Todorov’s Narrative Theory
By Georgia St Louis
• Izetan Todorov was a Bulgarian structuralist
linguist publishing influential work on narrative
from the 1960s onwards) Todorov suggested
that stories begin with an equilibrium or status
quo where any potentially opposing forces
are in balance.
• This is disrupted by some event, setting in chain a
series of events. Problems are solved so that
order can be restored to the world of the fiction.
Todorov suggested that conventional narratives are
structured in five stages:
1) A state of equilibrium at the outset.
2) A disruption of the equilibrium by some action.
3) A recognition that there has been a disruption.
4) An attempt to repair the disruption.
5) A reinstatement of the equilibrium.
This type of narrative structure is very familiar to us
and can be applied to many ‘mainstream’ film
• The state of equilibrium is the point in the film
mainly at the beginning where there is a calm
ambience that is eventually destroyed towards
the middle of the film.
• It is where the happiness is shown in a family, or
a group of friends.
• This is when the equilibrium becomes destroyed,
becoming the disequilibrium through a problem
the protagonist comes across, such as an
argument or something that would abolish the
happiness created at the beginning.
• It is used to show the rising action and it helps to
build up tension within the film.
• For there to be a solution to the disequilibrium
that has occurred the protagonist has to
recognise the problem or the destruction of joy.
• Moreover, there has to be some glimmer of hope
for the protagonist, so an epiphany must
The attempt to repair the
• Before the central protagonist ‘saves the day’
there has to be a unsuccessful attempt at the
same situation to give the determined attitude
typical of the archetypal protagonist.
• This also helps to build the tension, as the
audience begins to doubt the indomitability of
Reinstatement of the Equilibrium
• This is when the equilibrium at the beginning is
restored to its original calm and tranquil
ambience that occurred before its destruction.
• This stops the audience’s doubt of the
protagonist’s invincibility as they have finally
completed the ‘impossible’ task.