Lawrence of Arabia

Comprehensive Storyform

The following analysis reveals a comprehensive look at the Storyform for Lawrence of Arabia. Unlike most of the analysis found here—which simply lists the unique individual story appreciations—this in-depth study details the actual encoding for each structural item. This also means it has been incorporated into the Dramatica Story Expert application itself as an easily referenced contextual example.

Story Dynamics

8 of the 12 essential questions

Main Character Resolve

An expert on the region, Lawrence volunteers to be sent to Arabia, a country he comes to love even more as he adopts its customs and dress.  But after experiencing the desert’s brutality firsthand, and realizing the futility of trying to change the Arabs’ squabbling nature, he abandons it:
LAWRENCE:  I pray I may never see the desert again.  Hear me God.
(Bolt and Wilson, p. II-112)

Main Character Growth

Lawrence needs to stop believing he’s infallible, the only one with the right answers.  He needs to realize there are forces at work larger than him, and that he cannot make everything “written in here” (in his head) come true by sheer force of will.

Main Character Approach

Lawrence tries to mold Arabia to suit him through his strength of character, charisma, and leadership qualities: Provoked to give the Arabs:
FEISAL:  What no man can provide, Lieutenant.  We need a miracle.
(Bolt and Wilson, p. 52)
Lawrence goes and takes Akaba, crossing the impossible-to-cross Nefud desert; he solves the Auda-Ali tribal dispute by executing the wrongdoer, his friend Gasim; he competes with Allenby to reach Damascus first; etc.

Main Character Mental Sex

Lawrence sees the larger picture of the Middle East situation, and attempts to unite the territorial tribes and achieve post-war self-determination; he intuitively understands that if they cross the Nefud, Auda’s Howeitat will join them, especially if promised gold; he tries to hold together the quarrelsome tribes in his Arab National Council, and get them to cooperate in keeping Damascus functioning as a city; etc.

Story Driver

Dryden decides that Arab Bureau needs its own man on the spot, and sends Lawrence to Arabia; Lawrence decides to cross the Nefud and take Akaba, endearing him to both Arabs and British; Allenby decides to sit back and let Damascus fall apart, so he can step in and take the reins; etc.

Story Limit

Lawrence exhausts himself spiritually and physically trying to overcome the obstacles in his path.  What’s missing is: the willingness of the Arab tribes to put aside squabbles and govern themselves; the artillery needed to more easily defeat the Turks, which the British refuse as it could be later used against them; a charismatic Arab leader to take Lawrence’s place.  Feisal’s final dismissal brings Lawrence’s mission to an end:
FEISAL:  There is nothing further for a warrior here.  We drive bargains.  Old men’s work.  Young men make wars—and virtues of war are the virtues of young men—courage and hope for the future.  And then old men make the peace, and the vices of peace are the vices of old men—mistrust and caution.  It must be so.
(Bolt and Wilson, p. II-121)

Story Outcome

Through Lawrence, the British Army learns the Arabs are hungry for artillery to help defeat the Turks and later maintain independent rule of the region.  Allenby denies the artillery and retains British control.

Story Judgment

Lawrence finds that while he is fully capable of fulfilling the role of God-like leader, it comes at great cost to his own personality: his sado-masochistic tendencies have been brought to the fore, and he finds he both enjoys inflicting suffering on others and experiences pleasure in his own degradation and torture.

Overall Story Throughline

""Lawrence Unites Arab Tribes To Fight a Common Enemy""

Overall Story Throughline

The story takes place in the Middle East theater of World War I, involving the British endeavor to defeat the Turks and weaken the Germans.  Lawrence must accomplish great feats of physical endurance, travel extensively, and engage in much fighting and bloodshed with the Arabs.

Overall Story Concern

Lawrence is concerned with experiencing life as an Arab; Dryden sends Lawrence to learn Feisal’s long-term political intentions, while Brighton is interested in discovering Feisal’s immediate intentions for the British Army; Ali determines to learn politics; at the hands of the Turkish Bey, Lawrence learns the vulnerability of his flesh and that he’s no superman; Feisal learns of the British-French treaty to divide post-war Arabia, and that Lawrence’s hoped-for unity was a lie; Bentley covers the war, informing his readers of about Lawrence’s exploits; etc.

Overall Story Issue

Ali has to tolerate Lawrence’s bringing Daud and Farraj across the Nefud, and his going back for Gasim; Lawrence puts up with the meaningless promotions from Allenby; Ali cannot persuade Lawrence to forego mindless vengeance on the Turks and focus on Damascus; in waiting out the Arab Council’s failure, Allenby causes unneeded suffering to the Turkish patients.

Overall Story Counterpoint

Allenby must release Lawrence from his duties to find Feisal; Lawrence must cross the Nefud to reach Feisal; for the Arabs to be great again, Feisal needs “a miracle”; Allenby must convince Lawrence not to quit; Auda needs gold before he’ll attack Akaba; the Arab Council must fail before the British step in; etc.

Overall Story Thematic Conflict
Preconditions vs.Prerequisites

Most all the preconditions attached to the story involve unnecessary suffering and death, which appears almost natural in such a harsh environment as Arabia.  They’re required by the great steps forward to their goal made by the British and to some extent the Arabs, but not by Lawrence, who’s devastated by what he’s put through.

Overall Story Problem

Ali’s rejection of Tafas as not worthy of his well leads him to kill his blood enemy, to Lawrence’s dismay:
LAWRENCE:  Sherif Ali!  So long as the Arab people fight tribe against tribe, so long will they be a little people.
(Bolt and Wilson, p. 32)
Allenby and Dryden resist Feisal’s demand for artillery, as that would make it difficult to govern them later; Lawrence refuses to sell out the Arabs to the British, vowing to give Arabia to the Arabs instead; the different Arab tribes’ refusal to compromise over the necessary work in Damascus leads to the city’s collapse and British intervention; etc.

Overall Story Solution

Getting the different Arab tribes to put their differences aside and unite under a common flag would give them the strength necessary to ensure self-rule; Feisal demonstrates his diplomatic skills, compromising over the divvying up of Damascus with Allenby and Dryden; Ali is the only member of the Arab Council to practice his tolerance, backing down and humbly asking for Auda’s pardon.

Overall Story Symptom

Dryden persuades Murray to reevaluate Lawrence’s usefulness as an office wallah and second him to the Arab Bureau; Lawrence twice reevaluates his purpose in Arabia and tries to quit, but is promoted both times and stays; Bentley changes his opinion of his hero, Lawrence, after seeing the slaughtered Turks; etc.

Overall Story Response

Lawrence’s analysis of Feisal’s situation is at odds with Brighton’s, leading him to try to further Arab independence; Allenby and Dryden give Lawrence a false evaluation of British ambitions in the region; Lawrence assesses Gasim’s life to be less valuable than the goal of tribal unity to take Akaba; while Ali feels pity for those receiving artillery fire, a bitter Lawrence evaluates them thus:
LAWRENCE:  They’re Turks!
(Bolt and Wilson, p. II-87)

Overall Story Catalyst

Dryden sending Lawrence to find Feisal necessitates his crossing the desert first; the Arabs’ taking of Akaba requires the crossing of the impossible Nefud; to get Auda’s men to move on to Akaba, Lawrence must first settle the tribal dispute by executing Gasim; to get gold for Auda and arms for the Arabs, Lawrence and his boys must cross another desert, the Sinai; Allenby has to promote Lawrence, twice, to convince him to stay the course; Allenby must sit back and do nothing, in order for Arab rule of Damascus to capitulate; etc.

Overall Story Inhibitor

General Murray deems Lawrence incompetent and insubordinate and is reluctant to lend him to Dryden’s Arab Bureau; crossing the treacherous Nefud desert, Lawrence feels the need to go back for Gasim, risking death himself; Allenby refuses to give artillery, jeopardizing the revolt against the Turks; etc.

Overall Story Benchmark

Dryden obtains Lawrence’s services from Murray; Lawrence wins the Arabs’ respect by repeatedly achieving the impossible—crossing the Nefud and the Sinai, taking Akaba and Damascus—and is given Bedu robes by Ali in return; Allenby gives Lawrence guns and gold in recognition of his success at Akaba; the Bedu receive booty each time they defeat the Turks; Feisal thanks Lawrence for giving him Damascus as a bargaining tool.

Additional Overall Story Information →
Overall Story Throughline Synopsis

“The film begins with the death of Lawrence…. Suddenly, we’re in British headquarters in Cairo during World War I. [Lawrence] is a twenty-nine-year-old General Staff desk man and not very interested in his work, as it provides none of the adventure for which he has joined the service. He is, however, transferred to Arabia at the request of the British Arab Bureau and, once there, helps promote an Arab rebellion against the Turks who rule the area. In order to do this, he must unite the warring Arab factions. 
Then, with men supplied to him by Prince Feisal, he and Sherif Ali Ibn El Kharish cross the burning sands of the Nefud Desert, encounter and enlist the forces of Auda Abu Tayi, and capture the port of Aqaba from a superior, but disorganized, Turkish garrison. Along the way, Lawrence must take the life of a man he’s saved because that man has done something that could split the tribes. Realizing that one man’s death will save the lives of many others, Lawrence shoots the offender. When he does, Lawrence experiences a baffling and perturbing feeling, an almost-sadistic glee in the taking of another’s life. 
Now it’s back to Cairo again, where [General Allenby] convinces Lawrence to continue his work in the desert because he seems to be the only Briton the Arabs trust. Equipped with arms, men, and money, Lawrence begins a period of guerrilla warfare. He is deified by his Arab men, and his exploits are made even larger as an American journalist traveling with him dutifully reports the forays to a waiting world. 
Lawrence is captured by the Turks, tortured, and possibly sodomized by a vicious Turkish soldier, and then released. (The film hints at the possibility that Lawrence actually enjoyed this brutal treatment and may have had underlying homosexual and masochistic tendencies.) Lawrence returns to Cairo and is given a new assignment by General Allenby. Damascus is to be attacked, and the Arabs need “El Aurens” to lead them.
Lawrence leads his men to Damascus, where an Arab council is set up. But the attempt at unification is a disaster, with all of the factions bickering and threatening each other at a time when their joy should be supreme. The council is dissolved. Allenby and Feisal attempt to hammer out an accord, and Lawrence returns to England saddened by the knowledge that he has failed.”
(CineBooks Motion Picture Guide, in Cinemania)

Overall Story Backstory

“The Ottoman Turks first appeared in the early 13th century in Anatolia, subjugating Turkish and Mongol bands pressing against the eastern borders of Byzantium.  They gradually spread through the Near East and Balkans, capturing Constantinople in 1453 and storming the gates of Vienna two centuries later.  At its height, the Ottoman Empire stretched from the Persian Gulf to western Algeria…
Mohammed united the Arabs in the 7th century, and his followers, led by the caliphs, founded a great empire, with its capital at Medina.  Later, the caliphate capital was transferred to Damascus and then Baghdad, but Arabia retained its importance because of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.  In the 16th and 17th centuries, the Turks established at least nominal rule over much of Arabia, and in the middle of the 18th century, it was divided into separate principalities…
Under the influence of German military advisors, Turkey signed a secret alliance with Germany on Aug. 2, 1914, that led to a declaration of war by the Allied Powers…”
(Johnson, pp. 255, 274)
“At stake was control of the Suez Canal and access to the oil which had been discovered a few years earlier.”
(Wallechinsky and Wallace, p. 631)

Main Character Throughline

T.E. Lawrence — El Aurens, broker of Arab unity

Main Character Throughline

The blue-eyed blond Lawrence confuses pain with pleasure, and wants to prove himself more capable of physical endurance than even the Bedu.  But as Feisal observes:
FEISAL:  I think you are another of these desert-loving Englishmen—Doughty, Stanhope, Gordon of Khartoum.  No Arab loves the desert.  We love water and green trees.  There is nothing in the desert.  And no man needs nothing.
(Bolt and Wilson, pp. 50-51)
Lawrence defies fate, intending to write history himself; acknowledging he is no ordinary man, he lets himself be worshipped like a god, at one point asking:
LAWRENCE:  My friends, who will walk on water with me?
(Bolt and Wilson, p. II-41)

Main Character Concern

While working as a mapmaker, Lawrence is more interested in the day-to-day events of the Turk-Arab conflict; he’s troubled by the current disunity among the Arabs:
LAWRENCE:  Sherif Ali!  So long as the Arabs fight tribe against tribe, so long will they be a little people.
(Bolt and Wilson, p. 32)
After crossing the Sinai with Farraj, Lawrence’s first priority, before telling Allenby about Akaba, is to get two glasses of lemonade to slake their thirst; at the Arab Council meeting, Lawrence tries to focus on the business at hand—saving Damascus from ruin—rather than the petitioners who rush in:
LAWRENCE:  We will hear petitions this afternoon!  This afternoon…
(Bolt and Wilson, p. II-109)

Main Character Issue

Lawrence has a fascination for pain, as he shows with his match-snuffing trick:
LAWRENCE:  The trick, William Potter, is not minding if it hurts.
(Bolt and Wilson, p. 8)
Arabia is an unexplained lure for him, as he comments while looking out to sea at Akaba:
LAWRENCE:  My god I love this country.
(Bolt and Wilson, p. 102)
Lawrence finds himself drawn to the homeless parentless urchins, Daud and Farraj, even though Ali denigrates them; after killing Daud and Gasim, he confesses to enjoying something about killing; he revels in ” taking no prisoners” among the Turks he leads bloody vengeance on; etc.

Main Character Counterpoint

To become more of an Arab, Lawrence overcomes his repulsion to share the mutton fat offered by Tafas:
“LAWRENCE thrusts out his hand and takes a piece and puts it in his mouth, watched anxiously by TAFAS.  There is no comedy, and from the steely concentration of his face we see that the flesh is indeed mortified.
TAFAS (very pleased, thrusts out the fat):  More?
LAWRENCE gravely takes some more.”
(Bolt and Wilson, p. 26)
When Ali kills Tafas, Lawrence is disgusted by the unforgiving nature of the Bedu warrior; the repulsive Bey offers an unsavory fascination for Lawrence, who smiles at his punishment; finally, Lawrence hates himself for the suffering he’s wrought on the Turkish hospital prisoners.

Main Character Thematic Conflict
Attraction vs.Repulsion

Attracted to Arabia but initially repulsed by its “cruel, greedy, and barbarous people,” Lawrence gradually becomes inured to its violence.  He grows as a charismatic leader by self-sacrifice and the sacrifice of others, to the point where he enjoys killing and revenge, until he realize what he’s become and leaves the country, disillusioned.

Main Character Problem

Lawrence refuses to accept the cruel fate awaiting Arabia, the Sykes-Picot treaty to split the region between the British and France, once the Turks are disposed of.  Instead, he fights to unite the warring tribes and give Arabia to the Arabs.

Main Character Solution

If Lawrence accepted the reality of the situation—why are the British helping the Arabs?  Why are the Arabs unable to unite?—he might realize earlier that the future of Arabia is written and Damascus is the most he can give the Arabs.  As Dryden cuttingly tells him:
DRYDEN:  You many not have known, but you certainly had suspicions.  If we’ve told lies you’ve told half-lies… And a man who tells lie—- like me—- merely hides the truth.  But a man who tells half-lies… has forgotten where he put it.
(Bolt and Wilson, p. II-64)

Main Character Symptom

Lawrence is amused at the Corporal’s reaction to his match-snuffing feat:
“The CORPORAL is preoccupied with a burning match which he proceeds to extinguish between his fingers.
CORPORAL:  Ow!  That damn well ‘urts!
LAWRENCE:  Certainly it hurts.
CORPORAL:  Well what’s the trick then?
LAWRENCE:  The trick, William Potter, is not minding if it hurts.”
(Bolt and Wilson, pp. 7-8)
Deciding to go back for Gasim, Lawrence delights in the troubled reaction he gets from Ali: 
“ALI:  Go back, blasphemer, but you will not be at Akaba!
This absolute loss of control yelled into LAWRENCE’s face affords him the most exquisite satisfaction—- it is victory.  To drive the point home, he turns his most amused, most donnish expression upon his hated friend and says pleasantly:
LAWRENCE:  I shall be at Akaba.  That is written.  In here.”
(Bolt and Wilson, p. 71)

Main Character Response

Seeing how his endurance of pain impresses people, Lawrence uses it to achieve the impossible—crossing the Nefud desert, going back into the sun to rescue Gasim, executing his rescued friend, etc.—and convince the Arabs he is worthy to lead them against the Turks and gain freedom.

Main Character Unique Ability

Because he believes himself no ordinary mortal, Lawrence approaches tasks considered impossible by others as infinitely do-able—and does them.  Chosen by Dryden because of his knowledge of Arabian affairs, Lawrence is confident:
LAWRENCE:  Of course I’m the man for the job.  What is the job, by the way?
(Bolt and Wilson, p. 19)

Main Character Critical Flaw

Lawrence first has doubts about his ability to continue in the desert while informing Allenby about his taking Akaba:
LAWRENCE:  I—killed—two people.  [...]  there was something about it I didn’t like.
ALLENBY:  Well, naturally.
LAWRENCE:  No.  Something else.
ALLENBY:  What then?
LAWRENCE:  I enjoyed it.
(Bolt and Wilson, p. 128)
After the Bey has had his way, Lawrence expresses his intent to leave Arabia for England:
ALI:  Why?
LAWRENCE:  I’ve come to the end of myself.  I suppose.
ALI:  And the end of the Arab Revolt.
LAWRENCE:  I’m not the Arab Revolt.  I’m not even an Arab.
ALI:  - “A man can be whatever he wants.”  You said.
LAWRENCE:  I’m sorry.  I thought it was true.
(Bolt and Wilson, p. II-53)

Main Character Benchmark

Lawrence becomes more and more concerned with the future of Arabia and its people:
LAWRENCE:  Sherif Ali!  So long as the Arabs fight tribe against tribe, so long will they be a little people.
(Bolt and Wilson, p. 32)
He agrees with Feisal that:
FEISAL:  The English have a great hunger for desolate places, Lieutenant I fear they hunger for Arabia.
LAWRENCE:  Then you must deny it to them.
(Bolt and Wilson, p. 50)
He accepts the lie he drags out of Allenby:
LAWRENCE:  I want to know sir, if I can tell them in your name, we have no ambitions in Arabia.
ALLENBY:  Certainly.
(Bolt and Wilson, p.138)
He reassures Bentley regarding the Arabs:
LAWRENCE:  They hope to gain their freedom.  Freedom.
BENTLEY:  ...they hope to gain their freedom… There’s one born every minute.
LAWRENCE:  They’re going to get it, Mr. Bentley.  I’m going to give it to them.
(Bolt and Wilson, p. II-23)

Additional Main Character Information →
Main Character Description

“Although it was widely believed that Lawrence was a homosexual, a multimillion-dollar epic filmed in 1962 could not possibly be frank about that. And yet Lean and his writer, Robert Bolt, didn’t simply cave in and rewrite Lawrence into a routine action hero.
Using O’Toole’s peculiar speech and manner as their instrument, they created a character who combined charisma and craziness, who was so different from conventional military heroes that he could inspire the Arabs to follow him in that mad march across the desert. There is a moment in the movie when O’Toole, dressed in flowing white robes of a desert sheik, does a victory dance on top of a captured Turkish train, and almost seems to be posing for fashion photos. This is a curious scene because it seems to flaunt gay stereotypes, and yet none of the other characters in the movie seem to notice—nor do they take much notice of the two young desert urchins that Lawrence takes under his protection.
What Lean, Bolt, and O’Toole create is a sexually and socially unconventional man who is simply presented as what he is, without labels or comment.”
(Roger Ebert, in Cinemania)

Main Character Throughline Synopsis

Possessing superior knowledge of Arab culture and character, Lawrence sets out to discover Prince Feisal’s political intentions.  Once in the desert, he gets the idea to unite the Arab tribes in a revolt against the Turks.  Succeeding, he starts to assimilate into their culture, donning their dress and becoming a charismatic, almost godlike leader.  Soon adopting the violent methods inherent in such a harsh environment—and strangely enjoying them—Lawrence experiences personal pain and degradation at the hands of the Turks.  Dispirited, he’s persuaded to continue by the flattery of the British and his unrealistic hopes of uniting the Arab tribes permanently in post-war self-determination.  He viciously leads the Arabs in taking Damascus from the Turks, but it becomes a hollow victory when the Arab alliance splits apart and the British take over.  Dismayed at letting himself be tricked by the British into using the Arabs, he returns to England a disillusioned man.

Main Character Backstory

“T.E. Lawrence was born in Tremadoc, North Wales, on August 16, 1888.  His father, a minor Anglo-Irish baronet named Thomas Chapman, had adopted the surname Lawrence after deserting his wife to live with his former housekeeper.  Thomas Edward was the second son of this illicit but in nearly every other way unremarkable, conventionally bourgeois union.  Indeed, so unremarkable was his family life that he probably did not discover his illegitimacy until well into his teens.  Thomas’s boyhood was marked by frequent moves—Scotland, Jersey, France, the New Forest—dictated by the senior Lawrence’s restless nature.  The family finally settled in Oxford where he attended the local high school and, in due time, the university.  From an early age, Thomas exhibited a precociousness and intellectual curiosity that set him off from his peers.  He became interested in the Middle Ages and traveled by bicycle and foot over parts of Europe and throughout the Near East, researching what would become his senior thesis, Crusader Castles.  After taking a “first” in the Honors School of History, Lawrence went to the site of the ancient Hittite city of Carchemish, on the banks of Euphrates, as a member of an archaeological expedition.  While there he immersed himself in Middle Eastern culture and learned (well or poorly, depending on your source) Middle Eastern languages.  The myth would have it that Lawrence spent more time spying on the Turks and the Germans than he did digging up artifacts.  Certain proof for this is lacking, but we needn’t doubt that any true-blue Englishman of Lawrence’s generation, finding himself in a foreign and potentially hostile part of the world (in this case, the Ottoman Empire), would have instinctively kept eyes and ears open.
Soon after the outbreak of World War I, Lawrence, logically enough given his background and studies, was offered a minor position with British Intelligence in Cairo….”
(Michael Anderegg, in Morris and Raskin, p. 5-6)

Influence Character Throughline

Sherif Ali — Bedu warrior, leader of the Harith tribe

Influence Character Throughline

Ali believes the future is written, and man is foolish to try to change the will of God.  He distrusts anyone who is not an Arab, not of his own superior tribe, and especially the English.

Influence Character Concern

Ali considers certain things impossible—such as crossing the Nefud desert, rescuing Gasim, resolving the blood feud between his tribe and Auda’s, Lawrence passing for an Arab—until Lawrence proves otherwise.

Influence Character Issue

By killing Tafas, Ali gives Lawrence a first impression of Arabs as “greedy, barbarous, and cruel”; Ali’s initial reaction to Lawrence is to compare him with Brighton:
ALI:  Old fool!  Why turn from him (Brighton) to him? (Lawrence)  They are master and man.
(Bolt and Wilson, p. 48)
Ali first believes Lawrence to be weak compared to the Bedu, and a blasphemer for daring to tempt God by trying the impossible.

Influence Character Counterpoint

After Lawrence returns with Gasim, Ali reassesses and finds Lawrence worthy of an Arab leader’s robes and of salaams; Ali argues Bentley’s contention that Lawrence has:
BENTLEY:  Changed, hasn’t he?
ALI (loyally):  No.
BENTLEY:  Oh I’d say he had.  Different man, I’d say.  What did that Turkish General do to him, in Deraa?
ALI:  He was the same man after Deraa… the same man humbled!  (the humbleness was an added virtue evidently)
(Bolt and Wilson, p. II-79-80)
When Lawrence arms himself with mercenaries, Ali reappraises his leadership abilities; after Damascus’ Arab government falls apart, Ali reassesses his nature as a warrior and grows toward politics instead.

Influence Character Thematic Conflict
Appraisal vs.Reappraisal

Over the course of his experiences at Lawrence’s side, Ali learns that his initial impressions are not always correct.  He develops from a warrior who impulsively acts on the situation as it occurs, to a more diplomatic man who takes the time to rethink before acting—a politician in the making.

Influence Character Problem

Ali is quick to close himself off to the potential in situations, having ruled out certain options as impossible, such as with Akaba:
ALI:  You are mad.  To come to Akaba by land we should have to cross the Nefud.  [...]  The Nefud cannot be crossed.
ALI:  There are guns at Akaba.
LAWRENCE:  They face the sea Ali.  And they cannot be turned round.  From the landward side there are no guns at Akaba.
ALI:  With good reason!  It cannot be approached from the landward side!
(Bolt and Wilson, p. 55)

Influence Character Solution

At story’s end, Ali, with Lawrence’s help, considers the probable outcome of his actions and acts differently:
“AUDA:  You insulted me—- Harith!
This last word is said as a term of abuse.  ALI starts and LAWRENCE grips his wrist.
LAWRENCE:  If you answer [there’ll] be bloodshed.
ALI:  Do you speak to me of bloodshed?
LAWRENCE takes this in.  He releases ALI’s hand which is removed.  ALI raises his voice:
ALI:  I ask pardon of Auda Ibu Tayi.”
(Bolt and Wilson, p. II-106)

Influence Character Symptom

When Ali reevaluates his first impressions, he tends to swing to the opposite conclusion.  Initially thinking Lawrence weak and incapable, he goes overboard by giving him the robes of a Sherif:
FARRAJ AND DAUD:  Salaams Sherif.
LAWRENCE (to ALI):  It is permitted?
ALI:  Surely.
ELDER HARITH:  He for whom nothing is written may write himself a clan.  Salaam.
(Bolt and Wilson, p. 80-81)
This creates problems for Lawrence by feeding his ego and delusions of grandeur, losing sight of who he really is and considering himself to be the Arab Revolt:
MAJID:  Aurens!  Can you pass for an Arab in an Arab town?
LAWRENCE:  Yes.  If one of you will lend me some dirty clothes!
(Bolt and Wilson, II-43)

Influence Character Response

Ali repeatedly questions how Lawrence’s doing, and evaluates the current situation afresh, challenging Lawrence’s assumptions.  After the taking of Akaba, Ali’s concerned with the bigger picture regarding Lawrence’s mission to Cairo:
LAWRENCE:  Look Ali.  If any of your Bedouin arrived in Cairo and told them that we’ve taken Akaba, the Generals would laugh!
ALI (quietly, but with the bitterness of frustrated love):  I see.  In Cairo you will put off these funny clothes; you will wear trousers and tell stories of our quaintness and barbarity.  And then they will believe you.
(Bolt and Wilson, p. 104)
Evaluating the state of the tired Bedu warriors, Ali points out to Lawrence the folly of pushing them beyond their limits:
ALI:  So they say they love you.  The more reason to be thrifty with them.  Give them something to do that can be done!  But you… no, no, they must move mountains, for you, they must walk on water!
(Bolt and Wilson, p. II-40)

Influence Character Unique Ability

Ali questions Lawrence’s every decision and plan, based on his knowledge of what is possible in Arabia and what God will allow.  This has the effect of spurring Lawrence to prove himself with ever more difficult tasks:
ALI:  The Nefud cannot be crossed.
LAWRENCE:  I’ll cross it if you will.
ALI:  You?  It takes more than a compass, Englishman.  The Nefud is the worst place God created!
LAWRENCE:  Oh I can’t answer for the place.  Only for myself.
(Bolt and Wilson, p. 54)

Influence Character Critical Flaw

Accompanying Lawrence on endeavors he has himself deemed impossible, Ali has to concede that Lawrence was right when they succeed against all odds:
ALI:  El Aurens…  Truly, for some men nothing is written unless they write it.
(Bolt and Wilson, p. 78)
ALI:  The miracle is accomplished.  Garlands for the conqueror.
(Bolt and Wilson, p. 102)

Influence Character Benchmark

Driven by the Bedu warrior’s hatred of an enemy, Ali thinks nothing of killing Tafas for drinking from his well; after blowing up Turkish trains, Ali pleads for the toughened Lawrence to go easy on his men; he develops compassion for his friend when nursing the tortured Lawrence back to health; eventually, he feels pity even for his enemy the Turks, receiving artillery fire:
ALI:  God help the men who lie under that.
Finally, he begs Lawrence to cease the slaughtering of Turks who pillaged Talaal’s village:
ALI:  Aurens!  Enough!  Enough!  Make them stop!
(Bolt and Wilson, p. II-97)

More Influence Character Information →
Influence Character Description

“He is a handsome young man of about LAWRENCE’s age; an impressive figure in both bearing and costume.”
(Bolt and Wilson, p. 30)

Influence Character Throughline Synopsis

Ali is territorial by nature, killing fellow Arabs who drink his water uninvited.  Moved by El Aurens’ ability to determine his own future against impossible odds and his self-sacrificing compassion, he also comes to envy his winning way with words.  Ali sees himself in the increasingly violent Aurens—disliking what he sees—and starts to feel compassion for his Turk victims.  Studying the British system of government, he finds it preferable to all-out bloodshed, and determines to learn politics.

Influence Character Backstory

As a Bedu, Ali is mired in the caste system, having no respect or compassion for those of enemy tribes or of lower status than himself.  Wary by nature, he’s learned to shoot first and ask no questions later.

Relationship Story Throughline

""Lawrence Embraces Violence; Ali Embraces Diplomacy""

Relationship Story Throughline

Lawrence is compassionate and caring, risking his own life for those in need of his help, while Ali lives by the desert version of Social Darwinism, killing enemies and scorning those weaker than him as worthless.  Lawrence is changed by the violent acts he’s forced to take part in, until he is the cruel, ruthless killer who’ll take no prisoners.  Ali meanwhile, is influenced by Lawrence and grows to pity the Turks he’s killing, eventually preferring his natural skills as a politician rather than as a warrior.

Relationship Story Concern

Lawrence devises a plan to make the Arabs great again by crossing the Nefud desert and invading Akaba:
“ALI:  It cannot be approached from the landward side!
LAWRENCE:  Certainly the Turks do not dream of it.  [...]  Akaba’s over there Ali.  It’s only a matter of going.
ALI (with horror and unwilling respect):  You are mad!”
(Bolt and Wilson, pp. 55-56)
When Lawrence gets the idea to go back into the desert for Gasim, Ali refuses:
ALI:  What for, to die with Gasim?  In two minutes, comes the sun.  [...]  In God’s name understand!  We-can-not-go-back!
(Bolt and Wilson, p. 70)
Urged by Khitan and Auda to take revenge for the Turks’ massacre, Lawrence responds to Ali’s alternate idea:
ALI:  Aurens, not this, Go round.  Damascus.  Damascus, Aurens, go round, go round.
LAWRENCE:  No prisoners!!  No prisoners!!
(Bolt and Wilson, pp. II-92-93)

Relationship Story Issue

Motivated by Feisal’s need for a miracle to unite the Arabs, Lawrence presents Ali with the idea to take Akaba; driven by a lack of unity among the Arabs, Lawrence acts as their leader; Ali warns Lawrence of the danger of losing too many men because of not enough successful sorties; Lawrence explains to Ali his deep-seated feelings of inadequacy over being illegitimate and not inheriting title; Ali suggests bringing in the British as the answer to the lack of engineers; etc.

Relationship Story Counterpoint

Ali believes Lawrence incapable of crossing the Nefud—the sun’s anvil—because it’s never been done; Ali has no problem killing Lawrence’s guide and friend Tafas because he took water without permission; even though the Arab factions are incapable, Lawrence won’t allow British engineers to take over Damascus as they’ll take over government too; Ali tries to restrain Lawrence from going back for Gasim, as he’s incapable of surviving the sun—or so God has written.

Relationship Story Thematic Conflict
Deficiency vs.Permission

The defiant Lawrence is not about to listen to what Ali thinks he’s capable of, and goes ahead and does what he thinks needed regardless.  As the story progresses, Lawrence will admit no limitations on his godlike leadership, even when it jeopardizes his mission, because as Ali notes:
ALI:  Truly, for some men nothing is written unless they write it.

Relationship Story Problem

Lawrence is excited about approaching Akaba from the landward side, across the Nefud desert, but Ali insists that the reason the Turks won’t be expecting it is that it’s not possible; Lawrence’s going back to rescue Gasim in the midday sun provokes Ali to predict his death and failure to reach Akaba; etc.

Relationship Story Solution

Lawrence ignores Ali’s assessment of the likelihood of the departing Bedu looters returning:
LAWRENCE:  They’ll come back.
BRIGHTON:  He says they’ll come back.  Will they?
ALI:  Not this year, Aurens.
(Bolt and Wilson, p. II-19)
If he had listened to Ali, Lawrence would not end up with only 20 men, making a risky reconnoitre into Deraa, and falling into the Bey’s clutches—and would solve the problem between them.

Relationship Story Symptom

Ali changes his negative opinion about Lawrence after he rescues Gasim, and makes him an honorary Arab with leader’s robes; after getting thrashed by the Bey, the humbled Lawrence reassesses his desire to pass for an Arab:
LAWRENCE:  I’m not the Arab Revolt, Ali.  I’m not even an Arab.
ALI:  “A man can be whatever he wants.”  You said.
LAWRENCE:  I’m sorry.  I thought it was true.
(Bolt and Wilson, p. II-53)

Relationship Story Response

Putting together all the experiences he’s had with Lawrence leading to Damascus, Ali finds he’s had enough of being a ruthless warrior:
LAWRENCE:  What about you, Ali?
ALI:  No, I shall stay here.  And learn politics.
LAWRENCE:  That’s a very low occupation.
ALI:  I had not thought of it when I met you.
(Bolt and Wilson, p. II-113)

Relationship Story Catalyst

Ali’s shooting of Tafas for drinking from his well without permission kicks off the conflict between Lawrence and Ali:
ALI:  He is dead.
LAWRENCE:  Yes.  Why?
ALI:  This is my well.
LAWRENCE:  I have drunk from it.
ALI (politely):  You are welcome.
(Bolt and Wilson, p. 31)
Honored by Ali with a tribal leader’s robes that moves their relationship to a higher level, Lawrence wonders if he’s able to respond to the Salaams he receives:
LAWRENCE (to Ali):  Is it permitted?
ALI:  Surely.
ELDER HARITH:  He for whom nothing is written may write himself a clan.  Salaam.
LAWRENCE:  Salaam.
(Bolt and Wilson, pp. 80-81)
Lawrence seeks approval to settle a dispute between Auda and Ali’s tribes by killing a killer as a real Arab would, not realizing his victim’s the man he’s rescued:
LAWRENCE:  Sherif Ali!  If none of Lord Auda’s men harms any of yours, will that content the Harith?
ALI:  Yes!
LAWRENCE:  Then I will execute the Law!  I have no tribe and No-one is offended!
(Bolt and Wilson, p. 97)

Relationship Story Inhibitor

Lawrence ignores the disgusted Ali’s warning against taking along the unnecessary Daud and Farraj:
ALI:  Be warned.  They are not suitable.
LAWRENCE:  They sound very suitable…  You can ride with the baggage.
(Bolt and Wilson, p. 61)
Later, after Farraj dies in quicksand and Lawrence finishes off the injured Daud, Ali warns Lawrence his unreasonable demands are alienating the Arabs:
ALI:  So they say they love you.  The more reason to be thrifty with them.  Give them something to do that can be done!  But you… no, no, they must move mountains, for you, they must walk on water!
(Bolt and Wilson, p. II-40)
Lawrence’s insistence on passing for an Arab in Deraa leads to his capture and torture—after which he almost leaves Ali to return to England.

Relationship Story Benchmark

After Lawrence succeeds in rescuing Gasim, the impressed Ali burns his British clothes and gives him Sherif’s robes—making him a leader—and the Arab name “Aurens”; by ruthlessly executing Gasim, Lawrence becomes more like the “cruel, barbarous” Ali; after taking Akaba, Lawrence receives:
ALI:  Garlands for the conqueror.  Tribute for the Prince.  Flowers for the man…
(B and W, pp. 101-102)
Ali sees Lawrence’s transformation as complete after his ruthless slaughter of the Turks at Talaal’s village:
ALI:  Surely you know the Arabs are a barbarous people!... Barbarous and cruel?  Who but they——?  Who but they——?
(Bolt and Wilson, p. II-99)

Additional Relationship Story Information →
Relationship Story Throughline Synopsis

On first meeting, Ali kills Lawrence’s guide for drinking from his well, leading Lawrence to call him “greedy, cruel, and barbarous.”  Initially distrustful of Lawrence’s motives, Ali comes to respect him for achieving the impossible through sheer effort.  Forced to use violence in order to communicate with the Arabs, Lawrence grows more and more barbarous—while Ali learns from the diplomacy of Lawrence and is drawn toward politics as a career.

Relationship Story Backstory

Lawrence, the illegitimate son of an English baronet, will not take his father’s name or title, and thus has somewhat of an identity crisis.  He feels a need to prove his abilities to Ali, who is secure in his position as leader within his tribe and as one of the Bedu peoples.

Additional Story Points

Key Structural Appreciations

Overall Story Goal

General Allenby allows the Arab Bureau’s Dryden to send Lawrence out as “its own man on the spot sir, to… To make our own appraisal of the situation.”  The goal is to:
DRYDEN:  “Find Prince Feisal.  [...]  Find out what kind of man he is.  Find out what his intentions are.  I don’t mean his immediate intentions - that’s Colonel Brighton’s business, not yours.  I mean his intentions in Arabia altogether.”
(Bolt and Wilson, p. 20)
In doing so, the British hope to discover Feisal’s political ambitions and how they can neutralize any plans of uniting tribes like Auda’s and Ali’s into an Arabian nation, and so protect British post-war interests in the region.

Overall Story Consequence

If the British fail to learn the best way to use Feisal’s Arabs to their own advantage, Lawrence and the Arabs conceive of only one result:
LAWRENCE:  They’ve only one suspicion; that we’ll let them move the Turks out and then move in ourselves.  I’ve told them that that’s false, that we have no ambitions in Arabia.  Have we?
(Bolt and Wilson, p. 137)
Having learned the Arabs want artillery to battle the Turks with, the British are unhappy with that idea:
DRYDEN:  Give them artillery and you’ve made them independent.
ALLENBY:  Then I can’t give them artillery can I?
(Bolt and Wilson, p. 141)

Overall Story Cost

Lawrence has to face his sado-masochistic nature—to contemplate the knowledge that he enjoys killing other humans—and realize that he’s only human after all; Brighton becomes cognizant of the brutal politics of the British Army, in disorganized Damascus:
BRIGHTON:  We can’t just do nothing, sir!
ALLENBY:  Why not?  It’s usually best.  [...]
BRIGHTON (a little horrified):  Medicals, too, sir?
ALLENBY (harsh):  Yes, Harry, Medicals too!
(Bolt and Wilson, p. II-104)
After the Turks’ slaughter, Bentley considers what Lawrence has become even as he glorifies him for the press:
BENTLEY:  Oh, you rotten man.  Here.  Let me take your rotten bloody picture.  For the rotten bloody newspapers.
(Bolt and Wilson, p. II-100)

Overall Story Dividend

Lawrence’s status in the military is raised from Lieutenant to Major to Colonel; Feisal and the Arabs receive world-wide recognition in the newspapers, and retain possession of Damascus; Ali gains a new-found interest in politics; etc.

Overall Story Requirements

Lawrence must gain the trust of the Arabs; Bentley must get his story and pictures of a “hero”; Allenby promotes Lawrence to persuade him to continue as a leader; Auda and his men get gold and take loot from the trains; etc.

Overall Story Prerequisites

Lawrence must become more like an Arab to get them to follow him, then more barbarous with each killing; Bentley must become one of Lawrence’s entourage of guerrilla trainspotters to get his story; Feisal changes to a more diplomatic prince, willing to listen to the British advice; Ali moves from violence and killing to the English-style politics; etc.

Overall Story Preconditions

Dryden and his Arab Bureau want their own man on the spot in Arabia, even though Allenby already has Brighton there; Bentley wants to be a star reporter; etc.

Overall Story Forewarnings

After his thrashing by the Bey, Lawrence returns to Jerusalem to quit and learns what’s in store for Arabia:
FEISAL:  Well I will leave you, General.  Major Lawrence doubtless has reports to make.  About my people; and their weakness.  And the need to keep them weak.  In the British interest.  The French interest too of course, we mustn’t forget the French, now.
ALLENBY:  I’ve told you, sir no such treaty exists.
DRYDEN:  Well now, Mr. Sykes is an English Civil Servant and Monsieur Picot is a French Civil Servant.  Mr. Sykes and Monsieur Picot met.  And they agreed that, after the war, France and England should share the Turkish Empire.  Including Arabia.  They signed an agreement—not a treaty, sir, an Agreement—- to that effect.
(Bolt and Wilson, pp. II-63-64)

Plot Progression

Dynamic Act Appreciations

Overall Story

Overall Story Signpost 1

Dryden seconds Lawrence from General Murray to the Arab Bureau, sending him to Arabia to get a better understanding of Feisal’s long-term intentions.

Overall Story Journey 1 from Understanding to Obtaining

Angered by Ali’s killing of Tafas and understanding the Arab disunity it demonstrates, Lawrence commits to help Feisal overcome the more modern Turks by uniting Ali’s and Auda’s men.

Overall Story Signpost 2

Gaining the trust of Auda and his men, Lawrence leads Ali and Feisal’s men in a raid on Akaba, which they take possession of; Auda, disappointed at the lack of gold, takes Lawrence’s IOU instead.

Overall Story Journey 2 from Obtaining to Learning

Encouraged by his success at Akaba, Lawrence leads the Arabs in guerrilla raids on Turk trains; the Turkish Bey teaches Lawrence just how mortal his flesh is.

Overall Story Signpost 3

From Feisal, Lawrence learns of the Sykes-Picot treaty, splitting post-war Arabia between the British and French; he learns that Allenby and Dryden have been leading him along, and he’s been doing the same to the Arabs.

Overall Story Journey 3 from Learning to Doing

Having learned the meaning of pain, an embittered Lawrence and his hired bodyguard of killers unnecessarily take vengeance on the Turks, to the disgust of Bentley and Ali.

Overall Story Signpost 4

As Lawrence and Ali try to mediate the Arab factions quibbling over how to administrate newly-occupied Damascus, Allenby decides to “do nothing,” practicing his fly-fishing as the city’s infrastructure collapses.

Main Character

Main Character Signpost 1

Lawrence tries to downplay his service record, his reputation of being incompetent and insubordinate:
MURRAY:  I can’t make out whether you’re bloody bad-mannered or just half-witted.
LAWRENCE:  I have the same trouble, sir.
(Bolt and Wilson, p. 16)
He insists that he’s the man for the job, due to his education and experience in Arabia.

Main Character Journey 1 from Past to Progress

Shocked by the tradition of not valuing life highly in the harsh desert, Lawrence accomplishes impossible feats to show the Arabs what’s possible if they apply themselves.

Main Character Signpost 2

Lawrence executes Gasim, the man he saved from the desert, in order to settle the tribal dispute and continue moving towards his goal, Akaba.

Main Character Journey 2 from Progress to Future

Disturbed that he enjoys killing, Lawrence wants to quit but rebounds.  Also finding pleasure in taking his punishment like a man, he loses dignity and confidence in his ability to continue.

Main Character Signpost 3

Lawrence again dons his Army uniform and goes to see Allenby, intending to quit his mission in Arabia and spend a quiet future in England.

Main Character Journey 3 from Future to Present

His compassion destroyed, Lawrence vents his bloodlust on the pillaging Turks and gives Damascus to the Arabs, only to find he has no further purpose in Arabia.

Main Character Signpost 4

His spirit broken and now unrecognizable in his Army uniform, Lawrence looks to Arabs on the road out of Damascus for validation, but finds none.

Influence Character

Influence Character Signpost 1

Inflamed by his tribal history of blood enmity with the Hazimi, Ali matter-of-factly shoot Tafas for drinking from his well.

influence Character Journey 1 from Memory to Preconscious

Distrustful of the British, Ali’s initial response is to question Lawrence’s abilities at every step, protesting that the future is written.

Influence Character Signpost 2

Angered by Lawrence’s decision to tempt fate and go back for Gasim, Ali lashes out at him:
LAWRENCE:  Nothing is written.
ALI:  Go back!  English!  Blasphemer!  What then—- what?  What did you bring us here for—- with your blasphemous conceit?  Eh—- English blasphemer?  Akaba?  Was it Akaba?  You will not be in Akaba, English!  Go back, blasphemer, but you will not be at Akaba!
(Bolt and Wilson, p. 71)

Influence Character Journey 2 from Preconscious to Subconscious

Impressed by Lawrence’s way with people and his positive reaction to a challenge, Ali’s driven to study British politics and develops compassion of his own, toward Lawrence.

Influence Character Signpost 3

Hearing the British bombardment of the Turks, Ali’s drive to kill his enemies is displaced by pity:
ALI:  God help the men who lie under that.
(Bolt and Wilson, p. II-87)

Influence Character Journey 3 from Subconscious to Conscious

Disgusted by the barbarism of his own people and now Lawrence, Ali moves toward diplomacy with an apology to Auda.

Influence Character Signpost 4

Instead of returning to the desert like Auda, Ali decides to stay in Damascus and learn politics.

Relationship Story

Relationship Story Signpost 1

When Lawrence presents his plan to take Akaba and its guns from the landward side, Ali insists that it cannot be done because crossing the Nefud is impossible.

Relationship Story Journey 1 from Conceptualizing to BeingImpressed by Lawrence's determination to realize his ideas and touched by his compassion for those less capable, Ali decides to make Lawrence an honorary Arab.
Relationship Story Signpost 2

Ali burns Lawrence’s British Army uniform and presents him with a Sherif’s robes, giving him the appearance of an Arab leader, and naming him Aurens.

Relationship Story Journey 2 from Being to Becoming

Lawrence, thinking he has become an Arab, tries to pass for one in the Arab town of Deraa, with disastrous consequences; Ali, now more compassionate, nurtures him back to health to fight again.

Relationship Story Signpost 3

Ignoring Ali’s disgust and his pleas to stop, Lawrence becomes as cruel and barbarous as any Arab, taking no prisoners among the Turks he slaughters.

Relationship Story Journey 3 from Becoming to Conceiving

Having vented his bloodlust on the Turks, Lawrence leads Ali and the Arabs in taking control of Damascus as part of his plan for Arab self-rule.

Relationship Story Signpost 4

Ali suggests the English engineers are needed to run the electricity generators and telephones in Damascus, but Lawrence violently disagrees with this idea:
LAWRENCE:  No!  Take English engineers and you take English Government!
(Bolt and Wilson, p. II-107)
Their initial positions regarding the British have by now been reversed.

Plot Progression Visualizations

Dynamic Act Schematics


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