The Key to a Great Story – ‘Rebirth’ Plot


The Prince showing his vanity in Disney's Beauty and the Beast

The plots of Rebirth stories can be very compelling, because they are about unlikeable protagonists coming good in the end. Classic examples include the six Star Wars films (in relation to Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader’s story arc), Beauty and the Beast, A Christmas Carol and The Secret Garden.

The reason for why they are so compelling is because the main character is damaged in some way and have allowed that damage to consume everything that is good about them. They are not meant to be liked or sympathised with by the audience at first, but something, usually in the form of another character, helps them have a revelation which allows them to go through their rebirth.

Anakin Skywalker for example is consumed by fear of losing everything that he loves. The Beast was punished for vanity and then consumed by his anger. Scrooge became miserly because ambition had cost him his love.

Frances Hodgson Burnett produces fantastic examples of Rebirth stories, through her books The Secret Garden and Little Lord Fauntleroy, the latter of which was by favourite book as a child. It is one of the few books I can really remember reading twice in one sitting. The Earl of Dorrincourt in Little Lord Fauntleroy is transformed by his beautifully spirited grandson from being an angry old man into a kinder more generous land owner. His revelation is seeing that the world can be bright and beautiful.

For Mary Lennox her revelation is a great deal more complex. Having been raised without the love of her parents who were obsessed with their own lives, she is a sour, unloving child. Her revelation comes via the garden, which she pours her time and her energy into in order to nurture it and give it the love that in truth she has never received herself.

mary lennox

Along the way she finds company with her sickly cousin, who is sheltered from the world and like her has never really been openly loved by his father, Lord Craven. The garden gives them both a common purpose that helps them see the beauty and kindness in the world that they’ve so far been denied. Their laughter and joy helps Lord Craven see the joy that still exists in the world, that grief of his wife’s death had clouded from his vision.

So Rebirth stories can be very touching and can delve very deeply into the sorrows of humanity. To help a damaged person find contentment, joy and happiness again can highlight just how awful this world can be, but can also portray how equally beautiful it is at the same time.


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