Wednesday, January 9, 2008

What did the fourth wall ever do to them?

Wikipedia on the fourth wall: "...the imaginary invisible wall at the front of the stage in a proscenium theater, through which the audience sees the action in the world of the play."

I found the fourth wall last year, and I found it amusing, then wondered why people were so against it. I did not experiment, however, I heard the little voice whisper behind my left ear 'they say you can't, I say we can!'

Yep, I love to disagree. I looked at it a little more though, and the more I saw it the less I was impressed. Why break the fourth wall? Humour maybe, but it stopped being amusing before anyone wrote a word, or at least after the first ten pieces written in such an abusing form. I get it: literature these days is all about pain and violence and hurting poor innocent barriers. Ooh, I can translate that: “M > ((P^V)^B)” Brilliant. But I do not necessarily agree with literature being a necessarily damaging experience. It harms certain legal rights of the readers...or something.

We had a lecture on Aristotle today, the teacher explained that plot was the most important element. We must remember that in Greek tragedy the characters were mythological and henceforth already well known.

Poor boy in the class put up his hand, he asked “what about character driven stories?” Someone had to. I suppose, even though it was obvious. And true,too: the teacher was discussing Aristotle in the present instead of looking at his views from a historical perspective.

I love Aristotle, I do, but it has been more then two thousand years and we still read this as the One True Way. I suppose it is frightening if we don't have anything to model from or disagree with. It is far worse when one of us breaks. Say I want to write a tragedy that takes place in more then one day, instead of saying 'pluralism is good, I'm writing in this way' I will behave like a little child breaking the rules of my parents.

It is the same with the fourth wall. Maybe it ought to be broken, sometimes it is good or useful, but it is childish. It isn't a mature writer taking a variation on the proper way, it is a little child who leaves their bed unmade.

And so is this, I believe more inflammatory then intelligent. Pathos for broken walls I suppose.


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Conda said...

Intriguing and thought provoking post. I suspect that whether or not the fourth wall should be broken (and I've seen it done very effectively) is the same reason to break or not break any "rule" like the rules of writing. Does it work?

Liosis said...

Aw, thanks Crescent. Unhappily I cannot read, is it spanish? but I did try anyway.

Yes, it is I suppose. I guess I'm finally starting to understand why those rules exist to begin with.