The Princess Bride by William Goldman

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The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The novel begins with an explanation of how the narrator came to abridge the book. His father had read The Princess Bride, by S. Morgenstern, to him when he had pneumonia as a child. Remembering the story fondly, the narrator was shocked that his own son hated it until he realized that his father had skipped the boring passages when reading it to him. The narrator edited the book, leaving only “the good parts” and adding comments in red type throughout. This process resulted in The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure, the “Good Parts” Version, Abridged.

In this abridged form of an imaginary book, when Buttercup is eighteen years old (and not yet the most beautiful woman in the world), she suddenly notices the stable hand Westley, who has always responded to her orders with “As you wish.” They declare their love, and he leaves to earn his fortune. Buttercup soon learns that he has been killed by pirates and vows never to love again.

Evil Prince Humperdinck of Florin needs a wife and proposes to Buttercup because she is beautiful. Given a choice between marriage and death, Buttercup chooses marriage. Once the wedding is announced, she is kidnapped by men hired by the prince to kill her on the Florin/Guilder border. Humperdinck plans to blame the murder on Guilder, giving him a reason to invade that kingdom. The kidnappers, however, are followed by a man wearing a black mask and hood. This man in black fights and bests each of them: Inigo the master swordsman, who trained for years in order to avenge his father, who was murdered by a six-fingered man; Fezzik, a giant who loves rhymes; and clever Vizzini. The man in black takes Buttercup and flees, but she pushes him over a cliff. As he falls, he whispers, “As you wish.”

Realizing that he is Westley, Buttercup follows him. Together, they cross the dreaded fire swamp, surviving its large rats and quicksand, only to find the prince waiting for them on the other side. Buttercup volunteers to go with the prince if he promises not to hurt Westley. Humperdinck agrees.

Westley is taken to a special hunting zoo, the Zoo of Death, designed especially for the prince. There, Westley is tortured with traditional methods and with the Machine, an invention to administer pain in regulated increments.

Meanwhile, Fezzik and Inigo find each other again. In need of a leader, they search for the man in black. At the castle, Buttercup realizes that the prince has tricked her. She calls the prince a coward, which so enrages him that he rushes to the Zoo of Death and turns the Machine to its highest setting. Westley screams in agony and dies.

Fezzik and Inigo find the man in black dead. They hire Miracle Max to revive him, not realizing that Max cannot immediately reinstate his good health and fighting skills. The most they can expect from the man in black is speech, some arm and leg movement, and perhaps very slow walking.

This trio goes to rescue Buttercup from Prince Humperdinck, who plans to murder her after the marriage ceremony and blame soldiers from Guilder. At the palace, Inigo finds and kills the six-fingered man, Westley outwits the prince, and Fezzik finds four horses. Inigo, Buttercup, and Westley jump out a window into Fezzik’s arms and ride off, fleeing from the inevitable pursuit of the prince.

Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Buttercup, a beautiful milkmaid, falls in love with Westley, a farm boy, who sails away to seek his fortune. She sinks into grief when she hears that he has been captured by the Dread Pirate Roberts, who never leaves survivors. When Humperdinck, the prince of Florin—who cares only for hunting but demands a good-looking bride to bear his children—orders Buttercup to marry him, she refuses, claiming that she will never love again. Because Humperdinck does not seek love and the alternative is death, however, they become engaged.

Before the wedding, Buttercup is kidnapped by Vizzini, Inigo Montoya, and Fezzik, whom Humperdinck has paid to kill her...

(The entire section is 2,113 words.)