What is Narrative?A narrative is a constructive format (as a work of speech, writing, song, film, television, video games, photography or theatre) that describes a sequence of fictional/non-fictional events.Narrative refers to the way a media texts’ elements are put together to form a story.
Narrative StructureNarrative structure is generally described as the structural framework that underlies the order and manner in which a narrative is presented to a reader, listener, or viewer.• Open or closed structure; Open meaning no final conclusion to the story, Closed meaning there’s a closure, as the story has satisfactory ending.• A Multi-strand structure means there are several narratives running at the same time, soap opera’s such as Eastenders do this.• Popular narrative element is Enigma. This is where the narrative is mysterious and open to question, leaving the viewer puzzled and trying to work it out. Film trailers often use this.
Narrative Theorists• Vladamir Propp• Tzvetan Todorov• Claude Levi-Strauss
Vladamir ProppPropp studied folk tales and identified a theory about characters and actions as narrative functions. He identified 8 characters and their actions within narrative, which he referred to as ‘Spheres of action’;• The Villain – Opposes and acts against the hero.• The Hero – The person, usually protagonist, who seeks something.• The Donor – Provides hero with an object with magical properties.• The Helper – Who aids the hero.• The Princess – Reward for the hero, and object of the villains schemes.• Her Father – Who rewards the hero.• The Dispatcher – Who sends the hero on their way.• The False Hero - Who disrupts the hero’s success by making false claims.
Propp also stated that the narrative then consisted of 31 functions;
The functions are not prescriptive, rather they are a template from which narratives choose elements.According to Propp, a tale may skip functions but it cannot shuffle their unvarying order. Somenarratives subvert the functions (although the functions need to be identifiable in order to besubverted.)
Tztevan TodorovTodorov’s theory consists of a narrative containing 3 main parts that follow this order;1) Equilibrium – Everything appearing to be normal and calm.2) Disequilibrium – A disruption to the equilibrium.3) Equilibrium – A new equilibrium after the disequelibrium was resolved.
Todorov suggests there are 5 stages to how the narrative progresses in relation to equilibrium;1) State of equilibrium clearly shown.2) Disruption of the equilibrium.3) Recognition of this disruption.4) An attempt to repair the damage of the disruption.5) A return or restoration of a new equilibrium.Here narrative is not seen as a linear structure but a circular one. The narrative is driven by attempts to restore the equilibrium. However, the equilibrium attained at the end of the story is not identical to the initial equilibrium. Todorov argues that narrative involves a transformation. The characters or the situations are transformed through the progress of the disruption. The disruption itself usually takes place outside the normal social framework, outside the ‘normal’ social events.
Claude Levi-StraussLevi-Strauss wasn’t as interested in looking at the order in which events happen within the narrative, but focused on deeper arrangement of themes.Levi-Strauss proposed that narrative tension is based on opposition or conflict. He introduced the theory of binary oppositions. Examples would include;• Good Vs Evil• Male Vs Female• Earth Vs Space• Technology Vs Humans• Past Vs Present• Normal Vs Strange
Roland BarthesBarthes five codes found in narrative;• The Hermeneutic Code: Any element that causes Enigma.• The Proairetic Code: An action or event that indicates something else is going to happen. The way the tension is built.• The Semic Code: Any element in the text which gives an additional meaning (Connotation) to the denotation.• The Symbolic Code: Similar to the semantic code, A structure which organizes meaning such as through the use of binary opposites.• The Referential Code: Looks at the audiences wider cultural knowledge, morality and ideology, so that the narrative is believable in its environment allowing the audience to believe the situation can exist and allows them to personify with characters involved.
Applying Narrative Theories to the Horror Genre Propp’s theory can be easily applied to the horror genre, however usually the hero is perceived as the victim who we empathise with, and who fights against the villain. An example of a horror film in which Propp’s characters can be applied to the 1997 film, Scream. This theory can be applied to trailers as well, as generally these characters are portrayed in theSydney – The Hero. The Killer – Villain. Dewey – The Helper. same way We later discover this to be Aids Sydney in her Stu and Billy, who we trusted mission to defeat the before and so represent the killer false hero. Sydney’s Mother – The Dispatcher, Her death sends Sydney on her way
Applying Todorov’s Theory to Dracula (Horror Film)By applying Todorov’s theory of narrative to Dracula, I can clearly see how the theory is established; at the beginning of Dracula, the equilibrium is when Jonathan Harker arrives at the castle posing as a librarian, the disruption is when Harker gets bitten byDracula and then dies and becomes a vampire himself. The recognition of this disruption is when Van Helsing gets given Harker’s journal and then finds him as a vampire in a coffin at the castle, therefore realising that Dracula is real. The repair process then starts when Helsing and Holmwood form an alliance and go looking forDracula and send his reign of terror thereby killing him. The new equilibrium is when Dracula dies.Todorov’s theory can not be applied to horror trailers as by resolving the disequilibrium in the trailer this would give the film away, and take away the enigma element within the trailer, which is what draws the viewer into going to see the film. Trailers generally consist of a state of equilibrium and then disequilibrium, with no equilibrium again, to keep the element of enigma.
Applying Levi-Strauss’ theory to the horror genreLevi-Strauss’s theory can be easily recognised in horror media texts, as Levi- Strauss’ theory suggests that narrative consists of binary oppositions. Such binary oppositiins in horrors include;• Good-Evil• Victim-Killer• Danger-Safety• Imprisoned-Freedom• Fear-Relief• Life-Death• Insanity-SanityHorrors such as Scream uses Victim Vs Killer, Dracula uses Good Vs Evil, Saw films use Imprisones Vs Freedom.