Plot-Theme. The link between the theme and the events of a novel is an element which I call the plot-theme. It is the first step of the translation of an abstract theme into a story, without which the construction of a plot would be impossible. A “plot-theme” is the central conflict or “situation” of a story — a conflict in terms of action, corresponding to the theme and complex enough to create a purposeful progression of events.

The theme of a novel is the core of its abstract meaning — the plot-theme is the core of its events.

For example, the theme of Atlas Shrugged is: “The role of the mind in man’s existence.” The plot-theme is: “The men of the mind going on strike against an altruist-collectivist society.”

The theme of Les Misérables is: “The injustice of society toward its lower classes.” The plot-theme is: “The life-long flight of an ex-convict from the pursuit of a ruthless representative of the law.”

The theme of Gone With the Wind is: “The impact of the Civil War on Southern society.” The plot-theme is: “The romantic conflict of a woman who loves a man representing the old order, and is loved by another man, representing the new.”

“Basic Principles of Literature”
The Romantic Manifesto, 85

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