The Paradigm of Tragedy as Meta-Narrative: A Window to Understanding the Life Story of a Woman in Economic and Social Deprivation.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter addresses the problem of the discourse commonly used to describe women living in economic and social deprivation. Narratives concerning people living in extreme poverty have fluctuated, both in research and in therapy, between a judgmental attitude that views them as responsible for their situation on account of their own weaknesses or failures and a compassionate attitude that views them as victims of circumstance and an environment over which they have no control. What is missing is a meta-narrative that could enable us to see these women as a human mix of strengths and weaknesses, achievements and failures. In this chapter I propose a possible meta-narrative based on three structural components of dramatic tragedy as developed in classical theory of the genre: the impossible choice of the protagonist agent, the contest with fate, and the ironic reversal of fortune, to project the image of these women as protagonists, responsible and doomed at the same time. The potential value for therapy of the tragic meta-narrative is that it offers a paradigm of women who live in a world so constrained as to preclude the chances of success yet who possess agency and choice. It enables therapists to take in the full force of the restrictions of social reality without reducing the women to the status of a one-dimensional victim. In this chapter I analyze the narrative of Sara (age 38), a woman who lived in poverty in terms of its tragic components. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHealing plots: The narrative basis of psychotherapy
Place of PublicationWashington, DC, US
PublisherAmerican Psychological Association Inc.
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print)1-59147-100-1 (Hardcover)
StatePublished - 2004

Publication series

NameThe narrative study of lives.


  • *Human Females
  • *Narratives
  • *Poverty
  • *Psychotherapy
  • Social Deprivation


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