Narrative theories

You must apply this narrative to a film you know well and then argue to what extent you feel this narrative theory can be applied. You may want to apply two theories.
You should start with some background information to the theory and explain the main ideas. You should then discuss to what extent your chosen film can be analysed using a narrative theory.


A narrative in media terms is the organisation to a series of facts. Narrative can be defined as “a chain of events in cause-effect relationship occurring in time and space.” Humans need the narrative to make sense of things. Based on these connections humans make interpretations and connect events. In everything we seek a beginning, middle and an end.  Narrative theory, or narratology, is the study of narrative. Both Tzevtan Todorov and Vladimir Propp were philosophers on this subject and discovered a repeated structure in narrative.

Tzvetan Todorov is the one who proposed a basic structure for all narratives. He claimed that the characters or the situations are transformed through the process of disruption. He divided the transformation into five stages. According Todorov films and programmes begin with equilibrium, a calm period where all is as it should be. Then there comes a disruption of that order due to an action or a conflict, disequilibrium. This is the period of unsettlement and disquiet. This is followed by a recognition that the disorder has occurred. The next stage is an attempt to repair the damage caused by the disruption. After this the state of peace and harmony is renewed. This new equilibrium brings the chaos to an end and the conflict is solved. These stages are presented in the picture below.

By looking at the movie twilight one can defend Todorovs theory. This movie starts in a state of equilibrium; everything is as it should be. Bella arrives in Forks and nothing out of the ordinary has happened, yet. She is just a normal teenager living with her father. This equilibrium is then interrupted by Edward Cullen who walks into the cafeteria.  Bella doesn’t notice the disruption before Edward saves her from being hit by a car. He pushes it away with his hand and Bella know there is something extraordinary and special about him. This is the action that causes the disequilibrium. The next stage in Todorov’s theory comes when Bella plays baseball with the Cullen’s. The game is interrupted by three vampires wanting to join in on the game. When they realise that Bella is no vampire they become obsessed with tracking her down and kill her. The Cullen’s are ready for war and try to repair the damage from letting Bella into their family. After Edward and the other Cullen’s have saved Bella’s life a new equilibrium is established and the peace is restored.

Vladimir Propp studied Russian fairytales and discovered that in these stories there were always 8 characters present. These are: the hero, the villain, the donor, the dispatcher (who sends the hero on his way), the false hero (usually good looking and a coward), the helper, the princess and her father (the king who rewards the hero). These characters needed not to be separate people. For example the donor could also be the father. Propp stated that there were only these 8 characters and only 31 things they do. When the characters are identified it is easy to guess what they will do. E.g. the hero will defeat the villain. Therefore one can say that each character has a sphere of action, character and action being inseparable. This is easily relatable to films and programmes today.

In Twilight Edward Cullen is the hero and the donor, Bella is the princess, Charlie is the father, James is the villain, the helper is Victoria and the dispatcher is Laurent. What the movie doesn’t contain is a false hero. Therefore the theory isn’t completely correct by looking at Twilight. At the same time the father doesn’t reward the hero; Edward Cullen. He’s actually angry and blames Edward for Bella running away and then getting hurt. Vladimir Propp’s theory fails in some aspect in this case.

Tzvetan Todorov and Vladimir Propp are two philosophers who both found a new way of looking at narrative in media texts. They both revealed a pattern bases on years of research. These patterns are correct in some cases but in other inaccurate. By using twilight as the example of a media text, Todorov’s theory seemed to be accurate. Propps theory on the other hand was not exactly correct but where valid in some aspects.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: