The Romantic Manifesto - Chapter 5 - Basic Principles of Literature

Submitted by wngreen on Mon, 2006-09-04 02:14

While I think there is much more to say about chapter 4 (as I only covered music in my hijack post) its about that time to more forward to the next chapter “Basic Principles of Literature”. The essential attributes of literature are Theme, Plot, Characterization and Style.

Theme is “the summation of a novel’s abstract meaning”. Themes are “presented in terms of actions” those actions making up the plot. “A plot is a purposeful progression of logically connected events leading to the resolution of a climax.” The integration of plot and theme (plot-theme) is the mark of a good novel. Theme is the essential abstract meaning of the novel while plot-theme is the “core of the events”. Characterization is “the portrayal of those essential traits which form the unique, distinctive personality of an individual human being.” The key to great characterization is selectivity. Style is the ‘choice of content and choice of words’. Integrate all of these attributes, bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes and you have yourself a great novel.

“Art is the selective re-creation of reality” is mentioned in the discussion of every attribute. In fact, it is central to the the criticisms of the plotless, KASSless characters of novels in the Naturalism vein.

There are many examples in this chapter and I must say it has motivated me to check out Hugo to see some of this plot-theme integration. I especially like the KASS in the last line of the chapter. Does anyone else see the generously tolerant, ‘humanized’ Roark and (after making it through the retching) think of their favorite Saddamite?


Rand didn't do a great job

Ross Elliot's picture

Rand didn't do a great job with her drawing of Galt. Understandable perhaps in that Galt=Francisco+Hank, and we'd already explored those two quite fully by the time Galt was revealed.

Francisco's depiction is wonderful, as it needed to be. He *was* the first act of Atlas, and the agent of change for most of the novel. Sometimes I think Galt was just the icing on the cake.

Re theme, I'm sure this is something most writers internalise more than explicate. Plot seems to be the starting point for so much, yet theme is the mother of plot. Theme asks what? & why? Plot asks & answers the how? Theme certainly provides focus. The more you write, the more you grasp its importance. It keeps your plotting on track and your characters on the straight & narrow.

"Does anyone else see the

JoeM's picture

"Does anyone else see the generously tolerant, ‘humanized’ Roark and (after making it through the retching) think of their favorite Saddamite?"

Yep, and elsewhere as well...

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