full title The Princess Bride
author William Goldman
type of work Adult/young adult novel
genre Falls into and satires fantasy, romance, science-fiction
time and place written 1973, USA
date of first publication 1973
publisher Ballantine Books
narrator William Goldman
point of view The narrator introduces The Princess Bride as his favorite childhood book, and he proceeds to retell it in a third person storytelling voice. However, he makes frequent interjections in the first person, commenting on the content and style of the writing. Hence, this story is told in two voices: first, the overarching voice of William Goldman writing as "S. Morganstern," and second, the more personal voice of William Goldman writing as himself, revisiting the text of the story.
tone Whether while writing as S. Morganstern or as himself, William Goldman writes with a certain ironic and self-deprecating and yet very affectionate humor. He acknowledges the shortcomings of the characters in The Princess Bride and the ways in which the story itself cannot match the standards of any ordinary genre (romance, science fiction, fantasy), while marveling in its eccentricities all the way through.
setting (time) An undefined time, before Europe and after blue-jeans
setting (place) The fictional countries of Florin and Guilder
protagonist The omniscient narrator follows the pasts and present of each of the main characters, namely Buttercup, Westley, Inigo, Fezzik and Prince Humperdinck, but the thread tying all of the adventures together is the Princess Bride herself, Buttercup.
major conflict The major conflict is the process by which Buttercup and Westley reunite in the necessarily completion of the world's greatest story of true love.
rising action The rising action begins rather early in the story, as soon as Buttercup is kidnapped and we begin to suspect that the man in black is no ordinary criminal figure. From this point forward, a series of unimaginable, insurmountable obstacles arise, and the tension rises as the man in black, soon unveiled as Westley, leaps over them with flying colors in his feat to rescue Buttercup.
climax The climax takes place when Westley is pronounced dead at the end of chapter six. At this moment, and only for a moment, do we believe that the ending of the story may not be a romantic, favorable one. Our alarm is compounded when William Goldman interrupts the book and recounts how his father explained while reading the book aloud that Westley is, actually, killed by Humperdinck. We know, by this point, that Westley can overcome the strongest strength (Fezzik), the steadiest steel (Inigo), the craftiest logic (Vizzini) and the best-trained hunter (Humperdinck), all in the name of love. But until this point we do not suspend our belief to think that love could perhaps overcome death.
falling action After Westley is pronounced dead, the action is still tense and potent as Inigo, Fezzik and the cadaverous Westley enter Humperdinck's castle to stop the wedding. Nothing is restful, although by this time we are fairly certain that everything will work out happily in the end, or else William Goldman would not have taken us this far. There is no full release from the climax in this story. William Goldman summarizes the end, when Westley and Buttercup are finally free and reunited, as a series of disasters ending perhaps happily, perhaps not.
themes The pretension of the literary world versus the hedonism of pleasure reading; the arbitrariness of time, history, and love; the ridiculousness of fairy tales
motifs Time measured by inventions/statistics; the frequent overturning of picturesque storybook situations
symbols The recurring interruptions of William Goldman; the use of the superior
foreshadowing The foreshadowing in this book is done in the author's interjections, as he warns his readers of the coming events and prepares us not to expect justice. He does some of this sarcastically, such as when he explains why the sharks in the beginning of the story could not possibly have devoured the leading lady. Other times, William Goldman's voice is very stern, rueful, as he explains the lessons he learned from fretting about the characters in this book. Almost nothing comes as a total surprise to us; we know from the beginning that it is his favorite childhood book, and therefore we know that it will have a fairy tale element, that it will reconcile the lead characters somewhat happily in the end. Most things that are forewarned actually happen: every terror in the Fire Swamp arises to face Westley and Buttercup; Inigo does avenge his father's death; Humperdinck does kill Westley; true love does overcome death. Everything happens as it should, although none happen by any sort of orderly, predictable process.