Perrine’s Literature

Structure, Sound, and Sense
Notes and Breakdown: Matt Sugiyama

Chapter 1 Reading the Story:
• • • • Two Main types of Literature – Commercial and Literary Fiction A “moral” in a story, and “facts” have no affect on Literary and Commercial classifications of fictional stories. Commercial fiction – Fictional stories that sole purpose is to entertain: “Commercial fiction takes us away from the world: has the reader’s immediate pleasure as its object.” Literary Fiction – “Literary fiction plunges us, through the author’s imaginative vision and artistic ability, more deeply into the real world, enabling us to understand life’s difficulties and to empathize with others.” “Literary fiction hopes to provide as complex, lasting aesthetic and intellectual pleasure rather than a simple, escapist diversion; its object is to offer pleasure plus understanding. “Commercial writers are like inventors who devise the contrivance for our diversion. When we push a button, lights flash, bells ring, and cardboard figures move jerkily across a painted horizon. Such writers are full of tricks and surprises: they pull rabbits out of hats, saw beautiful women in two, and juggle brightly colored balls in the air.” “Literary writers are more like explorers: they take us out into the midst of life and say, ‘Look here is the world in all its complexity.’ They also take us behind the scenes where they show us the props and mirrors and seek to dispel the illusions. “In short, any fiction that illuminates some aspect of human life or behavior with genuine originality and power may be called ‘literary.’” As you read stories in this book and others, there are two procedures you should follow 1. Read the story the first time to simply enjoy and familiarize yourself with it. 2. Read the story a second time, more slowly and deliberately, in the attempt to understand its full artistic significance and achievement.

Common Commercial Expectations: • A sympathetic hero or heroine – someone with whom the reader can identify and whose adventures and triumphs the reader can share • A defined plot in which something exciting is always happening and in which there is a strong element of suspense (thus the term “page-turner,” often applied to a successful commercial novel) • A happy ending that sends the reader away undisturbed and optimistic about life • A general theme, or “message,” that affirms widely held conventional views of the world Conversely Literary Expectations:

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A literary author may create a unique style or angle of vision in order to express his or her artistic truth Instead of a conventional ending in which everything is tied together in a neat package, a literary work may end in an unsettling or even unresolved way, forcing us to examine our own expectations about the story itself, about the way the story was told, and about our ingrained, perhaps unconscious way o viewing a certain topic or idea that may have been challenged or changed by what we have read. In short, we must look at the author’s point of view however different it is from our own habits of perceiving and “reading” the world.

Reading Effectively: To choose our reading wisely, we need to know two things: 1. How to get the most out of any book we read. 2. How to choose the books that will best repay the time and attention we devote to them.

Chapter 2 Plot and Structure:
Plot: • • • Plot – is the sequence of incidents or events through which an author constructs a story. A plot summary may include what characters say or think, as well as what they do, but it leaves out description and analysis and concentrates primarily on the major events. Plot should not be confused with the content of the work. The plot is not the action itself, but the way the author arranges the action toward a specific end.

Structure: • • Commercial Fiction often follows conventional structure. This structure is generally in a chronological order of some sort, and many times is a three sequence structure. Literary Fiction often has complex structure, in which the significance of the action is more important than the action itself, and the subtle exchanges of words among characters may be just as significant as the more action-oriented sequences of the hunting expeditions.

Parts of Plot and Structure: Conflict: • Conflict – a clash of actions, ideas, desires or wills. Conflicts can be emotional, mental, physical or emotional, and are often conflicts between two characters, nature, or with him or herself.

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Literary Fiction often utilizes all four major kinds of conflict, emotional, mental, physical, and emotional. Commercial Fiction commonly only emphasizes the confrontation between man and man, depending on the element of physical conflict to supply the primary excitement. Also in commercial fiction, the conflict is between the “good guys” and “bad guys” who are clearly established in the story. Because literary writers write from a real world perspective, significant moral issues are seldom “black and white” – judgments are difficult, and choices are complex rather than simple. Literary writers are aware of this complexity and are more concerned with displaying its various shadings of moral values than with presenting glaring, simplistic contrasts of good and evil, right and wrong.

Characters: • • • Protagonist – the central character in a conflict, whether sympathetic or unsympathetic as a person, is called the protagonist, occasionally there is more than one protagonist in the story. The terms “Hero and Heroine” are often applied to the protagonist, but this title should only be applied if the central character has heroic qualities. Otherwise the protagonist is just the central character of the story. Antagonist – any force arranged against the protagonist –whether persons, things, conventions of society, or the protagonist’s own character traits.

Suspense: • • Suspense – is the quality of the story that makes readers ask “What’s going to happen next?” or “How will this turn out?” Such questions compel them to continue reading. In literary fiction suspense often involves not so much the question what as the question why–not “What will happen next?” but “Why is the protagonist behaving this way? How is the protagonist’s behavior to be explained in terms of human personality and character?” Literary Fiction leaves us asking “Why do things happen as they do?” or “What is the significance of this event?” which makes the book re-readable and leave a long lasting impact in our lives. Suspense is the most important criterion for good commercial fiction; unless a story makes us want to keep reading it, it can have little merit. The reason commercial fiction is successful is because it allows the reader to ask “What’s going to happen next?” and that is why it has no lasting value, because once someone knows the answer there is no reason to re-read the book. There are two common types of Suspense. 1. Mystery – an unusually set of circumstances for which the reader craves an explanation 2. Dilemma – a position in which the protagonist must choose between two courses of action, both undesirable.

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Surprises and Surprise Endings are often used in both types of literature to add suspense to the story, because without either, we would already know what would happen.

Endings: • Surprise Endings in order to be legitimatized and valued must be judged in two ways 1. By the fairness with which the surprise is achieved 2. By the purpose it serves - If the surprise ending is contrived through an improbable coincidence or series of coincidences, or by the planting of false clues, the reader may dismiss the story as a cheap trick. Happy Ending – The protagonist must solve her problems, defeat an adversary, win her man, “live happily ever after.” Commercial fiction almost always ends with a happy ending while literary fiction may end in a “depressing” way that many readers may complain about. Unhappy Ending – this type of ending is commonly used by literary writers because life rarely ends happily (have happy outcomes). Losing is not something that commercial writers like to write about, but when a team wins, the other teams they beat lost, and thus life contains loss. A justification for an unhappy ending is its value in forcing us to ponder the complexities of life. “Why did it turn out this way?” Indeterminate Ending – an ending in which no definitive ending is reached. There is a conclusion but there is no actual ending, the story may continue on. Like real life, many problems are never solved, and that is why this type of ending is generally used by literary writers.

Artistic Unity: • • • • • Artistic Unity – there must be nothing in the story that is irrelevant, that does not contribute to its meaning: there should be nothing there for its own sake or its own excitement. Plot Manipulation – An author who includes a turn in the plot that is unjustified by the situation or the characters is indulging in this. Deus ex machine (God out of machine) – When the story/plot relies heavily on chance or on coincidence to provide a resolution. (a god descends from heaven at the last minute to save the protagonist) Chance – chance is the occurrence of an event that has no apparent cause in previous events or in predisposition of character. Coincidence – is the chance occurrence of two events that may have a peculiar correspondence.

Basic Structure:

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The basic structure contains rising action, climax, and falling action. This is the basic map for any good fictional story, however sometimes they are not easily distinguished in the story.

Chapter 3 Characterization
Characterization: is more difficult than describing plot, for human character is infinitely complex, variable, and ambiguous. Anyone can describe what a person has done, but only good writers can describe who a person truly is. • In Commercial fiction, the main character must be someone attractive or sympathetic. The person doesn’t have to be perfect, but have at least one larger than life quality. He often can defy “laws” made for ordinary people, but this adds to his character because he breaks the laws for good reason. • In Literary fiction, don’t necessarily renounce the attractive characters, but literary protagonists are less easily labeled and pigeonholed than their commercial counterparts. The characters are rather three-dimensional characters that have both good and bad vices. Presentation: • Presentation – How authors present their characters to the reader. 1. Direct Presentation – the author tells us straight out, by exposition or analysis, what the characters are lie, or they have another character in the story describe them. 2. Indirect Presentation – the author shows us the characters through their actions; we determine what they are like by what they say or do. Dramatized Characters – are shown speaking and behaving, as in a stage play. If we are really to believe in the selfishness of a character, we must see the character acting selfishly. Good fiction follows three other principles of characterization. First, the characters are consistent in their behavior, second the characters’ words and actions spring from motivations the reader can understand and believe, finally the characters must be plausible or lifelike.

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Types of Characters: • • • Flat Characters: usually have only one or two predominant traits; they can be summed up in a sentence or two. Round Characters: are complex and many-sided, they have the threedimensional quality of real people. Stock Character: A special type of flat character, they are stereotyped figures who have recurred so often in fiction that we recognize them at once. Commercial

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writers often rely on these characters because their character can be grasped so easily. Static Character – Remains essentially the same character from the beginning of the story to the end. Developing character – undergoes some distinct change of character, personality, or outlook. The change may be large or a small one; it may be positive or negative; but it is something significant and basic, not some minor change of habit or opinion. Epiphany – an insight that usually defines the moment of a developing character’s change.

Readers of literary fiction however, usually expect that a convincing change in a character meet three conditions. 1. It must be consistent with the individual’s characterization as dramatized in the story 2. It must be sufficiently motivated by the circumstances in which the character is placed. 3. The story must offer sufficient time for the change to take place and still be believable.

Chapter 4 Theme:
Theme – of a piece of fiction is its controlling idea or its central insight. It is the unifying generalization about life stated or implied by the story. To derive the theme of the story, we must determine what its central purpose is: What view of life it supports or what insight into life it reveals? • Theme Exists Only When: 1. An author has seriously attempted to record life accurately or to reveal some truth about it 2. An author has deliberately introduced as an unifying element some concept or theory of life that the story illuminates • The theme is not simply the moral or the lesson, and when a person tries to draw the theme from this perspective they generally oversimplify the theme. • Don’t ask What does the story teach? Ask What does the story reveal? How to determine the theme? 1) Theme should be expressible in the form of a statement with a subject and a predicate. 2) The theme should be states as a generalization about life. In stating theme we do not use the name of characters or refer to precise places or events. 3) We must be careful not to make the generalization larger than is justified by the terms of the story. 4) Theme is the central and unifying concept of a story. Therefore: a) It accounts for all the major details of the story. b) The theme is not contradicted by any detail of the story.

c) The theme cannot rely upon supposed facts, facts not actually stated or clearly implied by the story. 5) There is no one way of stating the theme of a story. 6) We should avoid any statement that reduces the theme to some familiar saying that we have heard all our lives, such as “You can’t judge a book by its cover” or “A stitch in times saves nine.”

Chapter 5 Point of View:
Point of view: To determine the point of view of a story, we ask, “Who tells the story?” and “How much is this person allowed to know?” and, especially, “To what extent does the narrator look inside the characters and report their thoughts and feelings?” Types of Point of View: • Omniscient point of view – The story is told in the third person by a narrator whose knowledge and prerogatives are unlimited. Such narrators are free to go wherever they wish, to peer inside the minds and hearts of the characters at will and tell us what they are thinking or feeling. “The omniscient is the most flexible point of view and permits the widest scope. Allowing the reader to see what all the characters are thinking or feeling.” Third-Person limited point of view – the story is told in the third person, but from the viewpoint of one character in the story. Such point-of-view characters are filters through whose eyes and minds writers look at the events. “It offers a ready-made unifying element, since all the details of the story are the experience of one character.” Stream of Consciousness – presents the apparently random thoughts going through a character’s head within a certain period of time, mingling memory and present experiences, and employing transitional links that are psychological rather than strictly logical. First-Person point of view – The author disappears into one of the characters, who tells the story in the first person. This character again, may be a major or minor character, protagonist or observer. “The first-person point of view shares the virtues and limitations of the third-person limited. The author as an intermediacy. Objective Point of View – The narrator disappears into a kind of revolving sound camera. This camera can go anywhere but can only record what is seen and heard. It cannot comment, interpret, or enter a character’s mind. (Sometimes called dramatic point of view) “The objective point of view required readers to draw their own inferences. But it must rely heavily on external action and dialogue, and it offers no opportunities for direct interpretation by the author.

Why is it important?

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The reader should know whether the events are being interpreted by a narrator or by a character. If it is the character, they must ask how this character’s mind and personality affect the interpretation, whether the character is perceptive or imperceptive, and whether the interpretation can be accepted at face value or must be discounted because of ignorance, stupidity, or self-deception. Ask why the author chose this point of view. May have used to conceal a certain formation until the end of a story to maintain suspense. Ask whether the author has used the selected point of view carefully and consistently, A writer should also be consistent in the point of view; if it shifts, it should do so for a just artistic reason.

Chapter 6 Symbol, Allegory, and Fantasy:
Literary Symbol – is something that means more than what it suggests on the surface. It may be an object, person, a situation, an action, or some other element that has a literal meaning in the story but that suggests or represents other meanings as well. “It is better, indeed, to miss the symbolic meanings of a story than to pervert its meaning by discovering symbols that are nonexistent. Better to miss the boat than to jump wildly for it and drown.” Interpreting Symbols: 1) The story itself must furnish a clue that a detail is to be taken symbolically. Symbols nearly always signal their existence by emphasis, repetition, or position. 2) The meaning of a literary symbol must be established and supported by the entire context of the story. The symbol has its meaning in the story, not outside it. 3) To be called a symbol, an item must suggest a meaning different in kind from its literal meaning; a symbol is something more than the representative of a class or type. 4) A symbol may have more than one meaning. It may suggest a cluster of meanings. At its most effective, a symbol is like a many faceted jewel: It flashes different colors when turned in the light. Allegory – is a story that has a second meaning beneath the surface, endowing a cluster of characters, objects, or events with added significance; often the pattern relates each literal item to a corresponding abstract idea or moral principle. Fantasy – the nonrealistic story, is one that transcends the bounds of known reality. After all, truth in fiction is not the same as fidelity to fact. All fiction is essentially a game of make-believe in which the author imaginatively conceives characters and situations and sets them down on paper. Magical Realism – Fantastic and magical events are woven into mundane and ordinary situations, creating striking and memorable effects unavailable to either realism or fantasy alone.

Chapter 7 Humor and Irony

Irony- a term which has a range of meanings that all involve some sort of discrepancy or incongruity. Irony should not be equated with mere sarcasm, which is simply language or one person uses to belittle or ridicule another. Irony is a technique used to convey a truth about human experience by exposing some incongruity of a character’s behavior or a society’s traditions.  Irony, like symbol and allegory, is often a means for the author to achieve compression. By creating an ironic situation or perspective, the author can suggest complex meanings without stating them. Three Types of Irony: 1) Verbal Irony – usually the simplest kind, is a figure of speech in which the speaker says the opposite of what he or she intends to say. 2) Dramatic Irony – the contrast is between what a character says or thinks and what the reader knows to be true. The value of this kind of irony lies in the truth it conveys about the character or the character’s expectations. 3) Irony of Situation – usually the most important kind for the fiction writer, the discrepancy is between appearance and reality, or between expectation and fulfillment, or between what is and what would seem appropriate. Sentimentality – stories that try to elicit easy or unearned emotional responses, it is a contrived or excessive emotion. A story contains genuine emotion when it treats life faithfully and perceptively. A sentimental narrative oversimplifies and exaggerates emotion in the attempt to arouse a similarly excessive emotion in the reader. Sentimental Writers – are recognizable by a number of characteristics. They often rely on stock characters to draw emotions. 1. They often try to make words do what the situation faithfully presented by itself will not do. 2. They editorialize – that is, comment on the story and, in a manner, instruct us how to feel. 3. They overwrite and poeticize – use an immoderately heightened and distended language to accomplish their effects. 4. They make an excessively selective use of detail. 5. Present, nearly always, a fundamentally “sweet” picture of life. They rely not only on stock characters and situations but also on stock themes.

Chapter 8 Evaluating Fiction
Evaluating Fiction: • Every story should be judged initially by how fully it achieves its central purpose. • A story should also be judged by the significance of its purpose. Once you determine that a story successfully integrates its materials into an organic

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unity, you should then evaluate the depth, the range, and the significance of what the story has achieved. When we evaluate a work of fiction we must be aware of what we are judging according to the aesthetic criteria of our own time and that such criteria evolve and change. While evaluating what we read is essential to developing our skill and insight, we must also be away that any evaluation of a given work – our own, or that of the culture at large – may well change over time. Ultimately, when we evaluate fiction, we must rely on our own judgments, based on our accumulated experience with both literature and life.

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