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In a narrative, such as a novel or a film, motifs About this sound (pronunciation) are recurring structures, contrasts, or literary devices that can help to develop and inform the piece’s major themes. The narrative motif is the vehicle by means of which the narrative theme is conveyed.[1] The motif can be an idea, an object, a place or a statement.

The flute in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman is a recurrent motif that conveys rural and idyllic notions. The green light in The Great Gatsby and the repeated statement, "My father said that the reason for living is getting ready to stay dead." A motif can be something that recurs to develop the theme in a novel.

A motif can also be used to connect different scenes or points in time in works such as Slaughter House Five A motif differs from a theme in that a theme is an idea set forth by a text, where a motif is a recurring element which symbolizes that idea. The motif can also be more like the central idea behind the theme, such as courage or loyalty.

Things such as alliterations and similies can also be used.

Contents

Techniques

There are several literary techniques used to convey a motif. The earliest appears to be leitwortstil, the 'the purposeful repetition of words' in a given literary piece that "usually expresses a motif or theme important to the given story". This dates back to the One Thousand and One Nights to connect several tales together in a story cycle and "to shape the constituent members of their story cycles into a coherent whole."[2]

Another technique is "thematic patterning", which is known as "the distribution of recurrent thematic concepts and moralistic motifs among the various incidents and frames of a story. In a skillfully crafted tale, thematic patterning may be arranged so as to emphasize the unifying argument or salient idea which disparate events and disparate frames have in common". This also dates back to the One Thousand and One Nights.[3]

Dispute

Some literary theorists believe that the motif is an ineffective descriptor in itself, as the use of a motif or pattern is, if it is intentional, interwoven in a larger scheme of the work, such as a theme (literature) or in symbolism. Those who disapprove of the motif in general understand its implications throughout analytical reading but require more support to uphold its existence.

See also

References

  1. ^ James H. Grayson. Myths and Legends from Korea: An Annotated Compendium of Ancient and Modern Materials (p. 9). New York and Abingdon: Routledge Curzon, 2000. ISBN 0-70071-241-0.
  2. ^ Heath, Peter (May 1994), "Reviewed work(s): Story-Telling Techniques in the Arabian Nights by David Pinault", International Journal of Middle East Studies (Cambridge University Press) 26 (2): 358–360 [359-60] 
  3. ^ Heath, Peter (May 1994), "Reviewed work(s): Story-Telling Techniques in the Arabian Nights by David Pinault", International Journal of Middle East Studies (Cambridge University Press) 26 (2): 358–360 [360] 

How to Read Literature Like a Professor

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