While there is a seemingly infinite variety of subjects and themes for stories, there is a strong argument that all stories share the same structural principles. This idea was put for ward in the earliest work of literar y criticism, Aristotle’s Poetics (330 BCE):
While later critics often expand Aristotle’s conception of narrative structure to include further parts, its three-pointed overall shape remains. For example, the German novelist Gustav Freytag adds the ‘rise’ halfway between the beginning and the middle and the ‘return or fall’ halfway between the middle and the end. Yet he still contends that ‘drama possesses… a pyramidal structure’, the points of which are the beginning (the introduction or exposition), the middle (the climax), and the end (the catastrophe or denouement) (Freytag 1900, pp. 114–15, see Figure 1). Using examples drawn from popular set texts, this article explores the significance of the middle of narratives and offers questions for you to ask of the texts you study.
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