I am reading a text about how literature can be used to shape moral behavior in kids. But I don't seem to understand the meaning of this segment. This part "...as having narrative meaning", what does it mean?

Here is the text:

In addition, children acutely understand their own moral behavior as having narrative meaning, and moral stories provide a blueprint for the internalization of moral behavior

  • The first line of the quote is not worth thinking about. It is unclear, in my view. And you have to think about what the author wanted to say and did not manage to find a clear formulation.
    – rogermue
    Jul 17, 2015 at 7:53

3 Answers 3


If it's the sentence structure that you're unfamiliar with, here's how to think of it:

[The subject] understands [the object] as having [attributes] =

[The subject] understands that [the object] has [attributes]

If it's the content of the phrase that is the issue, PerryW successfully translated it for you.

This excerpt is a good example of "academese," the complicated and confusing language that most scholars use when they write.

  • There is a slight change in meaning with your paraphrase. The paraphrased version implies that the object objectively has the attributes, and the subject understands this. The original version focuses on the subject's belief, and does not make a statement about whether that understanding is true or not. This can be an important change of meaning or emphasis when you are talking about another person's understanding of the world.
    – Wim Lewis
    Aug 14, 2015 at 7:11

I had to dig up a copy of the article to be sure of this, it comes from a study called "The Hidden Virtues of Harry Potter: Using J.K. Rowling's Novels to Facilitate Character Education with Juvenile Delinquents"

The writer is saying that children see their own lives in the form of stories and equate their own behavior to that of characters in fiction. Narrative meaning here is the same as saying that they see their behavior as a component of the story that they place themselves in.


For a simple paraphrase, try

children acutely understand that their own moral behavior (has)/(relates to) narrative meaning


children acutely associate their own moral behavior with the meaning of the narrative

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