TIe Locic oJ Navvalive FossiIiIilies

AulIov|s)· CIaude Bvenond and EIaine B. CancaIon
Souvce· Nev Lilevavv Hislovv, VoI. 11, No. 3, On Navvalive and Navvalives· II |Spvinc, 1980),
pp. 387-411
FuIIisIed Iv· TIe JoIns HopIins Univevsilv Fvess
SlaIIe UBL· http://www.jstor.org/stable/468934
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The
Logic
of Narrative Possibilities*
Claude Bremond
I
EMIOLOGICAL STUDY of narrative can be divided into two
parts:
on the one
hand,
an
analysis
of the
techniques
of
narrative;
on
the
other,
a search for the laws which
govern
the narrated mat-
ter. These laws themselves
depend upon
two levels of
organization:
they
reflect the
logical
constraint that
any
series of
events,
organized
as
narrative,
must
respect
in order to be
intelligible;
and
they
add to
these
constraints,
valid for all
narrative,
the conventions of their
par-
ticular universe which is characteristic of a
culture,
a
period,
a
literary
genre,
a narrator's
style,
even of the narration itself.
After
examining
the method used
by
Vladimir
Propp
to discover
the
specific
characteristics of one of these
particular
domains,
that of
the Russian
folktale,
I became convinced of the need to draw a
map
of
the
logical possibilities
of narrative as a
preliminary
to
any description
of a
specific literary genre.
Once this is
accomplished,
it will be feasi-
ble to
attempt
a classification of narrative based on structural charac-
teristics as
precise
as those which
help
botanists and
biologists
to de-
fine the aims of their studies. But this
widening perspective
entails the
need for a less
rigorous
method. Let us recall and
spell
out the mod-
ifications which seem
indispensable:
First,
the basic
unit,
the narrative
atom,
is still
thefunction, applied
as in
Propp,
to actions and events
which,
when
grouped
in
sequences,
generate
the narrative.
Second,
a first
grouping
of three functions creates the
elementary
sequence.
This triad
corresponds
to the three
obligatory phases
of
any
process:
a function which
opens
the
process
in the form of an act to be
carried out or of an event which is
foreseen;
a function which achieves
this
virtuality
in the form of an actual act or
event;
and a function
which closes the
process
in the form of an attained result.
Third,
the
foregoing
differ from
Propp's
method in that none of
these functions lead
necessarily
to the
following
function in the se-
quence.
On the
contrary,
when the function which
opens
the se-
*
This article is a translation of "La
Logique
des
possibles
narratifs," Communications,
8
(1966),
60-76.
Copyright)
1980
by
New
Literary History,
The
University
of
Virginia
NEW LITERARY HISTORY
quence
is
proposed,
the narrator
always
has the choice of
having
it
followed
by
the act or of
maintaining
it in a state of
virtuality:
when an
act is
presented
as
having
to be
realized,
or if an event is
foreseen,
the
actualization of the act or of the event can
just
as well take
place
as not.
If the narrator chooses to actualize the act or the
event,
he still has the
choice of
allowing
the
process
to continue on to its
conclusion,
or he
can
stop
it on the
way:
the act can attain or fail to attain its
goal;
the
event can follow or not follow its course
up
to the end which was
foreseen. The network of
possibilities opened
in this
way by
the
elementary sequence
follows this
pattern:
Goal attained
(e.g.,
act
successful)
Actualization
(e.g.,
act
necessary
to
Goal not attained
Virtaattain
goal)
(e.g.,
act
fails)
Virtuality
(e.g., goal
to be Absence of actualization
obtained) (e.g., inertia,
impediment
to
action)
The
elementary sequences
combine so as to
produce complex
se-
quences.
These combinations are realized
according
to variable con-
figurations.
Here are the most
typical:
(1)
The end-to-end
series,
for
example:
Evil to
perform
1
Evildoing
1
Evil
performed
=
Deed to be
avenged
Process of
revenge
1
Deed
avenged
The
symbol
=
which we have used
signifies
that the same event si-
multaneously
fulfills,
within the
perspective
of a
single
role,
two dis-
tinct functions. In our
example,
the same
reprehensible
action is
qualified,
from the
perspective
of an
avenger,
as the end of a
process
(evildoing)
in relation to which he
plays
the
passive
role of witness and
as the
opening
of another
process
in which he will
play
an active role
(punishment).
(2)
The
enclave,
for
example:
388
THE LOGIC OF NARRATIVE POSSIBILITIES 389
Evil committed = Deed to
avenge
Damage
to inflict
Avenging process Aggressive process
Deed
avenged Damage
inflicted
This
arrangement appears
when a
process,
in order to attain its
goal,
must include another which acts as a means for the
first;
the latter can
in turn include a
third,
etc. The enclave is the
mainspring
of the
specification
mechanisms of
sequences:
in this
case,
the
process
of
retribution becomes more
specifically
an
aggressive process (punitive
action)
corresponding
to the function evil committed. It could have
become
specified
as an
obliging process (recompense)
if a service had
been
performed.
(3)
"Coupling,"
for
example:
Damage
to inflict vs. Evil to commit
1 1
Aggressive process
vs.
Evildoing
1 1
Damage
inflicted vs. Evil committed
= Deed to
avenge
The
symbol
vs. which acts as a link between the two
sequences
means
that the same event which fulfills a function a from the
perspective
of
an
agent
A fulfills a function b when we shift to B's
perspective.
This
ability
to
perform
a
systematic
conversion of
points
of view and to
formulate the rules of such a conversion will make it
possible
to de-
lineate the
spheres
of action
corresponding
to the diverse roles
(or
dramatis
personae).
In our
example
the borderline
passes
between an
aggressor's sphere
of action and that of an administrator of
justice
from whose
perspective
the
aggression
is
equivalent
to an evil deed.
These are the rules which will be tested in the
following pages.
We
will
attempt
to arrive at a
logical
reconstitution of the
starting points
and directions of the narrative network. Without
pretending
to
explore
each
itinerary through
to its final
ramifications,
we will
try
to
follow the main
arteries,
taking
into
account,
along
each distance
covered,
the bifurcations at which the
major
branches
split
and so
engender subtypes.
In this
way
we will draw
up
a tableau of model
sequences,
much less numerous than one
might imagine
and from
among
which the
storyteller
must
necessarily
choose. This tableau
NEW LITERARY HISTORY
itself will become the basis for a classification of the roles assumed
by
the characters in the
story.
II. The Narrative
Cycle
All narrative consists of a discourse which
integrates
a
sequence
of
events of human interest into the
unity
of a
single plot.
Without
succession there is no
narrative,
but rather
description
(if
the
objects
of the discourse are associated
through spatial contiguity),
deduction
(if
these
objects imply
one
another),
lyrical
effusion
(if
they
evoke one
another
through metaphor
or
metonymy).
Neither does narrative
exist without
integration
into the
unity
of a
plot,
but
only chronology,
an enunciation of a succession of uncoordinated facts.
Finally,
where
there is no
implied
human interest
(narrated
events neither
being
produced by agents
nor
experienced by anthropomorphic beings),
there can be no
narrative,
for it is
only
in relation to a
plan
conceived
by
man that events
gain meaning
and can be
organized
into a struc-
tured
temporal sequence.
According
to whether
they
favor or
oppose
this
plan,
the events of a
given
narrative can be classed under two basic
types
which
develop
according
to the
following sequences:
Amelioration obtained
Process of
-
Amelioration not
amelioration
obtained
Amelioration to obtain
No
process
of
amelioration
Process of'
Degradation produced
degradation Degradation
avoided
Degradation expected
No
process
of
degradation
Each
elementary sequence
which we will
eventually
isolate is a
specification
of one or the other of these two
categories,
which thus
establishes the first
principle
of dichotomous classification. Before
examining
the various
sequences,
let us
specify
the modalities ac-
cording
to which amelioration and
degradation
combine in a narra-
tive:
(1)
By
end-to-end succession. It can
immediately
be seen that nar-
ration can alternate
phases
of amelioration and
degradation
accord-
ing
to a continuous
cycle:
390
THE LOGIC OF NARRATIVE POSSIBILITIES
Degradation produced
= Amelioration to obtain
t I
Process of
degradation
Process of amelioration
t I
Possible
degradation
= Amelioration obtained
However,
and this is not
quite
so
obvious,
this alternation is not
only
possible
but
necessary.
Let us consider the
beginning
of a
story
which
presents
a
deficiency affecting
an individual or a
group
(in
the form
of
poverty,
illness,
stupidity,
lack of a male
heir,
chronic
plague,
de-
sire for
knowledge,
love, etc.).
For this
beginning
to
develop,
the
situation must
evolve;
something
must
happen
which will
bring
a
modification. In what direction? One
might suppose
either toward
amelioration or
degradation. Rightfully,
however,
only
an ameliora-
tion is
possible.
Misfortune
may,
of
course,
grow
worse. There are
narratives in which misfortunes follow one after the other so that each
degradation brings
on another. But in this case the
deficiency
which
marks the end of the first
degradation
is not the real
point
of
depar-
ture of the second. This
intermediary interruption-this reprieve-is
functionally equivalent
to a
period
of
amelioration,
or at least to a
phase
which
represents
the
preservation
of what can still be
saved.The
departure point
of the new
phase
of
degradation
is not the
degraded
condition,
which can
only
be
improved,
but the still rela-
tively satisfying
state which can
only
be
degraded.
Likewise,
two
amelioration
processes
cannot follow one
another,
inasmuch as the
improvement brought
about
by
the first still leaves
something
to be
desired.
By implying
this
lack,
the narrator introduces the
equivalent
of a
phase
of
degradation.
The still
relatively
deficient condition
which results acts as a
point
of
departure
for the new amelioration
phase.
(2) By
enclave. The failure of a
process
of amelioration or
degrada-
tion in
progress may
result from the insertion of a reverse
process
which
prevents
it from
reaching
its normal conclusion. In this case we
have the
following
schemata:
Possible
degradation
Amelioration
process
= Possible
Degradation
process
=
Amelioration
degradation
to obtain
I I
Degradation
Amelioration
process
process
I I
Amelioration not =
Degradation Degradation
avoided
=
Amelioration
obtained
accomplished
obtained
391
NEW LITERARY HISTORY
(3) By coupling.
The same
sequence
of events cannot at the same
time and in relation to the same
agent
be characterized both as
amelioration and
degradation.
On the
contrary,
this
simultaneity
be-
comes
possible
when the event affects at one and the same time two
agents
moved
by opposing
interests: the
degradation
of the fate of the
one coincides with the amelioration of the fate of the other. This
produces
the
following
schema:
Amelioration to obtain vs. Possible
degradation
1 I
Amelioration
process
vs.
Degradation process
1 I
Amelioration obtained vs.
Degradation
achieved
The fact that it is
possible
and indeed
necessary
to
change viewpoints
from the
perspective
of one
agent
to that of another is
capital
for the
remainder of our
study.
It
implies
the
rejection,
at our level of
analysis,
of the notions of
Hero, Villain, etc.,
conceived as labels and
attached once and for all to the characters. Each
agent
is his own hero.
His
partners
are defined from his
point
of view as
allies, adversaries,
etc. These definitions are reversed when
passing
from one
perspec-
tive to another. Rather than outline the narrative structure in relation
to a
privileged point
of view-the hero's or the narrator's-the
pat-
terns that are herein
developed
will
integrate
the
many perspectives
belonging
to diverse
agents
into the
unity
of a
single
schema.
III. Amelioration Process
The narrator can limit himself to
indicating
an amelioration
process
without
explicitly outlining
its
phases.
If he
simply says
that the hero
solves his
problems
or that he
gets
well,
becomes
good,
handsome,
or
rich,
these
specifications
which deal with the contents of the
develop-
ment without
specifying
how it comes about cannot
help
us to
characterize its structure. On the
contrary,
if he tells us that the hero
solves his
problems
after a
long period
of
trials,
if the cure is the result
of a medication or of a doctor's
efforts,
if the hero
regains
his
beauty
thanks to a
compassionate fairy,
his riches because of an
advantageous
transaction,
or his wits
following
the resolutions he makes after com-
mitting
an
error,
then we can use the articulations within these
opera-
tions to differentiate diverse
types
of amelioration: the more detail
the narrative
provides,
the further this differentiation can be carried
out.
392
THE LOGIC OF NARRATIVE POSSIBILITIES
Let us first consider
things
from the
perspective
of the
beneficiary
of the amelioration.
(It
should be understood that the
beneficiary
is
not
necessarily
aware of the
process engaged
in his favor. His
perspective
can remain in a
potential
state,
like that of
Sleeping
Beauty
while she waits for her Prince
Charming.)
His initial state of
deficiency implies
the
presence
of an obstacle which
prevents
the
realization of a more
satisfying
state. The elimination of the obstacle
implies intervening
factors which act as means taken
against
the ob-
stacle and in favor of the
beneficiary.
So that if the narrator chooses to
develop
this
episode,
his narrative will follow the schema:
Amelioration to obtain
Obstacle to
eliminate
El im ia tn
Possible means
Amelioration
process
Elimination
1
process
Means to be taken
Amelioration obtained Obstacle Means
successful
eliminated
At this
stage
we
may
be
dealing
with a
single
dramatis
persona,
the
beneficiary
of the
amelioration,
who benefits
passively
from a fortu-
nate combination of circumstances. In this case neither he nor
anyone
else bears the
responsibility
for
having brought together
and activated
the means which overturned the obstacle.
Things
"turned out well"
without
anyone's having
seen to them.
There is no such solitude when the
amelioration,
rather than
being
ascribed to
chance,
is attributed to the intervention of an
agent
en-
dowed with initiative who assumes it as a task to
accomplish.
The
amelioration
process
is then
organized
into
behavior,
which
implies
that it takes on the structure of a network of ends and means which
can be
analyzed
ad infinitum. In
addition,
this transformation intro-
duces two new roles: on the one
hand,
the
agent
who assumes the task
for the benefit of a
passive beneficiary
acts,
in relation to that benefi-
ciary,
no
longer
as an inert
means,
but as one endowed with initiative
and with his own interests: he is an
ally.
On the other
hand,
the
obstacle confronted
by
the
agent
can also be
represented by
an
agent,
also endowed with initiative and his own interests: this
agent
is an
393
NEW LITERARY HISTORY
adversary.
In order to take these new dimensions into account we must
examine: the structure of the
completion
of the task and its
possible
developments,
the full details of the alliance
relationship brought
about
by
the intervention of an
ally,
and the modalities and the conse-
quences
of the action undertaken
against
an
adversary.
IV.
Completion
of the Task
The narrator can limit himself to
mentioning
the
performance
of
the task. If he chooses to
develop
this
episode,
he must make clear
first the nature of the obstacle
encountered,
then the structure of the
measures taken to eliminate
it-intentionally,
and not
by
chance this
time. The
agent
can be
lacking
these
means,
perhaps intellectually
if
he is
ignorant
of what he must
do,
or
materially
if he does not have
the
necessary
tools at his
disposal.
The
recognition
of this lack is
equivalent
to a
phase
of
degradation
which,
in this
case,
takes on the
specific
form of a
problem
to solve and
which,
as
before,
can be dealt
with in two
ways: things
either work out
by
themselves
(heaven
may
unexpectedly provide
the
sought-for
solution)
or an
agent may
as-
sume the task of
arranging
them. In this
case,
this new
agent
acts as an
ally intervening
for the benefit of the first who becomes in turn the
passive beneficiary
of the assistance thus
given
him.
V. Intervention of the
Ally
It is
possible
that the
ally's
intervention,
in the form of an
agent
who
takes
charge
of the amelioration
process,
not be
given
a motive
by
the
narrator,
or that it be
explained by
motives
having
no link with the
beneficiary
(if
the aid is
involuntary).
In this case one cannot
really
speak
of the intervention of an
ally: deriving
from fortuitous en-
counter between two
tales,
the amelioration is the
product
of chance.
Things
are
quite
different when the intervention is
motivated,
from
the
ally's point
of
view,
by
the merits of the
beneficiary.
In that case
the aid is a sacrifice consented to within the framework of an ex-
change
of services. This
exchange
itself can assume three forms:
either
(1)
the aid is received
by
the
beneficiary
in
exchange
for assis-
tance which he himself offers his
ally
in an
exchange
of simultaneous
services: the two
parameters
are in this case
jointly responsible
for the
accomplishment
of a task of mutual
interest;
or
(2)
the aid is offered
in
gratitude
for a
past
service: in this case the
ally
acts as the benefi-
ciary's
debtor;
or
(3)
the aid is offered in the
hope
of future
compensa-
tion: in this case the
ally
acts as the
beneficiary's
creditor.
394
THE LOGIC OF NARRATIVE POSSIBILITIES
Three
types
of allies and three narrative structures are thus deter-
mined
by
the
chronological ordering
of the services
exchanged.
If two
associates are
jointly
interested in the
completion
of a
single
task,
the
perspective
of the
beneficiary
and that of the
ally
come so close to-
gether
as to coincide: each one is the
beneficiary
of his own efforts
united with those of his
ally.
In a final
stage
there could be a
single
character
split
into two roles: when an
unhappy
hero decides to
right
his fate
by "helping
himself,"
he
splits
into two dramatis
personae
and
becomes his own
ally.
The
completion
of the task
represents
a volun-
tary degradation,
a sacrifice
(a
fact which is
supported by
the
expres-
sions "to do
something
with
great pain,"
"to
toil," etc.)
whose
purpose
is to
pay
the
price
of an amelioration. Whether it is a
question
of a
single
character who divides in
two,
or of two
interdependent
characters,
the role
configuration
remains identical: the amelioration
is obtained
through
the sacrifice of an
ally
whose interests are the
same as those of the
beneficiary.
Rather than
coincide,
the
perspectives oppose
one another when
the
beneficiary
and his
ally
form the
couple
creditor/debtor. Their
roles then take on the
following
form: for
example,
A and B must
each obtain an amelioration distinct from that of the other. If A re-
ceives B's aid in order to achieve amelioration
a,
A becomes B's debtor
and will be
obliged
in turn to
help
B achieve amelioration b. The
narrative will follow the schema:
Perspective
of A
Perspective
of B
Perspective
of A
Perspective
of B
(beneficiary
of
aid)
(obliging ally) (obligated ally) (beneficiary
of
aid)
Aid to be re- vs. Possible
ceived
service
1 I
Receiving
of aid vs. Serviceable
$i ~ ~ action
Aid received vs. Service vs. Debt to be vs. Aid to be
accomplished discharged
received
1 I
Discharging
of vs.
Receiving
debt of aid
1 I
Debt
discharged
vs. Aid received
The three
types
of allies that we have
just distinguished-the
inter-
dependent
associate,
the
creditor,
the debtor-act
according
to a
pact
which
regulates
the
exchange
of services and
guarantees
the
repay-
ment of services rendered. Sometimes this
pact
remains
implicit
(it
is
understood that hard work is
worthy
of
payment,
that a son must
395
NEW LITERARY HISTORY
obey
the father who
gave
him
life,
that a slave
obey
the master who
saved his
life, etc.);
sometimes the
pact
is the result of a
particular
negotiation, spelled
out in the narrative more or less
specifically.
Just
as it was
necessary
to search for means before
implementing
them
when their lack constituted an obstacle to the
completion
of the
task,
so aid must be
negotiated
when an
ally
does not
cooperate spontane-
ously.
Within the framework of this
preliminary
task,
the abstention
of a future
ally
makes of him an
adversary
who has to be convinced.
This
negotiation,
soon to be
discussed,
constitutes the
peaceful way
of
eliminating
an
adversary.
VI. Elimination of the
Adversary
Among
the obstacles which
prevent
the
completion
of a
task, some,
as we have
seen,
present only
an inert
force;
others take on the form
of
adversaries,
agents
endowed with initiative who can react
through
chosen acts to the
procedures
undertaken
against
them. The result is
that the
procedure
for
eliminating
the
adversary
must be
organized
according
to more or less
complex strategies
in order to take this
resistance and its diverse forms into account.
We need not consider the case in which the
adversary disappears
without the
agent's bearing
the
responsibility
for his elimination
(if
he
dies of natural
causes,
falls under the blows of another
enemy,
be-
comes more
accommodating
with
age,
etc.):
in that case there is
only
a
fortuitous amelioration.
Taking
into account
only
cases where the
elimination of the
adversary
is attributable to the initiative of an
agent,
we will
distinguish
two forms:
(1)
peaceful-the agent
tries to
influence the
adversary
so that he cease
opposition
to the
agent's
plans.
This is
negotiation
which transforms the
adversary
into an
ally;
(2)
hostile-the
agent attempts
to inflict
damage upon
the
adversary
which will
incapacitate
him and therefore
prevent
him from
any
longer opposing
the
agent's
endeavors. This is
aggression,
which aims
to
suppress
the
adversary.
VII.
Negotiation
The
negotiation
consists for the
agent
in
defining,
in
agreement
with the
ex-adversary
and future
ally,
the modalities of
exchange
of
services which constitute the
goal
of their alliance. But it is still neces-
sary
that the
principle
of such an
exchange
be
accepted by
both
par-
ties. The
agent
who takes such an initiative must act so as to create a
396
THE LOGIC OF NARRATIVE POSSIBILITIES
corresponding
desire in his
partner.
In order to obtain this result he
can use either seduction or intimidation. If he chooses seduction he will
try
to create the need for a service that he will offer in
exchange
for
the one he
needs;
if he chooses intimidation he tries to create fear of
the harm he can
cause,
but
spare just
as
well,
and which can act as a
payment
for the service he wants to obtain. If this
operation
succeeds
the two
partners
are
equal.
A desires a service from B as B does of A.
The conditions which make the search for an
agreement possible
are
established. There remains to
negotiate
the modalities of the ex-
change
and to
guarantee
that all
engagements
will be
faithfully
car-
ried out. The
following
is a
simplified
schema of
negotiation by
seduction:
Perspective
of the
Perspective
of the
Perspective
Common to Both Parties
Seducer Seduced Person
Aid to be received = Pact to
I be concluded
Seduction to vs. Possible need
carry
out 4
Seducing
vs. Growing awareness
process
of need
i i
Success of vs. Need conceived = Aid to be = Pact to be
seduction received concluded
i
Negotiation
Pact concluded
=
Promises to
be fulfilled
Receiving
of aid vs.
Receiving
of
= Fulfillment of
aid promises
i
Aid received vs. Aid received Promises ful-
filled
VIII.
Aggression
When he
opted
for
negotiation,
the
agent
chose to eliminate his
adversary by
an
exchange
of services which transformed him into an
ally;
when
opting
for
aggression,
he chooses to inflict an
injury
which
will do
away
with the
adversary (at
least insofar as he is an
obstacle).
From the
perspective
of the victim of
aggression,
the
beginning
of this
process
constitutes a
danger
which,
if it is to be
avoided,
will
normally
require
an act of
self-protection.
If this act fails the
following
occurs:
397
NEW LITERARY HISTORY
Perspective
of the
Aggressor
Adversary
to be
eliminated
Injury
to inflict
Elimination Aggressive
process
process
I
Adversary Injury
inflicted
eliminated
Perspective
of the Victim
of
Aggression
vs.
Danger
to be avoided
vs.
Self-protection
process
I
vs. Failure of
protection
process
In the above schema it is the
aggressor
who retains the
advantage.
However,
this is
obviously
not
always
the case. If the
adversary
seems
to have at his
disposal
efficient methods of
self-protection,
it is desir-
able for the
aggressor
to catch him off
guard.
In that case the
aggres-
sion takes on the more
complex
form of a
trap.
To use a
trap
is to act
so that the victim of
aggression,
instead of
protecting
himself as he
could,
cooperates unknowingly
with the
aggressor (by
not
doing
what
he
ought
to,
or
by doing
what he
ought
not
to).
The
trap
is set in three
stages:
first,
a
deception;
then,
if the
deception
succeeds,
an error
committed
by
the
dupe; finally,
if the
error-inducing process
is
brought
to its
conclusion,
the deceiver
exploits
his
acquired
advan-
tage,
which
places
a disarmed
adversary
at his
mercy:
Perspective
ot the
Aggressor-
Deceiver
Adversary
to
eliminate
t
Victim to
entrap
I f
Dupe
to create
I
Deception
Dupe created vs.
Dupe
created vs.
Perspective
of
the Victim of
Aggression
Possible error
I
Error-inducing
process
Error committed
Error committed
Elimina- Process of
tion
entrapment
process
Adversary
Victim
entrapped
eliminated
Perspective
ot the
Aggriessor-Deceiver
Opportunity
vs. to seize I
Injury
to
inflict
I
Taking advantage Aggressive
of
opportunity
process
Opportunity Injury
seized inflicted
398
THE LOGIC OF NARRATIVE POSSIBILITIES
The
deception,
first of the three
phases
of the
trap,
is in itself a
complex operation. Deception
consists of several actions carried on
simultaneously:
the dissimulation of what
is,
the simulation of what is
not,
and the substitution of what is not for what is in order to create a
semblance of truth to which the
dupe
reacts as if it were real. In
any
deception
two combined
operations
can thus be
distinguished,
a dis-
simulation and a simulation. Dissimulation itself is not sufficient to con-
stitute the
deception (except
insofar as it simulates the absence of
dissimulation);
neither does simulation
by
itself
suffice,
for an
open
simulation
(that
of an
actor,
for
example)
is not a
deception.
In order
to
go
after the
bait,
the
dupe
must think it real and be unaware of the
hook. The
following diagram
outlines the
deception
mechanism:
Perspective
of the Deceiver
Dupe
to be
created
I ;
X to be Non-Y to be
dissimulated
+
simulated
Deception
Dissimulation
+
Simulation
process
process process
i
Dupe X dissimulated + Non-Y simulat-
created
ed
Perspective
of the
Dupe
vs.
Appearance
of
Y believable
vs-
Convincing
process
Y believed
=
Error to
be
committed
When the classification is further
developed,
several
types
of de-
ception
can be
distinguished.
Differences are created
by
the
type
of
simulation used
by
the deceiver to
disguise
the
aggression being
planned:
(1)
the deceiver can simulate a situation
implying
the ab-
sence of
any relationship
between him and the future victim: he
pre-
tends not to be
there,
literally
(if
he
hides)
or
figuratively
(if
he
pre-
tends to be
asleep,
to look
away,
to lose his
mind,
etc.); (2)
the deceiver
can simulate
peaceful
intentions: he
proposes
an
alliance,
tries to
seduce or intimidate his
victim,
while he
secretly prepares
to break off
the
negotiations
or to
betray
the
pact;
(3)
the deceiver simulates
ag-
gressive
intentions so that the
dupe, busy defending
himself
against
an
imaginary
assault,
leaves himself
open
and defenseless
against
the
real attack.
IX. Retributions:
Recompense
and
Vengeance
The
injury
inflicted
by
the
aggressor
on his victim can be consid-
399
NEW LITERARY HISTORY
ered as a service in
reverse,
no
longer
consented to
by
the creditor but
extorted
by
the debtor and
requiring
in return the infliction of an
injury
of similar
proportions, comparable
to
receiving payment
for an
open
debt: the debtor
pays, despite
himself,
the amount of a loan he
was forced to incur. Reward for a service rendered and
vengeance
directed
against
an incurred
wrong
are the two faces of retribution.
Like
payment
for
services,
payment
for
wrongs
is the
consequence
of
a
pact
which is at times
implicit
(all
evil acts deserve
punishment,
an
eye
for an
eye, etc.),
at times
explicit, spelled
out in the terms of a
specific
alliance which outlines a threat
against breaking
a contract.
A new
type,
the
retributor,
and two
subtypes,
the
rewarding
retributor
and the
avenging
retributor,
appear
here. The retributor
is,
so to
speak,
the
guarantor
of contracts. From his
point
of view
every
service be-
comes a
good
deed which
requires
reward and
every injury
an evil
deed which calls for
punishment.
His role coincides with that of the
debtor who
pays
his debts on
time,
making up
for the
failings
of the
insolvent or recalcitrant debtor.
X.
Degradation
Process
An amelioration
process
which has been
brought
to a conclusion
brings
about a state of
equilibrium
which can
signal
the end of the
narrative. If he chooses to
go
on,
the narrator must recreate a state of
tension,
and in order to do
this,
he must introduce new obstacles or
activate
potential dangers temporarily
dormant. A
degradation pro-
cess is then initiated. At times this
process
is the result of unmotivated
and
unplanned
factors,
such as when the hero becomes
ill,
begins
to
weary,
sees new clouds come
up
over the
horizon,
without these
factors-the
illness,
the
cares,
or the
clouds-being presented
as re-
sponsible agents
endowed with
initiative,
whose actions could be con-
sidered as behavior
apt
to
bring
about a
specific
result. In this case the
degradation process
remains
unspecific
or
explained only by
bad luck
or
by
a combination of unfortunate circumstances. At other
times,
however,
it can be the result of the initiative of a
responsible agent
(a
man,
an
animal,
an
object,
an
anthropomorphic entity).
This
agent
can be the
beneficiary
himself if he commits an error which has seri-
ous
consequences;
he can be an
aggressor;
he can even be a creditor to
whom the
beneficiary
is indebted
(following
the
performance
of a
service or the infliction of an
injury). Finally,
he can be a debtor in
favor of whom the
beneficiary resolutely
chooses to sacrifice himself.
We have
already
encountered these forms of
degradation. They
are
not
only opposites
of the forms of
amelioration, but,
since it is
possible
400
THE LOGIC OF NARRATIVE POSSIBILITIES
to
pass
from one
perspective
to
another,
they
can be considered com-
plements:
(1)
degradation brought
about
by
sacrifice consented to for
the benefit of an indebted
ally corresponds
to amelioration achieved
through
service received from an allied
creditor; (2)
degradation
caused
by fulfilling
an
obligation
to an allied creditor
corresponds
to
amelioration due to a service received from an indebted
ally; (3)
deg-
radation
undergone by
submission to
aggression corresponds
to
amelioration achieved
through
the infliction of
aggression;
(4)
degra-
dation
through
error
(which
can be considered as the
opposite
of a
task:
by doing,
not what he
ought,
but what he
ought
not
to,
the
agent
attains a
goal
which is
opposite
to the one
envisaged) corresponds
to
amelioration
brought
about
by
the success of a
trap;
(5)
degradation
caused
by punishment
endured
corresponds
to amelioration realized
through vengeance
obtained.
The
degradation process
initiated
by
these factors can
develop
without
encountering
obstacles,
either because these obstacles do not
appear
on their
own,
or because no one has the desire or the
ability
to
intervene. If on the
contrary
obstacles
occur,
they
act as devices which
protect
the
satisfactory
state which came before. These devices
may
be
purely
fortuitous,
resulting
from a fortunate combination of cir-
cumstances;
they
can also
represent
the resistance of an
agent
en-
dowed with initiative. In this last case
they
form a
pattern
of acts
whose structure
depends
both on the
shape
of the
danger
and on the
tactics chosen
by
the
protector.
These
protective
devices can succeed or fail. If
they
fail,
the
degra-
dation which follows
opens
the
possibility
of
compensating
ameliora-
tion
processes
from
among
which certain
ones,
as we will
see,
take on
the form of a
reparation specifically adapted
to the
type
of
degrada-
tion
undergone.
XI. The Error
The
process
of error can be characterized as a task
accomplished
in
reverse: since he is induced to
err,
the
agent
sets in motion means
necessary
to attain a result
opposite
to his
goal
or to destr
y
the
advantages
he wants to conserve. As this reverse task
proceeds,
harmful
processes
are considered as
means,
whereas the rules made
to
gain
or
keep
an
advantage
are treated as obstacles.
The narrator can
present
these rules as if
they
were
impersonal,
deriving
from the
simple
"nature of
things";
if
they
are
transgressed,
harm is suffered
only by
the
imprudent
one
who,
by setting
off a fatal
chain of cause and
effect,
himself sanctions the error he has commit-
401
NEW LITERARY HISTORY
ted. But these rules can also be interdictions
issuing
from the will of a
legislator.
In this case it is a
question
of restrictive clauses when an
"obliging" ally
enters into a
treaty
with an
"obliged" ally.
The latter
is
urged
to observe them in order to
profit
from or
go
on
profiting
from a service
(to
stay
in
Eden, etc.).
Transgression
of the rule harms
the
"ally-creditor,"
and it is this
injury
which
may bring
about the
intervention of a retributor
punishing
the
betrayal
of the
pact.
The
error
consists,
in this
case,
not in the infraction
itself,
but in the
illusion of
being
able to break the rules with
impunity.
Since the fault is
primarily
caused
by
blindness,
this form of
degra-
dation
brings
on a
specific
form of
protection,
either a
warning
which
forestalls the error or an
attempt
at
enlightenment
which
dissipates
the illusion. Sometimes events
opportunely
take over the
protection
process;
in other cases shrewd allies assume the task. When
stating
or
restating
the
rule,
they
tend to incarnate it even if
they
did not
origi-
nate
it;
if the
dupe ignores
their
advice,
this stubbornness is
injurious
to
them,
and the
catastrophe
which follows acts at the same time as the
punishment
for this new
transgression.
While the
ally
who incarnates the rule is treated as an
adversary,
the
adversary
who
helps
to break it is treated as an
ally.
If he is unaware of
the
consequences
of the
pseudohelp
he is
furnishing,
he himself is a
dupe;
but if he is aware of
them,
he is a deceiver. In the latter case the
deception
takes
place
as the
preparatory phase
of a
trap,
in an
ag-
gression
maneuver.
Degradation resulting
from an error can mark the end of the nar-
rative. The
meaning
of such a
story
is contained in the difference
between the desired
goal
and the
actually
achieved result: the
psychological opposition
which
corresponds
to this
meaning
is
pre-
sumption
vs. humiliation. If the narrator chooses to
go
on,
he
disposes
of the various
types
of amelioration which we have
pointed
out.
Among
these, however,
there is one which is
specifically
suited to
repairing
the
consequences
of the error because it
represents
the
opposite process:
that
is,
the
completion
of a task
through
which the
agent,
this time with
adequate
means,
uses his
ability
to reinstate the
prosperity
ruined
by
his foolishness.
XII. The Debt
We have
already
discussed the case of amelioration obtained
through
the assistance of an
ally-creditor.
This loan which
requires
the
beneficiary
to
pay
his debt later on
provokes
a
degradation phase.
This will occur in the same
way
each time the one who is
"obligated"
is
402
THE LOGIC OF NARRATIVE POSSIBILITIES
required
to
perform
an
unpleasant duty. Obligation,
as we have
seen,
can result from a
properly
drawn
up
contract
explained
in a
previous
phase
of the narrative
(e.g., selling
one's soul to the
devil).
It can also
derive from the "natural"
dispositions
of
society:
a son must
obey
his
father,
a vassal his
lord,
etc.
Called
upon
to
perform
his
duty,
the debtor can
try
to
protect
himself
against
the threat of
degradation.
His creditor becomes an
aggressor
from whom he tries to
escape
either
by breaking
contact
(by fleeing)
or
by peaceful
and honest means
(by negotiating
a revi-
sion of the
contract)
or
by aggressive
means
(by provoking
a test of
strength
or
setting
a
trap).
In a case where he thinks he has been the
victim of
deceit,
avoiding
his
promises aggressively
seems to him not
only
an act of
self-defense,
but a
way
of
reestablishing justice.
From
the
perspective
of the
creditor,
on the other
hand,
avoiding
the
promises
doubles the debt: the debtor will have to
pay
not
only
for a
service but also for an
injury.
If,
on the other
hand,
the debtor cannot or will not shirk his
duties,
if he honors them
willingly,
or if he is
despite
himself forced to fulfill
them,
his
resulting
state of
degradation
can mark the end of the
narrative
(e.g.,Jephthah's Daughter).
If the narrator wants to
go
on,
he
can resort to the various forms of amelioration that we have men-
tioned. One of
them, nevertheless,
is
privileged:
it consists of trans-
forming
the
accomplishment
of the task into a sacrifice
worthy
of
merit,
which in its turn
requires recompense. Paying
the debt is
thereby
turned into a
reopening
of credit.
XIII. The Sacrifice
Whereas other forms of
degradation
are
processes
which must be
endured,
sacrifice is a
voluntary
act,
performed
with the idea of ac-
quiring
merit or at least of
becoming worthy
of reward. A sacrifice
occurs
every
time an
ally
renders a service without
being
so
obliged,
whether a
pact spells
out the
expected
return
payment
or such
pay-
ment is left to the discretion of a retributor.
Sacrifice thus
presents
the twofold
aspect
of
precluding protection
and of
calling
for
reparation. Normally,
the sacrificial
process
must
proceed
to a conclusion with the
help
of the victim
(if
the sacrifice
appears
to be
folly,
allies can
give warnings,
but this
protection
is
carried out
against
the
decision,
which constitutes an
error,
and not
against
the sacrifice
itself).
On the other
hand,
degradation resulting
from a sacrifice calls for a
reparation
in the form of
recompense,
and
it is at this
stage
that
protection
can intervene. The
pact,
with the
guarantees
(oaths,
hostages,
etc.)
which
accompany
it,
so
provides.
403
NEW LITERARY HISTORY
XIV.
Aggression
Endured
Endured
aggression
differs from other
types
of
degradation
in that
it results from behavior which
intentionally proposes committing
harm as an end to an action. To attain his
goal,
an
enemy
can either
act
directly
with a frontal attack or maneuver
obliquely, trying
to
bring
about and use other forms of
degradation.
Two of these are
well suited to this maneuver:
error,
through
which the victim of
ag-
gression,
led to err
by
his
enemy,
lets himself be led into a
trap;
obligation, through
which the victim of
aggression,
bound to his
ag-
gressor by
an irrevocable
engagement,
must
perform
a
duty
which
ruins him
(it
happens frequently
that the
aggressor
combines the two
processes:
he deceives his victim
by suggesting
a
bargain
which fools
him,
then eliminates him
by requiring
the execution of the
contract).
The victim of
aggression
has the choice of
protecting
himself or
not. If he chooses
protection,
the available means can be
regrouped
into three
strategies:
first,
to
try
to
suppress
all
relationships
with the
aggressor,
to
escape
from his field of
action, toflee; next,
to
accept
the
relationship
with
him,
but to
try
to transform the hostile
rapport
into
a
peaceful rapport,
to
negotiate
(see above);
finally,
to
accept
the hos-
tile
relationship,
but to render blow for
blow,
to
give
battle.
If these
protective
measures are
inefficient,
the
aggressor
inflicts
the
expected damage.
The state of
degradation
which results can
indicate the end of the narration for the victim. If the narrator
chooses to
continue,
a
phase dealing
with
reparation
of the
injury
is
opened.
This can be achieved
according
to
any
of the modalities of
amelioration which we have defined
(the
victim can
get
better,
can
take on the task of
repairing
the
harm,
can receive charitable
help,
can turn
against
other
enemies,
etc.). However,
in addition to these
measures,
a
specific
form of
reparation
exists:
vengeance,
which,
rather than restore to the victim
payment equivalent
to the
damages
incurred,
inflicts on the
aggressor
the
equivalent
of the harm he
caused.
XV. Punishment
From the
perspective
of a retributor
any
inflicted
injury
can be-
come an evil deed to be
punished.
From the
point
of view of the
accused,
the retributor is an
aggressor,
and the
punitive
action he
begins
is a threat of
degradation.
The accused
may
either submit to or
defend himself
against
the
danger
thus created. In the latter
case,
the
three
strategies
indicated
above-flight, negotiation,
test of
404
THE LOGIC OF NARRATIVE POSSIBILITIES
strength-are equally possible.
However,
we will concern ourselves
here
only
with
negotiation,
for it
supposes
the collaboration of the
retributor and refers us to an examination of the conditions in which
he
may
allow himself to be
persuaded
to
give up
his task. In order for
the situation, Evil deed to be
punished,
to
disappear
or at least to be no
longer perceived,
one of the three roles
(the
guilty person,
the
victim,
or the retributor
himself)
must lose its
designation.
The victim is
disqualified by
a
pardon
which enables the retributor to reestablish the
normal conditions of a
pact
between the former
guilty party
and the
victim. Pardon is
always
conditional,
for it
retroactively
transforms the
injury
inflicted into a service obtained and demands a
proportional
service in
exchange.
The retributor
disqualifies
himself
by corruption
(obtained by
seduction or
intimidation)
which establishes between the
guilty party
and himself the
relationship
of
parties
to a
pact
(he
transforms the harm to be inflicted on the
guilty
one into a service to
be rendered him and obtains in
exchange
a
proportionate
service).
Finally,
the
guilty
one is
disqualified by
the dissimulation of his evil
deed. He induces the retributor to err
by pretending
to be innocent or
possibly by having
an innocent
person appear guilty
in his
place.
If these
protective
measures
fail,
the
degradation
which results
from the
punishment
can mark the end of the
narration,
which is in
this case constructed
according
to the
opposition
Evil deed/Punishment.
If the narrator chooses to
go
on,
he must introduce an amelioration
obtained
through
sacrifice:
corresponding
to the evil deed-which is
an
attempt
at undeserved amelioration
carrying
with it a
degradation
through punishment-is redemption,
which is an
attempt
at meri-
torious
degradation carrying
with it the rehabilitation of the
guilty
one,
according
to the schema:
Downfall
>
Redemption
Undeserving
Deserved Meritorious Deserved
Amelioration->
Degradation Degradation
- Amelioration
(evil deed) (punishment) (good
deed)
(recompense)
Amelioration,
degradation, reparation:
the narrative circle is now
closed,
opening
the
possibility
of new
degradations
followed
by
new
reparations according
to a
cycle
which can
repeat
itself
indefinitely.
Each of the
phases
can itself be
developed
ad infinitum. But in the
course of its
development
it will become
specified, through
a series of
alternative
choices,
into a
hierarchy
of enclaved
sequences, always
the
same,
which
exhaustively
determine the field of the narratable. The
linking
of functions in the
elementary sequence,
then of
elementary
sequences
in a
complex sequence,
is both free and controlled at the
405
NEW LITERARY HISTORY
same time: free
(for
the narrator must at
every
moment choose the
continuation of his
story)
and controlled
(for
the narrator's
only
choice,
after each
option,
is between the two discontinuous and con-
tradictory
terms of an
alternative).
It is therefore
possible
to draw
up
a
priori
the
integral
network of choices
offered;
to name and to
place
in the
sequence
each
type
of event
brought
about
by
these
choices;
to
link these
sequences organically
in the
unity
of a
role;
to coordinate
the
complementary
roles which define the evolution of a
situation;
to
link evolutions in a narration which is at one and the same time
unpredictable (because
of the
play
of available
combinations)
and
codifiable
(because
of the stable
properties
and the finite number of
combined
elements).
At the same time this
production
of narrative
types
is a
structuring
of human behavior
patterns
acted out or
undergone. They
furnish
the narrator with the model and substance of an
organized
evolution
which is
indispensable
to him and which he could not find elsewhere.
Whether it be desired or
feared,
their end rules over an
arrangement
of actions which succeed one another and form hierarchies and
dichotomies
according
to an inviolable order. When
man,
in real
life,
maps
out a
plan, explores
in his mind the
possible developments
of a
situation,
reflects on the course of action
undertaken,
remembers the
phases
of a
past
event,
he forms the first narrations of which we can
conceive.
Inversely,
the narrator who wants to order the
chronolog-
ical succession of the events he is
relating,
to
give
them a
meaning,
has
no other recourse but to link them
together
in the
unity
of an action
directed toward an end.
Thus to the
elementary
narrative
types correspond
the most
gen-
eral forms of human behavior.
Task, contract, error,
trap,
etc.,
are
universal
categories.
The network of their internal articulations and
of their mutual
relationships
defines the field of
possible experience
a
priori. By constructing
from the
simplest
narrative
forms,
sequences,
roles,
and series of more and more
complex
and differentiated situa-
tions,
we can establish the bases of a classification of the
types
of
narration; moreover,
we define a framework of reference for the
comparative study
of these behavior
patterns
which,
always
identical
in their basic
structure,
are diversified ad infinitum
according
to an
inexhaustible
play
of combinations and
options, according
to
cultures,
periods, genres,
schools,
and
personal styles. Although
it is a tech-
nique
of
literary analysis,
the
semiology
of narrative draws its
very
existence and its wealth from its roots in
anthropology.
406
THE LOGIC OF NARRATIVE POSSIBILITIES
Postface
My
first
reaction,
after
rereading my
1966
essay,
is a
sigh
of relief: I
need
deny nothing
of what I wrote at that time. Then
my
relief is
colored
by
new
misgivings:
what
progress
have I made in the last
fourteen
years?
And how can I
explain my groping attempts,
not
yet
brought
to
fulfillment,
to
apply
this method to diverse
corpora
of
narrative?
I must then admit that this
description,
as accurate as it still
may
seem
to
me,
stops
short of its stated
project.
It is not
false,
but it is not
economical.
Scorning
the
principle
maximum
effectum
minimo
sumptu,
it
tolerates a
plurality
of concurrent solutions for the
coding
of each
text.
Consequently,
it does not
provide
the instrument needed for a
clear characterization and an
indisputable
classification of the events
of the narrative. A
patient attempt
to
bring together categories
of
analysis,
to reduce the number of
pertinent
actions,
and to
grade
these units
according
to their
degree
of
generality
or
specificity
must
still be undertaken in order to make this model
operative.
Having
learned from
experience,
how would I rewrite this text
today?
Without
attempting
to
explain
all the details of
my present
method,
I shall
try
to indicate its
general
direction in relation to a
central
point.
Moreover,
the 1966
analysis
will authorize me to take
certain shortcuts.
Any plot
can be divided into a series of simultaneous or successive
events
(or
"processes").
There are two
types
of
processes:
on the one
hand,
those that tend to
modify
the
situation;
on the
other,
those that
tend to
preserve
it.
According
to another
division,
each time that these
processes
affect human characters
(or
anthropomorphic beings), they
are
presented by
the narrative as
being favorable
or
unfavorable
to
these characters.
By intersecting
these two distinctions we will con-
struct four fundamental
processes:
Process: Favorable
Unfavorable
Modification:
Amelioration
Degradation
Preservation: Protection Frustration
Certain essential narrative
schemata,
like the
opposing
retributive
sequences
Merit--Reward and
Blame--Punishment,
can be
easily
analyzed according
to the
positions envisaged by
this
diagram (which
is,
of
course,
an
adaptation
of the
logical
construct known as "Aristo-
tle's
Square"):
407
NEW LITERARY HISTORY
(1)
Merit and Blame
Amelioration:
X
acquires
merit
Protection:
X avoids
acquiring
blame
Degradation:
X
acquires
blame
Frustration:
X fails to
acquire
merit
(2)
Retributions
Amelioration:
X rewards Y
Protection:
X
protects
Y from
punishment
Degradation:
X
punishes
Y
Frustration:
X
deprives
Y of
reward
The situation becomes more
complex
when the narrative
presents
not
only
one character who is
solely
an
agent
or a
patient,
but several
characters
mutually
related, i.e.,
agents
and
patients
at the same time.
Indeed,
in this case each one acts on himself in order to act on the
other,
or acts on the other in order to act on himself. He treats himself
as an end and treats the other as a
means,
or he treats the other as an
end and
consequently
treats himself as a means. The character
treated as a means can be assimilated with a
patient
victim,
the
character treated as an end with a
patient beneficiary:
the
first,
in
fact,
undergoes
a
degradation
which
"buys"
the amelioration of the sec-
ond,
or a frustration which
"buys"
the
protection
from which the
second benefits. If we call the
agent
X and the other character
Y,
the
relationships
between X and
Y,
such as
they
are determined
by
X's
action,
can be inscribed as follows in our
square:
Amelioration of X
(end) Degradation
of X
(means)
by
Degradation
of Y
(means)
Protection of X
(end)
by
Frustration of Y
(means)
for
Amelioration of Y
(end)
Frustration of X
(means)
for
Protection of Y
(end)
The
degradation
and
thefrustration
of the character who serves as a
means can take two forms: the
peaceable
form of the
prestation
of
services,
the hostile form of
aggression.
There result two
specifications
of the
preceding diagram:
408
THE LOGIC OF NARRATIVE POSSIBILITIES
(1)
Prestations
Amelioration
of
X:
X obtains a benefit from Y
Protection
of
X:
X avoids
furnishing
a
benefit to Y
(2)
Aggressions
Amelioration
of
X:
X assaults Y
Protection
of
X:
X avoids Y's assault
Degradation of
X:
X furnishes a benefit to Y
Frustration
of
X:
X fails to receive a
benefit from Y
Degradation of
X:
X
exposes
himself to Y's
assault
Frustration
of
X:
X fails to assault Y
Information
processes
can be considered as
specific
cases of
presta-
tion
(if
the
information,
being
true,
acts as a
revelation),
or of
aggres-
sion
(if
the
information,
being
false,
acts as a
deception,
an inducement
to
err).
This situation
produces
the
following
two
squares:
(1)
Revelations
Amelioration
of
X
by
Degradation
of
Y:
X obtains a revelation
from Y
Protection
of
X
by
Frustration
of
Y:
X hides from Y that ...
(2)
Inducements to err
Amelioration
of
X
by
Degradation of
Y:
X induces Y to err
Protection
of
X
by
Frustration
of
Y:
X discovers Y's
deception
Degradation of
X
for
Amelioration
of
Y:
X furnishes Y with a
revelation
Frustration
of
X
for
Protection
of
Y:
X fails to obtain the
revelation furnished
by
Y
Degradation of
X
for
Amelioration
of
Y:
X lets himself be induced
to err
by
Y
Frustration
of
X
for
Protection
of
Y:
X fails to induce Y to err
409
NEW LITERARY HISTORY
The
processes
of
influence, through
which one
agent
motivates an-
other to
adopt
a certain
plan
of
action, can,
in the same
way,
be
subdivided,
on the one hand into a
process
of
persuasion
(which
leads
to a
modification),
on the
other,
into a
process
ofdissuasion
(which
leads
to
preservation).
In another
respect they
can also be divided into two
categories, according
to whether
they
induce the
agent
to
perform
an
act
favorable
or
unfavorable
to himself. The influence
process
which
induces the
agent
to
perform
a
modificatory
act which is favorable to
him is
seduction;
the one which induces the
agent
to
perform
a mod-
ificatory
act which is unfavorable to him is the
notification of
duties;
the
one which induces the
agent
to
perform
a favorable
preservative
act is
intimidation;
finally,
the one which leads the
agent
to an unfavorable
preservative
act is interdiction:
Inducement of X
To Perform an Act: Favorable
Unfavorable
Modificatory
Seduction Notification of
(=
desire of Duties
amelioration) (-
duty
of
degradation)
Preservative Intimidation
Interdiction
(fear
of
degradation)
(=
duty
of
nonamelioration)
These few indications should suffice to measure the
progress
made
in the last fourteen
years.
It seems to me that the most serious fault
was to have
attempted
to construct the network of narrative
pos-
sibilities
taking explicitly
into account
only
the
modificatory processes
(essentially
amelioration and
degradation). Every
action, however,
is
coupled
with a reaction. The
modificatory processes
are
continually
exposed
to
blockage by preservative counter-processes (essentially
frustration
and
protection).
The
dynamics
of the
plot
rest on the con-
stant tension between these
contrary
forces,
on the
repeated
imbal-
ances which affect the situation to the benefit of some and to the
detriment of others.
Although
I was aware of these
facts,
my
first
construction does not strike an
equal
balance between the modifica-
tory processes
and the
preservative processes:
the latter
are,
so to
speak, envisaged only through pretermission.
In the
elementary
se-
quence,
nonactualization of the
virtuality
stands
opposite
to its ac-
tualization,
the failure of the
engaged
action to its success: these ne-
gations
of modification carve in
intaglio
a
place
for the
process
of
preservation.
But this solution errs in that it
envisages preservation only
as the
simple
absence of
modification
and not as an action
having
the
same
degree
of
reality
and
calling
for the same
attempt
at
categoriza-
410
THE LOGIC OF NARRATIVE POSSIBILITIES
tion and at
decomposition
into
sequences.
Further
on,
when the
analysis
takes
up processes
of
preservation
(protection,
in
particular,
forfrustration
is not
mentioned),
the correlation which makes the two
types
of
processes interdependent
is not
recognized. Failing
this ar-
ticulation,
the
system grows
lax,
bringing
about
by degrees
a
wavering
of all our
categories
of actions.
Another correlation which was
neglected
in 1966 and which
my
present
method masters more
easily
is the
reciprocity
of the roles of
patient
and
agent.
The same actions
(amelioration
and
degradation,
for
example)
can be considered in relation to a
patient's
role
(the
benefi-
ciary,
the
victim)
or to an
agent's
role
(the ameliorator,
the
degrader).
Instead of
recording
these roles
separately (according
to the 1966
version),
we can condense these two
interdependent
roles into a
single
formula
(as
in the
present
form,
Xfurnishes
a
benefit
to
Y).
This second
option
is
obviously
more economical. It will no doubt be
necessary
to
take into account cases in which no
specific agent
bears the
responsi-
bility
of the action
engaged upon
("the
patient gets
well" rather than
"the doctor cures the
patient").
But these borderline cases can be
treated as various zero
degrees
of the
specification
of the
agent
and
do not
really
cause
any difficulty.
In the same
way,
the 1966 model was rather awkward in its
ap-
proach
to the case of an
agent
who undertakes a task in order to better
or to
degrade
his own
fate,
a case which
is, moreover,
too universal to
be
pertinent.
Our
present
solution
accomplishes
a double
simplifica-
tion: on the one hand it unifies the roles of
agent
and
patient
in a
formula which condenses them
(X
betters
X);
on the other hand it
reduces the amelioration of X
by
X to a
particular
case
ofprestation
(X
obtains a
benefit from
X or
Xfurnishes
a
benefit
to
X).
The
very
abstract
categories
of
modification
and
preservation,
of
amelioration and
degradation,
of
protection
andfrustration
have not been
eliminated. Much to the
contrary, they
build more
thoroughly
than
ever the armature of the narrative
system.
These
categories
make
possible
the first division of the
narrative,
its scansion. But their
very
generality
makes them
inapt
for
characterizing
actions. Their combi-
nation with the notions
ofprestation
and
aggression
makes it
possible
to
replace
them
by
a set of
categories
much more
concretely
determined,
thanks to which our
present
model can
hope
to achieve more
satisfy-
ing
results at a lesser cost.
CENTRE D'ETUDES TRANSDISCIPLINAIRES. PARIS
(Translated by
Elaine D.
Cancalon)
411

The Logic of Narrative Possibilities*
Claude Bremond I
EMIOLOGICAL STUDY of narrative can be divided into two parts: on the one hand, an analysis of the techniques of narrative; on the other, a search for the laws which govern the narrated matter. These laws themselves depend upon two levels of organization: they reflect the logical constraint that any series of events, organized as narrative, must respect in order to be intelligible; and they add to these constraints, valid for all narrative, the conventions of their particular universe which is characteristic of a culture, a period, a literary genre, a narrator's style, even of the narration itself. After examining the method used by Vladimir Propp to discover the specific characteristics of one of these particular domains, that of the Russian folktale, I became convinced of the need to draw a map of the logical possibilities of narrative as a preliminary to any description of a specific literary genre. Once this is accomplished, it will be feasible to attempt a classification of narrative based on structural characteristics as precise as those which help botanists and biologists to define the aims of their studies. But this widening perspective entails the need for a less rigorous method. Let us recall and spell out the modifications which seem indispensable: First, the basic unit, the narrative atom, is still thefunction, applied as in Propp, to actions and events which, when grouped in sequences, generate the narrative. Second, a first grouping of three functions creates the elementary sequence.This triad corresponds to the three obligatory phases of any process: a function which opens the process in the form of an act to be carried out or of an event which is foreseen; a function which achieves this virtuality in the form of an actual act or event; and a function which closes the process in the form of an attained result. Third, the foregoing differ from Propp's method in that none of these functions lead necessarily to the following function in the sequence. On the contrary, when the function which opens the se* This article is a translation of "La Logique des possibles narratifs," Communications,8 (1966), 60-76. Copyright) 1980 by New LiteraryHistory, The University of Virginia

within the perspective of a single role. The network of possibilities opened in this way by the elementary sequence follows this pattern: Goal attained (e. the narrator always has the choice of having it followed by the act or of maintaining it in a state of virtuality: when an act is presented as having to be realized. the actualization of the act or of the event can just as well take place as not. for example: Evil to perform 1 1 Evildoing Evil performed = Deed to be avenged Process of revenge Deed avenged The symbol = which we have used signifies that the same event simultaneously fulfills. impediment to action) The elementary sequences combine so as to produce complex sequences.388 NEW LITERARY HISTORY quence is proposed. the event can follow or not follow its course up to the end which was foreseen.g.. These combinations are realized according to variable configurations. inertia. from the perspective of an avenger. he still has the choice of allowing the process to continue on to its conclusion. In our example.g. two distinct functions. the same reprehensible action is qualified. act successful) Goal not attained (e. act necessaryto goal) Virtaattain Absence of actualization (e.. If the narrator chooses to actualize the act or the event.g. (2) The enclave. or he can stop it on the way: the act can attain or fail to attain its goal. as the end of a process (evildoing) in relation to which he plays the passive role of witness and as the opening of another process in which he will play an active role (punishment).g.. goal to be obtained) Actualization (e..g. act fails) Virtuality (e. Here are the most typical: (1) The end-to-end series.. for example: 1 . or if an event is foreseen.

The enclave is the mainspring of the specification mechanisms of sequences: in this case. We will attempt to arrive at a logical reconstitution of the starting points and directions of the narrative network. etc. vs. the latter can in turn include a third. Evil to commit 1 Evildoing 1 Evil committed = Deed to avenge The symbol vs. This tableau . In this way we will draw up a tableau of model sequences. which acts as a link between the two sequences means that the same event which fulfills a function a from the perspective of an agent A fulfills a function b when we shift to B's perspective. the bifurcations at which the major branches split and so engender subtypes. along each distance covered. must include another which acts as a means for the first. (3) "Coupling. It could have become specified as an obliging process (recompense) if a service had been performed. This ability to perform a systematic conversion of points of view and to formulate the rules of such a conversion will make it possible to delineate the spheres of action corresponding to the diverse roles (or dramatis personae). Without pretending to explore each itinerary through to its final ramifications."for example: Damage to inflict 1 Aggressive process 1 Damage inflicted vs. These are the rules which will be tested in the following pages. the process of retribution becomes more specifically an aggressive process (punitive action) corresponding to the function evil committed. In our example the borderline passes between an aggressor's sphere of action and that of an administrator of justice from whose perspective the aggression is equivalent to an evil deed. much less numerous than one might imagine and from among which the storyteller must necessarily choose. taking into account. vs. we will try to follow the main arteries.THE LOGIC OF NARRATIVE POSSIBILITIES 389 Evil committed = Deed to avenge Damage to inflict Avenging process Deed avenged Aggressive process Damage inflicted This arrangement appears when a process. in order to attain its goal.

but only chronology. but rather description (if the objects of the discourse are associated through spatial contiguity). there can be no narrative.390 NEW LITERARY HISTORY itself will become the basis for a classification of the roles assumed by the characters in the story. let us specify the modalities according to which amelioration and degradation combine in a narrative: (1) By end-to-end succession. Without succession there is no narrative. II. The Narrative Cycle All narrative consists of a discourse which integrates a sequence of events of human interest into the unity of a single plot. According to whether they favor or oppose this plan. It can immediately be seen that narration can alternate phases of amelioration and degradation according to a continuous cycle: . Finally. where there is no implied human interest (narrated events neither being produced by agents nor experienced by anthropomorphic beings). Before examining the various sequences. for it is only in relation to a plan conceived by man that events gain meaning and can be organized into a structured temporal sequence. the events of a given narrative can be classed under two basic types which develop according to the following sequences: Ameliorationobtained Amelioration to obtain Process of amelioration No process of amelioration Process of' Degradation produced Degradation avoided - Amelioration not obtained Degradation expected degradation No process of degradation Each elementary sequence which we will eventually isolate is a specification of one or the other of these two categories. Neither does narrative exist without integration into the unity of a plot. which thus establishes the first principle of dichotomous classification. lyrical effusion (if they evoke one another through metaphor or metonymy). deduction (if these objects imply one another). an enunciation of a succession of uncoordinated facts.

and this is not quite so obvious. chronic plague. this alternation is not only possible but necessary. only an amelioration is possible. Rightfully. inasmuch as the improvement brought about by the first still leaves something to be desired.THE LOGIC OF NARRATIVE POSSIBILITIES 391 Ameliorationto obtain Processof amelioration Degradation produced Processof degradation Possibledegradation = t t I = Ameliorationobtained I However. of course. something must happen which will bring a modification. The still relatively deficient condition which results acts as a point of departure for the new amelioration phase. desire for knowledge. For this beginning to develop. By implying this lack. but the still relatively satisfying state which can only be degraded. Let us consider the beginning of a story which presents a deficiency affecting an individual or a group (in the form of poverty.The departure point of the new phase of degradation is not the degraded condition. however. the narrator introduces the equivalent of a phase of degradation. two amelioration processes cannot follow one another. But in this case the deficiency which marks the end of the first degradation is not the real point of departure of the second.). etc. (2) By enclave. The failure of a process of amelioration or degradation in progress may result from the insertion of a reverse process which prevents it from reaching its normal conclusion. In what direction? One might suppose either toward amelioration or degradation. Misfortune may. This intermediary interruption-this reprieve-is functionally equivalent to a period of amelioration. Likewise. grow worse. stupidity. There are narratives in which misfortunes follow one after the other so that each degradation brings on another. which can only be improved. or at least to a phase which represents the preservation of what can still be saved. the situation must evolve. In this case we have the following schemata: Possible degradation Amelioration process = Possible degradation I Degradation process = Amelioration to obtain I Degradation process I Amelioration process Degradation avoided = Amelioration obtained I Amelioration not obtained = Degradation accomplished . love. lack of a male heir. illness.

If he simply says that the hero solves his problems or that he gets well. These definitions are reversed when passing from one perspective to another.. of the notions of Hero. III. if the hero regains his beauty thanks to a compassionate fairy. vs. Rather than outline the narrative structure in relation to a privileged point of view-the hero's or the narrator's-the patterns that are herein developed will integrate the many perspectives belonging to diverse agents into the unity of a single schema. if the cure is the result of a medication or of a doctor's efforts. this simultaneity becomes possible when the event affects at one and the same time two agents moved by opposing interests: the degradation of the fate of the one coincides with the amelioration of the fate of the other. etc. the further this differentiation can be carried .392 NEW LITERARY HISTORY (3) By coupling. Villain. his riches because of an advantageous transaction. vs. On the contrary. The same sequence of events cannot at the same time and in relation to the same agent be characterized both as amelioration and degradation. these specifications which deal with the contents of the development without specifying how it comes about cannot help us to characterize its structure. adversaries. Each agent is his own hero. handsome. etc. or his wits following the resolutions he makes after committing an error. On the contrary. then we can use the articulations within these operations to differentiate diverse types of amelioration: the more detail the narrative provides. This produces the following schema: Ameliorationto obtain 1 Amelioration process 1 Amelioration obtained vs. or rich. The narrator can limit himself to indicating an amelioration process without explicitly outlining its phases. becomes good. if he tells us that the hero solves his problems after a long period of trials. Possibledegradation I Degradation process I Degradation achieved The fact that it is possible and indeed necessary to change viewpoints from the perspective of one agent to that of another is capital for the remainder of our study. conceived as labels and attached once and for all to the characters. His partners are defined from his point of view as allies. at our level of analysis. Amelioration Process out. It implies the rejection.

In addition.THE LOGIC OF NARRATIVE POSSIBILITIES 393 Let us first consider things from the perspective of the beneficiary of the amelioration. no longer as an inert means. also endowed with initiative and his own interests: this agent is an . rather than being ascribed to chance. the obstacle confronted by the agent can also be represented by an agent. His perspective can remain in a potential state. In this case neither he nor anyone else bears the responsibility for having brought together and activated the means which overturned the obstacle. the beneficiary of the amelioration. who benefits passively from a fortunate combination of circumstances. The elimination of the obstacle implies intervening factors which act as means taken against the obstacle and in favor of the beneficiary. but as one endowed with initiative and with his own interests: he is an ally. Things "turned out well" without anyone's having seen to them. On the other hand. the agent who assumes the task for the benefit of a passive beneficiary acts. in relation to that beneficiary. So that if the narrator chooses to develop this episode. (It should be understood that the beneficiary is not necessarily aware of the process engaged in his favor. is attributed to the intervention of an agent endowed with initiative who assumes it as a task to accomplish. There is no such solitude when the amelioration. which implies that it takes on the structure of a network of ends and means which can be analyzed ad infinitum. this transformation introduces two new roles: on the one hand. his narrative will follow the schema: Ameliorationto obtain Obstacleto eliminate Possiblemeans 1 Means to be taken Means successful Amelioration process Elimia tn Elimination process Ameliorationobtained Obstacle eliminated At this stage we may be dealing with a single dramatis persona. like that of Sleeping Beauty while she waits for her Prince Charming.) His initial state of deficiency implies the presence of an obstacle which prevents the realization of a more satisfying state. The amelioration process is then organized into behavior.

then the structure of the measures taken to eliminate it-intentionally. from the ally's point of view. Completion of the Task The narrator can limit himself to mentioning the performance of the task. not be given a motive by the narrator. The agent can be lacking these means. or materially if he does not have the necessary tools at his disposal. V.394 NEW LITERARY HISTORY adversary. can be dealt with in two ways: things either work out by themselves (heaven may unexpectedly provide the sought-for solution) or an agent may assume the task of arranging them. in the form of an agent who takes charge of the amelioration process.In order to take these new dimensions into account we must examine: the structure of the completion of the task and its possible developments. In this case. perhaps intellectually if he is ignorant of what he must do. IV. The recognition of this lack is equivalent to a phase of degradation which. If he chooses to develop this episode. This exchange itself can assume three forms: either (1) the aid is received by the beneficiary in exchange for assistance which he himself offers his ally in an exchange of simultaneous services: the two parameters are in this case jointly responsible for the accomplishment of a task of mutual interest. in this case. and the modalities and the consequences of the action undertaken against an adversary. Things are quite different when the intervention is motivated. In that case the aid is a sacrifice consented to within the framework of an exchange of services. . by the merits of the beneficiary. In this case one cannot really speak of the intervention of an ally: deriving from fortuitous encounter between two tales. this new agent acts as an ally intervening for the benefit of the first who becomes in turn the passive beneficiary of the assistance thus given him. as before. takes on the specific form of a problem to solve and which. or that it be explained by motives having no link with the beneficiary (if the aid is involuntary). the full details of the alliance relationship brought about by the intervention of an ally.or (3) the aid is offered in the hope of future compensation: in this case the ally acts as the beneficiary's creditor. the amelioration is the product of chance. or (2) the aid is offered in gratitude for a past service: in this case the ally acts as the beneficiary's debtor. he must make clear first the nature of the obstacle encountered. and not by chance this time. Intervention of the Ally It is possible that the ally's intervention.

" "to toil. If A receives B's aid in order to achieve amelioration a. or of two interdependent characters." he splits into two dramatis personae and becomes his own ally. The narrative will follow the schema: (beneficiary of aid) Perspectiveof A Perspectiveof B (obliging ally) Perspectiveof A (obligated ally) (beneficiary of Perspectiveof B aid) Aid to be revs.THE LOGIC OF NARRATIVE POSSIBILITIES 395 Three types of allies and three narrative structures are thus determined by the chronological ordering of the services exchanged. the debtor-act according to a pact which regulates the exchange of services and guarantees the repayment of services rendered. the role configuration remains identical: the amelioration is obtained through the sacrifice of an ally whose interests are the same as those of the beneficiary. A becomes B's debtor and will be obliged in turn to help B achieve amelioration b. Aid received The three types of allies that we have just distinguished-the interdependent associate. Their roles then take on the following form: for example. Possible ceived service 1 I Receiving of aid vs. Serviceable action $i ~ ~ Aid received vs. Service vs. Rather than coincide. In a final stage there could be a single character split into two roles: when an unhappy hero decides to right his fate by "helping himself." etc. A and B must each obtain an amelioration distinct from that of the other. the perspectives oppose one another when the beneficiary and his ally form the couple creditor/debtor. Receiving of aid debt 1 I Debt discharged vs. Aid to be received I Discharging of vs.) whose purpose is to pay the price of an amelioration. Sometimes this pact remains implicit (it is understood that hard work is worthy of payment. Debt to be accomplished discharged 1 vs. the creditor. a sacrifice (a fact which is supported by the expressions "to do something with great pain. If two associates are jointly interested in the completion of a single task. that a son must . Whether it is a question of a single character who divides in two. The completion of the task represents a voluntary degradation. the perspective of the beneficiary and that of the ally come so close together as to coincide: each one is the beneficiary of his own efforts united with those of his ally.

Just as it was necessary to search for means before implementing them when their lack constituted an obstacle to the completion of the task. the abstention of a future ally makes of him an adversary who has to be convinced. spelled out in the narrative more or less specifically. But it is still necessary that the principle of such an exchange be accepted by both parties.): in that case there is only a fortuitous amelioration.396 NEW LITERARY HISTORY obey the father who gave him life. others take on the form of adversaries. Taking into account only cases where the elimination of the adversary is attributable to the initiative of an agent. becomes more accommodating with age. Within the framework of this preliminary task. The agent who takes such an initiative must act so as to create a . This is aggression. some. agents endowed with initiative who can react through chosen acts to the procedures undertaken against them. etc.). soon to be discussed. Negotiation The negotiation consists for the agent in defining. present only an inert force. as we have seen. This is negotiation which transforms the adversary into an ally. We need not consider the case in which the adversary disappears without the agent's bearing the responsibility for his elimination (if he dies of natural causes. sometimes the pact is the result of a particular negotiation. in agreement with the ex-adversary and future ally. etc. Elimination of the Adversary Among the obstacles which prevent the completion of a task. that a slave obey the master who saved his life. the modalities of exchange of services which constitute the goal of their alliance. (2) hostile-the agent attempts to inflict damage upon the adversary which will incapacitate him and therefore prevent him from any longer opposing the agent's endeavors. so aid must be negotiated when an ally does not cooperate spontaneously. which aims to suppress the adversary. we will distinguish two forms: (1) peaceful-the agent tries to influence the adversary so that he cease opposition to the agent's plans. This negotiation. constitutes the peaceful way of eliminating an adversary. VII. The result is that the procedure for eliminating the adversary must be organized according to more or less complex strategies in order to take this resistance and its diverse forms into account. VI. falls under the blows of another enemy.

if he chooses intimidation he tries to create fear of the harm he can cause. If this act fails the following occurs: . The conditions which make the search for an agreement possible are established. carry out Seducing process vs. There remains to negotiate the modalities of the exchange and to guarantee that all engagements will be faithfully carried out. In order to obtain this result he can use either seduction or intimidation. but spare just as well. From the perspective of the victim of aggression. the agent chose to eliminate his adversary by an exchange of services which transformed him into an ally. Receiving aid of Aid received vs.THE LOGIC OF NARRATIVE POSSIBILITIES 397 corresponding desire in his partner. Possible need = Pact to be concluded 4 Growing awareness of need i Success of seduction vs. A desires a service from B as B does of A. and which can act as a payment for the service he wants to obtain. he chooses to inflict an injury which will do away with the adversary (at least insofar as he is an obstacle). the beginning of this process constitutes a danger which. will normally require an act of self-protection. The following is a simplified schema of negotiation by seduction: Perspective Seducer of the Perspective of the Seduced Person Perspective Common to Both Parties Aid to be received I Seduction to vs. If this operation succeeds the two partners are equal. If he chooses seduction he will try to create the need for a service that he will offer in exchange for the one he needs. Aid received VIII. if it is to be avoided. Aggression When he opted for negotiation. when opting for aggression. i Need conceived = Aid to be received = Pact to be concluded i Negotiation Pact concluded = Promises to be fulfilled = Fulfillment of promises i Promises fulfilled Receiving of aid vs.

an error committed by the dupe. a deception. The trap is set in three stages: first. vs. If the adversary seems to have at his disposal efficient methods of self-protection. In that case the aggression takes on the more complex form of a trap. or by doing what he ought not to).398 Perspectiveof the Aggressor Adversaryto be eliminated NEW LITERARY HISTORY Perspectiveof the Victim of Aggression Injury to inflict Elimination process Adversary eliminated Aggressive process I Injury inflicted vs. if the error-inducing process is brought to its conclusion. f Dupe to create I Deception Dupe created Dupe created vs. then. instead of protecting himself as he could. Possible error I Error-inducing process Error Error committed vs. Danger to be avoided Self-protection process I Failureof protection process In the above schema it is the aggressor who retains the advantage. To use a trap is to act so that the victim of aggression. it is desirable for the aggressor to catch him off guard. However. finally. which places a disarmed adversary at his mercy: Perspective ot the AggressorDeceiver Adversary to eliminate t Victim to entrap I Perspective of the Victim of Aggression Perspective ot the Aggriessor-Deceiver vs. vs. this is obviously not always the case. if the deception succeeds. cooperates unknowingly with the aggressor (by not doing what he ought to. Opportunity to seize I Injury to inflict I Aggressive process Injury inflicted Elimination process Adversary eliminated Process of entrapment Victim entrapped Taking advantage of opportunity Opportunity seized . the deceiver exploits his acquired advantage.

first of the three phases of the trap. leaves himself open and defenseless against the real attack.Convincing process Y believed = Error to be committed X dissimulated + Non-Y simulated i When the classification is further developed. to look away. Deception consists of several actions carried on simultaneously: the dissimulation of what is. Perspective of the Dupe X to be dissimulated + Non-Y to be simulated vs. and the substitution of what is not for what is in order to create a semblance of truth to which the dupe reacts as if it were real. is in itself a complex operation. for an open simulation (that of an actor. Retributions: Recompense and Vengeance The injury inflicted by the aggressor on his victim can be consid- . (2) the deceiver can simulate peaceful intentions: he proposes an alliance. busy defending himself against an imaginary assault. to lose his mind.THE LOGIC OF NARRATIVE POSSIBILITIES 399 The deception. for example) is not a deception. Dissimulation itself is not sufficient to constitute the deception (except insofar as it simulates the absence of dissimulation). Differences are created by the type of simulation used by the deceiver to disguise the aggression being planned: (1) the deceiver can simulate a situation implying the absence of any relationship between him and the future victim: he pretends not to be there. tries to seduce or intimidate his victim.). IX. a dissimulation and a simulation. neither does simulation by itself suffice. literally (if he hides) or figuratively (if he pretends to be asleep. The following diagram outlines the deception mechanism: Perspectiveof the Deceiver Dupe to be created I . the dupe must think it real and be unaware of the hook. In any deception two combined operations can thus be distinguished. etc. Appearance of Y believable Deception process Dupe created Dissimulation process + Simulation process vs. the simulation of what is not. In order to go after the bait. several types of deception can be distinguished. while he secretly prepares to break off the negotiations or to betray the pact. (3) the deceiver simulates aggressive intentions so that the dupe.

From his point of view every service becomes a good deed which requires reward and every injury an evil deed which calls for punishment. at times explicit. the rewardingretributor and the avenging retributor. despite himself. an object. whose actions could be considered as behavior apt to bring about a specific result. without these factors-the illness. Like payment for services. the cares. etc. X. His role coincides with that of the debtor who pays his debts on time. payment for wrongs is the consequence of a pact which is at times implicit (all evil acts deserve punishment. If he chooses to go on. spelled out in the terms of a specific alliance which outlines a threat against breaking a contract. sees new clouds come up over the horizon. comparable to receiving payment for an open debt: the debtor pays. so to speak.). an anthropomorphic entity). Finally. They are not only opposites of the forms of amelioration. We have already encountered these forms of degradation. In this case the degradation process remains unspecific or explained only by bad luck or by a combination of unfortunate circumstances.400 NEW LITERARY HISTORY ered as a service in reverse. Degradation Process An amelioration process which has been brought to a conclusion brings about a state of equilibrium which can signal the end of the narrative. A new type. making up for the failings of the insolvent or recalcitrant debtor. since it is possible . At other times. he can be a debtor in favor of whom the beneficiary resolutely chooses to sacrifice himself. the guarantor of contracts. the retributor. but. it can be the result of the initiative of a responsible agent (a man. no longer consented to by the creditor but extorted by the debtor and requiring in return the infliction of an injury of similar proportions. Reward for a service rendered and vengeance directed against an incurred wrong are the two faces of retribution. such as when the hero becomes ill. the amount of a loan he was forced to incur. he must introduce new obstacles or activate potential dangers temporarily dormant. he can even be a creditor to whom the beneficiary is indebted (following the performance of a service or the infliction of an injury). an eye for an eye. and in order to do this.and two subtypes. or the clouds-being presented as responsible agents endowed with initiative. he can be an aggressor. At times this process is the result of unmotivated and unplanned factors. however. This agent can be the beneficiary himself if he commits an error which has serious consequences. an animal. A degradation process is then initiated. begins to weary. The retributor is. the narrator must recreate a state of tension.appear here.

they act as devices which protect the satisfactory state which came before. These devices may be purely fortuitous. harmful processes are considered as means. they can also represent the resistance of an agent endowed with initiative. as we will see. harm is suffered only by the imprudent one who. himself sanctions the error he has commit- . or because no one has the desire or the ability to intervene. (5) degradation caused by punishment endured corresponds to amelioration realized through vengeance obtained. deriving from the simple "nature of things". the agent sets in motion means necessary to attain a result opposite to his goal or to destr y the advantages he wants to conserve. the agent attains a goal which is opposite to the one envisaged) corresponds to amelioration brought about by the success of a trap. (2) degradation caused by fulfilling an obligation to an allied creditor corresponds to amelioration due to a service received from an indebted ally. XI. the degradation which follows opens the possibility of compensating amelioration processes from among which certain ones. take on the form of a reparation specifically adapted to the type of degradation undergone. (3) degradation undergone by submission to aggression corresponds to amelioration achieved through the infliction of aggression. resulting from a fortunate combination of circumstances. As this reverse task proceeds. These protective devices can succeed or fail. but what he ought not to. whereas the rules made to gain or keep an advantage are treated as obstacles. The degradation process initiated by these factors can develop without encountering obstacles. If on the contrary obstacles occur.THE LOGIC OF NARRATIVE POSSIBILITIES 401 to pass from one perspective to another. If they fail. not what he ought. In this last case they form a pattern of acts whose structure depends both on the shape of the danger and on the tactics chosen by the protector. either because these obstacles do not appear on their own. if they are transgressed. (4) degradation through error (which can be considered as the opposite of a task: by doing. The narrator can present these rules as if they were impersonal. they can be considered complements: (1) degradation brought about by sacrifice consented to for the benefit of an indebted ally corresponds to amelioration achieved through service received from an allied creditor. by setting off a fatal chain of cause and effect. The Error The process of error can be characterized as a task accomplished in reverse: since he is induced to err.

Degradation resulting from an error can mark the end of the narrative. he himself is a dupe. Among these.). While the ally who incarnates the rule is treated as an adversary. The meaning of such a story is contained in the difference between the desired goal and the actually achieved result: the psychological opposition which corresponds to this meaning is presumption vs. there is one which is specifically suited to repairing the consequences of the error because it represents the opposite process: that is. Since the fault is primarily caused by blindness. If the narrator chooses to go on. this form of degradation brings on a specific form of protection. in this case. humiliation. XII. this stubbornness is injurious to them. he is a deceiver. he disposes of the various types of amelioration which we have pointed out. but if he is aware of them. In the latter case the deception takes place as the preparatory phase of a trap. this time with adequate means. etc. But these rules can also be interdictions issuing from the will of a legislator. however. but in the illusion of being able to break the rules with impunity. The Debt We have already discussed the case of amelioration obtained through the assistance of an ally-creditor. The latter is urged to observe them in order to profit from or go on profiting from a service (to stay in Eden. The error consists.402 NEW LITERARY HISTORY ted. if the dupe ignores their advice. uses his ability to reinstate the prosperity ruined by his foolishness. Transgression of the rule harms the "ally-creditor. This loan which requires the beneficiary to pay his debt later on provokes a degradation phase. either a warning which forestalls the error or an attempt at enlightenment which dissipates the illusion." and it is this injury which may bring about the intervention of a retributor punishing the betrayal of the pact. and the catastrophe which follows acts at the same time as the punishment for this new transgression. the adversary who helps to break it is treated as an ally. When stating or restating the rule. If he is unaware of the consequences of the pseudohelp he is furnishing. in other cases shrewd allies assume the task. Sometimes events opportunely take over the protection process. In this case it is a question of restrictive clauses when an "obliging" ally enters into a treaty with an "obliged" ally. in an aggression maneuver. This will occur in the same way each time the one who is "obligated" is . not in the infraction itself. the completion of a task through which the agent. they tend to incarnate it even if they did not originate it.

The Sacrifice Whereas other forms of degradation are processes which must be endured.) which accompany it. the sacrificial process must proceed to a conclusion with the help of the victim (if the sacrifice appears to be folly. The pact. XIII. but this protection is carried out against the decision. Normally.THE LOGIC OF NARRATIVE POSSIBILITIES 403 required to perform an unpleasant duty. Paying the debt is thereby turned into a reopening of credit. allies can give warnings. hostages. or if he is despite himself forced to fulfill them. his resulting state of degradation can mark the end of the narrative (e. sacrifice is a voluntary act. . the debtor can try to protect himself against the threat of degradation. performed with the idea of acquiring merit or at least of becoming worthy of reward. One of them.. with the guarantees (oaths. on the other hand. which constitutes an error. and it is at this stage that protection can intervene. Obligation. avoiding the promises doubles the debt: the debtor will have to pay not only for a service but also for an injury. on the other hand. On the other hand. If the narrator wants to go on. as we have seen. Sacrifice thus presents the twofold aspect of precluding protection and of calling for reparation. and not against the sacrifice itself). is privileged: it consists of transforming the accomplishment of the task into a sacrifice worthy of merit. nevertheless. It can also derive from the "natural" dispositions of society: a son must obey his father. can result from a properly drawn up contract explained in a previous phase of the narrative (e. From the perspective of the creditor. avoiding his promises aggressively seems to him not only an act of self-defense. whether a pact spells out the expected return payment or such payment is left to the discretion of a retributor..g. degradation resulting from a sacrifice calls for a reparation in the form of recompense. if he honors them willingly. which in its turn requires recompense. etc. he can resort to the various forms of amelioration that we have mentioned. a vassal his lord.g. In a case where he thinks he has been the victim of deceit.Jephthah's Daughter). If. A sacrifice occurs every time an ally renders a service without being so obliged. the debtor cannot or will not shirk his duties. etc. Called upon to perform his duty. so provides. His creditor becomes an aggressor from whom he tries to escape either by breaking contact (by fleeing) or by peaceful and honest means (by negotiating a revision of the contract) or by aggressive means (by provoking a test of strength or setting a trap). selling one's soul to the devil). but a way of reestablishing justice.

The victim of aggression has the choice of protecting himself or not. This can be achieved according to any of the modalities of amelioration which we have defined (the victim can get better. an enemy can either act directly with a frontal attack or maneuver obliquely. lets himself be led into a trap. The state of degradation which results can indicate the end of the narration for the victim. rather than restore to the victim payment equivalent to the damages incurred. to accept the hostile relationship. to accept the relationship with him. can take on the task of repairing the harm. but to try to transform the hostile rapport into a peaceful rapport. Two of these are well suited to this maneuver: error. the aggressor inflicts the expected damage. XV. Aggression Endured Endured aggression differs from other types of degradation in that it results from behavior which intentionally proposes committing harm as an end to an action. must perform a duty which ruins him (it happens frequently that the aggressor combines the two processes: he deceives his victim by suggesting a bargain which fools him. but to render blow for blow. The accused may either submit to or defend himself against the danger thus created. bound to his aggressor by an irrevocable engagement. through which the victim of aggression. finally.). led to err by his enemy. From the point of view of the accused. can receive charitable help. toflee. If he chooses protection. inflicts on the aggressor the equivalent of the harm he caused. In the latter case. a phase dealing with reparation of the injury is opened. which. to try to suppress all relationships with the aggressor. To attain his goal. trying to bring about and use other forms of degradation. to negotiate (see above). However. the available means can be regrouped into three strategies: first. next. can turn against other enemies. If these protective measures are inefficient. to give battle. Punishment From the perspective of a retributor any inflicted injury can become an evil deed to be punished. obligation. to escape from his field of action. and the punitive action he begins is a threat of degradation. . in addition to these measures. etc. the retributor is an aggressor. a specific form of reparation exists: vengeance. the three strategies indicated above-flight.404 NEW LITERARY HISTORY XIV. test of negotiation. then eliminates him by requiring the execution of the contract). If the narrator chooses to continue. through which the victim of aggression.

is both free and controlled at the . reparation: the narrative circle is now closed. In order for the situation. Finally. the guilty one is disqualified by the dissimulation of his evil deed. opening the possibility of new degradations followed by new reparations according to a cycle which can repeat itself indefinitely. through a series of alternative choices. degradation. If these protective measures fail. for it supposes the collaboration of the retributor and refers us to an examination of the conditions in which he may allow himself to be persuaded to give up his task. the victim. The retributor disqualifies himself by corruption (obtained by seduction or intimidation) which establishes between the guilty party and himself the relationship of parties to a pact (he transforms the harm to be inflicted on the guilty one into a service to be rendered him and obtains in exchange a proportionate service). which exhaustively determine the field of the narratable. always the same. Evil deed to be punished. then of elementary sequences in a complex sequence. However. which is in this case constructed according to the opposition Evil deed/Punishment. one of the three roles (the guilty person. for it retroactively transforms the injury inflicted into a service obtained and demands a proportional service in exchange. He induces the retributor to err by pretending to be innocent or possibly by having an innocent person appear guilty in his place. Pardon is always conditional. or the retributor himself) must lose its designation. into a hierarchy of enclaved sequences. we will concern ourselves here only with negotiation.THE LOGIC OF NARRATIVE POSSIBILITIES 405 strength-are equally possible. which is an attempt at meritorious degradation carrying with it the rehabilitation of the guilty one. the degradation which results from the punishment can mark the end of the narration. But in the course of its development it will become specified. Each of the phases can itself be developed ad infinitum. The victim is disqualified by a pardon which enables the retributor to reestablish the normal conditions of a pact between the former guilty party and the victim. If the narrator chooses to go on. The linking of functions in the elementary sequence. to disappear or at least to be no longer perceived. he must introduce an amelioration obtained through sacrifice: corresponding to the evil deed-which is an attempt at undeserved amelioration carrying with it a degradation through punishment-is redemption. according to the schema: Downfall Undeserving Amelioration-> > Redemption Meritorious Degradation (good deed) Deserved Amelioration (recompense) (evil deed) Deserved Degradation (punishment) Amelioration.

contract. The network of their internal articulations and of their mutual relationships defines the field of possible experience a priori. are universal categories. their end rules over an arrangement of actions which succeed one another and form hierarchies and dichotomies according to an inviolable order. roles. Task. we define a framework of reference for the comparative study of these behavior patterns which. always identical in their basic structure. Although it is a technique of literary analysis. and series of more and more complex and differentiated situations. They furnish the narrator with the model and substance of an organized evolution which is indispensable to him and which he could not find elsewhere. Whether it be desired or feared. Thus to the elementary narrative types correspond the most general forms of human behavior. error. and personal styles. . genres. we can establish the bases of a classification of the types of narration. after each option. the semiology of narrative draws its very existence and its wealth from its roots in anthropology. to link evolutions in a narration which is at one and the same time unpredictable (because of the play of available combinations) and codifiable (because of the stable properties and the finite number of combined elements). sequences.406 NEW LITERARY HISTORY same time: free (for the narrator must at every moment choose the continuation of his story) and controlled (for the narrator's only choice. moreover. maps out a plan. etc. reflects on the course of action undertaken. he forms the first narrations of which we can conceive. to give them a meaning. is between the two discontinuous and contradictory terms of an alternative). to coordinate the complementary roles which define the evolution of a situation. periods. to name and to place in the sequence each type of event brought about by these choices. remembers the phases of a past event. explores in his mind the possible developments of a situation. At the same time this production of narrative types is a structuring of human behavior patterns acted out or undergone. in real life. By constructing from the simplest narrative forms. trap. are diversified ad infinitum according to an inexhaustible play of combinations and options.. according to cultures. Inversely. the narrator who wants to order the chronological succession of the events he is relating. schools. has no other recourse but to link them together in the unity of an action directed toward an end. to link these sequences organically in the unity of a role. It is therefore possible to draw up a priori the integral network of choices offered. When man.

how would I rewrite this text today? Without attempting to explain all the details of my present method. it tolerates a plurality of concurrent solutions for the coding of each text. each time that these processes affect human characters (or anthropomorphic beings). like the opposing retributive sequences Merit--Reward and Blame--Punishment. There are two types of processes: on the one hand. on the other. Having learned from experience. I shall try to indicate its general direction in relation to a central point. stops short of its stated project. as accurate as it still may seem to me. can be easily analyzed according to the positions envisaged by this diagram (which is. of course. Then my relief is colored by new misgivings: what progress have I made in the last fourteen years? And how can I explain my groping attempts. to reduce the number of pertinent actions. Moreover. to apply this method to diverse corpora of narrative? I must then admit that this description. an adaptation of the logical construct known as "Aristotle's Square"): . the 1966 analysis will authorize me to take certain shortcuts. It is not false. it does not provide the instrument needed for a clear characterization and an indisputable classification of the events of the narrative. According to another division. Consequently. and to grade these units according to their degree of generality or specificity must still be undertaken in order to make this model operative.THE LOGIC OF NARRATIVE POSSIBILITIES 407 Postface My first reaction. By intersecting these two distinctions we will construct four fundamental processes: Process: Favorable Modification: Preservation: Amelioration Protection Unfavorable Degradation Frustration Certain essential narrative schemata. but it is not economical. not yet brought to fulfillment. after rereading my 1966 essay. those that tend to modify the situation. those that tend to preserve it. is a sigh of relief: I need deny nothing of what I wrote at that time. they are presented by the narrative as being favorable or unfavorable to these characters. Scorning the principle maximumeffectumminimo sumptu. A patient attempt to bring together categories of analysis. Any plot can be divided into a series of simultaneous or successive events (or "processes").

can be inscribed as follows in our square: Ameliorationof X (end) Degradation of X (means) by Degradation of Y (means) Protection of X (end) by Frustration of Y (means) The degradation and thefrustration for Amelioration of Y (end) Frustration of X (means) for Protection of Y (end) of the character who serves as a means can take two forms: the peaceable form of the prestation of services. the relationships between X and Y. or he treats the other as an end and consequently treats himself as a means. The character treated as a means can be assimilated with a patient victim. undergoes a degradation which "buys" the amelioration of the second.e. agents and patients at the same time.408 (1) Merit and Blame Amelioration: X acquires merit Protection: X avoids acquiring blame (2) Retributions Amelioration: X rewards Y Protection: X protects Y from punishment NEW LITERARY HISTORY Degradation: X acquires blame Frustration: X fails to acquire merit Degradation: X punishes Y Frustration: X deprives Y of reward The situation becomes more complex when the narrative presents not only one character who is solely an agent or a patient. or acts on the other in order to act on himself. or a frustration which "buys" the protection from which the second benefits. but several characters mutually related. He treats himself as an end and treats the other as a means. such as they are determined by X's action. the character treated as an end with a patient beneficiary:the first. If we call the agent X and the other character Y. in this case each one acts on himself in order to act on the other.. Indeed. There result two specifications of the preceding diagram: . the hostile form of aggression. in fact. i.

acts as a deception.. or of aggression (if the information. Degradation of X for Ameliorationof Y: X furnishes Y with a revelation Frustrationof X for Protection of Y: X fails to obtain the revelation furnished by Y (2) Inducementsto err Ameliorationof X by Degradation of Y: X induces Y to err Protection of X by Frustration of Y: X discovers Y's deception Degradation of X for Ameliorationof Y: X lets himself be induced to err by Y Frustration of X for Protection of Y: X fails to induce Y to err .THE LOGIC OF NARRATIVE POSSIBILITIES 409 (1) Prestations Ameliorationof X: X obtains a benefit from Y Protection of X: X avoids furnishing a benefit to Y (2) Aggressions Ameliorationof X: X assaults Y Protection of X: X avoids Y's assault Degradation of X: X exposes himself to Y's assault Frustrationof X: X fails to assault Y Degradation of X: X furnishes a benefit to Y Frustrationof X: X fails to receive a benefit from Y Information processes can be considered as specific cases of prestation (if the information. an inducement to err). being true. acts as a revelation).. being false. This situation produces the following two squares: (1) Revelations Ameliorationof X by Degradation of Y: X obtains a revelation from Y Protection of X by Frustrationof Y: X hides from Y that .

The influence process which induces the agent to perform a modificatory act which is favorable to him is seduction. The modificatory processes are continually exposed to blockage by preservative counter-processes (essentially frustration and protection). can. the one which induces the agent to perform a modificatory act which is unfavorable to him is the notificationof duties. into a process ofdissuasion (which leads to preservation). my first construction does not strike an equal balance between the modificatory processes and the preservative processes: the latter are. In another respect they can also be divided into two categories. the one which induces the agent to perform a favorable preservative act is intimidation. so to speak. Although I was aware of these facts. It seems to me that the most serious fault was to have attempted to construct the network of narrative possibilities taking explicitly into account only the modificatoryprocesses (essentially amelioration and degradation). Every action. is coupled with a reaction. however.on the other. The dynamics of the plot rest on the constant tension between these contrary forces. according to whether they induce the agent to perform an act favorable or unfavorable to himself. In the elementary sequence. the failure of the engaged action to its success: these negations of modification carve in intaglio a place for the process of preservation. in the same way. finally. on the one hand into a process of persuasion (which leads to a modification). through which one agent motivates another to adopt a certain plan of action.410 NEW LITERARY HISTORY The processes of influence. be subdivided. But this solution errs in that it envisages preservationonly as the simple absence of modificationand not as an action having the same degree of reality and calling for the same attempt at categoriza- . envisaged only through pretermission. on the repeated imbalances which affect the situation to the benefit of some and to the detriment of others.duty of degradation) Preservative Intimidation Interdiction of degradation) (= duty of (fear nonamelioration) These few indications should suffice to measure the progress made in the last fourteen years. nonactualization of the virtuality stands opposite to its actualization. the one which leads the agent to an unfavorable preservative act is interdiction: Inducement of X To Perform an Act: Favorable Unfavorable Modificatory Seduction (= desire of amelioration) Notificationof Duties (.

PARIS (Translated by Elaine D. Another correlation which was neglected in 1966 and which my present method masters more easily is the reciprocity of the roles of patient and agent. the degrader). Instead of recording these roles separately (according to the 1966 version). the correlation which makes the two types of processes interdependent is not recognized. forfrustration is not mentioned). too universal to be pertinent. But these borderline cases can be treated as various zero degrees of the specification of the agent and do not really cause any difficulty. The same actions (ameliorationand degradation. the victim) or to an agent's role (the ameliorator. Xfurnishes a benefitto Y). they build more thoroughly than ever the armature of the narrative system. Our present solution accomplishes a double simplification: on the one hand it unifies the roles of agent and patient in a formula which condenses them (X bettersX). when the analysis takes up processes of preservation (protection. bringing about by degrees a wavering of all our categories of actions. CENTRE D'ETUDES TRANSDISCIPLINAIRES. of ameliorationand degradation. we can condense these two interdependent roles into a single formula (as in the present form. These categories make possible the first division of the narrative. on the other hand it reduces the amelioration of X by X to a particular case ofprestation (X obtainsa benefitfrom X or Xfurnishes a benefit to X). In the same way.in particular. a case which is. This second option is obviously more economical. moreover. The very abstract categories of modification and preservation. thanks to which our present model can hope to achieve more satisfying results at a lesser cost. the 1966 model was rather awkward in its approach to the case of an agent who undertakes a task in order to better or to degrade his own fate. its scansion. But their very generality makes them inapt for characterizing actions.THE LOGIC OF NARRATIVE POSSIBILITIES 411 tion and at decomposition into sequences. Failing this articulation. the system grows lax. Much to the contrary. of protectionandfrustration have not been eliminated. Cancalon) . It will no doubt be necessary to take into account cases in which no specific agent bears the responsibility of the action engaged upon ("the patient gets well" rather than "the doctor cures the patient"). for example) can be considered in relation to a patient's role (the beneficiary. Their combination with the notions ofprestation and aggression makes it possible to replace them by a set of categories much more concretely determined. Further on.

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