Define Freytag's pyramid, providing examples.

Expert Answers
booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

[eNotes educators are only permitted to answer one question per posting.]

Freytag's pyramid is also referred to as a plot diagram or triangle. Regardless, it deals with what is commonly called dramatic structure...

According to Freytag, a drama is divided into five parts, or acts, which some refer to as a dramatic arc: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and dénouement.

Although this definition refers to dramas, the pattern is present in short stories, novels, etc.

The exposition is also called the introduction: when the setting and characters are introduced. The rising action sees to the presentation and development of the conflict within the story, around which the story generally revolves. The climax of the story is usually the point of greatest intensity in terms of the story's action (and is often the story's turning point). The falling action presents a portion of the story that will often answer questions with regard to the conflict and characters, and the dénouement (also known as the resolution), provides closure to the story: it may also be here that the author makes clear his or her view of the life truth (or truths), also called themes, that he or she has been trying to share within the piece of literature.

While the triangle is often viewed with sides of equal length, indicating that the climax occurs at the middle of the story, this is not always the case. At times, the conflict may occur very late in the story, and the falling action may be brief or non-existent—moving directly into the resolution.

Consider the short story "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell. In this exciting tale, the introduction reveals the main character, Sanger Rainsford, a well-known wild game hunger. In the rising action of the story he shares his opinions of how he believes the hunted animal has no feelings. Quite by accident, he falls off of the small boat on which he is traveling and no one is aware of his fate. He finds himself on an island that is owned by the mysterious General Zaroff. Quite a fan of the hunt himself, Zaroff is thrilled that Rainsford has arrived on his island. He speaks of hunting the next day, with veiled allusions to the most unusual animals ever to be hunted (creating suspense):

No. You are wrong, sir. The Cape buffalo is not the most dangerous big game [...] I hunt more dangerous game.

When they meet the next day, the conflict is introduced. Zaroff has become bored hunting animals—they no longer offer him any challenge. So Zaroff lures ships to the dangerous rocks surrounding the island. If there are any survivors, he captures them, feeds and trains them, and then sets them loose so he can hunt them down. When he tells his guest this, Rainsford is appalled. He refuses to join Zaroff in the hunt, so Zaroff tells him that he (Rainsford) will be the object of his next hunt. 

As the rising action continues, the suspense lies in Rainsford's attempt to avoid being killed, while also teaching him that the hunted does indeed having feelings: a sense of abject terror. When it seems that Rainsford has killed himself by jumping off a cliff, Zaroff returns to his home to sleep. The climax takes place as Rainsford steps out from behind the bedroom curtains to finish the "game."

In this story, there is no falling action at all. Zaroff says to his opponent, "On guard, Rainsford..."

The resolution is found in a short sentence:

He had never slept in a better bed, Rainsford decided.