In what ways might Propp’s structural analysis be helpful when analyzing stories?

vladimir_propp_1928_year

A fairytale is a story involving fantastic forces and beings and distinct genre within the larger category of folktale. To explore the fairytale, there has a Folklorist who broke up fairy tales into sections. His name is Vladimir Propp (1895-1970). He was a Soviet folklorist and scholar who analyzed the basic plot components of Russian folk tales to identify their simplest irreducible narrative elements.

He publishes ‘Morphology of the Folktale’ in 1928. The word ‘morphology’ means the study of forms. In botany, the term ‘morphology’ means the study of the component parts of a plant, of their relationship to each other and to the whole – in other words, the study of a plant’s structure. The theory supports about characters and actions as having narrative functions. Every character has one of these functions which is understood as acts of character, defined from the point of view their significance for the course of the action. and they provide a structure for the text. Also this approach can be useful when analyzing narrative. In addition, analysis of folktales can be made ‘according to the functions of its character’

There have Prop’s Narrative Functions : Type of character and Function

  • The Hero : Generally leads the narrative

– looking for something

– who has a quest

– trying to solve something what they want to succeed

  • The Villain : Struggles against Hero

-Seen as morally bad

-Stops hero from achieving goal

-Audience turns against them

  • The Donor : Gives hero agent(such as magical weapon or wisdom)

– Enable hero to complete quest

  • The Helper : Supports hero

– appears at critical moments in the narrative

– they define hero with their limitations

  • The Princess : May take two forms

– objects which os sought by the hero (finding where the villain has taken them)

– the reward

  • The  father : gives the hero his reward for completing the quest
  • The Dispather : character who makes the lack known and sends the hero off

When an audience reads a media text it deploys its knowledge of these character types in order to decode the meaning of the text.

A tale usually begin with some sort of initial situation. The members of a family are enumerated, or the future hero is simply introduced by mention of his name or indication of his status. Although this situation is not  a function, it nevertheless is an important morphological element. The species of tale beginnings can be examined only at the end of the present work. After the initial situation there follow functions:

  1. ONE OF THE MEMBERS OF A FAMILY ABSENTS HIMSELF FROM HOME.
  2. AN INTRERDIGTION IS ADDRESSED TO THE HERO.
  3. THE INTERDICTION IS VIOLATED.
  4. THE VILLAIN MAKE AN ATTEMPT AT RECONNAISSANCE.
  5. THE VILLAIN RECEIVES INFORMATION ABOUT HIS VICTIM.
  6. THE VILLAIN ATTEMPTS TO DECEIVE HIS VICTIM IN ORDER TO TAKE POSSESSION OF HIS BELONGINGS.
  7. THE VICTIM SUBMITS TO DECEPTION AND THEREBY UNWITTINGLY HELPS HIS ENEMY.
  8. THE VILLAIN CAUSES HARM OR INJURY TO  A MEMBER OF A FAMILY. ONE MEMBER OF A FAMILY EITHER LACKS SOMETHING OR DESIRES TO HAVE SOMETHING.
  9. MISFORTUNE OR LACK IS MADE KNOWN; THE HERO IS APPROACHED WITH A REQUEST OR COMMAND; HE IS ALLOWED TO GO OR HE IS DISPATCHED.
  10. THE SEEKER AGREES TO OR DECIDES UPON COUNTERACTION.
  11. THE HERO LEAVES HOME.
  12. THE HERO IS TESTED, INTERROGATED, ATTACKED, ETC.,WHICH PREPARED THE WAY FOR HIS RECEIVING EITHER A MAGICAL AGENT OR HELPER.
  13. THE HERO REACTS TO THE ACTIONS OF THE FUTURE DONOR.
  14. THE HERO ACQUIRES THE USE OF A MAGICAL AGENT.
  15. THE HERO IS TRANSFERRED, DELIVERED, OR LED TO THE WHEREABOUTS OF AN OBJECT OF SEARCH.
  16. THE HERO AND THE VILLAIN JOIN IN DIRECT COMBAT.
  17. THE HERO IS BRANDED.
  18. THE VILLAIN IS DEFEATED.
  19. THE INITIAL MISFORTUNE OR LACK IS LIQUIDATED.
  20. THE HERO RETURNS.
  21. THE HERO IS PURSUED.
  22. RESCUE OF THE HERO FORM PURSUIT.
  23. THEH HERO, UNRECOGNIZED, ARRIVES HOME OR IN ANOTHER COUNTRY.
  24. A FALSE HERO PRESENTS UNFOUNDED CLAIMS.
  25. A DIFFICULT TASK IS PROPOSED TO THE HERO.
  26. THE TASK IS RESOLVED.
  27. THE HERO IS RECOGNIZED.
  28. THE FALSE HERO OR VILLAIN IS EXPOSED.
  29. THE HERO IS GIVEN A NEW APPEARANCE.
  30. THE VILLAIN IS PUNISHED.
  31. THE HERO IS MARRIED AND ASCENDS THE THRONE.

At this point the tale draws to a close. It should also be stated that there are several actions of tale hero in individual cases which do not conform to , nor are defined by, any of the functions already mentioned.They are either forms which cannot be understood without comparative material, or they are forms transferred from tales of other classes. According to his function, fairytale can be analyzed.


Reference list:

units.miamoioh.edu, (2016) Available at : http://www.units.miamioh.edu/technologyandhumanities/propp.htm (Accessed 08 Feb. 2016)
Propp, V. (1968). Morphology of the folktale. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Warner, M. (2014) ’Once Upon a Time’ A short history of the fairytale. Oxford: OUP

Image source:

Wikipedia (2016) vladimir Propp (image) Available at : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vladimir_Propp (Accessed 08 Feb. 2016)

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