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JMeganSnow

Drama Vs. Melodrama

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I just recently read The Art of Fiction, and I was somewhat startled by Ayn Rand's definition of drama vs. melodrama. Lemme quote it so I don't misrepresent what she said:

Now I want to clarify the difference between drama and melodrama.

A drama involves primarily a conflict of values within a man (as expressed in action); a melodrama involves only conflicts of men with other men. (These are my own definitions. Dictionaries usually define melodrama as "exaggerated drama," which is not a proper definition because it leaves open the question of what is or is not exaggerated.)

I realized immediately that, if I had put my earlier thoughts into words, my idea was that the definitions were precisely reversed! I thought about it for a while, and then I realized that she was right. A hero with no conflicts is not very interesting! A villian who just wants to be evil is not very interesting either! (And, sadly, most movies contain both of these!)

I think this is why I, personally, preferred Francisco d'Anconia and Hank Rearden to John Galt in Atlas Shrugged. Not that Galt didn't have conflicts (induced by Dagny), but they were caused by something I personally didn't identify with so they fell flat. Francisco, now, I liked him because he endured his difficulties with panache. But Hank . . . I identified with Hank and his uncomprehending struggle with "Why should it be like this?" and "What's wrong with me?"

So, anyway, now I agree with Ayn Rand about the definitions. However I don't like it when the hero goes through endless agonizing over what to do . . . his ability to see the right choice and to do it is what makes him a hero. If he's not much clearer than I am on the issue (or worse, a lot less clear!) then I'm not going to enjoy the book so much, and this has been much of my experience with drama. So I'm still not sure which I prefer!

Anyone else have thoughts about drama vs. melodrama?

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I think this is why I, personally, preferred Francisco d'Anconia and Hank Rearden to John Galt in Atlas Shrugged. Not that Galt didn't have conflicts (induced by Dagny), but they were caused by something I personally didn't identify with so they fell flat. Francisco, now, I liked him because he endured his difficulties with panache. But Hank . . . I identified with Hank and his uncomprehending struggle with "Why should it be like this?" and "What's wrong with me?"

I don't really have any comments on drama vs. melodrama, but the above really helped me identifying why I like the characters I like. Hank Reardan's the one who really got to me in AS, and Gail Wynand did it in The Fountainhead.

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