others. Some just do it to make the stories interesting and others do it to make them seem more important, better people, or stronger. However, like Edward’s stories, they usually have at least a kernel of truth.
I think that this movie has that underlying theme of how we construct our identities, and how we connect with others in this way. We share stories. Most people can tell some interesting stories. Some people tell wonderful stories, just as Edward did. All of the writers we studied are very adept storytellers. The stories are important because they are how we connect. Everyone knows that other people make their stories more interesting by adding things, exaggerating, and changing little things. It is not true stories that are important, but it is truth in stories that are. The truth in Edward’s stories was how he felt about people, what he dreamed and how he wanted to help everyone. He truly felt like he was a big fish in an ocean and he wanted back in the small pond, where he felt safe because he was important there.
The relationship between Will and his father is central to the story, but not because Edward tells lies, but because Will only sees the untruths in the stories and thinks he needs to know the “real” story, the truth. He thinks that because the stories are “tall tales” that they are not true. The works we studied in this term all centered on perception and perspective. Each of the characters has a perception of themselves and the world that the story revolves around.
Faulkner’s Emily saw herself as privileged by her father’s deeds, even though it was his deeds that trapped her in the house. The heroine of Glass Menagerie and her mother each have their perception of reality, and both are as twisted as Emily’s. Will’s perspective was as a disbeliever because he saw no truth at all in his father’s stories. It was not until the end that he saw that the truth of his father’s stories was in their themes and not in their reality. He helps his father to construct that last story of how Edward dies.
The funeral scene and the ending are really interesting because Edward could have written them. We see Will astonished when all those characters from his father’s stories show up for his funeral. The stories were tall tales, but the people were real. It matches with what Jenny told him about his father saving Spectre by buying it with money from all his friends. Seeing all these people fills in the blank question for all. When they start to exchange Edward’s stories, Will realizes that these are precious to them as memories of his father.
The movie ends with a scene of Will and his son. However, it is his son who is telling fantastic stories told by his grandfather to his friends. He gets help from his father, who has told them to his son quite often. So Will is taking care to share the storytelling with his son. We wonder at the end how this will affect their perceptions, their relationship, and their image within themselves, between themselves and with the outside world.