Seven Stories (Blog#1)

All stories are inherently similar and interrelated. Walter Ong explains this idea of intertextuality, which occurs when “a novelist writes a novel because he or she is familiar with this kind of textual organization of experience.” He argues that literature is not created solely from one’s experiences. Furthermore, an article by Len Wilson explores intertextuality on the basis that there are only seven different storylines (http://lenwilson.us/seven-stories/). He covers the different fundamental plots that all stories follow. The original seven themes described by Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch include man: against man, against nature, against himself, against God, against society, caught in the middle, and man against woman. It has been noted that every story will fall into one of these fundamental categories and can only slightly change the perspective or environment of the text. This trend can be seen in the close relationship of The Martian, by Andy Weir to other stories in the man against nature theme including The Odyssey by Homer, Cast Away by William Broyles Jr., 127 Hours By Danny Boyle, and many more. All of the listed stories revolve around the notion of a person, isolated from civilization, facing the forces of nature. One character is left behind or stranded and faced with the seemingly impossible challenge of survival. In The Martian, the stranded astronaut, Mark Watney endures rugged, barren Mars terrain and faces challenges including food cultivation, potable water, source of breathable oxygen, and ultimately communication with civilization. Despite the change in setting and different tasks Watney has to complete, it could be argued that The Martian follows the same storyline present in all of the other survival stories where a man must find a source of food, water, and ultimately connect with the outside world through some form of communication to be saved.

Ong argues that originality and creativity have been diminishing over time, as a result of intertextuality. Although similarities in plot can be seen between The Martian and other man against nature stories, I believe that originality can stem from intertextuality. As Ong and Wilson claim, there are reoccurring story lines that all novels will follow; however this is only a result of creating broad and overly-general categories. I argue that The Martian begins with the classic survival story of a stranded man, but continues to enhance the topic with new ideas. For example, Weir creates an environment where Mark Watney is capable of making contact with civilization through the cameras of the spacecraft, Pathfinder, and eventually through a messaging system via the Mars rover, yet is unable to achieve salvation as a result of other circumstances. As time progresses, I feel it becomes more probable that there will be a decline in originality as a result of exhausting too many storylines; however as it stands there are many ways of enhancing the classic story themes ,as Weir has done, that can make the reader feel immersed in an original, exciting story.

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One thought on “Seven Stories (Blog#1)

  1. “Ong argues that originality and creativity have been diminishing over time, as a result of intertextuality.”
    Ong actually agrees with you. What he is saying with intertextuality is that print culture produces a particular type of “anxiety of influence,” so that writers focus less on trying to create something completely original, and instead “remix” (for lack of a better term) stories that have come before. So, yes, The Martian is a retelling of Robinson Crusoe, but the particular setting and challenges of living on Mars are what makes it unique and interesting.

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