Freytag’s pyramid is a structural device that divides a plot into five sections: exposition (beginning), rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement (ending). The expository section of Hannah Tinti’s The Good Thief introduces readers to Ren, a one-handed orphan boy tended by the Brothers of Saint Anthony’s. It begins with chapter one and continues until Benjamin Nab arrives in chapter four, insisting that Ren is his brother. Ren’s adoption is the novel’s inciting incident, the point where the rising action begins.
Tinti’s New England is dark and absurd, a Dickensian world filled with deprivation and uncertainty. Ren learns that he has not found his family, as he’d hoped, but a trickster and a crook. With little hope for better, he remains with Benjamin and the other misfits as they swindle and steal. This rising action continues through chapter 23, when the plot reaches its climax. The group has been caught by the novel’s principal antagonist, and he wants something that Ren isn’t able to give: his father’s name. The climax lasts until chapter 32, when Ren lies about his father’s identity (or at least believes he lies). The falling action takes place entirely in chapter 33 as the conflict that began in the climax is resolved. Chapters 34 and 35 contain the denouement. The tension of the climax is gone and the characters are able to return to their lives.
People often classify literary works as comedies or tragedies based on whether the main character is better or worse off in the denouement than they were in the beginning. What do you think? Is Ren better or worse for having left Saint Anthony’s?