Story and Plot
When differentiating between story and plot in narrative film, we can identify the story as a series of all the events presented to us within the narrative, inclusive of all elements that have been overtly presented to us, as well as events that the viewer may infer or conceptualise. In contrast, the plot can be described as all the elements that are presented to us throughout the screen duration. That is everything that we see and hear and includes nondiegetic elements, such as on screen credits and music that the characters cannot hear which are considered as extraneous to the story itself. In theory, the filmmaker creates a plot out of the story, and has the opportunity to begin the plot at any point throughout the story, focus on certain sections of the story and completely ignore others.
The story and the plot in the Wizard of Oz are of very close proximity, with all the elements presented to us within the narrative running in chronological story order. The temporal duration of the film seemingly spans across a single day, however Dorothy’s dream is stretched out throughout most of the screen duration, exemplifying the significance of her dream within the film’s overall narrative.
The overall story of the Wizard of Oz is largely balanced between the explicit and implicit interpretations presented to us within the dialogue. The notion of Dorothy absconding from the troubles of her home, to ultimately appreciate her family and friends is explicitly presented to us. However, we are also implicitly presented with an additional interpretation; that Dorothy is constantly battling with adolescence and the pressures of growing up, and her desire to run away cements her wish to continue living a carefree, youthful life. However, Dorothy soon recognises the demands of growing up.
Opening and Closing Scenes
The narrative material presented in the opening of scenes of The Wizard of Oz not only introduces Dorothy as the central character within the film, but also establishes Dorothy’s character traits and provides the audience with a range of cues that develop our formal expectations and guide the film’s narrative development.
The film begins in sepia format, with Dorothy running down a bare, desolate road accompanied by her dog Toto. This scene immediately cues the audience to make assumptions about prior events that have occurred in the story and form expectations around Dorothy’s home environment. The audience wonders why the girl is running, where she is going and who she is running from, and senses that Kansas is an isolated and dreary place to live, particularly for a young girl.
Dorothy is constantly turning her head and looking back down the road, making us assume that she is escaping from a situation or a person. However, the viewer is also presented with a nondiegetic element that does not lead us to assume that Dorothy is in any danger; that is, the music that is coinciding with her running. Although the music is fast paced, there is no instance of alarm; in fact, the music sounds fun and light hearted. The inclusion of this nondiegetic element cues the audience to establish expectations surrounding Dorothy’s adolescent character traits, and hints at the child like sensibilities which resonate throughout the film.
Dorothy’s young character traits are revealed as she enters the farm yard gates and attempts to tell her story to Uncle Henry and Auntie Em. We see Dorothy’s is immediately dismissed as the adults are trying to work. The viewer feels an instantaneous emotional response with Dorothy; we feel great sympathy for her as she attempts to explain her story and is constantly disregarded.
Her aunt and uncle are depicted as inattentive and dismissive – it seems that they don’t really have much time for Dorothy’s story whilst they work hard to ensure the stability of their farm. This immediate disregard for Dorothy’s...