The Seven Plot Lines: Rebirth

Posted at 17:56pm on 24th December 2008

It seems appropriate to be thinking of Rebirth as the last of the seven story plots on Christmas Eve, because the birth that we celebrate tomorrow is the one that is meant to bring rebirth to the human race.

Kasia Body’s review of The Seven Basic Plots by Christopher Booker in The Daily Telegraph (2004) is titled: “Everything Ever Written Boiled Down To Seven Plots”. It continues by pointing out that “these seven plots are merely different perspectives on the same great basic drama". This basic drama is cited as the constriction of the hero or heroine, and their ultimate release into "a final opening out into life, with everything at last resolved." In other words, the denouement.


By this token, I would think that all seven plots must end with a Rebirth? For if the dictionary definition of Rebirth is “new incarnation; spiritual enlightenment; or revival” then surely this is the stuff of all happy endings?

Think, for instance, of the conclusion of a Rags to Riches plot. For all impoverished Cinderellas about to marry their Prince Charmings, this must be a Rebirth of epic proportion. My bet is that there will be a few Cinderella wanna-be’s contemplating their New Year credit card bills at the start of 2009! Or think of the finale of the plot associated with Overcoming the Monster. If the monster is one of external circumstance, like debt, or internal attitude like that of Oscar Wilde’s Selfish Giant, then its overcoming must be a Rebirth like no other.


Both The Quest and Voyage and Return are classic Rebirth plots. But Comedy and Tragedy fall less easily into the mould. Although the finale of Guy de Maupasant’s tragedy, The Necklace, could perhaps be described as a Rebirth. If so, it serves to show that enlightenment is not always a positive experience. Ten long years after losing – and replacing at great cost to pocket and to health – a diamond necklace loaned to her by a friend, the protagonist learns that the necklace was imitation only.

Christopher Booker’s book touches on some of the oldest stories as examples of the seven basic plots – among them Bible stories. And the Christmas story, itself, might best be portrayed as Rebirth. Given that the whole of the Old Testament, and the Book of Isaiah in particular, was an anticipation of the coming of the Messiah, who was to rescue humanity from the Fall (when Adam was tempted to eat of the fruit of the tree of Good and Evil – and thereby fell out of grace with God), Christ’s coming heralded a Rebirth of the fellowship between God and mankind. In this sense, Rebirth is seen as reconciliation. And it is this, above all, which Christians celebrate at Christmas.


The book I was commissioned to write by Hodder & Stoughton some years ago, tells of the rebirth of this communion with God, when Susan, once a spoiled little rich girl, now severely disabled as a result of a brain tumour, recalls her self-pity. Newly mobilised with a motorised wheelchair, she takes herself off to a remote headland to indulge in a private, but tearful, rant, when she is confronted by a stranger who tells her of God’s love for her.

"The words came unexpectedly, as if from nowhere, disturbing my usual bitter contemplation. I looked up, feeling an unreasonable and unidentified surge of anger. An elderly, dark-haired man stood before me, dressed, in of all things, given the heat of the day, a smart city suit. In contrast to his surroundings, he looked utterly alien.
“Go away!” I rasped. “I don’t want to know. How dare you talk to me about things like that.”
A sudden flurry of gulls flew from the cliffs of St Mary’s Bay, and gave vent to a high, shrill screech. The man, whoever he was, turned and walked away.
Jesus! I thought. As if I need to hear about him!
But an inexplicable disquiet lay beneath my burning resentment. And, in the days ahead, I was to know no peace."

Once again, the plot of this story is multi-faceted: a Tragedy, a Voyage and Return, and a Rebirth. The lack of peace which haunts the protagonist is, in the end, the very means by which she gains everlasting peace. A commitment to God; an acceptance of her condition; and an inner healing. All of which bring to her riches beyond compare (rags to riches). Her Rebirth is complete.

Happy Christmas

Photo: Rickydavid at Flickr

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