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The narrative functions of props. Portable communication devices in Die Hard (1988) & Die Hard2: Die Harder (1990)


  • Rasmus Carlsson

Summary, in English

The current study sets out to investigate the narrative functions of props that take the particular form of portable communication devices (more specifically walkie-talkies and airplane phones) in Die Hard (1988) and Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990). The methodology used is the semiotic concepts of denotation and connotation with a supporting theoretical framework based on two principal forms of props called Instrumental and Contextualized together with Antoni Smuszkiewiez’ definition of the concept.

It is found that the narrative functions of the walkie-talkies shift and change throughout each film. They entail the possibility of creating and influencing certain narrative contexts; at one moment, the walkie-talkie has the function of providing the spectator with important narrative information required in order to understand the wholeness of the narrative; in another instances, it rather functions as the main narrative instrument which enables, generates and initiates narrative contexts that are contingent on it (and the airplane phone). It is also corroborated that the level of narrative suspense, motion and pace differs depending on whether the protagonist has access to a walkie-talkie or not.
The airplane phone in Die Harder is determined to have a similar narrative function as the walkie-talkies do. Yet, the difference is that it is not used by either the protagonist or the antagonist of the narrative. Instead it is used by a side character which makes the narrative culminate and affects it in a similar way as the walkie-talkies do but the difference is that it utilizes a specific context with humoristic inputs. The airplane phone is also an example that highlights that a prop can still have a major impact on the narrative despite the fact it is not used by neither the protagonist or the antagonist.


Publishing year




Document type

Student publication for Master's degree (one year)


  • Languages and Literatures


  • Die Hard
  • Die Hard 2
  • Die Harder
  • Bruce Willis
  • Portable Communication Devices
  • Props
  • Narrative Functions


  • Marie Cronqvist (Dr)