The British Literary Form

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All societies have what can be called a literary form, that is a method or manner in how they present their stories. 

Whether coming from a written or oral tradition, there is a 'skeleton' on which the story is built.  

No matter what or where the tale occurs, (be it in fantasy, the distant past, the present or the future) this 'skeleton' persists.

It is the core of how a people see themselves.  

All people, regardless of where they are, have the belief that their 'way' is the only way or the right way and expect everyone else to have the same way or a similar way.

The fact is, this is untrue as different cultures value different things.  Different cultures have different expectations.   Different cultures have their rankings of what is at the top, what is at the bottom, and many conflict.

For example, the British are fascinated with language.  The use of English, the words, the pauses, the references are all vital.   In visual presentations the reliance on language remains, contra those societies which prefer action in lieu of dialogue.

How something is said, the clever turn of phrase is highly valued.  Silence is loquacious.  

Another aspect of British society is their caste/class system.  The British are focused on their aristocracy.  They are also fixated on wars they have fought, and on heroic and gentlemanly actions.

The British Literary form has not altered over the centuries; from Elizabeth I to Victoria to Elizabeth II.  The basics of presentation remain stagnant.  

Where other nations are influenced by outside forces, the British try  to bar the door.  They might succumb in small aspects, but the culture is kept as pristine as it was when Elizabeth I was Queen.

The Grand Story

British literature has what can be called a 'Grand Story'.   The main character is often not a person but a place, a kingdom, a life style or a goal.  

The story is larger than those in it, and is to encompass those beyond it.

Manners, acceptable and unacceptable behaviour, are primary.  Those who breach the rules are punished.  Punished,  not simply by the author but by the opinions of the reader or viewer.

As a Grand Story there is no trimming.  There is no rush to establish the environment and move on, as if unimportant.  It is vital to the British presentation one knows exactly where the story takes place, when it takes place.

Dinner is served formally. People enter and exit a room. This is important to show the style, the movements, the formality. The slow pace of the story forces the reader or viewer to experience the language or the images.

The nature of the people in the story does not alter; regardless of the century in which it is posed.  Nor does it glare against modern times, as despite the change in dress and style, there is a core value, a core belief which is not tarnished.

The Usual Tragedies

In British presentations there is always a patriarch, the 'father' the 'king' he who is in charge.  He may have a wife or she might have died. Her role, if she is absent, would be filled by an elder daughter or housekeeper, who insures standards are kept.

This demand for 'standards' is core in a British presentation.   

This effects the relationships between the characters.   Unhappily, there is always the death of the very finest people, often at a young age.  The most blameless, the kindest, the most honourable characters are usually killed off early.  Killed early so as to make the mourning of such a person part of the Grand Story.

There are always the unscrupulous, the dishonest, the trouble makers, who seem to get away with their deeds.  Even if punished, it is not for long.  

Many of the villians may recognise their wrong and repent before departing the presentation.   Some may be sorry for a short time, then return to their usual behaviour.

What the reader or viewer will experience is that when characters are too happy, too content with their lot, some evil arises to destroy it for all time.

This sense of evil fate persists throughout most British presentations.  One is never 'happy ever after'.   Those who are happy are often peripheral characters, often with flaws; and a lack of recognition as to what causes their happiness.

Despite the suffering a character undergoes, suffering in their pursuit of contentment, they can not profit.  The assumption that living beings deserve happiness, is not supported.

It is standard that as the pinnacle of happiness is reached, the character is tossed down.   There is a death, a disease, a false charge to end them in prison, something that will destroy or spoil their happiness.

The Denouement

There is always some revelation which occurs a bit late in the story.  Often when nearly everything has been destroyed.   Words which ought have been said in Chapter 3 (or episode 6) are not shared until Chapter 34  or Episode 12) when disaster has befallen and could have been prevented.

This delay is so powerful it is almost a 'character' in the presentation, for it exists in every scene, taints interactions.

Marriage proposals are refused, then regretted.   They may not be made when they ought have, causing years of sorrow.   Attacks are not reported until relationships are destroyed, or nearly destroyed. 

The overriding impression that time is unlimited, that years mean nothing, appears in British Presentations, where other nations are a bit more proactive; that is if one turns down a marriage proposal, that's it... the parties go on to find others and forget the past.   The British never forget the past.


In British productions, the situation at the end mirrors that at the beginning.  People may experience all manner of disruption, yet, wind up very much in the same place they were at start.

Deaths, not withstanding, Births, not withstanding, Wars and loss and tragedy, not withstanding, the presentation, be it writen or visual, usually ends with the characters in the same milieu they were in when the 'curtain' went up.



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