Skip over navigation

The Princess Bride

William Goldman

Introduction

Themes, Motifs, Symbols

Chapter One

Summary

The text begins with an introduction by the author and narrator, William Goldman, in which he explains that as a child, he annoyed his school teacher, Miss Roginski, simply because he had no interest in reading. Years pass, and he publishes his first book and sends his old teacher a copy. Miss Roginski writes back, adding the postscript, "Not even the immortal S. Morgenstern could feel more parental as I," and suddenly William Goldman flashes back to his original brush with The Princess Bride. He was ten years old and in bed with pneumonia. His father sat by him throughout the illness, reading the good parts of The Princess Bride, and suddenly young Billy was captivated by the written word, ultimately astonishing his teacher.

Time passes, and William Goldman, now a father, is away in California the week of his son's tenth birthday. Over the phone, he asks his wife, Helen, to buy a copy of The Princess Bride for their son. While sitting by the pool of his fancy hotel and waiting for Helen to call with results, he is approached by a slender blonde starlet, Sandy Sterling, who compliments him on one of his earlier books. Midway through the encounter his wife calls back, unable to find the book, and throughout the next dozen or so pages, William completely blows any chance he had with the starlet as he makes call after hysterical call trying to locate a copy of his favorite book. When he returns home, we see his sad family, consisting of his son, an overweight, spoiled, and unintelligent boy, and Helen, a hotshot child psychiatrist, but cold wife. The ultimate moment of pathos hits when we discover that his son did not like, and moreover, did not even really read, the book.

William leaves the house in a fit of sadness and confusion, and walks alone through Central Park. When he returns home that night, he picks up the book and notes that he has never before handled it—that was always his father's role. He pages through it and soon finds that the book is a verbose, at times tediously dull satire of Florinese history, save the action parts his father plucked out to read. In the middle of that night, he calls his editor, puts all of his current projects on hold, and dives into a publishable abridgement of the original S. Morgenstern text, which he then presents to us. He does this not without his own brief and wry meditations on the fact that high adventure and true love, as personified in The Princess Bride, no longer exist. Nobody handles revenge like Inigo Montoya and William has never loved Helen the way Westley loved Buttercup. He says, finally, "Here's the 'good parts' version. S. Morgenstern wrote it. And my father read it to me. And now I give it to you. What you do with it will be of more than passing interest to us all." With this in mind, we turn the page to the story that changed its narrator's life.

Analysis

This introduction serves to illustrate the full significance of the story we are about to read. Goldman begins with his childhood classroom struggles because it gives credibility to his sincere love for the story. Because we learn about William Goldman in his pre-Princess Bride days, we believe even more firmly that S. Morgenstern is the true author of the original manuscript. We believe even more deeply in the existence of Morgenstern, because of details about William's father, which add to the mythical quality of the novel. For example, William's father is supposedly from the mythical Florin, speaks with an accent and later on in the story grows extremely upset when anyone questions the validity of his reading, since English is not his first language.

In this introduction, we also read about the real world outside of the fantasy world of the warring countries of Guilder and Florin, and we realize quickly that the real world is not very romantic. Nothing is ideal in the narrator's reality: not his son, not his wife Helen, not even the book itself in its original state—the copy William gives to his son as a coming-of-age present. Because the real world is so banal and routine, the need for a tale of true adventure, love and heroics becomes even more pressing.

In addition, this introduction also establishes William Goldman's, and therefore S. Morgenstern's, narrative voice. It is a casual voice, one that sets the stage for addressing the reader. Similarly, the present-world interruptions throughout the story of The Princess Bride also help to address the reader. William allows us to know him by nicknames, Billy and Willy, and he holds few secrets as to the lack of romance in his marriage, his industry in movies, and his formula for writing ("This feels right, this sounds wrong."). We watch the narrator swell with pride at speaking cleverly to Sandy Sterling, and then deflate when still relishing his glory, he answers his wife's phone call with the bungling greeting, "Clever." He portrays himself as the simple relater of stories, caught up in the large industry of Hollywood. The narrator is not a hero, nor a swordfighter or a great lover, nor even, for that matter, the actual imagination behind the fully glory of The Princess Bride. We trust his voice, his lack of pretensions, as he leads us to discover the book he has so long immortalized in his mind.

The narrator's last line in the introduction presents the challenge for us to do something with the text that he gives us. This sentiment is echoed in the end of the book's final chapter. He makes it clear that it is not what is in a book but how we interpret the book that is important, and this remains one of the founding themes of the novel.

More Help

Previous Next
Look at the clues

by bear19100, April 24, 2013

As you read you found out that the man in black is westley saving buttercup.

0 Comments

2 out of 4 people found this helpful

Follow Us