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Jan Potocki 's The Manuscript Found in Saragossa — has an interlocking structure with stories-within-stories reaching several levels of depth. The provenance of the story is sometimes explained internally, as in The Lord of the Rings by J. Tolkien , which depicts the Red Book of Westmarch a story-internal version of the book itself as a history compiled by several of the characters.

The subtitle of The Hobbit "There and Back Again" is depicted as part of a rejected title of this book within a book, and The Lord of the Rings is a part of the final title.

An example of an interconnected inner story is "The Mad Trist" in Edgar Allan Poe 's Fall of the House of Usher , where through somewhat mystical means the narrator's reading of the story within a story influences the reality of the story he has been telling, so that what happens in "The Mad Trist" begins happening in "The Fall of the House of Usher".

Also, in Don Quixote by Cervantes , there are many stories within the story that influence the hero's actions there are others that even the author himself admits are purely digressive. A commonly independently anthologised story is " The Grand Inquisitor " by Dostoevsky from his long psychological novel The Brothers Karamazov , which is told by one brother to another to explain, in part, his view on religion and morality.

It also, in a succinct way, dramatizes many of Dostoevsky's interior conflicts. An example of a "bonus material" style inner story is the chapter "The Town Ho's Story" in Herman Melville 's novel Moby-Dick ; that chapter tells a fully formed story of an exciting mutiny and contains many plot ideas that Melville had conceived during the early stages of writing Moby-Dick —ideas originally intended to be used later in the novel—but as the writing progressed, these plot ideas eventually proved impossible to fit around the characters that Melville went on to create and develop.

Instead of discarding the ideas altogether, Melville wove them into a coherent short story and had the character Ishmael demonstrate his eloquence and intelligence by telling the story to his impressed friends. With the rise of literary modernism , writers experimented with ways in which multiple narratives might nest imperfectly within each other. A particularly ingenious example of nested narratives is James Merrill 's modernist poem " Lost in Translation ".

In Rabih Alameddine 's novel The Hakawati , or The Storyteller , the protagonist describes coming home to the funeral of his father, one of a long line of traditional Arabic storytellers.


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Throughout the narrative, the author becomes hakawati an Arabic word for a teller of traditional tales himself, weaving the tale of the story of his own life and that of his family with folkloric versions of tales from Qur'an, the Old Testament, Ovid, and One Thousand and One Nights. Both the tales he tells of his family going back to his grandfather and the embedded folk tales, themselves embed other tales, often 2 or more layers deep.

Dreams are a common way of including stories inside stories, and can sometimes go several levels deep. Both the book The Arabian Nightmare and the curse of "eternal waking" from the Neil Gaiman series The Sandman feature an endless series of waking from one dream into another dream. In Charles Maturin 's novel Melmoth the Wanderer , the use of vast stories-within-stories creates a sense of dream-like quality in the reader.

This structure is also found in classic religious and philosophical texts.

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The structure of The Symposium and Phaedo , attributed to Plato , is of a story within a story within a story. In the Christian Bible , the gospels are retellings of stories from the life and ministry of Jesus. However, they also include within them the stories parables that Jesus told. In more modern philosophical work, Jostein Gaarder 's books often feature this device. Examples are The Solitaire Mystery , where the protagonist receives a small book from a baker, in which the baker tells the story of a sailor who tells the story of another sailor, and Sophie's World about a girl who is actually a character in a book that is being read by Hilde, a girl in another dimension.

Later on in the book Sophie questions this idea, and realizes that Hilde too could be a character in a story that in turn is being read by another. The experimental modernist works that incorporate multiple narratives into one story are quite often science-fiction or science fiction influenced. These include most of the various novels written by the American author Kurt Vonnegut. Vonnegut includes the recurring character Kilgore Trout in many of his novels.

Trout acts as the mysterious science fiction writer who enhances the morals of the novels through plot descriptions of his stories. Rosewater are sprinkled with these plot descriptions. All levels tell stories of the same person, Trurl. House of Leaves is the tale of a man who finds a manuscript telling the story of a documentary that may or may not have ever existed, contains multiple layers of plot.

The book includes footnotes and letters that tell their own stories only vaguely related to the events in the main narrative of the book, and footnotes for fake books. Robert A. This hypothesis enables many writers who are characters in the books to interact with their own creations. Margaret Atwood 's novel The Blind Assassin is interspersed with excerpts from a novel written by one of the main characters; the novel-within-a-novel itself contains a science fiction story written by one of that novel's characters.

In Philip K. As Dick's novel details a world in which the Axis Powers of World War II had succeeded in dominating the known world , the novel within the novel details an alternative to this history in which the Allies overcome the Axis and bring stability to the world — a victory which itself is quite different from our history. Farmer a doubly recursive method is used to interwine its fictional layers. This novel is part of a science-fiction series, the World of Tiers.

Farmer collaborated in the writing of this novel with an American psychiatrist, Dr. James Giannini. Giannini had previously used the World of Tiers series in treating patients in group therapy. During these therapeutic sessions, the content and process of the text and novelist was discussed rather than the lives of the patients. In this way subconscious defenses could be circumvented.

Farmer took the real life case-studies and melded these with adventures of his characters in the series.

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In Matthew Stover 's novel Shatterpoint , the protagonist Mace Windu narrates the story within his journal, while the main story is being told from the third-person limited point of view. Lawrence 's Mudd's Angels , John M. The book Cloud Atlas later adapted into a film by The Wachowkis and Tom Tykwer consisted of six interlinked stories nested inside each other in a Russian doll fashion. The first story that of Adam Ewing in the s befriending an escaped slave is interrupted halfway through and revealed to be part of a journal being read by composer Robert Frobisher in s Belgium.

His own story of working for a more famous composer is told in a series of letters to his lover Rufus Sixsmith, which are interrupted halfway through and revealed to be in the possession of an investigative journalist named Luisa Rey and so on. Each of the first five tales are interrupted in the middle, with the sixth tale being told in full, before the preceding five tales are finished in reverse order. Each layer of the story either challenges the veracity of the previous layer, or is challenged by the succeeding layer.

Presuming each layer to be a true telling within the overall story, a chain of events is created linking Adam Ewing's embrace of the abolitionist movement in the s to the religious redemption of a post apocalyptic tribal man over a century after the fall of modern civilization. The characters in each nested layer take inspiration or lessons from the stories of their predecessors in a manner that validates a belief stated in the sixth tale that "Our lives are not our own.

We are bound to others, past and present and by each crime, and every kindness, we birth our future. The events of the play broadly mirror those of the novel and give the main character, Oedipa Maas, a greater context with which to consider her predicament; the play concerns a feud between two rival mail distribution companies, which appears to be ongoing to the present day, and in which, if this is the case, Oedipa has found herself involved.

As in Hamlet , the director makes changes to the original script; in this instance, a couplet that was added, possibly by religious zealots intent on giving the play extra moral gravity, are said only on the night that Oedipa sees the play. From what Pynchon tells us, this is the only mention in the play of Thurn and Taxis' rivals' name—Trystero—and it is the seed for the conspiracy that unfurls.


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A significant portion of Walter Moers ' Labyrinth of Dreaming Books is an ekphrasis on the subject of an epic puppet theater presentation. Another example is found in Samuel Delany 's Trouble on Triton , which features a theater company that produces elaborate staged spectacles for randomly selected single-person audiences. Raina Telgemeier 's best-selling Drama is a graphic novel about a middle-school musical production, and the tentative romantic fumblings of its cast members. In Manuel Puig 's Kiss of the Spider Woman , ekphrases on various old movies, some real, and some fictional, make up a substantial portion of the narrative.

They additionally raise the question of whether works of artistic genius justify or atone for the sins and crimes of their creators. This dramatic device was probably first used by Thomas Kyd in The Spanish Tragedy around , where the play is presented before an audience of two of the characters, who comment upon the action. The action and characters in The Murder mirror the murder of Hamlet's father in the main action, and Prince Hamlet writes additional material to emphasize this.

Hamlet wishes to provoke the murderer, his uncle, and sums this up by saying "the play's the thing wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king. Similarly, in Anton Chekhov 's The Seagull there are specific allusions to Hamlet : in the first act a son stages a play to impress his mother, a professional actress, and her new lover; the mother responds by comparing her son to Hamlet. Later he tries to come between them, as Hamlet had done with his mother and her new husband. The tragic developments in the plot follow in part from the scorn the mother shows for her son's play.

Shakespeare adopted the play-within-a-play device for many of his other plays as well, including A Midsummer Night's Dream and Love's Labours Lost.

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Almost the whole of The Taming of the Shrew is a play-within-a-play, presented to convince Christopher Sly , a drunken tinker, that he is a nobleman watching a private performance, but the device has no relevance to the plot unless Katharina's subservience to her "lord" in the last scene is intended to strengthen the deception against the tinker [11] and is often dropped in modern productions.

The musical Kiss Me, Kate is about the production of a fictitious musical , The Taming of the Shrew, based on the Shakespeare play of the same name , and features several scenes from it. Pericles draws in part on the 14th century Confessio Amantis itself a frame story by John Gower and Shakespeare has the ghost of Gower "assume man's infirmities" to introduce his work to the contemporary audience and comment on the action of the play. The citizen's "apprentice" then acts, pretending to extemporise, in the rest of the play. This is a satirical tilt at Beaumont's playwright contemporaries and their current fashion for offering plays about London life.

The opera Pagliacci is about a troupe of actors who perform a play about marital infidelity that mirrors their own lives, and composer Richard Rodney Bennett and playwright - librettist Beverley Cross 's The Mines of Sulphur features a ghostly troupe of actors who perform a play about murder that similarly mirrors the lives of their hosts, from whom they depart, leaving them with the plague as nemesis.

John Adams ' Nixon in China features a surreal version of Madam Mao 's Red Detachment of Women , illuminating the ascendance of human values over the disillusionment of high politics in the meeting.