(in Russian, fabula), the narration of the events in an epic, a lyric epic, or a drama, as contrasted to the events themselves, which constitute the work’s plot (siuzhet)—that is, the first term is called “plot,” whereas the second term is referred to as “plot scheme” (fabula).
The plot scheme may differ from the plot in terms of the narrative sequence: the events may be arranged not in the sequence according to which they take place in the life of the characters, but with transpositions, hiatuses, and later revelations; examples are M. Iu. Lermontov’s A Hero of Our Time, H. Boll’s Billiards at Half Past Nine, and Ch. Aitmatov’s Farewell, Gul’sary!
A work may be narrated by an author who never reveals himself as such, as in Balzac’s Le Père Goriot or Gorky’s The Artamonov Business, or by an author who expresses his emotional reactions, as in Hugo’s The Man Who Laughs. The narrator may also be a fictitious observer who witnesses and evaluates the events depicted, as in Dostoevsky’s The Devils or T. Mann’s Doctor Faustus. Finally, the narrator may be the hero, as in Chekhov’s “My Life” or Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms.
A narrative may be in the form of a memoir, as in L. N. Tolstoy’s Hadji Murad, a diary, as in N. V. Gogol’s “Notes of a Madman,” a series of letters, as in Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther, or a chronicle, as in M. E. Saltykov-Shchedrin’s The History of a City. An author sometimes begins a work by presenting a narrator, the narrator’s milieu, and the factors that impelled him to recount his story or his reminiscences about the events depicted; at the end the author again returns to the narrator. This literary device is known as framing the plot and is used in Turgenev’s Torrents of Spring and Chekhov’s “The Man in a Case.”
The distinction between the plot scheme and the plot within one work may be great or minimal. By means of the devices in the plot scheme, the author stimulates interest in the development of the events, provides a more profound analysis of the characters, and intensifies the work’s ideological and emotional impact on the reader. Some scholars assert that the term “plot scheme” is unneeded, since all of its meanings are covered in the concepts of plot, the basis of the plot, and plot composition.
G. N. POSPELOV