Denis Dutton reviews The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories by Christopher Booker, in the Washington Post:

In the summer of 1975, moviegoers flocked to see the story of a predatory shark terrorizing a little Long Island resort. The film told of how three brave men go to sea in a small boat and, after a bloody climax in which they kill the monster, return peace and security to their town — not unlike, Christopher Booker observes, a tale enjoyed by Saxons dressed in animal skins, huddled around a fire some 1,200 years earlier. Beowulf also features a town terrorized by a monster, Grendel, who lives in a nearby lake and tears his victims to pieces. Again, the hero Beowulf returns peace to his town after a bloody climax in which the monster is slain.

Such echoes have impelled Booker to chart what he regards as the seven plots on which all literature is built. Beowulf and “Jaws” follow the first and most basic of his plots, “Overcoming the Monster.” It is found in countless stories from The Epic of Gilgamesh and “Little Red Riding Hood” to James Bond films such as “Dr. No.” This tale of conflict typically recounts the hero’s ordeals and an escape from death, ending with a community or the world itself saved from evil.

Booker’s second plot is “Rags to Riches.”

More here.