Definition of Frame Story
Frame story is a story set within a story, narrative or movie told by the main or the supporting character. It occurs within the story or the movie or the narrative and audience comes across it when reading a book or watching a movie. A character starts telling a story to other characters, he would sit down and write a story. This technique is called a frame narrative, or frame story. It is a very popular form of literary technique employed in storytelling and narration. It usually is found in novels, plays, poems, television, films, musicals and opera. It is a unifying tale within which one or more related stories appear. For instance, in Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus tells about his wandering experience in the court of King Alcinous, or his visit to the island of a sorcerer.
Examples of Frame Story from Literature
There are several examples of this technique used by Marry Shelley in her novel, Frankenstein Marry Shelley. She has given multiple framed stories in this novel. For example, Robert Walton describes a story– told by Frankenstein, in his letters that he writes to his sister. Frankenstein’s story contains story of creature and creature’s story briefly contains a story of the family among which he has been living.
(Frankenstein by Marry Shelley)
In the film, Inception, Leonardo Dicaprio enters into dream of Cillian Murphy to embed an idea into his subconscious. Leonardo puts him to sleep in a dream, following him to a second layer of dream that soon gives way to another dream. In the innermost dream, Leonardo is blown out and enters into an endless dream — “limbo” which could last for eternity, but only a few seconds pass in a real world. Leonardo, eventually wakes up through layers of dreams, seems like years have passed away, returning to his waking life.
(Inception by Christopher Nolan)
In the movie, Titanic an elderly woman Rose begins the movie by telling a story of her voyage in the Atlantic Ocean. When the reader gets into her narrative, he/she finds himself/herself in the year 1912, where the story begins. Only few times we return to elderly Rose to get in touch with her experience; however, the movie ends as it begins. This is called framing technique in which the writer tells a story within a story.
(Titanic by James Cameron)
In “Canterbury Tales”, Geoffrey Chaucer has used frame narrative, brings different characters, where each one tells a story. This pilgrimage frame story brings together a number of storytellers, who appear with vivid personality traits and build up dramatic relationships with one another and with the tales, they tell. General Prologue is the section of this poem, which deals with frame narrative.
(“The Canterbury Tales” by Geoffrey Chaucer)
Wuthering Heights, like Frankenstein, also have frame stories. Emily Bronte introduces Mr. Lockwood as the first narrator, who depicts his visit to the Wuthering Heights and the narration switches to the perspective of Mr. Dean, who describes the estate’s history. Readers get introduction of all the major characters. This switching in narration is very helpful, as it connects the present with the past. Mr. Lockwood tries to find out what could have happened in the past that made the current dwellers of the estate depressed and stubborn. Mrs. Dean, however, provides information about the past, which caused the characters to transform in this way.
(Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte)
In Conrad’s novel, Heart of Darkness, there are two narrators; one is the anonymous passenger traveling on a pleasure ship, listening to the story of Marlowe, while the second is Marlowe himself. The first narrator, on the behalf of other four passengers, uses first person plural. Marlowe, on the other hand, narrates his story in first person, describing whatever he has seen and experienced. This provides a commentary on the entire story, acting as a frame story.
(Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad)
Function of Frame Story
This literary technique uses embedded narratives, which provide readers with a context about the main narrative. Frame story leads the readers from the first story to the other one. This is a sort of guidance, which establishes the context for an embedded narrative, helping the writer to create a context how a narrative needs to be interpreted. It also offers multiple perspectives to the readers within a story as well as about the story. These multiple perspectives give the readers more information about the characters regarding their feelings, thoughts and motivations.