• Linguist Roland Barthes described Five
Codes which are woven into any narrative
The Hermeneutic Code
• The Hermeneutic Code refers to any
element of the story that is not fully
explained and hence becomes a mystery
to the reader.
• The purpose of the author in this is
typically to keep the audience
guessing, arresting the enigma, until the
final scenes when all is revealed and all
loose ends are tied off and closure is
The Proairetic Code
• The Proairetic Code also builds tension, referring to
any other action or event that indicates something else
is going to happen, and which hence gets the reader
guessing as to what will happen next.
• The Hermeneutic and Proairetic Codes work as a pair
to develop the story's tensions and keep the reader
interested. Barthes described them as:
• "...dependent on ... two sequential codes: the
revelation of truth and the coordination of the actions
represented: there is the same constraint in the
gradual order of melody and in the equally gradual
order of the narrative sequence."
The Semantic Code
• This code refers to connotation within the
story that gives additional meaning over
the basic denotative meaning of the word.
• It is by the use of extended meaning that
can be applied to words that authors can
paint rich pictures with relatively limited
text and the way they do this is a common
indication of their writing skills.
The Symbolic Code
• This is very similar to the Semantic
Code, but acts at a wider level, organizing
semantic meanings into broader and
deeper sets of meaning.
• This is typically done in the use of
antithesis, where new meaning arises out
of opposing and conflict ideas.
The Cultural Code
• This code refers to anything that is
founded on some kind of canonical works
that cannot be challenged and is assumed
to be a foundation for truth.
In terms of Music Video
• Barthes’ Enigma Hermeneutic Code can
be found in a majority of music videos.
• The narrative will establish enigmas
(puzzling imagery or occurrences) or
mysteries as it goes along.
• Essentially the narrative functions to first
establish then solve.
Example of Enigma Code
• Katy Perry – Wide Awake
• Why does it start with the ending of a song?
• Suddenly moves from dressing room to weird
• Child – young – innocent (why is there suddenly a child who’s invisible in the mirror?)
• Walls moving, floor giving way
• Being pushed in wheelchair by child
• Why is there magic elements, light
• People with bull heads confront them
• Prince – only after her because she’s famous
• Star comes out of chest
• Bull masks – mental aura – maybe guards
• End with another song
• Cat with crazy eyes – curiosity
• Based on Alice in Wonderland
• Why based in Labyrinth/Maze/hospital/on shoot/dressing room/forest/garden
• Paparazzi other side of mirror – couldn’t see their faces.