Study Guide

The Luminaries Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

By Eleanor Catton

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Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

NOTE: The Luminaries is a bit tough to chart in terms of Booker's code, since it's not really all that interested in its "protagonist," i.e., Walter Moody. In fact, it's really not interested in the journey of one single character at all; instead, it's preoccupied with relationships between people and how they shift, combine, react against each other, etc. That said, the book as a whole—and the journeys its characters take—most closely align with "Rebirth."

Falling Stage

When we first meet Moody, he's arrived at the Crown Hotel on a dark and stormy night (yeah, we know, it's cliché). His trip into Hokitika was pretty dicey because of the weather, and he thinks he may have seen a ghost on his boat. Then, when he gets to hotel, he accidentally stumbles on a supersecret council that twelve men are holding in the smoking room. It seems that an evil dude named Frank Carver—who, incidentally, was the captain of the ship that had brought Moody in that night—is at the center of a lot of mysteries and weird happenings in Hokitika, and so all the men are pretty captivated by figuring out where he is and what he's up to. At the end of the powwow in the Crown smoking room, the men get word that Carver's ship, the Godspeed, has wrecked.

Recession Stage

Almost a month later, not much has really changed; the mysteries and tensions that were first discussed in the Crown meeting remain—a man named Staines is still missing, there's a fortune of gold whose exact origin/rightful owner isn't clear, the local prostitute has quit the business (but still can't remember/explain a blackout she had the night of the Crown council), and a man named Ah Sook is still contemplating revenge against Carver for something that went down between them in the past. Oh, and Carver's girlfriend, Lydia, has rolled into town claiming to be the wife of Crosbie Wells, the man whose fortune is in dispute (and who, in all likelihood, as murdered by Carver).

Lydia Wells holds a séance to summon Emery Staines, but instead the "spirit" of Frank Carver comes and talks to Ah Sook. In the commotion around the séance, Sook finds out that Carver is in town (which he didn't know previously because of a language barrier). He once again resolves to kill him.

Imprisonment Stage

Sook has to lie low while he's plotting to kill Carver, since he knows Lydia will have tipped Frank off that Sook was in town. So, he ends up under beds, squatting on Moody's mining claim, etc.

Anna, too, is in a kind of prison, since Lydia (who is pretty evil) has insisted that Anna come live with her. Anna is mysteriously wasting away, and Lydia keeps her on an extremely tight leash, not really allowing her out or permitting her visitors.

Meanwhile, Staines is not trapped in a shipping crate anymore (which is how we are led to believe he spent January 14-27), but he's still wandering around in a haze produced by opium and, as we learn later, a bump on the head. So, he's definitely trapped in that sense.

For the other characters, the biggest thing that "imprisons" and/or holds them back is their lack of full understanding of all the circumstances, history, and relationships behind the Wells fortune and the missing Emery Staines …

Nightmare Stage

Shepard ends up killing Sook before he can get to Carver, carrying out his own revenge plan (since he mistakenly thought Sook had killed his brother).

Staines returns, which is great, but then he and Anna end up on trial for various crimes. He is unable to say definitively what happened to him during the months he was gone or how he got shot—it's all pretty hazy thanks to the opium. However, he and Anna, with the help of their lawyer, Moody, get a story together to tell for the court.

Rebirth Stage

Staines gets nine months of hard labor, which is better than it could have been, and Anna is acquitted. Meanwhile, Carver arguably gets what he deserves when he's murdered on his way to prison after being arrested at the courthouse based on info that came out at the trial (the murderer is presumably Te Rau). So, the implication is that Anna and Staines will eventually live happily ever after, once he's done in jail, and he's optimistic about being able to rebuild his fortune.

The book is filled with people starting over, actually—in fact, that's the whole reason Moody ended up in Hokitika. He was fleeing his drunk and dissolute father to seek his fortune in the goldfields, and he's setting off on a trip to do just that when the primary narrative timeline closes. Of course, his father has just arrived in town to find him, hoping to find his own "do over" with his son. We don't know if that ever happens.

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