why the folklore trilogy is a storytelling masterpiece

as writers, we often find ourselves picking apart every single detail of a story, down to the smallest nuances of a character, their purposes, and their motives. “august,” “betty,” and “cardigan,” are often referred to as the trilogy of taylor swift’s “folklore” album.

the three main characters include augustine, james, and betty. if this were any traditional story (with a beginning, middle, and end), we would see the beginning of the relationship between james and betty, then it would follow into the affair and aftermath.

instead, we begin with “betty,” ironically written from james’ perspective. using context clues, we can infer that betty and james were together before he became involved with another woman. he ponders the idea of coming directly to her, apologizing, making excuses for himself, and essentially saying that it was her all along – that he loved her, even though he was cheating over the summer. the song ends very ambiguously, with no one really knowing if betty ever took him back or not, or if the intervention even happened.

next, “august” is written from the perspective of augustine, the “other woman.” rather than demonizing her and playing on the homewrecker trope, “august” contains beautiful imagery surrounding her feelings of inadequacy. she feels guilty for loving a man who was already in a relationship, and she feels betrayed by james, because she doesn’t feel like she has the right to grieve a relationship that she was never supposed to be in.

finally, “cardigan,” is written from betty’s perspective. this is where we learn that, if the intervention ever did happen, she had the strength to turn him down. of course, lost love still lingers and still hurts, which she entertains in this song. in a certain way, it connects back to the storyline in taylor swift’s red album, with the underlying theme of, “i knew this was a bad idea, but i did it anyways, even though i knew it would haunt me.”

by now, everyone and their second-cousin’s pet snail knows about the folklore album, but what does it mean, and why, as writers, should we care?

there are so many instances of foreshadowing and detailed connections, as well as the full development of a story, its characters, and why it’s important to look at a situation from all angles. most people, when faced with someone like augustine, would immediately jump to blaming her for letting a man cheat with her. that is entirely not the case, though, and even if it was, it brings in the idea that it wasn’t what she wanted. everyone talks about how love is blind, and augustine’s point of view holds more weight when someone understands that she may not have felt like she had a choice, or she legitimately may not have had one. 

even those who have no sympathy for cheaters can find pieces of themselves within james, and especially those who have been cheated on or been a second choice can resonate with betty’s character. it’s a gentle reminder that we are all flawed, and we are all trying our best.

finally, it’s worth noting that the storyline carries over into so many other songs on the album and its successor, “evermore.”

what are you waiting for? give it a listen

Author: Sara Hebert

welcome :) my name is sara, and i hope you enjoy reading along with me in this little corner of the internet.

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