Based on the 105MC Narrative lecture, I will analyse 3 media objects, in order to find out how Todorov’s narrative structure and Propp’s 8 character functions apply to my chosen subjects.

The first media object, the print-based one, that I consider to have incorporated elements from both Todorov and Propp , is “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” written by L. Frank Baum.

Propp’s Theory:

1. Hero: Dorothy
2. Dispatcher: Wizard sends her to kill the Wicked Witch of the West
3. Villain:  Wicked Witch of the West
4. The false hero: Wizard
5. Donors: The Good Witch of the North gives Dorothy the silver shoes
6. Helper: Scarecrow, Tin Woodsman, Cowardly Lion
7. Princess: -or reward of the hero *the “returning-home” gift
8. Father: N/A

“The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” is a perfect example for Propp’s idea of 8 roles, because we can see the classic characters, that go together perfectly exactly like in a fairy tale. We have the hero, in our case Dorothy, that finds herself taken by a tornado, having to find her way back home. She meets people willing to help her (helpers) and the villain who will try to stop her, in accomplishing her “mission”.

Todorov’s Theory:

1. Equilibrium – Dorothy was sitting in the house with her dog Toto
2. Disruption – The tornado that takes her house along with her, into an unknown place
3. Recognition – She realises she needs to find someone to help her get back home
4. Attempt – Tries to find the Wizard of Oz, the one who could get her home
5. Enhanced equilibrium – Dorothy and Toto return to Kansas after she discovers she had the power all along – joyful family reunion.

The majority of elements from both Propp and Todovor are to be found in Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”. We can see 7 of Propp’s 8 possible characters that have a key function, and Todorov’s 5 stages being passed.

Film based

“Donnie Darko” by Richard Kelly

Donnie Darko is a schizophrenic teenager who has an imaginary friend called Frank. Frank is a giant rabbit, who in his human form is Elizabeth’s boyfriend, and who comes from the future, telling Donnie he can prevent the end of the world.

A psychologic thriller, about heroism and sacrifice, worthy of several viewings and with different interpretations everytime. The movie is impressive, the way it’s structured and ideas that, at a first glance may look chaotic, are well put together, the music, all of these making it a must-see. You have to pay attention to all the details, in order of not getting lost on the way. It will seem weird, ok VERY weird, but the style used to tell the story of a teenager and the people around him is absolutely fantastic. Keeps you connected until the very end. You will probably have to watch it twice to pass the boundary and understand the real meaning!

Propp’s Theory:

1. Hero: Donnie Darko
2. Dispatcher: Frank the giant rabbit (saves Donnie’s life and gives him a few tasks)
3. Villain: Frank the giant rabbit (kills Gretchen and eventually causes the end of the world)
4. The false hero: Jim Cunningham (a successful motivational speaker) -ends up arrested
5. Donors: Rebecca Sparrow (she is the author of the book)
6. Helper: Frank the giant rabbit (he helps Donnie understand the portals)
7. Princess: Gretchen (Donnie Darko’s girlfriend)
8. Father: N/A

Propp suggested that the narrative creation usually concludes in the fairy tale “and they lived happily after”. “Donnie Darko”, on the other hand, offers a more sober conclusion. The happy ending is replaced with the dead of the main character, the hero Donnie Darko, along with it being revealed the sad truth: we fear dying alone, with no contribution to the world, being forgotten. As a meditation subject, the movie concludes with the idea that every person we interact with will be, in one way or another, influenced by their experiences with us.

Todorov’s Theory:

1. Equilibrium – Donnie Darko living a typical middle class teen life

2. Disruption – aircraft engine lands on his house but he survives thanks to Frank, a giant rabbit

3. Recognition – he realises that he has no chance against Frank’s manipulation and he must complete his tasks

4. Attempt – tries to send the engine back in the future, but triggers the death of people around him

5. Enhanced equilibrium – Donnie accepts his faith, and in the last minutes before “the end” he returns to his bedroom, where he is killed by the aircraft engine.

The hero, Donnie Darko, passes through all the 5 stages enumerated by Todorov. He finds himself in a normal situation, as a student (equilibrium), when a jet engine from the future crashes into Donnie’s house and triggers a parallel world (disruption). He gets away with the help of Frank, a man costumed as a giant rabbit, who will tell Donnie, the world will end in 28 days, guide him into a position where he will have to send the engine back through time, closing the parallel time frame (recognition). Tries to complete all the tasks Frank told him to, which will lead to some people’s death (attempt), and in the end, he sees no other way to repair the future than to sacrifice himself, for the sake of his girlfriend and mother to live, and the real world to never end. He manages to send the engine in time, which on the 1st of october (the time resets) crashes “again” on Donnie Darko’s bedroom, this time, him being inside (enhanced equilibrium).


As a Web-based I have chosen an advertisement:

Bridgestone Commercial

Propp’s Theory:

1. Hero: the driver

2. Dispatcher: Bridgestone (it made the “magic” car possible)

3. Villain: N/A

4. The false hero: N/A

5. Donors: N/A

6. Helper: N/A

7. Princess: squirrel AND women screaming in the car

8. Father: N/A

I think that categorizing the rest of the animals, according to Propp is difficult, they not being important participants in the action. I would tag them as “audience”. Another dilemma was that of the princess, because the real character that needs rescued is the squirrel, but also the woman sitting in the car, who needs to be assured that everything is fine.

Advertisements usually not include all of Propp’s 8 characters, only a few basic ones, such as the hero, princess and dispatcher (my case). The audience will understand what role each character has, and it can identify them easier, if we were to compare it with a movie, for example, where we have more roles, and the complexity can be confusing.

Todorov’s Theory:

1. Equilibrium –  a squirrel running after a nut, in the middle of the street

2. Disruption –a car coming her way

3. Recognition – Screamings that alert the danger, the driver realises what can happen

4. Attempt – The driver avoids hitting her

5. Enhanced equilibrium – driver continues his journey, the squirrel goes back into the woods

It seems that we can find in the ad, the 5 stages Todorov mentions in his theory, starting with an equilibrium -“the quiet before the storm”, the disruption that triggers the action, also having a happy ending =enhanced equilibrium.

All in all, I discovered that not every media object produces, is based entirely on Propp’s or Todorov’s theories, some having borrowing only the main ideas, while others are entirely constructed upon them. Movies and books are the most likely to have their features, while TV and Web-based ones tend to move away from them.

Roxi 🙂