Narrative structures and "The Shining"


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Narrative structures and "The Shining"

  1. 1. Narrative Structure Theories and
  2. 2. Vladimir Propp Propp (1975), analysed Russian folk-tales, he found that they all shared certain structural properties mainly based around character functions and actions. He reduced characters to eight roles, they are: 1. The Villain 2. The Donor 3. The Helper 4. The Princess and her father 5. The Dispatcher 6. The Hero or Victim 7. The False Hero Characters can occupy a number of roles or “spheres of action”. Propp also had a theory on how the character functions created the structure of every fairy-tale. He outlined a list of thirty-one functions illustrating the development of the plot.
  3. 3. Vladimir Propp and “The Shining”Successes in applying Propp to “The Shining” Problems in applying Propp to “The Shining” How useful is applying Propp to “The Shining”? • We can identify Danny as the hero as he ultimately saves himself and Wendy from the evil. He is also the character who possesses the power/magic and he uses this magic to contact the donor (Dick), which enables their escape. • Dick provides Danny and Wendy with their escape and provides Danny with the knowledge that he has “the shining”, therefore we can identify him as the donor. • Wendy can be said to be the victim as she is more naïve to the situation than Danny. • There are also elements to the plot that fit with Propp’s outline; the family does leave home, there is a prohibition (“Don’t go into room 237”), there is deception on Jacks behalf and Danny is tested, attacked and receives help. • There are many different interpretations of character roles within “The Shining”. This could be said to be a failing of Propp’s theory as if we cannot identify character roles his plot structure no longer stands. • Although Danny ultimately “saves the day” Wendy is brave and traps the evil in the store room, therefore some may class her as the hero. Another interpretation of who the hero could be is Jack as he is the lead character, and some may say that it is the Hotel that has effected him, not his own state of mind. • There is also debate about who the villain is. One interpretation is that the hotel is the villain because as far as we can tell the family have led a normal life before the agent of change (the hotel). However some may believe that the images are all in Jacks head and that he is the one who possesses the evil and tries to kill his family. There are elements to Propp’s theory that can be successfully applied to “The Shining” but almost no elements can be applied without debate. However this enables us to delve into features of the characters that may have gone un-noticed if we weren’t trying to fit them into a certain box. It allows us to focus on the many subtleties of “The Shining” and create our own views on who our hero is, which leads us to view the film in a new light. It also forces us to de-personify characters and look solely at their purpose, allowing us to make more sense of the plot.
  4. 4. Tzvetan Todorov Todorov’s main ideas focus on how the basic plot is formed and resolved. He suggested that at the beginning of narratives there is an equilibrium in place (opposing forces are in balance). This is then disrupted by an event (disequilibrium), which leads to a chain of events to occur afterwards (path to resolution). This is eventually resolved when a new equilibrium is formed. There are twos ways to represent this “classic realist” narrative structure: Normality Enigma Pathway to resolution Closure Hero Agent of change Quest Closure The protagonist meets an agent of change which obstructs his usual path and sends him on a quest, which in the end leads to closure. Normality is set out at the beginning, then Something happens to change this normality. There are then ups and downs along the way to closure at the end.
  5. 5. Tzvetan Todorov and “The Shining” The successes in applying Todorov to “The Shining” Problems in applying Todorov to “The Shining” How useful is applying Todorov to “The Shining” • The Shining does follow the “classic realist” narrative structure as normality is illustrated at the beginning of the film, there is then an enigma (the hotel), followed by the pathway to resolution ending with closure of a funeral (Jack’s). • Jack isn’t a typical hero which complicates the hero meets agent of change depiction. • Not all questions the audience may have are resolved by the end of the film, therefore I could be said the audience never receives closure. Todorovs narrative structure is very vague and therefore requires use to use less critical thinking when applying it to media texts; meaning it does not further our understanding of “The Shining” on any deeper level. However it is very applicable to “The Shining”, mainly because there are not many ideas to apply.
  6. 6. Claude Levi-Strauss Levi-Strauss considers narrative structure in terms of vertical binary oppositions rather than the horizontal structure. Binary oppositions work on the idea of the audience understanding that there is an opposite idea to every theme e.g. innocence is opposite to corruption. This idea is often played with in horror as innocent children’s toys such as clowns are often portrayed as corrupt; the binary opposition.
  7. 7. Claude Levi-Strauss and “The Shining” The successes in applying Levi-Straus to “The Shining” The problems in applying Levi-Strauss to “The Shining” How useful is applying Levi- Strauss to “The Shining”? • The are always binary oppositions to be found and investigated. • Good Vs Evil is at play, however it is not always evident to the audience what the source of “evil” is. Suggestions include Jack, the hotel, Grady or Room 217. • The binary oppositions between dead and alive are blurred in a surreal way. This makes it hard for the audience to gage the relevance of the image in the final shot. • The distinction between real and imaginary is also unclear. Levi-Strauss’s ideas are very useful when analysing “The Shining "as it makes you think about where the boundaries lie, this makes you consider various interpretations of events depending on how you define the binary oppositions. E.g in deciding that all of Jack’s visions are imagined you may decide that Jack is evil. This idea also makes you consider what underlying themes there are in “The Shining”, often allowing you to appreciate the film on a deeper level.
  8. 8. Bordwell and Thompson Bordwell and Thompson define structure in terms of time and space. They suggest that the audience has an innate tendency to link events in terms of time and space to make them coherent. Film makers can play with this idea via flash backs and cutting devises to allow the audience to make these links for themselves.
  9. 9. Bordwell and Thompson and “The Shining” The successes in applying Bordwell and Thompson to “The Shining” The problems in applying Bordwell and Thompson to “The Shining” How useful is applying Bordwell and Thompson to “The Shining”? • Days are clearly marked by super imposing text, this connotes that time is relevant to the events taking place. The length of time that has past i.e. days, is lessened as the film goes on creating more panic alluding “the end” closing in. • Visions are used as flashbacks to show the hotels history • The audience tries to connect events in a cause and effect manner based on the time in which they happened e.g. the picture at the end is assumed to be reason for the present events. • It is hard to connect events due to the time that has past between them, how can Jack be alive in two different time eras? This theory is useful in analysing the connections between events. It is also useful in trying to uncover the story from the plot.