Brothers Grimm

by Jacob Grimm, Wilhelm Grimm

Start Free Trial

Student Question

Analyze "The Fox and the Horse" using structuralism and convention concepts in stylistics.

Quick answer:

The story entitled "The Fox and the Horse" by the Brothers Grimm demonstrates their rejection of the notion of structuralism in favor of flouting conventions. Seeking to understand key elements of the authors’s style (stylistics) demonstrates that the Brothers Grimm preferred to enable readers to interpret the deeper meanings in the story by themselves, without formal rules or linguistic structure.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The term stylistics in literature refers to a branch of linguistics concerned with studying the style of a literary author in order to determine those elements that make one’s writing unique. Rather than discovering a simple plot to a story, an attempt is made to dig more deeply into the basic plot. Stylistics is used by critics to seek out those elements that affect how readers interpret writings. Literary analysts study possible interpretations of a text using language comprehension, social considerations, historical realities, and other phenomena to determine what characters in a story are thinking, as well as the perspective of the narrator.

Structuralism is a stylistic notion that was popularized in the mid-twentieth century. The structuralism movement is less concerned with the realities of the writing content and closely examines the overall forms and patterns contained in a story. Formal concepts like beginning, middle, and end are significant. Elements of a plot such as exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and dénouement are studied to extract the author’s true meaning of a tale.

In “The Fox and the Horse,” Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm reject the structuralism style. They tend to deconstruct the conventional frameworks in their fable. The authors are less concerned with their own intended meaning of their story and remain more focused on the reader’s perceived meaning.

The plot of the story is quite simple. A man disowns his horse since it is no longer capable of working to the extent it did at one time. When the horse is released, he encounters a fox. He tells the fox that his owner gave him the option of bringing home a lion, knowing he is unable to complete the task. The fox helps the horse accomplish this feat. As a result, the owner promises to take him back, feed him, and cares for him for the rest of his life.

From a structural point of view, the plot is ultra-simple. However, by flouting literary conventions, the authors allow the readers to reach their own interpretations of the story and its morals based upon their own life experiences. For example, the reader is free to ponder the reasons the fox acted outside of its nature by helping the horse. Perhaps, the tale is intended to focus on the horse’s lack of self-confidence. Even the fox’s cunning might be the authors’s moral. More likely, the premature rejection of “a faithful horse which had grown old and could do no more work” teaches a lesson to people who are too quick to write others off as no longer useful, even though they might still contribute to society in other ways.

By allowing the readers to concentrate on the thoughts and feelings of the characters, the authors connect their readers to real-life experiences and emotions that help them reach their own conclusions as to the story’s meaning.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial