The Aspern Papers

Inciting Event: The narrator—who is mad to get his hands on the romantic correspondence of the deceased and idolized poet Mr. Aspern—meets the niece of Aspern’s one-time lover, who is now an elderly woman. Knowing the old lady—Juliana—resents any interest in the letters, he pretends to be enamored with her Venetian garden and asks to rent a room. This is his first meeting with either Juliana or the niece Tina, and therefore his first real brush with the conflict.

First Plot Point: The narrator moves into Juliana’s house, effectively entering the “adventure world” of the Second Act. He must, however, remain in “reaction mode,” since Juliana and Tina keep rigorously to themselves. He is unable to yet further enact his plan to wheedle his way into their confidence.

First Plot Point: After finally meeting Tina out in the arbor he has constructed in the garden, he admits he is a literary critic who writes about Alpern. This frightens Tina off, and she runs away. He fears he’s destroyed his chances of further ingratiating himself with either the niece or the aunt. The moment is, however, very short-lived.

Midpoint: Juliana finally breaks her solitude and meets with him. She wants more money from him, so she can provide for Tina after her imminent death. She bids him take Tina out. He counts this as a victory and gratefully agrees. This is the great turning point for him. From this point on, he can actively press forward in his relationship with Juliana and his attempts to secure her letters—even though she remains adamant in refusing him even a hint of them.

Second Pinch Point: Tina tells the narrator that Juliana will almost certainly burn the papers before her death. He is wild with panic, afraid he won’t be able to get to the letters in time. This threat of the loss of everything the narrator is striving for is certainly a bravura emphasis of the stakes and the antagonistic force’s power.

Third Plot Point: Juliana collapses, and the narrator and Tina believe her dying. They send for a doctor. The narrator is, of course, desperate to secure the letters before it is too late. Since Juliana seems incapacitated, he believes this a good opportunity to attempt to find and rescue the papers.

Climax: The narrator sneaks into Juliana’s room that night and searches for the papers—only to have Juliana arise from bed and discover him. In her shock and fury, she collapses. The narrator leaves the house in despair and disgrace. The bulk of the Climax takes place after Juliana’s subsequent death, in which the narrator tries to decide if it’s worth marrying the stolid Tina in order to secure the letters.

Climactic Moment: After he refuses to marry Tina, he learns that she has deliberately (but without malice) burnt them. The conflict his over. The goal he sought is no longer within reach.

Resolution: He buys Juliana’s portrait of Aspern to console himself.

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