Rethinking classics with Subtxt's narrative lens
For the past couple of years, I've embarked on an intriguing project: revisiting and potentially "fixing" classics using the narrative framework of Subtxt. It's a journey that blends respect for timeless literature with the innovative capabilities of modern narrative science. One of the first experiments I conducted after completing the current Narrative Engine for Subtxt in March 2021, was with Charles Dickens' renowned work, A Christmas Carol.
A Christmas Carol is a story deeply embedded in our cultural consciousness, yet, Subtxt suggested an intriguing alteration. The tool indicated that, given the existing narrative dynamics--the Ghosts, Scrooge's personal issues, and his growth towards what he was lacking--the order of the Ghosts' appearance should ideally be Present, Future, and then Past. This is a stark contrast to the original sequence of Past, Present, Future.
(Progress is Marley, btw)
The traditional sequence, ending with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, arguably portrays Scrooge's transformation as somewhat selfish. Frightened by the grim future and his lonely grave, he seems to act more out of fear for himself than genuine altruism. This approach, while effective, might not entirely align with Dickens' intended message.
The reordered version, however, might:
1. Ghost of Christmas Present: Scrooge would first be confronted with the current state of affairs. He would see the joy and hardship around him, the Cratchit family's struggles, and the festive spirit he's been missing out on. This immediate confrontation with the consequences of his actions in the present might serve as a wake-up call, highlighting his isolation and the impact of his miserly ways.
2. Ghost of Christmas Future: Next, Scrooge would be thrust into a vision of what is to come. This could be a more intense experience, as he would have just seen the present conditions that lead to this dark future. The stark contrast between the warmth of the present and the coldness of the future might amplify the sense of urgency for change. Scrooge would witness the grim outcomes if he continues on his current path, including his own lonely death and the fate of Tiny Tim.
3. Ghost of Christmas Past: Finally, Scrooge would be taken back to his own past. This would serve as a reflection on how he became the man he is in the present. After seeing the consequences of his actions and what they could lead to, Scrooge might be more receptive to understanding the root causes of his behavior. This could be a powerful moment of introspection, where Scrooge reconciles with his lost innocence and the choices that led him astray.
Subtxt's rearrangement, placing the Future in the middle and concluding with the Past, casts a different light on Scrooge's change of heart. By first confronting the consequences of his actions in the future, Scrooge is then led back to understand their origins in his past. This sequence suggests that his decision to change is less about averting a personal bleak future and more about not wanting his life's path to be a template for others' misery. It's a shift from a self-centered realization to an empathetic, altruistic awakening.
This reordering, as proposed by Subtxt, supports the argument of A Christmas Carol more convincingly. It subtly alters the thematic emphasis, turning the story into a more profound exploration of human compassion and responsibility. Scrooge's journey becomes one of understanding the wider impact of his actions, moving beyond the fear of personal consequence.
Subtxt Muse explains:
In this new order, the narrative would emphasize a journey from acknowledgment of the current state, to a warning of the potential future, and finally a deep dive into the origins of the protagonist's issues. This could create a more introspective arc for Scrooge, as he would have the context of his present and future before examining his past. It might also lead to a more profound transformation, as he would have to confront his entire life's trajectory in reverse, understanding the full weight of his actions before he can truly change.
The prospect of rewriting A Christmas Carol with this new order is not only exciting but also groundbreaking. It represents the fusion of AI's analytical power with human creativity. While I intend to use AI for rewriting this classic, it's crucial to first understand the implications of this narrative shift.
- Empathy and Compassion: By reflecting on his past at the end, Scrooge's change of heart is rooted in empathy for others rather than just fear for himself. This can make his transformation more profound and relatable.
- Legacy and Influence: Scrooge's concern for how his actions affect others highlights the theme of legacy. It's not just about changing to avoid a grim future for himself, but about the positive or negative influence he can leave on others.
- Redemptive Act: The act of reconsidering becomes a redemptive one. Scrooge's transformation is then seen as a genuine desire to make amends for past wrongs, rather than a mere attempt to escape an undesirable future.
In the screenshots below, you'll see the detailed analysis by Subtxt Muse that led to these insights. It's a testament to how AI and narrative science can offer fresh perspectives on even the most established stories.
This project is not about diminishing Dickens' masterpiece but about exploring the vast possibilities of narrative understanding. It's a journey that respects the past while embracing the future of storytelling. Stay tuned for more updates as we delve deeper into this fascinating intersection of AI and classic literature.
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