Christopher Booker on the archetypal Bond plot

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Christopher Booker on the archetypal Bond plot

Postby Kristatos » Sat Nov 28, 2015 1:40 pm

I have just finished reading Christopher Booker's The Seven Basic Plots. In it, he uses the James Bond novels of Ian Fleming as modern examples of the "Overcoming the Monster" plot. Actually, he seems to conflate the literary with the movie Bond - for a book that took over 30 years to write, it can be surprisingly sloppy at times. But anyway, I thought that people here might be interested in the passage. Here's what he has to say (for explanations of the 5-stage structure alluded to, you really need to read the book):

As conceived by Fleming, the basic Bond story (one or two vary the pattern slightly) unfolds through five stages rather like this:

1. The ‘Call’ (or Anticipation Stage): The hero, a member of the British Secret Intelligence Service, is summoned by ‘M’, head of the service, and told of suspicious goings-on somewhere in the world which appear to pose a deadly threat to Britain, the West or mankind as a whole. Bond has been chosen to track down and confront the source of this evil, and the general mood of this opening phase is one of anticipation of the immense task to come. To prepare him for his ordeal, Bond may visit the armourer, ‘Q’, to be equipped with special weapons, such as a new gun, a sports car fitted with a smokescreen device or a rocket pack which will enable him to fly. These are exact modern equivalents to the ‘magic weapons’ of ancient myth, such as the sword, the ‘helmet of invisibility’ and the winged sandals enabling him to fly with which Perseus was equipped by the gods before his journey to confront Medusa.

2. Initial success (Dream Stage): Bond has first brushes with the ‘monster’s’ agents or even the ‘monster’ himself, in which he is victorious (he catches Goldfinger or Drax cheating at cards or golf). There may be attacks on his life, but he survives these, and the general mood of this stage is a dream-like sense of immunity to danger, with the full horror of the monster’s power and ambitions not yet in full view.

3. Confrontation (Frustration Stage): Bond eventually penetrates the monster’s lair to get closer to his enemy and then suffers his first serious setback, when he falls into the monster’s clutches. But this enables him to get a full view of his sinister and repulsive opponent for the first time. Because the villain thinks he has Bond in his power, he reveals the full scale of his intentions, e.g., to rob Fort Knox or to drop a nuclear bomb on London. Bond’s frustration at not being able to communicate this vital information back to the outside world is redoubled by knowing that the monster also has in his grip some beautiful girl or captive ‘Princess’.

4. Final ordeal (Nightmare Stage): Bond is now forced by the monster to face the ‘terrible ordeal’, which seems fiendishly designed to lead to his painful, long-drawn out death: e.g. having to endure a deadly obstacle race, crawling through a subterranean tunnel, where he has to run the gauntlet of poisonous spiders, roasting heat and finally a battle with a giant squid.

5. The Miraculous Escape (and Death of the Monster): Bond survives the ordeal and then, by a miraculous feat of ingenuity and strength, manages in the nick of time to turn the tables, outwitting and killing the villain. He thus saves not only his own life but Fort Knox, London, mankind or whatever has been threatened with destruction. The monster is dead and Bond is free to end his adventure locked in fond embrace with the liberated ‘Princess’.
Balls, Q?
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