Narrative Traditions I

Brayden Sathrum


DTC 354

The movie “Fargo” follows Jerry Lundegaard as he attempts to obtain money from his father-in-law by hiring criminals to kidnap his wife and demand a ransom. His seemingly simple plan quickly turns to disaster, resulting in the murders of numerous  people. The plotline of Fargo is only moved forward by the actions of the different characters. Jerry’s half-baked attempt at exhorting money from his father-in-law sets the rest of the story in motion, motivating others to make mistakes that continue the line of tragedy. Aristotle speaks on this notion in his book, “Poetics,” in which he discusses how tragedy is built in poetry. He describes how the most important function of a tragedy is the plot, as it is “the soul of a tragedy…the most beautiful colors, laid on confusingly, will not give as much pleasure as the chalk outline of a portrait.”

Along with this, Aristotle explains how a strong plot is formed and what it can achieve for a tragedy. “A well constructed plot should, therefore, be single in its issue, rather than double as some maintain.” He goes on to explain that the overarching conflict in a tragedy should come from a character’s actions rather than an outside source. Fargo executes Aristotle’s argument well. Everything that occurs in Fargo is a direct result of Jerry’s first major decision: hiring criminals to kidnap his wife. From there, a series of errors occurs that brings about the tragedies presented to us.

Unraveling the plot this way brings more than creating conflict. It also allows the viewer to understand the motivations and struggles of each character. While we don’t know why Jerry needs the money, we can see that he is a desperate man that’s willing to bend morals to achieve his goals. Inevitably, almost every character makes an angry or murderous decision that leads to their demise, all of which directly correlates to Jerry’s first choice. Each of these demonstrates a different side to the characters. While both criminals are morally gray, we can see through the way they deal with the situation how their perspectives differ. One is more emotional and hasty, while the other is methodical and mostly numb. Though each character’s viewpoint is different, none of them react in a way that doesn’t align with their established personality or what one could expect from a person realistically. Aristotle explains that this is key to a good tragedy, stating that “character must be true to life: or this is a distinct thing from goodness and propriety.” 

Exploring Fargo’s plot through the lens of Aristotle’s Poetics shows how well-written tragedies can be created. Having the storyline unfold through the action of one central character allows for the motivations and personalities of others to be explored naturally. In this way, nothing feels forced or uncharacteristic. Rather, characters are responding to the actions of someone else and have to make plays of their own, which are chosen based on their unique perspectives.

Getting to Know Sammy

Hi all! Thanks for taking the time to read my post. My name is Sammy, I’m 24, and I’m pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Fine Arts with a minor in DTC. Right now, I bartend and cook at Underbar in downtown Vancouver. Come visit if you’d like! This is my first semester here at WSUV, so I’m really looking forward to getting to know more of you. I’m not very good at making the first move, but I’m really nice if you don’t mind striking up a conversation!

I watch and read a lot of different genres, but the ones I find myself going back to the most are romance, fantasy, and comedy. I tend to gravitate toward dramas as well, though I don’t actively seek it out. I think stories are usually more fun when they have some romance- except Top Gun, it was so unnecessary in my opinion. For the longest time I refused to say I liked fantasy, because to me, I thought it meant something Harry Potter or Game of Thrones. Nothing wrong with those, there were just other things that interested me more. But I’ve started to realize how vast the fantasy genre is- some of my favorite stories are actually categorized as fantasy. The appeal of comedy, I think, is self-explanatory.

The story media that interests me the most is categorized under graphic novels. I read a lot of Japanese manga growing up, though I read more Korean manwha these days, usually romance with drama and other themes. I read almost every day. I also enjoy watching animated shows. Anime, which you probably could’ve guessed, and mostly action or comedy. I don’t watch a whole lot of movies, but I’m obsessed with Studio Ghibli and have two tattoos of Ghibli characters. I like American animated shows as well! My coworker recommended to me the show Bee and Puppycat, which wikipedia classified as a fantasy dramedy. The whole series was the most zen psychedelic experience, and it ended having answered none of my questions. It was such a trip and I highly recommend it. Immediately after I did a complete 180 to rewatch Bojack Horseman, a black dramedy. A special mention that doesn’t quite fit are musicals. I’m a theatre kid at heart, truly. I enjoy many genres of musicals, as long as the songs are fun to sing along to.

Thanks for sticking through and reading! I hope some of you are into the same things, I would love to be able to geek about it together (particularly Bee and Puppycat).

See you in class,


^DTC354 after we all become besties