The Seven Basic Plots

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The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories
The Seven Basic Plots, book cover.png
Author Christopher Booker
Language English
Published 2004
Pages 736
Preceded by The Great Deception
Followed by Scared To Death: From BSE To Global Warming

The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories is a 2004 book by Christopher Booker, a Jungian-influenced analysis of stories and their psychological meaning. Booker worked on the book for 34 years.[1]

Summary[edit]

The meta-plot[edit]

The meta-plot begins with the anticipation stage, in which the hero is called to the adventure to come. This is followed by a dream stage, in which the adventure begins, the hero has some success, and has an illusion of invincibility. However, this is then followed by a frustration stage, in which the hero has their first confrontation with the enemy, and the illusion of invincibility is lost. This worsens in the nightmare stage, which is the climax of the plot, where hope is apparently lost. Finally, in the resolution, the hero overcomes their burden against the odds.[2]

The Seven Basic Plots[edit]

Overcoming the Monster[edit]

The protagonist sets out to defeat an antagonistic force which threatens the protagonist and/or protagonist's homeland.

Examples: Perseus, Theseus, Beowulf, Dracula, War of the Worlds, Nicholas Nickleby, The Guns of Navarone, Seven Samurai and its Western-style remake The Magnificent Seven, James Bond, Star Wars: A New Hope, and Die Dollar Die: Fall of the American Colossus.[2]

Rags to Riches[edit]

The poor protagonist acquires things such as power, wealth, and a mate, before losing it all and gaining it back upon growing as a person.

Examples: Cinderella, Aladdin, Jane Eyre, Great Expectations, David Copperfield.[2]

The Quest[edit]

The protagonist and some companions set out to acquire an important object or to get to a location, facing many obstacles and temptations along the way.

Examples: Iliad, The Pilgrim’s Progress, King Solomon's Mines, Watership Down.[2] The Wizard of Oz, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Voyage and Return[edit]

The protagonist goes to a strange land and, after overcoming the threats it poses to him/her, returns with nothing but experience.

Examples: Odyssey, Alice in Wonderland, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Orpheus, The Time Machine, Peter Rabbit, Brideshead Revisited, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Gone with the Wind, The Third Man.[2]

Comedy[edit]

Light and humorous character with a happy or cheerful ending; a dramatic work in which the central motif is the triumph over adverse circumstance, resulting in a successful or happy conclusion.[3] Examples: A Midsummer Night's Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, Twelfth Night, Bridget Jones Diary, Music and Lyrics, Sliding Doors, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Mr Bean

Tragedy[edit]

The protagonist is a villain who falls from grace and whose death is a happy ending.

Examples: Macbeth, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Carmen, Bonnie and Clyde, Jules et Jim, Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary, John Dillinger, Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar.[2]

Rebirth[edit]

The protagonist is a villain or otherwise unlikable character who redeems him/herself over the course of the story.

Examples: Sleeping Beauty, The Frog Prince, Beauty and the Beast, The Snow Queen, A Christmas Carol, The Secret Garden, Peer Gynt.[2], Life Is a Dream, Despicable Me

Prior work[edit]

Arthur Quiller-Couch possibly originally formulated seven basic plots as a series of conflicts: Human vs. Human, Human vs. Nature, Human against God, Human vs. Society, Human in the Middle, Woman & Man, Human vs. Himself.[4][citation needed]

William Foster-Harris' The Basic Patterns of Plot sets out a theory of three basic patterns of plot.[5]

Ronald B. Tobias set out a twenty-plot theory in his 20 Master Plots.[5]

Georges Polti's The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations.[5]

Reception[edit]

The book was dismissed by a number of journalistic reviewers, such as Adam Mars-Jones, who objected to Booker employing his generalizations about conventional plot structures prescriptively: "He sets up criteria for art, and ends up condemning Rigoletto, The Cherry Orchard, Wagner, Proust, Joyce, Kafka and Lawrence – the list goes on – while praising Crocodile Dundee, E.T. and Terminator 2".[6] Similarly, Michiko Kakutani in The New York Times writes, "Mr. Booker evaluates works of art on the basis of how closely they adhere to the archetypes he has so laboriously described; the ones that deviate from those classic patterns are dismissed as flawed or perverse – symptoms of what has gone wrong with modern art and the modern world."[7]

However, a number of novelists, playwrights, and academics, including Fay Weldon, who wrote the following (which is quoted on the front cover of the book): "This is the most extraordinary, exhilarating book. It always seemed to me that 'the story' was God's way of giving meaning to crude creation. Booker now interprets the mind of God, and analyses not just the novel – which will never to me be quite the same again – but puts the narrative of contemporary human affairs into a new perspective. If it took its author a lifetime to write, one can only feel gratitude that he did it",[8] Beryl Bainbridge, Richard Adams, Ronald Harwood, and John Bayley, spoke positively of the work, while philosopher Roger Scruton described it as a "brilliant summary of story-telling".[9]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Seven Basic Plots of Storytelling". http://www.greenbelt.org.uk/media/talks/14109-christopher-booker/ (Podcast). 2006. Event occurs at 01m00s. Retrieved 2013-09-11. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Bateman, Chris (2005-10-11). "The Seven Basic Plots" (blog). Retrieved 2013-09-10. 
  3. ^ http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/comedy
  4. ^ A forum post pre-dating addition to Wikipedia
  5. ^ a b c "The "Basic" Plots in Literature". Retrieved 2013-09-11. 
  6. ^ Adam Mars-Jones "Terminator 2 Good, The Odyssey Bad", The Observer, November 21, 2004, retrieved September 1, 2011.
  7. ^ Kakutani, Michiko (2005-04-15). "The Plot Thins, or Are No Stories New?". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-09-11. 
  8. ^ "The Seven Basic Plots". Bloomsbury. Retrieved 2013-03-19. 
  9. ^ Scruton, Roger (February 2005). "Wagner: moralist or monster?". The New Criterion. Retrieved 19 March 2013. 

External links[edit]