New post on Overthinking It about Season One of Boardwalk Empire. Some minor spoilers for the finale – and substantial spoilers for the season as a whole, of course – so read with care.
By telling a story from your past, you tell the listener: I have been there. Speaking from experience gives your words more weight. This is especially important in an era where media were limited and stratified. Atlantic City has a few newspapers, which were already becoming consolidated in the 20s under the Press of Atlantic City (which is where Walter Edge got the wealth to run for Governor, prior to becoming Senator). There aren’t a lot of radio stations and most of them get their news from the same source. So if you want to tell a story that’s different from the party line, you need an extra boost. Speaking from experience gives you that advantage.
Consider the scene where Margaret tells Lucy that “maybe your cunny isn’t the draw you think it is.” The story she tells has nothing to do with, er, cunny. It’s a rather parochial story about her childhood in rural Ireland. But it lets her deliver a cutting punchline. That makes it more effective than just saying to Lucy, “You’re white trash.”