Guide to Literary Terms

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Plot

Plot - a plan or scheme to accomplish a purpose. In literature, this is the arrangement of events to achieve an intended effect consisting of a series of carefully devised and interrelated actions that progresses through a struggle of opposing forces, called conflict, to a climax and a denouement. This is different from story or story line which is the order of events as they occur.

The term is taken from the French complot, meaning “conspiracy. “

Aristotle insisted plot must have a beginning, a middle, and an end, and that its events constitute a whole entity.

The plot of Miller’s The Crucible involves a group of teenage girls who are discovered dancing naked in the woods by the town minister. Knowing that the punishment for their behavior will be severe, the girls claim that they were possessed by the spirits of members of the community who are trying to initiate them into witchcraft. Because of the gravity of the accusations (witchcraft is punishable by hanging), a court is set up to determine the guilt or innocence of those accused.