The Actantial model

Via “Greimas – Actantial model“:

“The actantial model, developed by A.J. Greimas, allows us to break an action down into six facets, or actants … In the actantial model, an action may be broken down into six components, called actants. Actantial analysis consists of assigning each element of the action being described to the various actantial classes. … The six actants are divided into three oppositions, each of which forms an axis of the description …”

For example, in Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900) one could interpret the disappearance of the Wicked Witch of the East under Dorothy’s house, and Dorothy’s simultaneous appearance in Oz as a form of continuity. Dorothy fills the actant role of the Wicked Witch of the East, and even takes on the silver shoes to reinforce this identity. It is not Dorothy’s arrival, but rather the Wicked Witch of the East’s death that makes Dorothy substantivate – both real and important in Oz.

In fact, Dorothy goes on to defeat not only the Wicked Witch of the West, but also to banish the Wizard from Oz entirely and then installs her own puppet (Scarecrow) on the throne in the Emerald City. All of these actions could easily have been on the Wicked Witch of the East’s to-do list and completed by Dorothy.

Dorothy ends up, herself, banished from Oz and loses the silver slippers. This ending may have been the ultimate fate of the Wicked Witch of the East, if she had lived – to be banished to a mundane world without her magic powers.

Of course, Dorothy returns later for more mischief … but, by taking the actantial place of the Wicked Witch of the East, Dorothy appears to have both changed the story and made sure that it stayed the same.