Narratives are stories about a series of events, usually in sequence and often with one event causing another (Ways of Reading p211). Within the study of narrative there are several key concepts such as time and order, plot and structure and setting, all of which enable the reader to follow the series of events and gain a better understanding of the story. For the purpose of this essay we will examine the main features of both plot and structure and setting. This will enable us to have a better understanding of these key concepts and enable us to move on and apply them to the analysis of Jane Austen's novel Emma.
In describing Plot and Structure a simple description would be to say that plot is what happens in a novel and structure is the novel's overall organization. In the study of narrative structure can be broken down into different types, form, themes and plot. Form is how the novel can be divided into chapters, sections or frame narrative. Chapters and sections have several functions within a novel, for example chapters tell the reader when they can pause. Sections however are more significant and show changes in time, point of view and theme. Themes can give a solid foundation to the structure of a text when they are repeated throughout. This is also seen with the use of images and symbols, such as the lighthouse in Virginia Wolfe's To The Lighthouse. Plot within structure organizes the key events into an order, depending on the text this could be linear or anti linear.
The plot of a novel is the narrative and development of the story. The main features of plot within narrative are conflict and closure. All conflicts revolve around the arguments of the protagonist and the antagonist due to their differing views or feelings. The closure is when the narrative resolves the conflict. This often happens at the end of a novel but not always (Narrative Plot and Structure Handout). Closure or the lack of closure can cause suspense or surprise within a novel due to the uncertainties that it creates. On occasions we find the absence of closure, this can be used to frustrate readers' expectations or represent reality. Having described the key concept of Plot and Structure we move now to the concept of setting.
Setting in the study of narrative is often seen, as being a less important concept, however being less crucial does not mean it is not important. The setting is crucial to the creation of a complete novel as it helps determine characters conflicts, aspirations and destinies. This is shown by the places in which characters appear, their social context, customs and beliefs and the atmosphere this creates (Setting in Prose Fiction Handout). Narratives have different types of setting such as social, historical and realistic. Social settings often show a clash between individuals and their social background. A narrative with a historical setting depicts which time it is set, and this can have an effect on the characters actions and behaviour. Realistic settings are those that create verisimilitude with their long-winded and often objective descriptions. All these types of setting help to reinforce the themes of the novel. Having described both Setting and Plot and Structure we shall go on to apply them to the analysis of Jane Austen's Emma.
We have seen how structure of a novel can be broken down into different types such as form. Emma has been divided into fifty-five chapters. Each chapter is based around a key event, for example chapter four is based around Emma's first meeting of Mr Martin and deciding he would not be suitable for Harriet to marry due to his lack of social status (Austen Jane, 1816, p20 28). Emma is typical of a realist text because of the structure of the chapters, but also because the opening chapter provides us with a...