The Seven Basic Plots

On the hottest night of the year, Lit Sic convened in the Beaumont Garden to discuss the Seven Plots which Christopher Booker suggests are the basis of all stories, ranging from classical times through to the present day.

According to Booker, the seven basic plots are Overcoming the Monster, The Quest, Rebirth, Rags to Riches, Tragedy, Comedy and, last but not least, Voyage and Return. The Lit Soc family rose to the challenge and were each assigned one of these to research and discuss.

We began with the oldest, the Monster, which can be traced back to a clay tablet found in Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) dating from approximately 5000 years ago! This was the Epic of Gilgamesh, and continued with the likes of Beowulf, in turn inspiring modern tales such as The Lord of the Rings. Rather neatly, this segued in to our fabulous Year 7 girls discussing The Quest.

Their thoroughly researched discussion took the motifs of this plot and applied them to the hugely popular Harry Potter stories. Motifs such as the hidden hero, the companions, the journey, the experience of disbelief, the profound alteration of the protagonists and the eventual success and completion of the quest were covered.

Mrs Stead was up next with Rebirth, looking at Sleeping Beauty, Pygmalion and Silas Marner, among others, but her real favourite was Crime and Punishment, with its tortured antihero Raskolnikov and his “nightmarish rebirth“. 

Sacha’s Rags to Riches discussion also incorporated elements of change, with the likes of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Great Gatsby, via the American Dream, all covered with erudition and enthusiasm. She put a particular emphasis on the difference between European and American plots, with the latter putting it down to hard work, whereas the former focuses on fate.

Miss Handley and Mr Humphreys took on the opposing plot staples of Tragedy and Comedy respectively. Miss Handley centred her discussion on Shakespeare’s King Lear and Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, and her “enjoyment” of these family sagas. Mr Humphreys also discussed Shakespeare, albeit his comedies A Winter’s Tale and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as well as the likes of Jeeves and Wooster and Pride and Prejudice, denoting that they were not just witty and humorous but also that the characters go through change to achieve a happy ending…in contrast to tragedy!

Mrs Rusholme brought proceedings to a close with, fittingly enough, Voyage and Return. Looking at Homer’s The Odyssey and Joyce’s Ulysses, as well as her favourite author’s Mrs Dalloway. As with all the basic plots, there are considerable overlaps with The Quest and Overcoming The Monster as well as Comedy, Tragedy and indeed the others!

Our last formal discussion of the year, and a great one. Thank you to everybody and here’s to another successful Lit Soc year!