Narrative and character theories2
Todorov and Propp etc
Published on: Mar 3, 2016
Transcripts - Narrative and character theories2
Narrative and Character Theories
Tsyvetan Todorov says that there are five stages to every narrative
• Stage 1 – The Equilibrium – Life is just as usual
• Stage 2 – The Disruption – A problem happens
• Stage 3 – The Recognition – Think about how to resolve the problem
• Stage 4 – The Repair – Go ahead and resolve the problem
• Stage 5 – The Restoration– Life returns to normal
The elements may not always be in this linear order; the narrative may be non-
linear or anachronic; it may also be that there are several narrative cycles
within the text
Vladimir Propp says the same types of character appear in all
• The Hero – This is the main character whom the audience will recognise as the
key person in the story. This character is usually good.
• The Helper – The main character usually has a companion who helps the main
character, gives advice and supports the main character in the story.
• The Villain – This character is the opposite to the Hero and is there to create
the disruption (Todorov) in the story. This character is usually bad.
• The False Hero – This character pretends to support the main character in
the story, and generally the audience will know this. However, the main character
does not. Could also be the Villain.
• The Donor – This character is similar to the role the Helper plays in a story.
The character will give the main character something which helps him repair
(Todorov) the problem in the story.
• The Dispatcher – This character could be the Princess’ Father (setting the
Hero a task) or even a False Hero (sending the Hero on a wild goose chase)
• The Princess – This character can be the reward for the Hero (see Princess’
Father) or the person whom the Hero and False Hero are in competition for.
• The Princess' Father – This character could be a combination of characters
depending on the story being told. Generally this character will set a task for the
Hero, with the reward being the Princess. But they could also be the Villain if they
didn’t want to give the reward.
Levi Strauss (not the jeans!)
He believed that we understand some concepts purely by the fact that they
have opposites. He referred to this as ‘binary opposites’.
E.g. Hero and Villain – it is necessary for a Hero to have someone in
opposition (the Villain) to become a Hero!
Here are other examples of binary oppositions:
– Good and Evil
– Sane and Insane
– War and Peace
– Ugly and Beauty
Roland Barthes’ The Enigma Code
• The storyline is set up in the form of a puzzle
or enigma which the audience may try to
solve – as will the protagonist – as the