What is Narrative Theory?

Narrative is the way in which a story is told both fictional and non-fictional media texts.

Vladimir Propp – He was a Russian Critic and literary theorist. He said it was possible to classify the characters and their actions into clearly defined roles and functions. He discovered seven different types of characters involved with films. The Villain (who struggles against the hero), The Donor (prepares the hero or gives the hero some magical object), The Helper (Assists the hero throughout), The Princess and Father (The Two characters in which the hero tries to please), The Dispatcher (character who makes the lack known and sends the hero off), The Hero or victim/seeker Hero (reacts to the donor, weds the princess) and lastly the False Hero (takes credit for the hero’s actions or tries to marry the princess).

Todorov – He was a Bulgarian literary theorist. Suggests 3 stages of equilibrium in narratives. The first equilibrium is normal in which life is normal and nothing strange. The second is dis-equilibrium in which the state of normality is disrupted and the third is the outcome to restore the normality of the first equilibrium which then is the new one. This stage could be positive or negative.

Barthes – French semiologist, he suggests that narrative works with five different codes which activate the reader to make sense of it. The five codes he discovered were Action, Enigma, Symbolic, Semic and Cultural.

Claude Levi-Strauss – Social Anthropologist. He examined how stories unconsciously reflect the values, beliefs and myths of the culture. This expressed in Binary Opposition. A conflict between two qualities or terms, for example woodland area can represent fear and scare but on the other hand in a house can represent security and safety.


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