Part one of this article examines a species of 'figural' plot - single episodes that mirror a substantial part of the narrative that contains it. These include Portia's predicament in The Merchant of Venice as interpreted by Freud, together with comparable choices encountered by King Lear, Sir Thomas Bertram in Mansfield Park, Brontë's Rochester, and Richardson's Pamela. In each case the subject must break free of conventional authority in order to choose wisely. The beginning of Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man directly confronts a patriarchal plot, establishing the artist's 'opposing' fiction against the received one. Part II considers the way in which Dickens situates himself in relation to external authority, bringing about the defeat of a series of spurious 'authors' in the struggle to determine Oliver Twist's identity before renouncing in a Prospero gesture his own claim to authority.