A frame story (also known as a frame tale, frame narrative, sandwich narrative or intercalation) is a literary technique that serves as a companion piece to a story within a story, where an introductory or main narrative sets the stage either for a more emphasized second narrative or for a set of shorter stories. The frame story leads readers from a first story into one or more other stories within it. The frame story may also be used to inform readers about aspects of the secondary narrative(s) that may otherwise be hard to understand. This should not be confused with narrative structure.
Some of the earliest frame stories are from ancient Egypt, including one in the Papyrus Westcar, the Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor , and The Eloquent Peasant .Other early examples are from Indian literature, including the Sanskrit epics Mahabharata , Ramayana , Panchatantra , Syntipas's The Seven Wise Masters , and the fable collections Hitopadesha and Vikram and The Vampire . This form gradually spread west through the centuries and became popular, giving rise to such classic frame tale collections as the One Thousand and One Nights (Arabian Nights), The Decameron , and the Canterbury Tales , in which each pilgrim tells his own kind of tale, and whose frame story "was once the most admired part of Chaucer's work".
The use of a frame story in which a single narrative is set in the context of the telling of a story is also a technique with a long history, dating back at least to the beginning section of Homer's Odyssey , in which the narrator Odysseus tells of his wandering in the court of King Alcinous.
A frame story is a literary device that acts as a convenient conceit to organize a set of smaller narratives, either devised by the author or taken from a previous stock of popular tales, slightly altered by the author for the purpose of the longer narrative. Sometimes a story within the main narrative encapsulates some aspect of the framing story, in which case it is called a mise en abyme .
A typical frame story is One Thousand and One Nights , in which the character Shahrazad narrates a set of fairy tales to the Sultan Shahriyar over many nights. Many of Shahrazad's tales are also frame stories, such as Tale of Sindbad the Seaman and Sindbad the Landsman , a collection of adventures related by Sindbad the Seaman to Sindbad the Landsman.
Ovid's Metamorphoses makes extensive use of framing, with the stories nested several deep, allowing the inclusion of many different tales in one work.Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights uses this literary device to tell the story of Heathcliff and Catherine, along with the subplots. Her sister Anne uses this device in her epistolary novel The Tenant of Wildfell Hall . The main heroine's diary is framed by the narrator's story and letters.
Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein has multiple framed narratives. In the book, Robert Walton writes letters to his sister, describing the story told to him by the scientist Victor Frankenstein. Frankenstein's story contains the monster's story, and its story even briefly contains the tale of a family whom he had been observing.
Frame stories have appeared in comic books. Neil Gaiman's comic book series The Sandman featured a story arc called Worlds End which consisted of frame stories, and sometimes even featured stories within stories within stories.
Sometimes, as in Washington Irving's Sketch Book, which contains "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle" among others, the conceit is that the author of the book is not the real author but a fictional character, in this case a man named Crayon. Here the frame includes the world of the imagined Crayon, his stories, and the reader who is assumed to play along and "know" who Crayon is.
When there is a single story, the frame story is used for other purposes – chiefly to position the reader's attitude toward the tale. This can be done in a variety of ways.
A common reason to frame a single story is to draw attention to the narrator's unreliability. By explicitly making the narrator a character within the frame story, the writer distances him or herself from the narrator. The writer may characterize the narrator to cast doubt on the narrator's truthfulness, as when in P. G. Wodehouse's stories of Mr Mulliner, Mulliner is made a fly fisherman, a person who is expected to tell tales of unbelievably large fish.[ citation needed ] The movie Amadeus is framed as a story an old Antonio Salieri tells to a young priest, because the movie is based more on stories Salieri told about Mozart than on historical fact.
Another use is a form of procatalepsis, where the writer puts the readers' possible reactions to the story in the characters listening to it. In The Princess Bride the frame of a grandfather reading the story to his reluctant grandson puts the cynical reaction a viewer might have to the romantic fairytale into the story in the grandson's persona, and helps defuse it. This is the use when the frame tells a story that lacks a strong narrative hook in its opening; the narrator can engage the reader's interest by telling the story to answer the curiosity of his listeners, or by warning them that the story began in an ordinary seeming way, but they must follow it to understand later actions, thereby identifying the reader's wondering whether the story is worth reading to the listeners'.Such an approach was used, too, by Edith Wharton in her novella Ethan Frome, in which a nameless narrator hears from many characters in the town of Starkfield about the main character Ethan's story.
A specialized form of the frame is a dream vision, where the narrator claims to have gone to sleep, dreamed the events of the story, and then awoken to tell the tale. In medieval Europe, this was a common device, used to indicate that the events included are fictional; Geoffrey Chaucer used it in The Book of the Duchess , The House of Fame , Parlement of Foules , and The Legend of Good Women (the last also containing a multi-story frame story within the dream).[ citation needed ] In modern usage, it is sometimes used in works of fantasy as a means toward suspension of disbelief about the marvels depicted in the story. J.R.R. Tolkien, in his essay "On Fairy-Stories" complained of such devices as unwillingness to treat the genre seriously; he used frame stories of different kinds in his Middle-earth writings. Lewis Carroll's Alice stories ( Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass ) includes such a frame, the stories themselves using dream-like logic and sequences. The writer John Bunyan used a dream device in the Christian allegory Pilgrim's Progress and its sequel, explaining that they were dreams he had while he was in prison and felt God wanted him to write down. This worked because it made what might have been seen as a fantasy more like a divine revelation to others who believed as he did.
Still, even when the story proceeds realistically, the dream frame casts doubt on the events. In the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz , the events really occur; the dream frame added for the movie detracts from the validity of the fantasy.
To be a frame narrative, the story must act primarily as an occasion for the telling of other stories. For example, Odysseus narrates much of the Odyssey to the Phaeacians, but, even though this recollection forms a great part of the poem, the events after and before the interpolated recollection are of greater interest than the memory.
A film that plays with frame narrative is the 1994 Forrest Gump . Most of it is narrated by Forrest to various companions on the park bench. However, in the last fifth or so of the film, Forrest gets up and leaves the bench, and we follow him as he meets with Jenny and her son. This final segment suddenly has no narrator unlike the rest of the film that came before it, but is instead told through Forrest and Jenny's dialogues.
This approach is also demonstrated in the 2008 film Slumdog Millionaire (adapted from the 2005 novel Q & A ), about a poor street kid named Jamal who comes close to winning Kaun Banega Crorepati (the Indian equivalent of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? ) but finds himself accused of cheating. Most of the story is narrated at a police station by Jamal, who explains how he knew the answers to each of the questions as the show is played back on video. The show itself then serves as another framing device, as Jamal sees flashbacks of his past as each question is asked. The last portion of the film then unfolds without any narrator.
In musical sonata form or rondo, a reprised theme occurs at the beginning and end of the work, or returns periodically.A framing device may take the form of a recurrent element at the beginning and end of the narrative. For example, a story may begin with a character visiting a park under one set of circumstances, then returning at the end to the same park under a different set of circumstances, having undergone a change that allows him or her to see the park in a new light.
A framing device might simply be a defining image of the narrative or art that is used at the beginning and end of the work, as in the film Chariots of Fire which begins and ends with the characters running along a beach, accompanied at both times by the movie's famous theme music. This scene, although chronologically in the middle of the film and unimportant to the straightforward plot, serves to convey a defining emotion and tone that sets the context for the main story.
The Canterbury Tales is a collection of 24 stories that runs to over 17,000 lines written in Middle English by Geoffrey Chaucer between 1387 and 1400. In 1386, Chaucer became Controller of Customs and Justice of the Peace and, in 1389, Clerk of the King's Works. It was during these years that Chaucer began working on his most famous text, The Canterbury Tales. The tales are presented as part of a story-telling contest by a group of pilgrims as they travel together from London to Canterbury to visit the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. The prize for this contest is a free meal at the Tabard Inn at Southwark on their return.
One Thousand and One Nights is a collection of Middle Eastern folk tales compiled in Arabic during the Islamic Golden Age. It is often known in English as the Arabian Nights, from the first English-language edition, which rendered the title as The Arabian Nights' Entertainment.
A first-person narrative is a mode of storytelling in which a storyteller recounts events from their own point of view using the first person such as "I", "us", "our" and "ourselves". It may be narrated by a first person protagonist, first person re-teller, first person witness, or first person peripheral. A classic example of a first person protagonist narrator is Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre (1847), in which the title character is also the narrator telling her own story, "I could not unlove him now, merely because I found that he had ceased to notice me".
A story within a story, also referred to as an embedded narrative, is a literary device in which a character within a story becomes the narrator of a second story. Multiple layers of stories within stories are sometimes called nested stories. A play may have a brief play within it, such as Shakespeare's play Hamlet; a film may show the characters watching a short film; or a novel may contain a short story within the novel. A story within a story can be used in all types of narration: novels, short stories, plays, television programs, films, poems, songs, and philosophical essays.
A narrative, story or tale is any account of a series of related events or experiences, whether nonfictional or fictional. Narratives can be presented through a sequence of written or spoken words, still or moving images, or any combination of these. The word derives from the Latin verb narrare, which is derived from the adjective gnarus. Along with argumentation, description, and exposition, narration, broadly defined, is one of four rhetorical modes of discourse. More narrowly defined, it is the fiction-writing mode in which the narrator communicates directly to the reader.
Sinbad the Sailor is a fictional mariner and the hero of a story-cycle of Middle Eastern origin. He is described as hailing from Baghdad during the early Abbasid Caliphate. In the course of seven voyages throughout the seas east of Africa and south of Asia, he has fantastic adventures in magical realms, encountering monsters and witnessing supernatural phenomena.
Scheherazade is a major female character and the storyteller in the frame narrative of the Middle Eastern collection of tales known as the One Thousand and One Nights.
Diegesis is a style of fiction storytelling that presents an interior view of a world in which:
An unreliable narrator is a narrator whose credibility is compromised. They can be found in fiction and film, and range from children to mature characters. The term was coined in 1961 by Wayne C. Booth in The Rhetoric of Fiction. While unreliable narrators are almost by definition first-person narrators, arguments have been made for the existence of unreliable second- and third-person narrators, especially within the context of film and television, and sometimes also in literature.
Narrative poetry is a form of poetry that tells a story, often making the voices of a narrator and characters as well; the entire story is usually written in metered verse. Narrative poems do not need rhyme. The poems that make up this genre may be short or long, and the story it relates to may be complex. It is normally dramatic, with objectives, diverse and meter. Narrative poems include epics, ballads, idylls, and lays.
Narration is the use of a written or spoken commentary to convey a story to an audience. Narration is conveyed by a narrator: a specific person or unspecified literary voice, developed by the creator of the story, to deliver information to the audience, particularly about the plot. Narration is a required element of all written stories, with the function of conveying the story in its entirety. However, narration is merely optional in most other storytelling formats, such as films, plays, television shows, and video games, in which the story can be conveyed through other means, like dialogue between characters or visual action.
A plot twist is a literary technique that introduces a radical change in the direction or expected outcome of the plot in a work of fiction. When it happens near the end of a story, it is known as a twist or surprise ending. It may change the audience's perception of the preceding events, or introduce a new conflict that places it in a different context. A plot twist may be foreshadowed, to prepare the audience to accept it. There are a variety of methods used to execute a plot twist, such as withholding information from the audience or misleading it with ambiguous or false information.
The General Prologue is the first part of Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales.
A flashback is an interjected scene that takes the narrative back in time from the current point in the story. Flashbacks are often used to recount events that happened before the story's primary sequence of events to fill in crucial backstory. In the opposite direction, a flashforward reveals events that will occur in the future. Both flashback and flashforward are used to cohere a story, develop a character, or add structure to the narrative. In literature, internal analepsis is a flashback to an earlier point in the narrative; external analepsis is a flashback to a time before the narrative started.
The Legend of Good Women is a poem in the form of a dream vision by Geoffrey Chaucer during the fourteenth century.
Metamorphoses is a play by the American playwright and director Mary Zimmerman, adapted from the classic Ovid poem Metamorphoses. The play premiered in 1996 as Six Myths at Northwestern University and later the Lookingglass Theatre Company in Chicago. The play opened off-Broadway in October 2001 at the Second Stage Theatre. It transferred to Broadway on 21 February 2002 at the Circle in the Square Theatre produced by Roy Gabay and Robyn Goodman. That year it won several Tony Awards.
The Decameron, subtitled Prince Galehaut and sometimes nicknamed l'Umana commedia, is a collection of novellas by the 14th-century Italian author Giovanni Boccaccio (1313–1375). The book is structured as a frame story containing 100 tales told by a group of seven young women and three young men; they shelter in a secluded villa just outside Florence in order to escape the Black Death, which was afflicting the city. Boccaccio probably conceived of The Decameron after the epidemic of 1348, and completed it by 1353. The various tales of love in The Decameron range from the erotic to the tragic. Tales of wit, practical jokes, and life lessons contribute to the mosaic. In addition to its literary value and widespread influence, it provides a document of life at the time. Written in the vernacular of the Florentine language, it is considered a masterpiece of classical early Italian prose.
Tolkien's frame stories are the narrative devices that J. R. R. Tolkien chose to use throughout his Middle-earth writings, especially his legendarium, to make the works resemble a genuine mythology written and edited by many hands over a long period of time. He described in detail how his fictional characters wrote their books and transmitted them to others, and showed how later editors annotated the material.