6 Plots

Interesting BBC Culture article here on the premise forwarded from the University of Vermont that every human story falls into one of six story types. The premise, in brief:

The researchers used sentiment analysis to get the data – a statistical technique often used by marketeers to analyse social media posts in which each word is allocated a particular ‘sentiment score’, based on crowdsourced data. Depending on the lexicon chosen, a word can be categorised as positive (happy) or negative (sad), or it can be associated with one or more of eight more subtle emotions, including fear, joy, surprise and anticipation. For example, the word ‘happy’ is positive, and associated with joy, trust and anticipation. The word ‘abolish’ is negative and associated with anger.

Check the link, the article proposes six well-known stories to match each of these categories:

  1. Rags to riches – a steady rise from bad to good fortune
  2. Riches to rags – a fall from good to bad, a tragedy
  3. Icarus – a rise then a fall in fortune
  4. Oedipus – a fall, a rise then a fall again
  5. Cinderella – rise, fall, rise
  6. Man in a hole – fall, rise

Immediately, it got my mind thinking. a theologian I once encountered boiled it down to one of two for bible stories: Creation or Exodus. Each of those has a happy ending, so I wonder if that’s the problem with Christian fiction and why so much of it comes off as limp: everybody’s good, as the motto goes.

Rags to riches tales seem rare in the Bible. Perhaps King David. He did have setbacks later in life, but his steady rise from musical shepherd boy to king is a pretty soaring vector.

The opposite tale, riches to rags, seems accurate for Solomon. He was born a prince, and well regarded in the sight of God and people. But things deteriorated once he got involved with a thousand wives and concubines, idolatry, and all sorts of sinfulness. In the New Testament, the story arc of Judas: we never hear of his experience of calling, but he descends into betrayal and suicide.

Icarus reminds me of Adam and Eve, the Tower of Babel, the overarching story of the united kingdom of Israel, which is never restored after the death of Solomon.

Oedipus repeats itself in the whole narrative of Israel: the founding of a kingdom, the splintering of the tribes, and eventually, exile. Then a return from exile. They further conquests by foreign powers.

Cinderella seems to be everybody’s saint. Peter: on the rise as apostle and rock. Then denial and sorrow. Then a restoration by Jesus himself. Paul: the good life as a Pharisee, then the blinding light, then elevation to apostle.

Jesus would be the ultimate man in a hole, wouldn’t he? Descent to become a servant, and to endure death on a cross. Then rising up into glory.

Any significant Bible stories or saints I’ve missed?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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2 Responses to 6 Plots

  1. Pingback: Which Of the Six? | Catholic Sensibility

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