Definition of Plot
A Plot is a series of interconnected events that make up a story. A story consists of some events that are purposively linked by an unbroken cause-effect chain. If the events that are not linked one to another, they do not form a story. Thus, to form a story, Event A must cause Event B, Event B must cause Event C, Event C must cause Event D, and so on. If Event B occurs unrelatedly to Event A, and Event C could have occurred without Event B, These three events (A, B, and C) do not form a plot. They are just a collection of unrelated events. They do not construct a story.
To get an example, let’s consider Boccaro’s A Long walk Home. In the story, the event of when Jackson is asked to take the car to a garage, drives his father to Mijas, puts the car to the garage, and watches some movies are interrelated. He will not drive his father to Mijas and watches the movies if he is not asked to take the car to a garage. He might even not decide to stop telling lies to his father if he is not asked to take the car to a garage! All events in the story are linked one to another.
Perceiving the example above, it is obvious that a plot shows readers what actually happens to the characters and what the characters do while reacting to these occurrences and the complex consequences of their actions. The events in a plot are not randomly arranged but carefully selected and purposively interconnected to attain the author’s purpose i.e. to present his theme.
In A Long walk Home,.Boccaro purposively selects only events closely related to his purpose for revealing the theme, i.e., “A bitter and painful experience can turn to be an effective lesson”. In the story, Boccaro does not include the events when Jackson and his father get breakfast. He even does not tell what movies Jackson watches. He carefully selects the events necessary to present the theme. That’s why he just tells why Jackson puts the car into the garage, why he picks up his father very late, what excuse he makes to avoid his father from being angry, why his father knows he is lying, why his father decides to walk home instead of getting into the car, and why this is so distressing painful to Jackson that he promises not to lie to his father after. In short, Boccaro tells only some events and carefully links them to reveal his theme.
Elements of Plot
Most plots consist of five basic elements: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution or denouement (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Generic Pattern of Plot
A plot starts with an exposition, or introduction, which presents the main character, establishes the story's setting, presents the conflict, or the main problem, and often provides some background information to help readers understand the story to unfold. The conflict can emerge as a dispute or clash between a character against another character (man vs. man), between a character against himself (inner conflict), between one or more character against the society, between one or more character against nature (man vs. nature), or between a character against supernatural power. The conflict in Boccaro’s A Long walk Home., for instance, is a contest the Jackson and his father (man vs. man). The conflict emerges when Jackson is very late to pick up his father. The conflict in Hemingway’s Old Man at the Bridge is a clash between the old man against the war (man vs. nature) and the conflict in Murong Xuecun’s TheAccident is a clash between the old farmer against the unjust law enforcement (man vs. society).
Rising action refers to all the events that create suspense or make the conflict complicated, develop the character and lead to the eventual climax. During this part of a story, the reader will encounter tension, excitement, or crisis because the main character tries to solve the conflict using a series of actions and options that lead to consequences and then to more choices and actions. The rising action in A Long walk Home. includes the events when Jackson makes up an excuse as a solution (to avoid his father from being angry), when his father expresses his disappointment with his lie, when he says that he calls the garage when Jackson does not turn up at 4 p.pm. Al these events make the conflict more complicated and lead to the climax, i.e., when Jackson’s father states that he is angry with himself because he realizes he has failed to educate Jackson.
The climax is the most exciting point of the story. It is the event when the main character is in crisis or encounters the greatest problem related to the conflict, or faces a major enemy, fear, challenge, or other sources of conflict. The climax is the moment of highest interest and emotion, and it leaves the reader wondering what is going to happen next. As stated above, the climax in A Long walk Home. is when Jackson’s father gets angry with himself for realizing he has failed to educate Jackson. This makes the reader wonders what will happen after that.
Falling Action covers the scene when the story begins to slow down because the conflict begins to resolve. In A Long walk Home, the falling action starts when Jackson’s father decides to punish himself by walking home.
The resolution or denouement is the event that puts the story to either a happy or tragic ending. It is like a concluding paragraph that resolves any remaining issues and ends the story. In A Long walk Home., the resolution is when Jackson feels distressing and painful after seeing his father suffers from physical and emotional pain. However, despite its bitterness, this experience teaches him an unforgettable and invaluable lesson.
An Analysis of the Theme and Plot of "A Long Walk Home"
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