Mrs. Miniver

Inciting Event: Mrs. Miniver’s oldest son Vin returns from Oxford—full of new ideas—and meets Carol, the granddaughter of the local noblewoman. They immediately like each other, even though Carol doesn’t hesitate to put Vin and his ideas in their place.

Prior to this scene, the first eighteen or so minutes of the movie are entirely devoted to the setup of the Normal World and the characters’ “condition” in the beginning of the story: that being the idyllic world of pre-Blitz London.

Vin’s arrival home is a clear turning point that decidedly incites his story-long romance with Carol. However, in itself, it does nothing to introduce the main conflict of the war, although there was some foreshadowing earlier.

First Plot Point: While at church, the Miniver family learns that England has declared war upon Germany. The war is the “adventure world” of the Second Act. Nothing will be the same after this.

First Pinch Point: After becoming engaged to Carol (despite making a hash of the proposal), Vin—who is now in the RAF—is immediately called away on a mission. One of the most famous scenes in film is the shot that looks over the shoulder of Mrs. Miniver and Carol as they silently watch Vin prepare to leave. It does an admirable job of showing their feelings and tacitly emphasizing the great threat that faces all of them, but especially Vin.

Midpoint: Mr. Miniver must take his boat help evacuate Dunkirk. This scene doesn’t turn the plot so much (since the entire plot is basically episodic), as it signals the intensification of the war and the characters’ participation in it.

Second Pinch Point: Meanwhile back home, Mrs. Miniver discovers a shot-down German flyer in her garden and is forced, at gunpoint, to feed him. When he passes out, she takes his gun and calls the police. This scene does a nice job allowing its relatively passive protagonist to exhibit a little active participation.

Third Plot Point: The Miniver family hides out in their bomb shelter during an especially bad bombardment. Their house is destroyed, and the threat of death is all around them. As their younger son says, crying, “They nearly killed us that time, didn’t they?”

Climax: When enemy planes are spotted over the Channel, Mrs. Miniver and Carol drive Vin to the airbase, then try to get home through the bombing. For an essentially low-key story, this one pulls out the stops in the Climax, with planes strafing past their car and even crashing into one another overhead.

Climactic Moment: Carol, who was shot, dies after Mrs. Miniver gets her back home. Why is this Climactic Moment? The conflict certainly hasn’t been resolved: the war goes on. But we know this is the Climactic Moment because it pops the viewers’ tension. It answers the question they’ve been asking throughout the story: who will die? That it turns out to be Carol—instead of Vin—is a great example of combining surprise and inevitability in the ending.

Resolution: Everyone attends a rousing patriotic sermon in the bombed-out church. Vin goes to join Carol’s crotchety, and now lonely, grandmother in her pew—symbolizing the allying of all British classes against their common enemy.

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