Book of Mormon Tropes

10.7.13 | | 6 comments

Wikipedia is a big time waster. (Not, I suspect, news to anyone here.) One thing leads to another, each article hyperlinking to another half-dozen, until before you know it, you’ve squandered another precious hour (to borrow a phrase from Tom and Ray Magliozzi) tracking down details of Urdu phonology, or something similarly abstruse. (Actually, I have no idea whether Wikipedia includes anything on Urdo phonology… wait… there is is.)

Ahem.

So, yeah, pretty much everyone who spends time surfing the Web knows how addictive Wikipedia can be, or YouTube. But I think I’ve now stumbled onto the mother lode, the heroin-mainlining of Internet addictions, at least for us devotees of the various literary/narrative media. I speak, of course, of TV Tropes, described on Wikipedia as

a wiki that collects and expands on various conventions and devices (tropes) found within creative works. Since its establishment in 2004, the site has gone from covering only television and film tropes to also covering those in a number of other media such as literature, comics, video games, and even things such as advertisements and toys.

It’s great fun. You look up a particular trope (e.g., “piano drop” or “large ham”), and read a description of the trope, where you discover a half-dozen other related tropes you have to check out. (Not to mention the great illustrating cartoons in a lot of places.) At the bottom are multiple examples in media ranging from comic books to Doctor Who episodes. Each of those instances gives a link as well, which allows you to find all of the tropes people have identified in, say, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (Answer: a lot.) By the time I mustered the willpower to close my browser window, I had 153 tabs open.

I don’t remember where the impulse came from, but sometime during my trope-exploring spree, I happened upon an entry for The Book of Mormon. And what do you know? It’s actually pretty good. In fact, it’s one of the thought-provoking encounters with scripture that I’ve had recently. Which maybe says something about my lax spiritual state, but I prefer to see it as suggesting that looking at the scriptures from unusual angles can sometimes yield unexpected insights.

The nature of wiki-type sources, of course, is that what I cite today may not be there tomorrow. So I don’t really have any way of guaranteeing that the article you find will be at all similar to what I found — and not just because the reading experience varies with the eye/mind of the reader. With that caveat in mind, here’s what I found:

The article leads with a nicely even-handed account of the various views of the book’s origins, followed by a short discussion of its structure and themes. But the real fun starts comes with the listing of tropes. Here are some examples:

  • Angst Coma: Alma the Younger’s Heel Face Turn. After getting up to a lot of anti-church mischief, he goes into a “deep sleep” and has visions of angels and hears the voice of God. When he wakes up, he has had a change of heart.
  • Author Filibuster: While Mormon typically stays on-topic in his abridgment, there are a couple of spots where he puts in his own thoughts. The last book, written by Moroni, is essentially one long example of this trope. In his defense, the abridgement of the history was done, he had seen his entire country slaughtered around him and spent the last twenty years of his life on the run, so he had a lot to get off his chest.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: No matter how big of a jerk they are, nobody in the Book of Mormon breaks an oath. Nobody. Sometimes to the point of Honor Before Reason.
  • At least, not deliberately. Giddianhi the robber threatens the Nephites with destruction unless they join his robber band, and swears to spare or destroy them according to the decision they make. Neither happens because the Nephites end up destroying the robber band instead.
  • Well, almost nobody. King Laman broke an oath when he made war on King Limhi’s people, but he was justified, because he thought the daughters of his people were kidnapped.

So, yeah. Not precisely a fount of serious literary scholarship, but a lot of fun nonetheless…

6 comments: “Book of Mormon Tropes

  1. Wm Morris

    Awesome post, Jonathan, but…

    …considering what we heard from over conference weekend about addiction, I would like to raise a voice of warning against clicking over to TV Tropes.

  2. Jonathan Langford Post author

    The “153 tabs” reference ought to suggest the potential dangers here…

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