narrative theory

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Narrative theory

Narrative theoryBy Gruvin

IntroA narrative is not the same as a story.A story refers to the base, including events, places and people.Although, a narrative is how a story is told. Giving it shape, structure and perspective. It is about organising the story material and making choices about how to put it together.Not all narratives follow the beginning-middle-end arrangement. Writers choose to play around with the narrative to manipulate the audience, keeping them guessing and challenging expectations.

Vladimir ProppVladimir Propp was a Russian theorist and based his theory on folk tales that hes studied.After analysing over 100 russian folk tales, he suggested that you are able to classify characters and their actions into 8 character types.These character types were heavily influenced in Hollywood films. You are able to distinguish between each character and classify them.

Vladimir Propps 8 character typesThe Villain Goes against the hero (examples: Joker, Hannibal Lecter, Voldemort)The Hero Has an objective (examples: Batman, Indiana Jones, Neo)The Helper Assists the hero (examples: Robin, Dr. Watson, Morpheus)The Donor Provides the hero with an object holding a magic property (examples: Yoda, Lucius Fox, Q)The Princess Threatened by the villain and needs rescuing by the hero (examples: Gwen Stacey, Rachel Dawes, Kim Mills)Her Father Rewards the hero (example: Big Daddy)The Dispatcher Sends the hero off (examples: Professor X, Nick Fury, Uncle Owen)The False Hero Deceives the hero (examples: Anakin Skywalker, Prince Charming, Cypher)

Tzvetan TodorovTzvetan Todorov was a Bulgarian literary theorist.Wrote several books and essays about literary theory. 21 books published in total. He was a visiting professor at numerous universities, including Harvard.Todorovs theory suggests that each narrative are structured in 5 stages.

Tzvetan Todorovs Stages and examples (The Simpsons Movie)Equilibrium The beginning, displaying a normal life where the protagonists are happy and content. In the beginning of the Simpsons movie, the characters are shown doing daily activities including chores, visiting church and eating.

Disruption The following part features a problem or an event that disrupts the equilibrium. This event occurs when Homer dumps the pig waste into the river, causing a large dome to cover Springfield.

Tzvetan Todorovs Stages and examples (The Simpsons Movie)Realisation This part of the plot presents the characters identifying the problem. The Simpsons are kicked out of Springfield and move to Alaska, only then do they realise that Springfield in a terrible state.

Restored Order Following realisation is when the characters attempt fix the problem and repair the damage. This happens when the Simpsons decide to go back and do what they can to save Springfield.

Tzvetan Todorovs Stages and examples (The Simpsons Movie)Equilibrium This is the final part of the narrative where the problem is solved and normality is restored, all characters are content again. This happens after the Dome blows up and Springfield is saved by Homer and Bart.

Rolland BarthesRolland Barthes was a French social and literary critic.Being a 20th century philosopher, Barthes studied structuralism (human behaviour, culture and experience) and semiotics (interpretation of signs and symbols.Rolland created a theory which suggests that a narrative could be distinguished between 5 codes.

Rolland Barthes 5 CodesHermeneutic Code Elements of the story that are not fully explained, creating a mysterious effect on the audience. This is used to try and intrigue the audience, keeping them questioning until answers are revealed.

Proairetic Code When tension builds from an action resulting into another action. This is also used to keep the audience anticipating. The hermeneutic code and proairetic code work together to help create a narrative based around a mystery genre.

Semantic Code Refers to parts in the narrative that suggests additional meanings.


Rolland Barthes 5 CodesSymbolic Code Relates to the semantic code but in a deeper level. This code is about symbolism within the narrative, it emphasises opposites to show contrast, create tension or a greater meaning and develops a character.

Cultural code Looks at the wider knowledge, morality and ideology of the audience. This usually involves science and religion.