Structure: Ghost World

A cult comic, two charismatic teen actresses, an inspired director and a sparse score. Six pages of a comic book were turned into one of the coolest movies of the decade. A structural overview of Terry Zwigoff’s Ghost World (2001).

Because the plot points are often quite subtle, structurally this film seems a bit fluid and the protagonist’s objective is never explicitly stated. Yet there is a clear Hero’s Journey, with Enid Crossing the Threshold to enter and discover the Special World of Seymour. But where does this happen, at the end of Sequence B or C?

(UPDATE Nov 2010: Looking at Sequence C, with the introduction of the art class as sequence opening device, it is clear to me that this is where Act Two starts. I have also moved Sequence I into Act Three because Enid’s confession to Seymour “you’re my hero” is effectively the climax of their relationship. For the first time she shows the courage and honesty to tell him what she had been feeling ever since first seeing him.)

Ghost World MovieEnid is a reluctant character, and although she decides to enter the Special World, it is under a pretext. She will be resisting her attraction to Seymour (the Call to Adventure) until the second half of Act Two, when she explicitly suggests to Seymour she could move in (an Approach to the Inmost Cave).

At the end of Act Two, Enid goes through the crisis of losing both Becky and Seymour. The truth about her cruel joke on Seymour has to come out (an Ordeal, both for Enid and Seymour) before she is ready to move on.

I’m not sure if Enid’s visit to the hospital should be seen as the end of Act Two or the first scene of Act Three. Because the scene can be experienced as Enid’s redemption (the victim of her joke she calls now her hero) and she is finally honest about her feelings, I decided to put it in Act Two.

The scenes printed in blue represent the comic book source material that is – almost verbatim – included in the film. It shows how this is more than just an adaptation. It is almost entirely an original story, inspired by the characters created in the comic.

Ghost World


SEQUENCE A: Life after Graduation

00.00 Panning across rear windows, against 50’s music.
02.30 Eccentric Enid, in her room, is dancing to the music.
03.00 Student graduation speeches; Enid &Rebecca roll eyes.
04.00 Gossiping outside school.
05.00 Enid & Rebecca in bar, making fun of un-cool girl.
06.00 Todd, making fun of the two girls.
07.30 Dennis, dork – not seeing him again: depressing.
08.00 Enid at breakfast with dad: an icon of boredom.
09.00 Enid & Becky at diner making fun, follow old ‘satanists’.
10.30 Wowsville, 50’s diner; Weird Al serves.
11.30 Personals ‘striking blonde’: plan for joke.

SEQUENCE B: A Cruel Joke

12.00 At Enid’s: calling the number, date at Wowsville.
14.00 Annoying Josh at the store, Doug interferes.
15.30 Please, Josh, give us a ride.
16.00 Driving with Josh.
16.30 Rebecca about Al “I want to make love to him.”
17.00 Seymour walks in, has vanilla milkshake.
18.00 Seymour leaves, cruel joke
18.30 Seymour’s near-accident; following; E. feels sympathy.


SEQUENCE C: Getting closer to Seymour

19.30 Art class;teacher announces community show.
21.00 Looking for flat, stalking Seymour, check his mail.
21.30 Garage sale; Seymour sells record. E.’s impressed.
24.00 Diner, E.: he’s almost cool. Un-cool friend: “funky”.
26.00 Enid dyes hair green, father enters. Rebecca watching.
26.30 Let’s go hassle Josh. Old man Norman at bus stop.
27.30 Josh is not home; Enid’s note: “You are gay.”
28.30 Johnny (magazine shop) provokes “punk rock is over!”
30.00 Enid plays Seymour’s record on repeat.
32.00 Seymour shows her the original 78.

SEQUENCE D: A Challenge for Enid

33.00 Art Class: politically correct art in ‘higher category’.
35.30 Jamie @ Masterpiece Video, 8 1/2, go to surprise party.
36.30 Seymour’s Record Party: loser cracks on to Rebecca.
39.30 Enid in his record room, to Seymour: “You’re cool.”
40.30 I am your personal Dating Service.
42.00 Seymour’s type? Introduce him to Josh; he is shocked.
42.30 Taking S. to Anthony’s Adult: having fun, cat mask.
44.00 Becca’s at work, sick of losers; E.’s job? working on it.
45.30 Dad & Maxine: to bed early – art class for retards.

SEQUENCE E: Enid and Seymour have things in common

46.30 Art class – controversial imagery!
48.00 At diner, invited to band performance, Enid jealous
49.30 In car w/ Seymour; about music, misanthrope
50.30 Bands perform; Enid pushes S. to date; ruins it
53.30 Driving back; can’t relate to 99% of humanity
54.00 At Seymour’s, the story of Coon. Can I borrow?

SEQUENCE F: Things change when Seymour has a date

56.30 Takes Coon to class
58.30 Candy counter, turning customers away
60.00 Fired after one day? Some ideas for money.
61.30 Yard sale. Not selling. Forgot birthday cake.
62.00 Birthday, tells S. about Josh obsession.
63.30 Voice mail from redhead, Enid pushes to call.
64.30 Shopping w/ Becky, who’s sick of Seymour.
66.00 Dana visits Seymour; Enid reads.
67.00 D. & S. dancing; D. wants to see art movie.
68.30 Enid jealous, calls Becky, doesn’t want to see her.
70.00 Seymour; “Dana works out”. Dana arrives.
71.30 Enid almost ruins it, claims she hooked them up.

SEQUENCE G: Lots of offers but no friends.

72.30 Art Class: scholarship offered.
73.30 Dad has job for Enid, she is not interested.
74.30 Art Exhibition: critics hate Coon.
75.30 Seymour doesn’t show because of Dana.
77.30 With Norman on bench. Leaving town.
78.30 Fighting with Becky over flat, they split.

79.30 Dad says Maxine will move in.

SEQUENCE H: Enid wants to move in. With anybody.

80.30 Art Academy: no passing grade, no scholarship.
81.30 To Seymour: move in with you. Don’t you like me?
85.00 Post-coital; Seymour about moving in. Sleeping.
86.00 Seymour wakes up, Enid is gone.
86.30 Seymour goes to break up with Dana.
87.30 Maxine acts like mother; Seymour msg: moving in.
88.30 to Becky: I really want to move in with you.


SEQUENCE I: Losing it all. A confession

89.30 Seymour alone, calls Enid, no answer.
90.00 Boss calls Seymour: Coon art in newspaper.
90.30 Becky’s new place.
91.30 Enid is packing.
93.00 Becky tells Seymour about Enid’s blind date joke.
94.30 Seymour threatens Josh, Doug: citizen’s arrest.
95.30 Enid visits Seymour in hospital: You’re my hero.

SEQUENCE J: Different paths

97.30 Enid & Becky on bench, reconciling.
99.00 Norman’s bus arrives.
100.0 Seymour with shrink, mother waits outside.
101.0 Enid on bench.

3 thoughts on “Structure: Ghost World”

  1. Hi !

    Interesting work.

    I’d like to know your opinion about the Challenge for Enid.
    I mean, what is her Inner, Outer, romantic and Greater antagonism ?

    I have my own opinion, but i’d like to hear yours before.

    Thanks !


  2. Bonjour Guillaume!

    This is an interesting one. I’m really keen to hear your opinion.

    I love Ghost World, but I don’t think it is an obvious example of a typical successful film structure.

    Now that I’m looking at this structure again, I’m wondering if Act Three shouldn’t start with Sequence I. Enid has just admitted to herself that she needs others by telling them she wants to move in. Then in Sequence I she is packing, ready to move on.

    Anyhow, here’s my go at Enid’s journeys:

    Inner Journey: to grow up and move on from her “cocoon” relationship with Becky.

    Outer Journey: to perpetuate her teenage life outside mainstream society.

    Romantic Journey: to grow from a platonic to a sexual bond with Seymour.

    Antagonist: mainstream society, represented by her art teacher

    What do you think?


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