Thinking In Circles – Interpreting The Star Wars Saga Through Ring Composition


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Even the most casual glance at the Star Wars prequels (and indeed, even within the original trilogy) will reveal recurring motifs. But have you really noticed the true depth of synchronicity with regard to narrative structure, plot points, themes and so on, that thread throughout all six (so far) films?

Mike Klimo is a dedicated maniac. A copywriter from Cincinatti, who has studied film and screenwriting, at some point he began to notice the “rhymes” in the films that George Lucas was going on about. You know, the stuff we all thought was arty bullshit?

And again, it's like poetry, it's sort of, they rhyme. Every stanza kind of rhymes with the last one. Hopefully it'll work.

And again, it’s like poetry, it’s sort of, they rhyme. Every stanza kind of rhymes with the last one. Hopefully it’ll work.

Klimo told “I started noticing that the “rhymes” in the movies—particularly between all the beginnings and the ends—actually formed a pattern. A larger, overarching pattern. But I really didn’t know what it was or how to describe it. So, eventually I remembered Lucas describing the films in terms of poetry. And I started doing some research on rhyming patterns and rhetorical devices. Eventually, I remembered “chiasmus” from my college days. And as I searched for more information on it, I stumbled upon Thinking in Circles, a book about ring composition by social anthropologist Mary Douglas. And there it was, staring me right in the face—the pattern was a perfect fit.”

In chiasmus, key words or phrases are repeated in two sentences, but in reverse, such as John F. Kennedy’s appeal to America, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” – country, you, you, country. Ring composition is a larger, more complex form of this,  also commonly referred to as “chiastic structure” or “inverted parallelism.”

From Mike’s site, Star Wars Ring Theory:

The story is organized into a sequence of elements that progress from a beginning to a well-marked midpoint. Then, the ring turns and the first sequence of elements is repeated in reverse order until the story returns to the starting point.

That means the first and last elements correspond to each other, the second and second-to-last elements correspond to each other, the third and third-to-last elements correspond to each other, and so on, creating a sort of circle or mirror image. If we assign letters to each element, the pattern is ABC C’B’A’ (similar to the JFK example above).

The correspondences between matching elements (or sections) are usually signalled by clusters of key words that appear in both items of a pair. They often indicate thematic links between the sections so “one section has to be read in connection with another that is parallel because it covers similar or antithetical situations.” It’s similar to the way the rhyme scheme of a poem works, but instead of rhyming sounds, the author parallels and contrasts ideas.

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The “intertextual patternings,” while critical to reading the films the way Lucas intended, are actually small pieces of a much larger, more complex puzzle. And while many have unknowingly stumbled upon some of the pieces over the years, no one has discovered the underlying pattern and discussed how all of the pieces fit together and what the completed picture looks like (and possibly represents)—until now.”

Klimo credits Lucas with thinking through every detail, citing his background in avant-garde experimental film-making at USC, even though he has never publicly discussed having a Ring structure to the overarching saga in mind.

Lucas designed the prequels kind of like puzzle pieces that would fit together with the original movies–and together they form a picture that brings significant meaning to the saga,”he posted on “I don’t say this lightly: I think what Lucas did has the potential to the change the way many of us look at the films. It certainly changed my perspective. For example, did you know that Attack of the Clones begins where The Empire Strikes Back ends and ends where Empire begins?

Even if you don’t enjoy the prequels, Mike’s lengthy essay is a highly entertaining, enlightening and educational insight, highly readable, and well sourced. Do check it out – star wars ring theory.

Originally posted 2015-02-18 19:48:47. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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