Tim O’Sullivan argues
that all media texts tell
us some kind of story.
Media texts offer a way of telling
stories about ourselves – not usually
our own personal stories, but the story
of us as a culture, or a set of cultures.
Katie, a 17 year old girl from Nottingham is suffering from abuse daily at the
hands of her father, class mates, and strangers online. She finds herself releasing
her emotions through an online blog, in which she uploads short videos of her
abusive experiences and pours her feelings out in online video diaries.
The equilibrium rises when the link to her blog becomes known to all people at
school. Following that, the abuse get more severe and at times even physical.
Katie's despair builds up and she sees no other way but to end her life.
The equilibrium restores when she meets Charlotte at a support meeting, who
helps Katie to re-build her life. When Katie falls in love with Charlotte, she finds
her worries disappear and her life beginning to change, for the bett
's theory of narrative
An initial situation begins with a state of normality - whether it would be good, bad or
neutral (EQUILIBRIUM). A problem, character or an action, disrupts the situation
(DISEQUILIBRIUM). The problem is resolved allowing the reinstatement of the
initial situation but with a slight difference, a new equilibrium is produced
(RESOLUTION).There are five stages the narrative can progress through:
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 e.g. a murder happens and people
are terrified or someone vanishes and the
characters have to solve the mystery.
Establishment of plot or theme. This is then
followed by the development of the problem,
an enigma, an increase in tension. Finally
comes to resolution of the plot.
Such narratives can be unambiguous
Propp’s character roles.
He identified a
theory about characters and actions as narrative functions - there's a set
of stock characters in every story. Characters have a narrative function;
they provide a structure for the text. To Propp events are not just about
character and action but also about progressing the narrative.
The Hero – a character that seeks something
The Villain – who opposes or actively blocks the hero’s quest
The Donor – who provides an object with magical properties
The Dispatcher – who sends the hero on his/her quest via a message
The False Hero – who disrupts the hero’s success by making false
• The Helper – who aids the hero
• The Princess – acts as the reward for the hero and the object of the
• Her Father – who acts to reward the hero for his effort
Propp’s spheres of action
• Preparation an ordered state of being
• Complication a state of disorder
• Transference the hero leaves home, receives a magical agent
• Struggle hero defeats the villain
• Return the hero returns, but is not recognised, a false hero has
stolen his place, the hero has to complete a task
• Recognition the hero is recognised, the false hero exposed, the
hero gets the princess
According to Pam Cook the standard
Hollywood narrative structure should have
Linearity of cause and effect within an overall
trajectory of enigma code.
i.e. stories should have a beginning, middle and end in
which something happens and causes a series of problems
which then have to be resolved
A high degree of narrative closure
i.e. the viewer has to experience a relief, a catharsis – all the
questions have to be answered
A fictional world that contains verisimilitude
especially governed by a spatial and temporal
Narratives common structures are
used not only in film but also in advertising and
In fact, the structures presented are an
integral part of the majority of both
western and eastern cultures –
details how narrative works in society
to inform the audience of events,
people, places through mediated
ideologies within them.
Jonathan Culler describes narratology
as compromising many strands “implicitly united
in the recognition that narrative theory requires a
distinction between a story, a sequence of actions
or events conceived as independent or their
manifestation in discourse, and discourse, the
discursive presentation or narration of events.”
Structure is different to theme – narrative
presents the form in which the theme is
mediated/discussed e.g. use of flashbacks etc.
Claude Levi-Strauss believed that
stories operated on clear binary
opposites e.g. Good vs. bad, rich vs. poor
A complicated world is reduced to a simple
either/or structure. Things are either good or
bad, right or wrong – there is no in-between.
This structure has clear ideological implications
– what happens if the hero was not wholly
correct, and that the villains weren’t always bad.