Girard's Cycle of Mythic Narrative is a model proposed by Rene Girard in his book Deceit, Desire and the Novel. Girard defines all relationships in classical literature as triangles of mimetic desire. This mimetic desire leads to a cycle of events that can be observed in nearly all literature and even in real society. The applications of this model are nearly endless both in literature and in real life. Not meaning to invoke Godwin's Law but consider Germany following the Treaty of Versailles. Or perhaps any of the many works of Shakespeare.
All under One
mimetic desire_.-' '-._
' 'All for All (sacrificial violence)
| |victim expulsed
erased . .
'. .'All against One (scapegoating)
All against All
*Travel along the circle goes in a counter-clockwise direction.*
Being a cycle, the situation can begin at any point along the circle. However, the narrative usually does not complete until the entirety of the circle has been traveled at least once.
To explain, we'll assume that the initial situation is one of All under One. This means that the characters in the book or society are unified under the power of a single individual or small group--a monarch for example. This arrangement is mostly stable and usually is only destabilized by the introduction of an outside factor causing mimetic desire and rivalry between two parties competing for an object of desire. As the rivals compete to obtain the goal, they simultaneously become more similar to each other until eventually the differences between them are erased.
As result of the two main centers of power in the story being indistinguishable, society falls into a state of All against All. Clearly this means it's a situation where there is anarchy and rampant violence that usually expresses itself as revolution or complete conflict of some kind. Because unorganized conflict is intolerable to organized society, this situation soon progresses to another: All against One. In this part of the cycle an individual or group is marginalized and scapegoated regardless of actual responsibility for the situation.
The scapegoated party is then removed from society through sacrificial violence. This concentrates all the aggression of society on to one outlet and brings the formerly conflicting sides together as All for All. All for All is as unstable as All against All, however, because there are only so many scapegoats. As a result, society picks a new leader to band behind and once again becomes All under One, restarting the cycle where it began.