6 typical plots of world literature

Original author: Miriam Quick
  • Transfer
Researchers studied the texts of more than 1,700 novels and found that all of them can be attributed to 6 plot types.

In his 1995 lecture, American novelist Kurt Vonnegut drew various storylines on the board, as he narrated, illustrating the change in the protagonist’s position on a “good-bad” scale. Among the stories were a “cornered man”, in which the main character gets into trouble and eventually gets out of it, as well as “a guy gets a girl”, where the hero gets something wonderful, loses it and finds it in the end again. “There is no obstacle to downloading simple forms of stories to a computer,” Vonnegut said. “These are beautiful forms.”

Thanks to new mining technologies, people have solved this problem. Professor Matthew Jokersfrom the University of Washington, and later researchers from the computer history laboratory of the University of Vermont, analyzed the texts of thousands of novels and identified six basic types of stories - archetypes - which are the basic building blocks for building more complex stories. Vermont scholars described these six forms of storytelling, which underlie 1700 English novels, as follows:

1. "From rags to riches" - a gradual improvement from bad to good.
2. "From riches to mud" - a fall from good to bad, a tragedy.
3. "Icarus" - rise and fall.
4. "Oedipus" - fall, rise and fall again.
5."Cinderella" - rise, fall, rise.
6. "A man cornered" - fall and take-off.

Researchers used emotional coloring analysis, a statistical technique often used by marketers to evaluate publications in social media. Within its framework, certain “tonality points” are assigned to each word on the basis of crowdsourcing data. Depending on the lexicon chosen, the word falls into the category of positive (“happiness”) or negative (“sadness”), or it can be associated with one of eight not so unambiguous emotions, for example, fear, joy, surprise, or apprehension.

For example, the adjective “happy” has a positive connotation and is associated with joy, trust and apprehension, and the verb “eradicate” has a negative connotation and is associated with anger.

Apply emotional analysis to all the words in the novel, poem or play, display the results on a timeline, and you can trace the mood changes along the text in the form of a certain line - the narration tonality.

Despite the imperfection of this approach, which considers each word separately from the context, it allows you to get surprisingly interesting results when analyzing large volumes of text. A good example can be found in the blog post of the computer scientist who applied machine analysis to Jane Austen’s novels.

Emotional analysis tools are freely available, and free literature can be downloaded from the Project Gutenberg online repository . The following is an analysis of some of the beloved readers of the works from the BBC survey " 100 stories that shaped our world, " in which the authors tried to find the six types of plot described above.

The Divine Comedy (Dante Alighieri, 1308–1320)

Type of story: “from rags to riches” The

graph was built by Miriam Kvik using the R language and the Syuzhet, Tidytext and Gutenbergr packages. Data on all graphs is smoothed.

Dante's structured and symmetrical epic poem shows his imaginary journey to the underworld in company, who do you think? Of course, the poet Virginia. The negative tonality of the work is compounded as the duet goes through one circle of hell after another. In this situation, there is some similarity with the type of plot “A man cornered”.

Having survived hell, the heroes climb Mount Purgatory, where the lustful and lazy souls who are excommunicated, live. Beatrice, the deceased beloved of Dante, replaces Virgil and becomes a companion of Dante. The ascension of the couple to paradise in the third part of the work is marked by growing joy associated with the fact that the poet begins to understand the true nature of virtue, and his soul becomes one with "love moving the sun and the stars."

“Madame Bovary” (Gustave Flaubert, 1856)

Type of story: “from riches to mud”

In Flaubert’s story about a bored and unfaithful housewife, there is a moment when the heroine Emma Bovary concludes that since her life was so bad up to this point, the rest should probably be better.

But in reality, everything is not so. A series of unsuccessful and desperate novels awaits her, allowing her only to briefly distract from the tiresome life of the wife of the most boring person in the world. She accumulates huge debts and commits suicide by drinking arsenic. The grieving husband finds out about her many betrayals and dies a little later. Their orphaned daughter goes to live with her grandmother, who also soon gives the soul to the Lord. Next, the girl gets to her poor aunt, who sends her to work at a spinning mill.

This is an example of a textbook tragedy, the development of which is aimed at achieving the ruthless ultimate goal of total fall.

Romeo and Juliet (William Shakespeare, 1597)

Type of story: “Icarus”

“Romeo and Juliet” is considered to be a tragedy in accordance with the description of Shakespeare himself. But the analysis of the emotional coloring of the work allows us to attribute it rather to the “Icarus” type (rise and fall). After all, at first the young man meets the girl and falls in love with her, and only then they are destined to lose each other. The peak of the romantic mood falls on about the first quarter of the length of the play - this is the famous scene under the window of Juliet, in which the characters swear to each other in love and fidelity.

From this moment begins a rapid fall. Romeo kills Tybalt and runs. Brother Lorenzo plans to help Juliet secretly escape and this creates a false surge of hope, however, as soon as she drinks the drug, a tragic ending becomes inevitable.

Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen, 1813)

Type of story: “A Man Cornered” or “Cinderella”

The first half of Austin’s novel presents a whole series of balls, fun (albeit restrained), wit and frivolous offers of hands and hearts from the lips of heroes like the comedic vicar Mr. Collins. The situation is getting darker with the departure of Bingley, when Elizabeth has an erroneous bad impression of Darcy. The emotional background of the novel becomes obviously negative after a failed marriage proposal from Darcy. The peak of negative emotions falls on the escape of Lydia with the unreliable Wickham. This, of course, gives Darcy the opportunity to prove himself. And he uses it with dignity and confidence, winning the heart of Elizabeth. The narrative happily ends, and each character becomes a little wiser than he was at first.

"Frankenstein, or Modern Prometheus" (Mary Shelley, 1818)

Type of story: Oedipus

Shelley's groundbreaking novel is a terrifying story of the monstrous creation of Victor Frankenstein, told from the words of Victor himself by captain Walton in the form of correspondence with his sister. At one point, the monster takes on the story, turning the novel into a bunch of stories embedded in each other. This part invites the reader to take a break from such a well-started, but constantly worsening situation. About two-thirds of the novel, a turning point comes when the monster offers Victor a way out - to create a female companion for him. However, Victor refuses, and from that moment his fate is a foregone conclusion. “Remember, I will come to you on your wedding night,” the creature threatens. And so it happens.

The Ugly Duckling (Hans Christian Andersen, 1843)

History Type: Combined

The shortest story in the selected group of stories, the famous tale of Hans Christian Andersen is distinguished by the most complex structure. It has two plots: “a man (a duckling), driven into a corner”, embedded in a general, more global story like “from rags to riches”. The situation of the duckling in the course of the narrative is gradually improving, but this does not happen linearly, but as part of a series of ups and downs. At first it hatch (take off), but is subjected to harassment due to its dissimilarity (fall). He learns that he can swim better than other ducks, and feels a sense of kinship when he sees a group of swans flying over him (take off), but after he nearly dies in the cold winter (fall). In the end, the duckling turns into a swan, as expected from the very beginning. This, of course, was the essence of the story: the swan remains a swan, even if a duck has hatched his egg on the farm. The story ends on the highest note. The matured swan joyfully admits that "he could not even dream of such happiness."


Also popular now: