Propp’s Narrative Theory

For my third and final module of the first year with Buzz we were asked to create a concept for a short script, present it and then write the aforementioned script. As part of this we also had to take note of theorists in narrative.

Because my scripts concept was designed in principle to oppose many of the known behaviours and roles of characters I chose to acknowledge Propp’s narrative theory as it is well known in the film industry as the standard from which most major big budget films are made from.

Propp proposed from the basis of his studies of hundreds of Russian fairytales that all narratives have certain elements. First starting with character roles. Some of the most obvious amongst these are characters such as a ‘hero’, a ‘villain’, a ‘princess’ etc. These characters would all behave in a set way according to their roles, they may have distinct personalities but will likely do certain things within the context of the story. Examples of these could be along the lines of, ‘the princess is saved by the hero, because he is the only one deserving of her’. or ‘the villain creates problems which the hero will eventually overcome’.

The second proposal from Propp was that all narratives also follow certain functions. I have found that these are less foolproof than the character role theory but these are again often seen in most film media. Examples of these that can often be obviously seen in film include. Absentation, when the hero set of on his journey, leaving home. Villainy, the villain commits an act that harms the ‘hero’ in someway or form. Or finally Liquidation in which wrongdoings or problems created earlier on within the story are dissolved or fixed.

I put this theory in context with my own script concept and found that most of the character roles do fit in some form or another. By example, in my script one character represents two people by one of the characters being a creation of his sub-concious in the form of his own writing. Because the character who is writing the path for the other one often makes decisions that lead to negative affects on his fictional counterpart. One can’t strictly define him as a hero, although he is the protagonist, although he would also fit into several of Propp’s other character roles, such as the false hero, villain or guide.

In regards to functions, I found very little that did actually fit my scripts concept. Because it was written to more or less oppose the concept of standard storytelling in the genre of romance, this doesn’t honestly come as much of a surprise. Characters are left in a state of limbo and thus never really have completed functions.

1. PROPP, V. Vladimir Propp (Propp, n.d.) Propp, V. (n.d.). Vladimir Propp. En.wikipedia.org. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vladimir_Propp [Accessed 1 May 2017].

2. WILSON, K. Mediaknowall AS&A Level Key Concepts — Vladimir Propp (Wilson, 2017) Wilson, K. (2017). Mediaknowall AS&A Level Key Concepts — Vladimir Propp. Mediaknowall.com. Available at: http://www.mediaknowall.com/as_alevel/alevkeyconcepts/alevelkeycon.php?pageID=propp [Accessed 1 May 2017].

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