What Is Resolution in Literature?

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literature definition resolution

  • B.A., English Education, University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill

In a work of literature , the resolution is the part of the story's plot where the main problem is resolved or worked out. The resolution occurs after the falling action and is typically where the story ends. Another term for the resolution is "dénouement," which comes from the French term dénoué, meaning "to untie."

Freytag's Pyramid

The dramatic structure of a story, whether it is a Greek tragedy or a Hollywood blockbuster, typically includes several elements. Gustav Freytag, a German writer, identified five essential elements— exposition , rising action , climax, falling action, and dénouement—that together form a story's "dramatic arc." These elements can be plotted on a chart, known as Freytag's pyramid, with the climax at the peak.

Rising and Falling Action

The left side of the chart, including the exposition and the rising action, represents the background information and the events that build toward the climax, the point of greatest interest in the story and the point where the protagonist typically undergoes a dramatic change or reversal of fate. The right side of the chart, including the falling action and the dénouement, is what follows the climax. This is the part of the story where conflicts are resolved and tension is released. Often there is a catharsis of some kind, an emotional release that brings satisfaction to the reader.

During the dénouement, or resolution, questions and mysteries that arise during the story are typically—though not always—answered and explained. All complete stories have a resolution, even if the author doesn't disclose every last detail to the reader.

Examples of Resolutions

Because every story has a resolution—whether the story is told through a book, a movie, or a play—examples of resolutions are ubiquitous. The examples below help explain the role of the resolution within the larger dramatic arc.

'Peter Pan'

In J.M. Barrie's "Peter Pan," the titular hero—a young boy who loves adventure and never grows old—invites a group of London children to visit the fictional island of Neverland, a magical place home to pirates and mermaids. The rising action of the story is made up of the children's many adventures, which culminate in a battle between Peter Pan and a one-handed pirate, the dreaded Captain Hook.

After Peter defeats Captain Hook, he takes control of the pirate's ship and sails it back to London, where Wendy and the other children return to their home. This resolution brings the story back to where it began, the children safe and snug in their beds, away from harm. They have learned a lot from their experience, and are changed for it, but the story has reached a point of stasis, having resolved all of the problems and conflicts created by the rising action.

George Orwell's '1984'

A much different resolution occurs in George Orwell's "1984." This dystopian novel, published in 1949, tells the story of Winston Smith, a government employee whose curiosity about the workings of the ruling party lead to great trouble and misery. By the end of the book, Winston is an enemy of the state, and after he is captured by the Thought Police he is sent to Room 101, a torture chamber where victims are confronted with their worst fears. At the prospect of being placed in a cage with rats, Winston is overcome with panic and terror. His spirit broken, he finally betrays his lover, Julia, abandoning his last bit of humanity in a final cry of surrender. "Do it to Julia!" he shouts, begging to be released. This is the climax of the novel, the point at which Winston makes an irreversible decision, one that marks a fundamental change in his character.

A Different Man Entirely

Later, after his release, he sits alone in a cafe. He is no longer an enemy of the state, an opponent of the mysterious leader known as Big Brother. He is a different man entirely:

"Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother."

The story ends on an unambiguous note. It is, in a sense, a classical resolution, eliminating any mystery about where Winston's allegiances lie. The man is defeated completely, and all of the tension that has propelled the novel is released. There is no longer a question of whether Winston will uncover the truth, or whether the Party will stop him first. By the end, we have the answer.

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  • When & How to Write a Resolution

I. What is the Resolution?

The resolution, also known as the denouement, is the conclusion of the story’s plot. It’s where any unanswered questions are answered, or “loose ends are tied.” Interestingly the phrase denouement comes from the French word dénouement meaning “to untie.” A story with a complete ending is said to have a strong resolution.

The resolution is the last of the five main elements of plot. General plot structures are arranged as follows:

  • Exposition: At the beginning of the story, characters , setting, and the main conflict are typically introduced.
  • Rising Action: The main character is in crisis and events leading up to facing the conflict begin to unfold. The story becomes complicated.
  • Climax: At the peak of the story, the main event occurs in which the main character faces the conflict. The most action, drama, change, and excitement occurs here.
  • Falling Action: The story begins to slow down and work towards its end, tying up loose ends of the plot.
  • Resolution: Also known as the denouement, the resolution is when conflicts are resolved and the story concludes.

The resolution allows a story to end without trailing off or leaving the reader confused or unsatisfied.

II. Examples of Resolution

For examples of resolution, consider the short stories below.

Kim was angry at her brother Brandon for stealing her peanut butter and jelly sandwiches from the fridge before school. To teach him a lesson, she loaded hers with hot sauce. Sure enough, at lunch, Brandon’s eyes began watering and he asked her, “What did you do to this sandwich?” “Teach you a lesson!” she replied. Brandon never stole another sandwich again.

In this example, the exposition explains that Kim is angry at her brother for stealing her lunches. The rising action occurs when she plans to teach him a lesson. At the climax of the story, he eats the sandwich and discovers what she’s done. The falling action is when she reveals what she’s done. Finally, the resolution occurs when we learn that Brandon will never again steal another sandwich. This ties up the story and notifies the reader of exactly how it ends.

My dog Brady was acting strange and running to the shed and back to the house. I asked him what was wrong and followed him to investigate. Inside was a black and white cat with four kittens! I got the cat and her kittens a blanket and took them inside to keep them warm. I had five new pets!

In this story, the exposition introduces a mystery: why is the dog acting so strange? The rising action is the decision to find out. The climax occurs when I discover the kittens, and the falling action occurs when I begin taking care of them. Finally, the resolution concludes that I have found five new pets and will adopt the cat and her kittens.

Bobby was upset about his poor grades. He asked his mom for a tutor. After working with a tutor for about a month, he took a major math test. He aced the test! Thanks to hard work and studying, Bobby was becoming a star student.

In this example, the conflict is introduced in the exposition: Bobby has poor grades. The rising action is asking for a tutor and studying. During the climax, Bobby faces his problem and aces a test. The resolution is that Bobby has begun to become a great student thanks to positive decisions.

As these examples show, the resolution is often simply the ending. It is when the story closes and the reader is aware that the plot has come to its natural conclusion.

III. The Importance of Using Resolution

If a story ends weakly or feels as if it hasn’t ended with the last sentence and the last word, the reader is left feeling discontent, confused, or even betrayed by the writer. Although not all denouements or resolutions are happy or satisfying, they should allow the reader to feel as if the story has come to a proper conclusion. This is why the resolution is so important: a story must have a clear beginning and conflict, rising action, exciting climax, falling action, and lastly, a clear ending.

IV. Examples of Resolution in Literature

The resolution is a necessary component of plot in both poetry and prose. Below are a few examples of resolution in famous compositions.

And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night. Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning —— So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous ending to The Great Gatsby, the narrator muses on the protagonist Gatsby and his development over the course of the story as well as larger ideas like humankind’s smallness in the face of passing time.

But that is the beginning of a new story—the story of the gradual renewal of a man, the story of his gradual regeneration, of his passing from one world into another, of his initiation into a new unknown life. That might be the subject of a new story, but our present story is ended.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s ending to Crime and Punishment is perhaps one of the most classic and straightforward examples of what a resolution should do: notify the reader that the story has ended.

Sundays too my father got up early and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold, then with cracked hands that ached from labor in the weekday weather made banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.   I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking. When the rooms were warm, he’d call, and slowly I would rise and dress, fearing the chronic angers of that house,   Speaking indifferently to him, who had driven out the cold and polished my good shoes as well. What did I know, what did I know of love’s austere and lonely offices?

In his brief poem “Those Winter Sundays,” Robert Hayden examines his father’s silent kindness to him as a child, heating the house, and concludes as an adult that he did not understand just how loving his father had been. His resolution ties together the poem as a reflection on his father’s love.

V. Examples of Resolution in Pop Culture

That’s all folks! Just as stories and poems have clear endings, so do TV shows, advertisements, movies, songs, and other forms of storytelling. Here are a few examples of resolution in pop culture.

Planet of the Apes ending :

PLANET OF THE APES (1968) - Lady Liberty Destroyed

The film Planet of the Apes has a very dramatic and clear resolution. Throughout the movie, astronauts have believed they have landed on a foreign planet in the future. As the ending scene reveals, though, they have truly landed on the earth of the distant future, as the Statue of Liberty has been destroyed and is one of the few vestiges of the past. This is an example of a surprise ending.

Spellbound Short Film:

CGI Animated Short Film HD: "Spellbound Short Film" by Ying Wu & Lizzia Xu

This short film has a more typical happy ending or resolution: the brother apologizes for his bad behavior and the sister appears to accept it. The story ends beautifully, cleanly, and happily.

VI. Related Terms

The climax is at the center of the plot when the protagonist of the story faces the conflict in the most exciting, emotional, and dramatic scene of the entire story. Here, everything changes. Sometimes the climax and resolution are confused, as the climax is quickly followed by falling action and then the resolution. Other times, the climax and resolution occur at nearly the exact same time, since the climax allows for the resolution. The difference between the climax and the resolution is that the climax is a period of intense change and action, whereas the resolution is simply the story’s end. For an example of climax versus resolution, consider this story:

Two football teams, Bearden and Farragut, are known to be great rivals. After training all season long, they finally face off in an intense game. The game goes into double overtime when, at last, Farragut wins with a nearly miraculous touchdown. Happy to have won, Farragut marches off the field in a school-wide celebration.

In this story, the climax and resolution are two distinct occurrences, though the resolution occurs immediately after the climax.

At last, Farragut wins with a nearly miraculous touchdown.

The entire story has been leading to the climax: either Farragut or Bearden wins the game. Here, Farragut succeeds, ending the story’s conflict.

Resolution:

Happy to have won, Farragut marches off the field in a school-wide celebration.

In this example, the resolution is simply the happy team celebrating its glorious victory.

Conclusion and resolution are very similar devices in that both patch up a composition and allow it to end. Whereas the resolution is the end to a narrative structure, the conclusion is the end to a formal essay or paper. Here is an example of a conclusion versus a resolution:

The team happily celebrated their victory after a challenging face-off with their rival.

Here, the resolution marks the end of a story.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, football is a sport which encourages the development of both teamwork and school spirit.

This formal conclusion is an example of the ending for a paper written about how football allows schools to develop unifying traits like teamwork and school spirit.

VII. In Closing

The resolution, or denouement, is a necessary component of any good story, from songs to poems to prose to movies. Just as stories need interesting beginnings and exciting events throughout, they need strong endings which tie together the plot and leave the reader feeling finished.

List of Terms

  • Alliteration
  • Amplification
  • Anachronism
  • Anthropomorphism
  • Antonomasia
  • APA Citation
  • Aposiopesis
  • Autobiography
  • Bildungsroman
  • Characterization
  • Circumlocution
  • Cliffhanger
  • Comic Relief
  • Connotation
  • Deus ex machina
  • Deuteragonist
  • Doppelganger
  • Double Entendre
  • Dramatic irony
  • Equivocation
  • Extended Metaphor
  • Figures of Speech
  • Flash-forward
  • Foreshadowing
  • Intertextuality
  • Juxtaposition
  • Literary Device
  • Malapropism
  • Onomatopoeia
  • Parallelism
  • Pathetic Fallacy
  • Personification
  • Point of View
  • Polysyndeton
  • Protagonist
  • Red Herring
  • Rhetorical Device
  • Rhetorical Question
  • Science Fiction
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
  • Synesthesia
  • Turning Point
  • Understatement
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What is Resolution in Literature? Definition, Examples of Literary Resolution

Resolution in a narrative indicates the solution to a complicated issue. In a narrative plot structure, resolution occurs after the climax of the story at the very end and is considered the final point in a story’s conflict.

What is a Resolution?

Resolution is the conclusion of a story’s plot and is a part of a complete conclusion to a story. The resolution occurs at the end of a story following the climax and falling action. In some stories, climax and resolution occur simultaneously but in that case are simply co-occurring points in the plot.

In Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare , the resolution is seen when both Romeo and Juliet have died and the heads of the dueling families, Lord Capulet and Lord Montague, express their sorrow over having caused the deaths of the children. They decide to end the feud between families to prevent any further tragedies.

Capulet: O brother Montague, give me thy hand. This is my daughter’s jointure, for no more Can I demand …

Montague: But I can give thee more, For I will raise her statue in pure gold, That whiles Verona by that name is known, … As that of true and faithful Juliet …

Capulet: As rich shall Romeo’s by his lady’s lie, Poor sacrifices of our enmity …

Prince: A glooming peace this morning with it brings. The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head …

Modern Examples of Resolution

In any well-developed story, there will be a meaningful conflict with a meaningful resolution at the end. Here are some examples of popular works of literature and their resolutions.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger sees its resolution in the last chapter. Holden Caulfield is in a psychiatric care facility and outlines some of his future plans for the readers. He hopes to return to school but is not overly thrilled. The resolution comes from the fact that he’s decided to return to a sense of normalcy and continue with his plans:

That’s all I’m going to tell about. I could probably tell you what I did after I went home, and how I got sick and all, and what school I’m supposed to go to next fall, after I get out of here, but I don’t feel like it. I really don’t. That stuff doesn’t interest me too much right now… I mean how do you know what you’re going to do till you do it? The answer is, you don’t. I think I am, but how do I know?

Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby sees its resolution in the narrator reflecting on what he’s experienced and learned in his time spent getting to know the characters. In a poetic and wistful use a language, the resolution is served with a side of nostalgia and the sense comes across that the narrator will be moving on and the events of the novel are officially in the past:

And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther….

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

The Purpose of Resolution

The resolution of a story is the final element and is therefore required to end a story in a satisfying manner. Following the climax and the falling action, the resolution ties together all elements of a story in a way that creates a feeling a completion to readers.

A story is not complete in terms of plot structure if it does not have a resolution. In action-packed stories, resolution gives audiences a chance to breathe a sigh of relief and to relax. The intensity is over, and a more comfortable point has been reached where tensions are low and conflict is resolved.

Additionally, resolution ties together elements of theme and can allow the overall storyline to resonate with readers and audiences one final time. Important aspects to the story are emphasized and theme is reinforced with one last message to readers.

How Resolution is Used in Literature

In the poem “Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayden , the poet remises about times his father showed his love through acts of kindness. The poem resolves with a reflection about love and reinforces the themes of fatherly love and selflessness:

What did I know, what did I know of love’s austere and lonely offices?

J.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit sees resolution after the intense adventures and battles come to an end. The evil Smaug has been defeated and Gandalf takes Bilbo Baggins back to his hobbit hole in The Shire. Bilbo is happy to be home and it is indicated that he lives for many years thereafter just the way he always wanted: in peace and simplicity. There is a satisfaction that Bilbo was able to return to his dear way of living after fearing that leading a hero’s life would forever remove him from the modest life he loved so much. The idea that one cannot have both is challenged in this way. In the resolution, there is a clear message that some of the world’s evils would not exist if everyone lived the way Bilbo did:

  • “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”

Recap: What is Resolution in Literature?

Resolution is a key part of any story’s plot structure. Without a resolution, readers would be left feeling unsatisfied and a story would, by all accounts, be incomplete. Resolution serves to tie together any lingering loose threads and to reinforce important aspects of the stories themes.

Writing Explained

What is the Resolution of a Story? Definition, Examples Resolutions in Literature

Home » The Writer’s Dictionary » What is the Resolution of a Story? Definition, Examples Resolutions in Literature

Resolution literary definition: The resolution can be defined as the ending of a story.

What is a Resolution in Literature?

The resolution of a story is the ending. It is the part of the plot in Freytag’s pyramid that follows the falling action where the story’s conflict is resolved.

Example of Resolution

In Disney’s Cinderella, Cinderella is faced with the conflict of being treated like a servant by her stepmother and stepsisters after her father’s death.

The whole city is invited to a ball at the palace so that Prince Charming can attempt to find a young bride. Cinderella does everything in her power to receive permission from her stepmother to attend the ball to no avail. Luckily, she is aided by the Fairy Godmother and is able to secretly attend.

While there, Prince Charming falls in love with her, but he is unable to attain her name because she races off to be home on time. All he is left with is her slipper. He searches all over for the young woman whose foot will fit the shoe, and the story resolves when he slips it on Cinderella’s foot. The shoe fits, and they get married and live happily ever after.

The Function of Resolution

Resolutions are important components to stories. This point in the plot offers a solution to the central conflict introduced in the beginning of the story. While not all resolutions are uplifting, they do tend to add closure for the reader.

Modern Examples of Resolution

In the popular children’s story Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss, the character Sam is trying to get his friend to try green eggs and ham, but his friend continues to refuse to try them. At the climax of this story, he tries the food, and in the resolution, he reveals that he does indeed like green eggs and ham. The resolution brings closure to the conflict.

In the family movie Home Alone , the protagonist, Kevin McCallister, faces the conflict of being accidently left home alone while his family takes a trip to Paris, France. The conflict becomes increasingly complicated, for Kevin must protect his residence from burglars who are aware of his situation. This conflict is brought to its climax when the burglars make their way into Kevin’s home and fights to protect his residence. The movie’s resolution occurs when the burglars get arrested and Kevin’s family finally makes their way back to their son.

Examples of Resolution in Literature

In the drama Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, the resolution occurs in the final act. In this drama the resolution is the catastrophic suicides of the young lovers Romeo and Juliet who struggled against fate to be with one another.

In the novella Anthem by Ayn Rand , the protagonist, Equality, struggles against the ways of his dystopian society that rejects intellectualism and individuality. This conflict resolves itself in the end where he escapes this society with his lover to begin a new society that embraces knowledge and uniqueness.

Summary: What is Resolution?

Define resolution in literature: The resolution is the part of the plot in which the conflict is solved. While the solution does not always result in a happy ending, an effective resolution will offer some closure for the reader.

Final Example:

In the short story The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe, the protagonist murders an old man because the old man’s cataracts torment him. These evil eyes have driven him mad, so he murders the man and places his dismembered body under the floorboards of the house.

When the police arrive, he attempts to maintain his calm composure until he believes he hears the old man’s heart beating beneath the floor. He no longer remains calm, and the story’s resolution occurs when he confesses his crime to the police officers.

What Is a Resolution? Definition & 25+ Examples

Have you ever found yourself so entranced by a story that when you reach the end, you exhale, realizing you’ve been holding your breath in suspense? This all-too-common experience points to the pivotal role of “resolution” in literature.

It’s that moment when loose ends intertwine, quandaries untangle, and the characters finally exhale along with us. Not just an end, but an illumination, the resolution has the power to reshape our understanding of the story’s journey, leaving an indelible mark that transcends the final page.

Let’s unravel this potent literary element and explore its magic together.

Table of Contents

Defining Resolution

The term “resolution” in literature, often referred to as the dénouement , signifies the final section of a narrative where the central conflict or problem is decisively addressed and resolved. It’s the point at which the plot’s various strands are drawn together, loose ends are tied up, and a sense of closure or completion is achieved.

Following the climax or the story’s peak tension point, the resolution offers an outcome for the characters, demonstrating their evolution throughout the narrative. It reflects the consequences of the events that have unfolded and provides an emotional release for both the characters and the reader.

The resolution serves as an integral part of the narrative arc, influencing the reader’s final impression of the story and underlining its overarching themes and messages.

Importance of Resolution

Resolution ties up loose ends and provides closure to a story.

A resolution is a crucial element in literature, as it ties up loose ends and provides closure to a story. A satisfying resolution leaves readers with a sense of completion and contributes to their overall enjoyment of the work.

Resolution Serves the Purpose of Resolving Conflicts

In many stories, the resolution serves the purpose of resolving conflicts, both internal and external . Characters may experience personal growth or gain new insights as they overcome obstacles. This growth can lead to emotional resolution, allowing readers to connect with characters on a deeper level. Additionally, external conflicts often drive the plot , and resolving them can help maintain the story’s momentum.

Resolution Highlights the Lessons Learned by The Characters

One must also consider the role resolution plays in developing themes and messages in a literary work. By providing closure, resolution often highlights the key takeaways and lessons learned by the characters. This in turn helps readers to reflect on their own lives and experiences, thus enriching their engagement with the material.

Resolutions Can Enhance the Story’s Structure and Pacing

Moreover, well-crafted resolutions can enhance the story’s structure and pacing. A well-planned resolution ensures that all storylines and subplots are brought to their appropriate endpoints. An effective resolution answers the questions raised during the narrative and ties up any ambiguities, allowing readers to fill in the gaps and fully comprehend the author’s intent.

Functions of Resolution

Resolution provides a sense of closure.

Resolution serves various important functions in literature. One primary function is to provide a sense of closure, which allows readers to feel satisfied with the conclusion of the story. The resolution ties up loose ends and answers any lingering questions that may have been presented throughout the narrative.

Resolution Reveals the Final Consequences of The Character’s Choices and Actions

Another function is to reveal the final consequences of the character’s choices and actions. This is crucial in understanding the moral or message the author is trying to convey. For example, characters who learn from their mistakes or face consequences can exhibit personal growth and provide valuable lessons to readers.

Resolutions Can Highlight the Theme of The Story

By examining how the narrative’s conflicts and tensions are resolved, readers can gain a deeper understanding of the underlying message that the author wants to convey. This understanding can then be applied to the reader’s own experiences and worldview.

Resolutions May Leave the Audience with An Open-Ended or Ambiguous Ending

In some instances, resolutions may leave the audience with an open-ended or ambiguous ending. This allows room for interpretation and sparks discussions about the various possible outcomes. Open-ended resolutions challenge readers to use their imagination and critical thinking skills, engaging them well beyond the final page of the story.

Elements of Resolution

In literature, resolution is the final stage in a story’s plot, where conflicts are resolved and loose ends are tied up. It is also commonly known as dénouement, a French term meaning “untying.” This section will discuss the essential elements of resolution in literature.

Climax of The Story

One key element of resolution is the climax of the story. This is the point where the central conflict reaches its peak and the tension is highest. The climax is typically followed by the falling action , which leads to the resolution. The protagonist may achieve their goal, fail, or experience a combination of success and failure.

Change in The Characters

Another crucial element of resolution is the change in the characters. Throughout the story, characters undergo transformations, and these changes play an essential role in the resolution. For instance, the protagonist may learn an essential lesson or acquire new values that help them overcome the conflicts they face.

Tying up Of Subplots

The tying up of subplots can also contribute to the resolution. Many stories include subplots, which are smaller narratives that add complexity to the main plot. These subplots often follow their own arc, which generally ties into the main story. As the story reaches its resolution, these subplots are typically resolved as well.

Explanation of Mysterious Occurrences

In some instances, a resolution may involve an explanation of mysterious occurrences or the unveiling of hidden information. The author may provide crucial details that tie the story together and make the narrative more meaningful. This type of resolution helps the reader feel satisfied upon finishing the story and often elicits an emotional response.

Types of Resolution

Happy resolution.

In a happy resolution, the protagonist achieves their goal and overcomes obstacles, leading to a satisfying or joyful conclusion. This type of resolution often occurs in romantic comedies, adventure stories, and fairy tales. Characters find love, win battles, or gain personal insight, bringing happiness to themselves and often to others.

Tragic Resolution

Tragic resolutions are marked by the downfall of the protagonist or other major characters, resulting in negative outcomes. Tragedies, such as those written by Shakespeare, often feature this type of resolution. Loss, suffering, or death may be major elements of these endings.

Bittersweet Resolution

A bittersweet resolution occurs when a story offers a mixture of happiness and sadness, combining elements of both victory and defeat. Characters may experience growth or understanding but at the same time, face losses, disappointments, or unresolved issues.

Unresolved Ending

An unresolved ending intentionally leaves the reader with questions or uncertainties, as it doesn’t conclude the story definitively. These endings can be found in various genres, such as mystery, thriller, or dystopian fiction, and often provoke thought or discussion among readers.

Twist Ending

A twist ending surprises readers with an unexpected turn of events. This type of resolution can involve plot twists, revelations, or significant character changes, leading to a dramatic, memorable conclusion.

Moral Resolution

In a moral resolution, the conclusion emphasizes the moral or ethical lessons learned by the protagonist or by the reader. Fables, parables, and some children’s stories often include moral resolutions, in which the protagonist’s experiences serve as cautionary or instructive tales for the audience.

Ambiguous Resolution

Ambiguous resolutions are those that do not provide a clear-cut ending or a definitive outcome. Instead, they leave the reader questioning the ultimate fate or decisions of the characters. Ambiguity in a resolution can be seen in literary works like Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” or F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.”

Deus Ex Machina

Deus ex machina is a sudden, unexpected resolution that involves an external force, such as divine intervention or an improbable coincidence, which resolves the story’s conflicts. This literary device, which has its roots in ancient Greek tragedy, can be found in many stories, including science fiction and fantasy tales.

Circular or Cyclical Resolution

A circular or cyclical resolution is a type of ending where the story comes full circle or repeats itself in some way. This can involve characters returning to where they started, a recurrence of motifs or themes, or a renewal of past dynamics, illustrating how nothing has changed or that history repeats itself.

Multiple Resolutions

Multiple resolutions can be found in stories with multiple plotlines, diverse protagonists, or complex themes. In these cases, different resolutions may be presented for different characters, settings, or conflicts. For example, the works of Charles Dickens or the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series by George R. R. Martin often contain multiple, intertwining plotlines with various resolutions.

Examples of Resolution in Literature

Short story, examples of resolution in pop culture, television show, the connection between resolution and other literary elements, characters and protagonist.

The resolution in literature is dependent on the characters, particularly the protagonist, as they drive the action of the story. Throughout a narrative, characters experience growth and change, ultimately leading to the resolution.

During this phase, the characters confront the consequences of their actions, and the protagonist often experiences a significant shift in perspective, resolving both internal and external conflicts.

Conflict and Climax

Resolution is connected to a story’s conflict and climax . The rising action leading to the climax generates the central conflict, while the resolution provides an answer or resolution to said conflict. After the story’s climax, the falling action paves the way for the final resolution or “ denouement .”

It is during this time that tensions slowly decrease, any loose ends are tied up, and questions are answered, providing readers with a sense of closure.

Theme and Central Message

The resolution also carries the story’s theme and central message, often cementing a narrative’s moral or lesson. While the theme is an underlying element throughout the story, it becomes most evident during the resolution.

As conflicts are settled and relationships between the characters are clarified, the overarching themes of the narrative are solidified, leaving the reader with the intended message or takeaway from the author.

Impact of Resolution on Literature

Resolution provides a satisfying conclusion to the story.

Resolutions have a significant impact on a reader’s experience with a piece of literature. They help to tie up loose ends and provide a satisfying conclusion to the story. Readers often seek closure, and a well-crafted resolution can deliver that, leaving them with a feeling of satisfaction.

One way that resolutions achieve this is by addressing the main conflicts or problems presented in the story and demonstrating how the characters have grown or changed throughout their journey. This can create a sense of accomplishment, validating the characters’ efforts and struggles and providing readers with a sense of completion.

Resolutions Can Contribute to A Sense of Emotional Catharsis for Readers

When a story reaches its conclusion, readers are given the opportunity to process their emotions and reactions to the events of the story, resulting in a purging of emotions or a release of emotional tension. This reflected resolution can be a rewarding experience for a reader.

Resolutions Can Serve to Drive Home Messages that The Author Wishes to Convey

In addition, resolutions can serve to drive home thematic elements or messages that the author wishes to convey. By clearly highlighting these themes at the end of the story, readers are more likely to internalize and appreciate the message or lesson offered.

However, not every piece of literature opts for a neatly wrapped resolution . Ambiguous or open-ended resolutions can also offer powerful effects. These endings leave the reader with lingering questions and an opportunity for introspection, allowing them to draw their own conclusions about the story and encouraging deeper engagement with the material.

Challenges of Crafting a Compelling Resolution

Balancing plot and character development.

Crafting a compelling resolution in literature is no easy feat, especially when it comes to balancing plot and character development. While a well-rounded plot should be engaging and constantly unfolding, character development must be gradual and well-timed. Ensuring that these two elements synchronize harmoniously is essential in creating an impactful resolution.

One approach to achieving this balance is to intertwine plot points with character beats . For instance, authors may reveal vital aspects of characters through their actions and reactions to specific events. Doing so allows readers to better understand and empathize with the characters while maintaining interest in the plot.

Another strategy involves alternating the focus between plot and character development . By shifting the emphasis back and forth, readers stay invested in both aspects of the story, ultimately leading to a more satisfying resolution.

Addressing Complex Issues

Another critical challenge in crafting a compelling resolution is addressing complex issues throughout the narrative. Often in literature, stories tackle important themes and subjects that don’t necessarily offer easy solutions or answers. To resolve such intricate matters effectively, authors must acknowledge the complexities and avoid oversimplifying them.

One way to approach complex issues is by providing multiple perspectives on the topic . This enables readers to grasp the nuances of the problem and the characters’ individual stances. Additionally, by incorporating realistic consequences and reactions to these issues, authors can provide a more authentic resolution, even if it doesn’t present a perfect solution.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a story have multiple resolutions.

Yes, in certain circumstances, stories can have multiple resolutions, especially when there are several subplots or multiple conflicts. Each subplot or conflict may have its resolution before the story concludes; however, the primary resolution typically focuses on the main plot and characters.

Can the resolution involve a twist?

Yes, the resolution of a story can definitely involve a twist. In fact, some of the most memorable story resolutions feature an unexpected turn of events or revelation. This surprise element can add a layer of excitement and make the conclusion of the story more impactful.

A twist in the resolution might involve a character revealing a hidden identity, an unexpected outcome of the story’s main conflict, or even a sudden change in the story’s setting or timeline. However, to be effective, such twists should be carefully set up throughout the story so they feel surprising yet plausible, rather than coming across as contrived or overly convenient.

Does a resolution have to resolve every conflict introduced in the story?

Not necessarily. While the resolution usually aims to resolve the main conflict of the story, it doesn’t always address every minor conflict or subplot. Some stories intentionally leave certain threads unresolved. This might be to maintain a sense of realism (since not all problems in life are neatly resolved), to provoke thought and discussion, or to leave room for a sequel or continuation.

However, leaving too many conflicts unresolved can leave readers feeling unsatisfied, so it’s important for authors to strike the right balance and ensure that the key conflicts driving the story are adequately addressed.

Does a resolution always have to be realistic?

A resolution does not always have to be realistic, but it should be consistent with the rules and the universe the story has established. In genres like fantasy, science fiction, or magical realism, the resolution might involve elements that are beyond the realm of our own reality. The key is that the resolution fits the narrative, characters, and world-building that has been set up throughout the story.

If the story has a more realistic tone and setting, a resolution that suddenly introduces unrealistic or fantastical elements without any foreshadowing or groundwork might feel jarring or unsatisfactory to readers. Thus, while realism isn’t a strict requirement, believability within the context of the story’s world is crucial.

How does a resolution contribute to the pacing of a story?

The resolution plays a significant role in the pacing of a story. After the climax, which is typically the most intense part of the narrative, the resolution provides a period of deceleration. This slowing down allows the narrative to gradually wrap up the plot, tie up loose ends, and provide closure for the characters and the reader.

The resolution essentially acts as a denouement, offering an opportunity for the characters and the audience to reflect on the events of the story and their implications. In this way, the resolution helps manage the story’s rhythm, transitioning it from the peak of the climax to the calm and closure of the ending.

In wrapping up our exploration of ‘resolution’ in literature, we can affirm its profound role in bringing stories full circle. The resolution not only ties up the narrative strands, but also leaves an enduring impression that often defines our entire experience of the story.

It carries the power to evoke a spectrum of emotions, underpin the story’s themes, and transmit the author’s intended message. Whether it’s a fairytale ending or a cliffhanger that leaves us yearning for more, the resolution is an indispensable component of storytelling, an art form that allows us to explore our humanity.

As we turn the final page, it’s the resolution that resonates within us, long after the book is closed.

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Aerielle Ezra

Definition of Resolution The literary device decision way the unfolding or solution of a complex issue in a tale. Technically, resolution is also referred to as a “denouement.” Most of the instances of resolution are presented inside the very last elements or chapters of a story. It by and large follows the climax. In certain thriller novels, climax and backbone may occur simultaneously. However, in other forms of literature, resolution takes location at the give up of the tale. Considering that it ends a story, decision is an integral part of the conflict of the tale. Examples of Resolution in Literature Example #1: Romeo and Juliet (by means of William Shakespeare) Capulet: O brother Montague, give me thy hand. This is my daughter’s jointure, for no more Can I demand … Montague: But I can provide thee more, For I will boost her statue in pure gold, That whiles Verona with the aid of that call is known, … As that of proper and trustworthy Juliet … Capulet: As rich shall Romeo’s with the aid of his lady’s lie, Poor sacrifices of our enmity … Prince: A glooming peace this morning with it brings. The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head … This is the very last speak that takes area between Lord Capulet and Lord Montague. Seeing their cherished children, Romeo and Juliet, committing suicide for love, each the heads of the own family remorse their long enmity. Now both of them agree to give up the dispute between their tribes to avoid future tragedy. Example #2: The Great Gatsby (with the aid of F. Scott Fitzgerald) “They’re a rotten crowd,” I shouted throughout the lawn. “You’re really worth the entire rattling bunch put together … “ Concluding the story “The Great Gatsby,” Nick makes his mind to return to Minnesota as an escape from the wealthy human beings. He knows that the wealthy humans are engaged in morally worthless activities. That is why he is satisfied that people in Gatsby’s circle are unfaithful. Example #3: The Catcher within the Rye (by J.D. Salinger) ” … That’s all I’m going to tell about. I could in all likelihood tell you what I did once I went domestic, and the way I got ill and all, and what school I’m meant to visit next fall, once I get out of here, however I don’t experience like it. I without a doubt don’t. That stuff doesn’t interest me too much proper now … I suggest how do you recognize what you’re going to do until you do it? The answer is, you don’t. I suppose I am, however how do I know? I swear it’s a stupid question … “ The decision in this tale takes location inside the final a part of the novel. Holden, the protagonist, while residing in a psychiatric facility, recounts the story. He presents readers with the information of his future plans. He informs us that he's going to move back domestic and attend college, meet his parents but best after enjoying the ride of a merry-move-round in Phoebe. Example #4: The Winter’s Tale (by William Shakespeare) Gentleman: One that offers out himself Prince Florizel/ Son of Polixenes, together with his princess, she/ The fairest I have yet beheld, dreams access… Leontes: What with him? He comes not/ Like to his father’s greatness: his approach,… Florizel: Most royal sir, from thence; from him, whose daughter His tears proclaim’d his, parting with her: thence/ A prosperous south-wind friendly, we've cross’d… Leontes: My lord, Is this the daughter of a king? … His tears proclaim’d his, parting with her: thence… Leontes: My lord, Is this the daughter of a king…” In those extracted strains from “The Winter’s Tale,” the resolution takes place while Polixenes follows Florizel and Perdita to Sicily. After he reveals out the real identification of Paulina, Polixenes and Leontes reconcile and both the families turn out to be happy. Leontes is likewise reunited with his own family and discovers that Hermoin is alive. Function The resolution is the final solution in literature. Almost all of the genres of storytelling employ resolution to quit a tale. Actually, resolution is needed to wrap up a tale, and it comes after the climax. Following a heart-racing and anxiety-triggering climax, decision offers audiences the opportunity to relax. It brings all stressful conflicts into order, and enables the central subject of the film or novel to resonate. Its feature of resolving the problem has made it notably significant. The tale might be a catastrophe if the resolution is offered poorly.

  • Alliteration
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  • Aposiopesis
  • Characterization
  • Colloquialism
  • Connotation
  • Deus Ex Machina
  • Didacticism
  • Doppelganger
  • Double Entendre
  • Flash Forward
  • Foreshadowing
  • Internal Rhyme
  • Juxtaposition
  • Non Sequitur
  • Onomatopoeia
  • Parallelism
  • Pathetic Fallacy
  • Personification
  • Poetic Justice
  • Point of View
  • Portmanteau
  • Protagonist
  • Red Herring
  • Superlative
  • Synesthesia
  • Tragicomedy
  • Tragic Flaw
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Definition of Resolution

The literary device resolution means the unfolding or solution of a complicated issue in a story. Technically, resolution is also known as a “ denouement .” Most of the instances of resolution are presented in the final parts or chapters of a story. It mostly follows the climax .

In certain mystery novels, climax and resolution may occur simultaneously. However, in other forms of literature, resolution takes place at the end of the story. Considering that it ends a story, resolution is an integral part of the conflict of the story.

Examples of Resolution in Literature

Example #1: romeo and juliet (by william shakespeare).

Capulet: O brother Montague, give me thy hand. This is my daughter’s jointure, for no more Can I demand … Montague: But I can give thee more, For I will raise her statue in pure gold, That whiles Verona by that name is known, … As that of true and faithful Juliet … Capulet: As rich shall Romeo’s by his lady’s lie, Poor sacrifices of our enmity … Prince: A glooming peace this morning with it brings. The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head …

This is the final dialogue that takes place between Lord Capulet and Lord Montague. Seeing their beloved children, Romeo and Juliet, committing suicide for love, both the heads of the family regret their long enmity. Now both of them agree to end the dispute between their tribes to avoid future tragedy .

Example #2: The Great Gatsby (by F. Scott Fitzgerald)

“They’re a rotten crowd,” I shouted across the lawn. “You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together … “

Concluding the story “The Great Gatsby,” Nick makes his mind to return to Minnesota as an escape from the rich people. He knows that the rich people are engaged in morally worthless activities. That is why he is convinced that people in Gatsby’s circle are unfaithful.

Example #3: The Catcher in the Rye (by J.D. Salinger)

” … That’s all I’m going to tell about. I could probably tell you what I did after I went home, and how I got sick and all, and what school I’m supposed to go to next fall, after I get out of here, but I don’t feel like it. I really don’t. That stuff doesn’t interest me too much right now … I mean how do you know what you’re going to do till you do it? The answer is, you don’t. I think I am, but how do I know? I swear it’s a stupid question … “

The resolution in this story takes place in the final part of the novel. Holden, the protagonist , while living in a psychiatric facility, recounts the story. He provides readers with the details of his future plans. He informs us that he will go back home and attend school, meet his parents but only after enjoying the ride of a merry-go-round in Phoebe.

Example #4: The Winter’s Tale (by William Shakespeare)

Gentleman: One that gives out himself Prince Florizel/ Son of Polixenes, with his princess, she/ The fairest I have yet beheld, desires access… Leontes: What with him? he comes not/ Like to his father’s greatness: his approach,… Florizel: Most royal sir, from thence; from him, whose daughter His tears proclaim’d his, parting with her: thence/ A prosperous south-wind friendly, we have cross’d… Leontes: My lord, Is this the daughter of a king? … His tears proclaim’d his, parting with her: thence… Leontes: My lord, Is this the daughter of a king…”

In these extracted lines from “The Winter’s Tale,” the resolution occurs when Polixenes follows Florizel and Perdita to Sicily. After he finds out the true identity of Paulina, Polixenes and Leontes reconcile and both the families become happy. Leontes is also reunited with his family and discovers that Hermoin is alive.

The resolution is the final solution in literature. Almost all the genres of storytelling make use of resolution to end a story. Actually, resolution is required to wrap up a story, and it comes after the climax . Following a heart-racing and anxiety-triggering climax , resolution gives audiences the opportunity to relax. It brings all disturbing conflicts into order, and helps the central theme of the movie or novel to resonate. Its function of resolving the problem has made it highly significant. The story would be a disaster if the resolution is presented poorly.

English Studies

This website is dedicated to English Literature, Literary Criticism, Literary Theory, English Language and its teaching and learning.

Resolution: A Literary Device

In literature, resolution serves as the denouement or final stage in a narrative, representing the culmination of the story’s central conflict.

Resolution: Etymology, Literal and Conceptual Meanings

Table of Contents

Etymology of “Resolution”: The term “resolution” originates from the Latin word “resolutio,” derived from the verb “resolvere,” meaning “to loosen” or “to release.” In Middle English, the word took on the sense of “breaking into parts” or “analyzing,” eventually evolving to encompass the notion of determination and decision-making. The etymology suggests a process of untangling or clarifying, highlighting the dual aspects of breaking down complexity and arriving at a firm decision or commitment.

Literal and Conceptual Meanings:

Resolution: definition as a literary device.

In literature, resolution serves as the denouement or final stage in a narrative , representing the culmination of the story’s central conflict . It is the point at which loose ends are tied, questions are answered, and a sense of closure is provided to the reader. The resolution often brings clarity, resolving uncertainties, and offering insights into the characters’ fates or the broader thematic elements of the work.

Resolution: Types

Resolution : examples in everyday life.

  • Description: Resolving disagreements or conflicts in a professional setting to foster a positive work environment.
  • Example: A team meeting is held to address differing opinions on a project, and a compromise is reached through open communication and negotiation.
  • Description: Setting personal goals or intentions for self-improvement at the beginning of a new year.
  • Example: Deciding to exercise regularly, eat healthier, or learn a new skill in the coming year as part of a New Year’s resolution.
  • Description: Settling disputes or disagreements within a family to maintain harmony and understanding.
  • Example: Siblings resolving a disagreement by discussing their concerns and finding a compromise that satisfies all parties involved.
  • Description: Settling legal conflicts or disputes outside of a courtroom through negotiation or alternative dispute resolution methods.
  • Example: Parties involved in a contract dispute opting for mediation to reach a mutually acceptable resolution without going to court.
  • Description: Making decisions or plans to improve one’s financial situation or achieve specific financial goals.
  • Example: Creating a budget, reducing unnecessary expenses, and saving money to achieve financial stability and security.
  • Description: Committing to lifestyle changes for improved health and well-being.
  • Example: Resolving to quit smoking, adopt a regular exercise routine, or make dietary changes to enhance overall health.
  • Description: Addressing misunderstandings or conflicts with friends to maintain healthy and supportive relationships.
  • Example: Friends discussing and resolving a disagreement to preserve their friendship and mutual understanding.
  • Description: Taking steps to overcome procrastination and accomplish tasks in a timely manner.
  • Example: Creating a daily schedule, breaking down tasks into smaller steps, and setting deadlines to address and overcome procrastination habits.

These examples illustrate how resolutions are a common aspect of daily life, encompassing a range of scenarios from personal growth and health to interpersonal relationships and professional settings.

Resolution in Literature: Suggested Readings

  • Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice . Penguin, 2003.
  • Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet . Edited by Brian Gibbons, Oxford UP, 2000.
  • Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities . Oxford UP, 2008.
  • Hugo, Victor. Les Misérables . Signet Classics, 2013.
  • Wilde, Oscar. The Importance of Being Earnest . Dover Publications, 1990.
  • Joyce, James. Dubliners . Dover Publications, 1991.
  • Sophocles. Oedipus Rex . Translated by David Mulroy, Wisconsin UP, 2011.
  • Vonnegut, Kurt. Breakfast of Champions . Dial Press Trade Paperback, 1999.
  • King, Stephen. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft . Scribner, 2000.
  • Laurie, Hugh. The Gun Seller . Vintage, 1998.

Read more on Literary Devices below:

  • Monolithic View: A Term in Logic
  • Monolithic View in Literature
  • Inference Rule: A Term in Logic
  • Aposiopesis: A Literary Device
  • Aposiopesis in Literature

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Definition of Denouement

Denouement is derived from the French word denoue , which means “to untie.” Denouement is a literary device that can be defined as the resolution of the issue of a complicated plot in fiction . The majority of examples of denouement show the resolution in the final part or chapter, often in an epilogue .

Denouement is usually driven by the climax . In mystery novels, however, the climax and denouement might occur simultaneously. In most of the other forms of literature, it is merely the end of the story .

Examples of Denouement in Literature

Denouement is a significant part of a literary piece, because it resolves the conflicts of the story, as shown in the following denouement examples.

Example #1: Romeo and Juliet (By William Shakespeare)

CAPULET: “O brother Montague, give me thy hand. This is my daughter’s jointure, for no more Can I demand…” MONTAGUE: “But I can give thee more, For I will raise her statue in pure gold, That whiles Verona by that name is known… As that of true and faithful Juliet…” CAPULET: “As rich shall Romeo’s by his lady’s lie, Poor sacrifices of our enmity…” PRINCE: “A glooming peace this morning with it brings. The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head…”

The denouement occurs in the play when the Capulets and Montagues see their beloved children committing suicide at the tomb. The heads of the family realized that their bitter rivalry must end. Lord Capulet and Lord Montague agree to end their dispute to avoid further tragedy in the future.

Example #2: The Great Gatsby (By F. Scott Fitzgerald)

“‘They’re a rotten crowd,’ I shouted across the lawn. ‘You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together…'”

The denouement in The Great Gatsby happens when Nick decides to go back to Minnesota, to get away from the rich people engaged in all those things Nick thinks are part of the moral worthlessness in Gatsby’s life. All the people in Gatsby’s circle were unfaithful.

Example #3: The Catcher in the Rye (By J. D. Salinger)

“… That’s all I’m going to tell about. I could probably tell you what I did after I went home, and how I got sick and all, and what school I’m supposed to go to next fall, after I get out of here, but I don’t feel like it. I really don’t. That stuff doesn’t interest me too much right now … I mean how do you know what you’re going to do till you do it? The answer is, you don’t. I think I am , but how do I know? I swear it’s a stupid question…”

The denouement in this story occurs in the last part of the novel . Here, the character Holden is living in a psychiatric facility, from which he is recounting the story. He tells readers that, after the merry-go-round ride of Phoebe, he would go home to attend school and face his parents.

Example #4: The Winter’s Tale (By William Shakespeare)

Gentleman: “One that gives out himself Prince Florizel/ Son of Polixenes, with his princess, she The fairest I have yet beheld, desires access…” Leontes: “What with him? he comes not Like to his father’s greatness: his approach…” Florizel: “Most royal sir, from thence; from him, whose daughter His tears proclaim’d his, parting with her: thence A prosperous south-wind friendly, we have cross ’d…” Leontes: “My lord, Is this the daughter of a king? … His tears proclaim’d his, parting with her: thence…” Leontes: “My lord, Is this the daughter of a king…”

In this excerpt from The Winter ’s Tale , the denouement occurs when Polixenes chases Florizel and Perdita to Sicily. After the true identity of Paulina is discovered, Polixenes and Leontes make up, and both families become happy. Leontes also reunites with the family and finds Hermoin alive.

Function of Denouement

The denouement is a final resolution or clarification in a literary work. It is used in different types of storytelling: novels, plays, movies, etc. In fact, it wraps up the whole story, and usually comes after a huge climax. When a heart-racing climax has created anxiety and excitement, denouement provides the audience a chance to breathe a sigh of relief. It places everything in proper order, and allows the central theme or sentiments of the movie or novel to resonate. Denouement is very important, as it resolves the issues in the end. The whole story can be destroyed if the denouement is written poorly.

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Examples of Resolution and Denouement in Literature (with Definitions)

You will find classic examples of resolution and denouement in popular novels and plays such as Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Hamlet by William Shakespeare and Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller.

Resolution and denouement are related concepts in literature, both serving to conclude a story and tie up loose ends. Put differently, these two aspects of plot structure in a narrative refer to the part of the story where the conflicts and tensions are finally resolved.

However, the two terms are not the same and have distinct characteristics. For example, resolution and denouement may occur at slightly different points in the narrative.

Are you looking for the clearest explanation of resolution vs denouement with practical examples? Then you are in the right place. Keep reading as we unravel the confusing characteristics of resolution and denouement that make them at once similar and dissimilar.

Look out for practical examples of resolution and denouement taken from popular novels and plays.

Definition and Characteristics of Resolution

Let’s begin with the definition and major features of resolution in literature.

The resolution is the final part of the story where the main conflicts are resolved, and loose ends are tied up. Take note of the below characteristics of resolution.

It occurs after the climax and falling action.

The resolution often provides closure to the plot.

Again, the resolution typically shows the aftermath of the climax and how the characters’ lives have been affected by the events of the story.

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Definition and Characteristics of Denouement

Find below the definition characteristics of denouement that make it slightly different from resolution.

The denouement specifically refers to the final moments or chapters of the story where any remaining mysteries, questions, or subplots are explained or concluded.

The other characteristics of denouement include the following.

The denouement is a subset of the resolution.

It is the point where the last details are clarified, and the reader gains a fuller understanding of the story.

Differences between Resolution and Denouement

There are several differences between resolution and denouement. Here are the main ones.

The resolution usually occurs after the climax and falling action of a narrative. It is where the main conflicts are resolved and the story reaches its conclusion.

On the other hand, the denouement specifically refers to the final moments or chapters of the story where any remaining mysteries or subplots are explained or concluded . It is at the point where the last details are clarified , providing a final understanding of the story.

The resolution primarily addresses the main conflict and its outcome , revealing the final fate of the characters.

In contrast, the denouement focuses on tying up secondary plotlines, answering lingering questions, and offering closure to minor characters’ arcs.

Similarities between Resolution and Denouement

Let’s now have the major areas of sameness between the resolution and denouement.

Contribution to the Conclusion

Both the resolution and denouement contribute to the conclusion of the narrative, bringing the story to a satisfying end for readers.

Unravelling of Story Threads

Both elements work to unravel the various story threads, providing answers to readers’ questions and resolving narrative tensions.

Examples of Resolution and Denouement in Popular Novels

Next, I want to show you practical examples of resolution and denouement in prose and drama.

The first set of examples comes from some of the best-known novels in the world. Pride and Prejudice, The Great Gatsby, George Orwell’s 1984 and The Lord of the Flies by William Golding are on the list.

“Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen

Resolution: In Pride and Prejudice, the resolution occurs when Elizabeth and Mr Darcy overcome their pride and prejudice, leading to their marriage and the restoration of social harmony.

Denouement: The denouement in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice includes the happy resolution of other relationships. Examples are Jane and Mr Bingley’s reunion and Lydia and Mr Wickham’s marriage, bringing a sense of completeness to the novel’s various subplots.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

Resolution: The resolution in To Kill a Mockingbird sees the revelation of the true nature of Boo Radley, the resolution of the Tom Robinson trial, and Scout’s newfound understanding of empathy and compassion.

Denouement: The denouement explores the aftermath of the trial, as Atticus attempts to impart lessons of justice and compassion to his children, Jem and Scout.

“The Lord of the Flies” by William Golding

Resolution: The resolution in The Lord of the Flies involves the rescue of the boys and their return to civilization. The incident brings to an end the savagery and chaos on the island.

Denouement: The denouement includes the encounter with the naval officer and Ralph’s realization of the boys’ descent into barbarism and the loss of innocence.

“The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Resolution: The resolution in The Great Gatsby involves the tragic deaths of Gatsby and George Wilson and the departure of the Buchanans from New York, leaving behind the consequences of their actions.

Denouement: The denouement is about Nick’s reflections on the events of the summer and his disillusionment with the wealthy elite. This gives further insight into the characters’ fates.

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“1984” by George Orwell

Resolution: An example of resolution in 1984 by George Orwell occurs with Winston’s complete surrender to the Party’s ideology and his eventual acceptance of Big Brother’s authority.

Denouement: The denouement in the novel 1984 reveals Winston’s love for Big Brother. This signifies the destruction of his rebellious spirit and the triumph of the totalitarian regime.

Examples of Resolution and Denouement in Popular Plays

You will now have examples of resolution and denouement from some of the greatest plays ever written.

“Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare

The resolution in Romeo and Juliet features the tragic deaths of Romeo and Juliet. It ends in the feud between their families, the Montagues and Capulets.

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Denouement: The denouement includes the Prince’s speech and the reconciliation between the warring families. This shows the consequences of their feud and the cost of the young lovers’ lives.

“Hamlet” by William Shakespeare

Resolution: The resolution in Hamlet involves the deaths of several main characters, including Hamlet, Claudius, Gertrude, and Laertes, resulting in the kingdom of Denmark passing to Fortinbras.

Denouement: The denouement in Shakespeare’s Hamlet includes Horatio’s final speech and his decision to tell Hamlet’s tragic story. It provides closure to the play’s events and themes.

“Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller

Resolution: In Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, the resolution sees Willy Loman’s suicide and the aftermath of his death, highlighting the tragic consequences of his pursuit of the American Dream.

Denouement: The denouement includes Biff’s realization of the emptiness of his father’s dreams and his decision to break free from the cycle of illusion and lies.

“A Streetcar Named Desire” by Tennessee Williams

Resolution: The resolution in A Streetcar Named Desire involves Blanche’s mental breakdown and her departure to a mental institution, and Stanley’s victory over her.

Denouement: The denouement in Death of a Salesman includes Stella’s decision to stay with Stanley despite the conflict and violence in their relationship, portraying the complexities of human relationships.

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“Macbeth” by William Shakespeare

Resolution: The resolution in Macbeth shows Macduff’s victory over Macbeth and the restoration of the rightful king, Malcolm, to the throne.

Denouement: The denouement in Macbeth involves Malcolm’s speech, promising to restore order and goodness to Scotland, and the final message of the play about the consequences of ambition and treachery.

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Final Thoughts

Remember that in all these examples, the resolution brings the main conflicts to their conclusions, while the denouement provides additional insights and closure to the characters and the story’s broader themes.

In Literature, resolution and denouement are crucial elements of plot structure. And in many ways, they each contribute to our overall understanding and appreciation of characters and themes in the literary work.

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What is The Resolution in a Story? [& How Do You Write One?]

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The resolution of a story refers to the moment everything comes together for the main characters. It’s the stage in the story’s plot structure where characters resolve their conflicts, and the climax’s ripple effects settle down. It’s the satisfying end that makes sure that the story feels complete.

If you’re looking to learn how to write a good resolution, look no further. This is the article for you!

Whenever I plot out my stories, I will visit and revisit the resolution because I think it’s that important.

For example, when I first wrote Iron Dogs , I had no idea how it would actually end or which of the main characters – if any – would survive. It took several iterations and much thought to come up with a resolution to the story that I felt was both satisfying and logical, both in terms of the character’s motives and actions , as well as the world rules I had created around them.

Even in those cases where I go into a story thinking I know exactly how it will end, as in my action screenplay, Setting Square , I typically end up with something different – and more fitting to the story as written. The takeaway here is to be flexible and let your story guide you.

Good resolutions are memorable and leave readers feeling satisfied. They should be concrete, specific, and achievable.

In this article, we will discuss what a story resolution is, how to write one in your own novel , short story , or screenplay , and give some examples from popular literature!

The Resolution of a Story: Table of Contents

What is the resolution of a story.

infographic explaining the answer to "what is the resolution of a story?"

In the resolution of a story, which is the last part, the big exciting moment happens, and the main character’s problems get solved.

It’s where the story wraps up and answers all the questions that came up during the story.

This part is really important because it shows how everything ends for the main characters and others in the story.

The ending can be happy or sad, but it should make the reader feel like the story is complete.

How To Write The Resolution of A Story

Writing the resolution of a good story is a delicate art, requiring a balance of closure and intrigue. It’s your last chance to make an impression on the reader and tie up your story plot and subplots while still leaving room for a bit of mystery!

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when writing the resolution of your story:

infographic showing how to write the resolution of a story

1. Tie Up Loose Ends After the Climax After delivering a gripping climax, ensure that all subplots and character arcs come to a fitting close. Readers appreciate a story that respects all its story threads, no matter how minor.

2. Keep It Simple While it’s tempting to throw in a surprise twist, sometimes the most straightforward endings resonate the most. An uncomplicated resolution can end a story in a more satisfying manner.

3. Leave Some Mystery While the primary conflict should find closure, leaving certain elements open-ended can provoke thought and discussion. This can also pave the way for potential sequels or spin-offs.

4. Stay True to Your Characters Your characters have grown throughout the story. Ensure their decisions in the resolution reflect their development and stay consistent with their personalities.

5. Deliver a Satisfying Ending Every reader might have a different idea of a “perfect” ending. Aim for one that aligns with the story’s tone, whether hopeful, melancholic, or bittersweet.

6. Don’t Rush A hurried ending can undo all the buildup. Let events unfold naturally, allowing readers to process and reflect on the story’s journey.

7. Seek External Help If Needed If you hit a wall, don’t hesitate to seek inspiration. AI story generators, writing workshops, or even discussions with fellow writers can provide fresh perspectives.

8. Reflect Real Emotions A resolution that evokes genuine emotions, whether of joy, sorrow, or contemplation, will stay with readers long after they’ve finished the story.

9. Revisit Earlier Themes Echoing themes or motifs from earlier in the story can provide a sense of full circle, enhancing the feeling of a cohesive narrative.

10. End with Forward Momentum Even as you conclude, hint at the continuing journeys or adventures of the characters, suggesting that while this tale is over, life goes on.

The Role of a Resolution in Story Structure

The resolution in a story structure is the final part of the plot, starting just before the climax and ending with the last moment or image.

It resolves the main conflict for the protagonist and can have a happy or unhappy outcome. The resolution often begins with the protagonist’s decisive action, which might be physical, mental, or emotional. It may also involve actions taken by others.

The falling action follows, tying up loose ends and answering questions, showing how the characters and their world have changed, leading to the story’s conclusion.

Freytag’s Pyramid

freytag's pyramid

Freytag’s Pyramid is a dramatic structure that writers have used for centuries. It is named after German writer Gustav Freytag, who first described it in his book Technique of the Drama.

The pyramid is divided into five sections: exposition ( introduction ), rising action , climax , falling action , and resolution.

The resolution is the final section of the plot structure pyramid, in which the story’s conflict is resolved, and the story ends. This can be a happy ending, a sad ending, or a bittersweet ending.

While similar to the three-act structure outlined by Plato in Poetics , there are marked differences between the 3-act plot structure diagram and Freytag’s Pyramid, particularly in terms of the length of rising action, the point of occurrence of the climax, and the length of falling action (as illustrated in the diagrams above).

In addition, in a classical three-act structure, the resolution is not merely the very end of the story, as Freytag indicates, but the entirety of the third act, which includes the climax, falling action, and ending.

a visual representation of three act story structure, with the setup, confrontation and resolution

In either case, the resolution is usually when the protagonist defeats the villain or finally gets what they’ve been striving for.

Sometimes, the resolution is more open-ended, and it isn’t clear whether the protagonist has achieved their goal. Either way, the resolution marks the end of the story’s main conflict and signals a new beginning for the protagonist.

Whether it is a happy or tragic ending, the resolution is when the story reaches its conclusion.

What Happens After the Resolution of a Story?

In some stories, the climax is followed by a brief epilogue that ties up loose ends and provides closure for the main characters. In others, the resolution is simply the end of the story, with no further explanation given.

Either way, the resolution is an essential part of the story and can involve both triumph and tragedy.

The resolution includes a turning point for the characters, who must now find a way to cope with their new situation following the end of the main conflict. For better or worse, their lives have been changed forever by the story’s events.

When done well, the resolution should answer all questions and close all plotholes. There should be no more story to tell. That said, it doesn’t mean that a new story can’t start following the end of the current one, much like we see in episodic stories and sequels.

Can I Skip a Resolution in My Story?

In every story, there must be conflict. Without it, there is no story. And without resolution, that conflict remains unresolved, and the story is unfinished.

So what happens if you skip a resolution in your story? Well, technically speaking, you shouldn’t. In a well-structured plot, all conflicts should be resolved by the end of the story.

However, that doesn’t mean you must spell it out for your readers!

Sometimes, the best resolution is one that is left up to interpretation. This can be done by hinting at what might happen next or leaving some unresolved conflict.

By doing so, you invite your readers to use their imaginations to resolve some portion of the conflict or its aftermath in their own minds. In some cases, this can be more satisfying than a traditional resolution in literature, as each reader will have their take on what happens in the end.

So if you’re struggling to find a resolution for your story, don’t worry; just remember that sometimes, less is more.

How Do I Write a Resolution for a Subplot?

Subplots can be a great way to add depth and interest to your story. However, if not handled carefully, they can also end up feeling like a messy jumble of unrelated plot threads. So how do you write a resolution for a subplot that ties everything together neatly without feeling contrived?

One approach is to have the events of the subplot echo or mirror the main plot in some way.

For example, if your main plot is about a character struggling to overcome a traumatic event from their past, you could resolve a subplot involving another character’s struggle with addiction by having them both find healing by facing their demons head-on.

Another option is to have the resolution of the subplot directly impact the main plot.

For instance, if your story is about a group of friends trying to save their community center from being demolished, the resolution to a subplot about one character’s relationship troubles could be that they finally make up with their estranged partner, and they both join the fight to save the community center.

Whichever route you choose, just make sure that the resolution to your subplot feels organic and earned and that it enhances, rather than detracts from, your story as a whole.

Examples of a Resolution in Literature and Film

Let’s look at some literary examples to help you become a better writer. Warning: Spoilers!

Example 1 – The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

silver ring on silver ring

Following the climax of The Great Gatsby , where Tom Buchanan confronts Jay Gatsby about his illegal activities and intentions toward his wife, Daisy Buchanan, their love triangle disintegrates when Daisy chooses to stay with Tom. Tom scornfully tells Gatsby to drive her home, secure that Daisy will never leave him.

On the way back, the car accidentally runs over and kills Myrtle, Tom’s mistress. When it’s revealed that Daisy was driving the car, Gatsby takes the blame to save her. In retaliation, Myrtle’s husband, George, shoots Gatsby and himself.

In the end, Tom and Daisy leave together, and Gatsby’s name is dragged through the mud. Few friends attend his funeral, save for the narrator of the story, Nick Carraway, who decides to leave for the Midwest, disgusted with high society life in New York.

Example 2 – To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

to kill a mockingbird

The climax reaches its pinnacle in the big courtroom scene, where Tom is found guilty, shattering Scout’s hope that the truth of his innocence will prevail. To make matters worse, Tom gets shot in jail, and the villainous Ewell tries to take revenge on Atticus by trying to kill Scout and Jem.

The children are saved by Boo Radley, their mysterious neighbor and former boogeyman, who turns out to be a gentle man. In the end, the children learn that all people have both good and evil within them, and injustice is ingrained in the system.

Common Questions (FAQs)

What is an example of a resolution in a story.

In Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Elizabeth Bennett, after a lot of back-and-forth and misunderstandings, finally decides to tie the knot with Mr. Darcy. That’s a classic example of a story resolution in literature. A good ending should always give you that “Aha!” or “Aww!” moment. It’s the part that lingers, making you think or smile long after you’ve closed the book.

What is the resolution of a short story example?

In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button , the story reaches its resolution when Benjamin, who ages backward, embraces his unique identity. After years of attempting to fit in and denying his true nature, he finally acknowledges and accepts his distinctiveness. This ending underscores the timeless message: self-acceptance is powerful, and it’s never too late to make peace with who you truly are.

What is the purpose of the resolution in a story?

The resolution in a story serves the purpose of providing closure to the narrative. It ties up loose ends, resolves conflicts, and offers a sense of fulfillment to the audience. The resolution can signify the beginning of a new chapter in the storyline, introducing fresh challenges or opportunities for the characters.

Is a resolution a conclusion?

Resolution is often thought of as the conclusion of a story, but it can also be seen as the beginning of a new chapter. The resolution is like a turning point, as it can signal a change in direction or a new beginning. In many ways, the resolution of a story is what we make of it – it can be the end of something or the start of something new.

Are climax and resolution the same?

The terms climax and resolution are often used interchangeably, but they refer to two different aspects of a story. The climax is the point of most significant tension or conflict when the protagonist must face their greatest challenge. The resolution is the story’s conclusion when the conflict is resolved and the story ends. While the resolution may occur simultaneously with the climax, it is not necessarily the same. The resolution is the story’s final outcome, while the climax is simply the point of greatest tension or conflict.

resolution in a story

Final Thoughts: What is the Resolution of a Story?

A story’s resolution is the point at which the conflict or problem is resolved. It can be a happy ending, a sad ending, or anything in between.

The important thing to remember is that a story must have a resolution if it’s going to satisfy readers and make them feel like they’ve finished something.

Love learning new storytelling skills ? Check out these helpful articles!

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Neil Chase is an award-winning, produced screenwriter, independent filmmaker, professional actor, and author of the horror-western novel Iron Dogs. His latest feature film is an apocalyptic thriller called Spin The Wheel.

Neil has been featured on Celtx, No Film School, Script Revolution, Raindance, The Write Practice, Lifewire, and MSN.com, and his work has won awards from Script Summit, ScreamFest, FilmQuest and Cinequest (among others).

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Synonyms of resolution

  • as in decision
  • as in resolve
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Thesaurus Definition of resolution

Synonyms & Similar Words

  • determination
  • deliverance
  • adjudication
  • instruction
  • disposition
  • commandment

Antonyms & Near Antonyms

  • decisiveness
  • persistence
  • persistency

resoluteness

  • purposefulness
  • decidedness
  • determinedness
  • stick - to - itiveness
  • perseverance
  • stubbornness
  • tenaciousness
  • obstinateness
  • obdurateness
  • irresolution
  • vacillation
  • uncertainty
  • indecisiveness
  • irresoluteness
  • unwillingness
  • indetermination
  • incertitude
  • indisposition
  • disinclination

Synonym Chooser

How is the word resolution distinct from other similar nouns?

Some common synonyms of resolution are courage , mettle , spirit , and tenacity . While all these words mean "mental or moral strength to resist opposition, danger, or hardship," resolution stresses firm determination to achieve one's ends.

When might courage be a better fit than resolution ?

The words courage and resolution are synonyms, but do differ in nuance. Specifically, courage implies firmness of mind and will in the face of danger or extreme difficulty.

When can mettle be used instead of resolution ?

While in some cases nearly identical to resolution , mettle suggests an ingrained capacity for meeting strain or difficulty with fortitude and resilience.

When is spirit a more appropriate choice than resolution ?

The synonyms spirit and resolution are sometimes interchangeable, but spirit also suggests a quality of temperament enabling one to hold one's own or keep up one's morale when opposed or threatened.

How are the words tenacity and resolution related?

Tenacity adds to resolution implications of stubborn persistence and unwillingness to admit defeat.

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Thesaurus Entries Near resolution

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Cite this Entry

“Resolution.” Merriam-Webster.com Thesaurus , Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/resolution. Accessed 23 Feb. 2024.

More from Merriam-Webster on resolution

Nglish: Translation of resolution for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of resolution for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about resolution

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literature definition resolution

  • Climax (Plot)

literature definition resolution

Climax Definition

What is the climax of a plot? Here’s a quick and simple definition:

The climax of a plot is the story's central turning point—the moment of peak tension or conflict—which all the preceding plot developments have been leading up to. In a traditional "good vs. evil" story (like many superhero movies) the climax is typically the moment when the hero finally confronts or does battle with the villain. However, climaxes are not always so easy to spot. For instance, there's widespread disagreement as to whether the climax of  Romeo and Juliet  occurs in the middle of the play, when Romeo kills his rival Tybalt in a big showdown and then must flee Verona, or at the end of the play, when Romeo finds Juliet unconscious and, thinking her dead, kills himself by drinking poison.

Some additional key details about climax:

  • Any type of narrative work can have a climax, including works of nonfiction and poetry.
  • Authors don't include signposts in their work like "here comes the climax." As a result, especially with less plot-driven works, the exact location of the climax is often a matter open to the reader's interpretation.
  • The term "climax" also refers to a figure of speech in which words are arranged in order of increasing importance or power ("It's a bird! It's a plane! It's Superman!"). This entry deals exclusively with climax as a narrative element. We do also cover climax as a figure of speech .

Climax Pronunciation

Here's how to pronounce climax: cly -max

Finding the Climax of a Plot

Plot is a key element of novels, plays, most works of nonfiction, and many (though not all) poems. While not all works that have plots also have a climax, most do. Here are a few of the key defining features of climax to help you identify it:

  • It's the height of the story's action. The climax is the culmination of a story's rising action , which is the name given to the section of a story in which the central conflict unfolds and tension builds. Consequently, the climax dispels much of the tension, or answers many of the questions, that arose during the rising action.
  • It often answers the story's biggest question.  The climax typically coincides with the moment that the story's primary question is answered or the major tension is dispelled (e.g., who's behind the mask? will the hero win?). Therefore, it often feels like the climax is  the resolution (e.g., the villain is defeated, crisis is averted). But the story almost never ends immediately after the climax, since there are typically other important questions to answer and loose ends to tie up (e.g., why  did the villain do it, and what about the love interest, or the journey back home?).
  • It marks the beginning of the story's resolution. While the climax may not tie up the loose ends of a plot or provide all the answers, it marks the beginning of the stage known as falling action , which further unwinds or de-escalates the built-up tension and eventually leads the plot to its resolution.

It's Not Always Easy to Identify the Climax

While many stories have a clear climax, not all stories do. As the example of  Romeo and Juliet   makes clear, it may not be possible to definitively identify the point of climax in a story, since there might be several points at which it seems like the height of tension or conflict has been reached.

For such stories, different people will often have different interpretations of where the climax occurs. That's okay! There doesn't have to be a definitive correct answer about where the climax is. What's more important is that you are able to explain how you came to  your  interpretation of where the climax occurs based on the criteria outlined above. In other words, you should be able to say: 

  • How the climax you selected marks the height of the story's action.
  • How it answers the story's biggest question.
  • How it marks the beginning of the story's resolution.

Climax and Freytag's Pyramid

One of the first and most influential people to create a framework for analyzing plots was 19th-century German writer Gustav Freytag, who argued that all plots can be broken down into five stages: exposition , rising action , climax, falling action , and dénouement . Freytag originally developed this theory as a way of describing the plots of plays at a time when most plays were divided into five acts, but his five-layered "pyramid" can also be used to analyze the plots of other kinds of stories, including novels, short stories, films, and television shows. Here's the pyramid as originally defined by Freytag:

original freytag's pyramid

One important thing to note about the shape of Freytag's pyramid is that climax falls in the very center of the diagram, but this is actually a bit misleading, since the climax usually  doesn't  occur in the middle of most narratives. Rather, the climax typically occurs somewhere around the three-quarter mark. Therefore, a slightly modified version of Freytag's pyramid (with a more accurate placement of the climax) might look something like this:

modified freytag's pyramid

Freytag's Pyramid Doesn't Fit All Plots

While Freytag's pyramid is very handy, not every work of literature fits neatly into its structure. In fact, many modernist and post-modern writers intentionally subvert the standard narrative and plot structure that Freytag's pyramid represents. We mention this here because climax is often spoken about in relation to other parts of Freytag's pyramid, and because understanding where the climax typically occurs within a narrative may help you identify it.

Climax vs. Anticlimax

Contrary to what many people think, anticlimax is not, strictly speaking, the opposite of climax. Rather, it is one specific type of climax: it's the name given to a climax in which the story's primary tension is dispelled in an unsatisfying manner, or in which the resolution fizzles in comparison to the intensity of the buildup. Imagine if, in the final showdown between a hero and a villain, the hero simply said "Look, a distraction!" and promptly handcuffed the distracted villain. That would be an anticlimax—because the audience would probably be expecting some sort of action-packed showdown, complete with a lengthy exchange of harsh words and some sort of clever twist at the end. An anticlimax may be purposeful or accidental:

  • Accidental anticlimax: An accidental anticlimax is just the result of bad plotting or writing, in which a writer is going for an exciting climax and fails to achieve it. It is it usually the product of an ill-conceived or over-complicated plot for which the author simply can't find a satisfying resolution.
  • Purposeful anticlimax: An author may also deliberately create an anticlimax  as a way to subvert the audience's expectations, or to make a broader point about the nature of the world (as in, it's not always full of satisfying climaxes and neat resolutions). 

Climax Examples

Climax in  doctor faustus.

Christopher Marlowe's play Doctor Faustus  is a story with an obvious climax. The play centers around Doctor Faustus, a professor who makes a pact with Lucifer (i.e., the devil): Faust agrees to give his soul to Lucifer, on the condition that he gets 24 years of unlimited power and knowledge. Of course, the deal turns out to have been a bad idea, and the play climaxes in act 13, when, with tension mounting, the hour of Faustus's death and damnation draws near. His cries of regret for having sold his soul to Lucifer and his pleas for more time are unsuccessful, and devils drag him away to Hell. 

Climax in  Death in Venice

Thomas Mann's novel Death in Venice  tells the story of a famous German writer named Aschenbach, who takes a break from his work and travels to Venice. At his hotel in Venice, on the night of his arrival, he sees a young boy having dinner with his family. Aschenbach thinks the boy is "perfectly beautiful," and over the course of the next few days he grows more and more obsessed with the boy, whose name he discovers is Tadzio. Aschenbach's mind becomes consumed by an overpowering desire to win Tadzio's affection. One day, in an effort to appear younger, Aschenbach dyes his gray hair, puts on makeup, and buys new clothes. The book's climax occurs at the point when Aschenbach's break with reality seems to have become complete: wearing his new clothes and makeup, Aschenbach openly stalks Tadzio through the streets of Venice, where, having become delirious in the heat of a city square and possibly from a disease that seems to be overtaking Venice, he begins talking as if he is Socrates. 

This story serves as a good example of a climax in which the height of tension has more to do with the main character's internal state than it does with the "action" that surrounds him. Aschenbach continues to slip further into madness and illness until he eventually dies, but this scene stands out as the book's climax because it's the point at which Aschenbach's sanity seems to have abandoned him completely.

Climax in The Catcher in the Rye

J.D. Salinger's famous coming-of-age novel, The Catcher in the Rye ,  centers around the movements and musings of a listless, aimless teenager named Holden Caulfield, who leaves his boarding school after he is expelled and spends the next few days wandering around New York City. Holden describes his various encounters with friends, acquaintances, and strangers until, in the final chapter, he explains that he has been hospitalized (or sent to a "rest home" to recover) without revealing the exact reason or what happened to him.

The story's central tension stems from Holden's increasingly unstable mental state: the book is shadowed by a sense that his depression, paranoia, and general disenchantment with society are all indications of a more serious underlying problem—signs, in other words, that he might be on the verge of some sort of a mental break. This tension builds as Holden begins to feel more and more faint throughout the story, but the story doesn't have a clear climax in the sense of a moment when this tension reaches a crisis or resolution. Therefore, people have offered multiple interpretations of when the climax might be said to occur: 

  • Some argue that it occurs when Holden spends the night at his former teacher's apartment and wakes suddenly to the feeling of the teacher stroking his head while he sleeps—and he leaves the apartment in a hurry. This is a logical choice because it's one of the novel's few moments of real "action."
  • However, there's a slightly more complex argument to be made that the climax actually occurs in the second-to-last chapter, just before Holden is hospitalized. In this chapter, Holden disavows his plans to "go west" (a plan he makes reference to compulsively throughout the book) and then watches his little sister ride the carousel in the Central Park Zoo. While the passage may not seem to be the "height of action," it's actually the passage in which the tension surrounding Holden's deteriorating mental state reaches its height, as it becomes clear that he is barely able to remain conscious and is teetering on the verge of total collapse.

Ultimately, it's not possible to say definitively when the climax of  The Catcher in the Rye occurs, but that doesn't mean that just an y scene from the book could reasonably be called the climax. The passages above are a few of the more likely contenders for the moment of "peak tension."

Climax in Man's Search for Meaning

Man's Search for Meaning   is a work of nonfiction by Victor Frankl, who recounts his time spent in Nazi concentration camps during the second World War. The book does not have a traditional narrative arc, as it slips between Frankl's vivid descriptions of life in a concentration camp and his more philosophical reflections on the meaning of life. Therefore, even though the book has many elements of a traditional narrative, it's difficult to identify a clear climax.

The book's primary theme is that the need to find some kind of meaning in one’s existence is at the core of human psychology. Accordingly, one of the most important moments in the book includes Frankl's decision to rewrite a manuscript that was confiscated when he arrived at Auschwitz: his life's work, the subject of the book was "logotherapy," or this concept of an inner pull to find a meaning in life. Frankl's decision to rewrite the manuscript could be considered a type of climax, but in a book such as this there are many moments the could be pointed to as moments of peak tension or conflict, so there is no definitive climax.

Climax in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Here's an example of climax in poetry, from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's  The Rime of the Ancient Mariner .  The poem tells the story of a Mariner who shoots an albatross (a large sea bird) out of the sky after it has been following his ship for several days. Shortly after the albatross dies, however, the wind disappears down and the mariner's ship becomes stranded in the arctic. The Mariner's shipmates hang the albatross around his neck as a punishment. In the coming days, unable to move without wind, the sailors all die of thirst—except for the Mariner, who is cursed to live among the dead crew.

The poem's climax comes when the Mariner notices beautiful water snakes swimming beside the ship at night. At this moment he becomes inspired, and has a spiritual realization that all of God’s creatures are beautiful and must be treated with respect and reverence. With this realization, the albatross falls from his neck and sinks into the sea. This moment is the turning point, at which the curse upon the Mariner diminishes. However, it is worth noting that the Mariner never entirely escapes his curse—while he ceases to be marooned in the sea, he nonetheless feels an urge to tell his tale to certain people he meets. He becomes a kind of warning against the actions he took against nature and God in originally killing the albatross. So in this case the climax is a turning point, but not one that offers full redemption. 

Why Do Writers Use Climax?

Most stories have a climax (or several moments that seem like they might be a climax), and climaxes serve several purposes in a story. A writer might build his or her story toward a climax for any of the following reasons:

  • They bring the " rising action " to an end with a bang, effectively adding punctuation to the portion of the story in which the main problem unfolds.
  • They are exciting.
  • They make the audience feel that their attention has been rewarded.
  • They mark a definitive shift from the problem to its resolution, helping the reader or audience track the progression of the plot.
  • They effectively release the audience's built-up suspense.

Other Helpful Climax Resources

  • The Wikipedia Entry on Climax:  A simple overview of the narrative element.
  • The Dictionary Definition of Climax:  A basic definition, with a bit on the etymology of the word (it means "ladder" in Ancient Greek).
  • The Climax of Disney's The Lion King:  The rain that begins falling (and extinguishing the fire) immediately after this climax is an apt metaphor for the way that the climax resolves the central tensions of a story.

The printed PDF version of the LitCharts literary term guide on Climax (Plot)

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  1. What is Resolution in Literature? Definition, Examples of Literary

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  2. Resolution in Literature: Definition & Examples

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  1. Resolution

    The literary device resolution means the unfolding or solution of a complicated issue in a story. Technically, resolution is also known as a " denouement ." Most of the instances of resolution are presented in the final parts or chapters of a story. It mostly follows the climax.

  2. What Is the Resolution of a Story?

    In a work of literature, the resolution is the part of the story's plot where the main problem is resolved or worked out. The resolution occurs after the falling action and is typically where the story ends. Another term for the resolution is "dénouement," which comes from the French term dénoué, meaning "to untie." Freytag's Pyramid

  3. Resolution: Definition and Examples

    Definition & Examples I. What is the Resolution? The resolution, also known as the denouement, is the conclusion of the story's plot. It's where any unanswered questions are answered, or "loose ends are tied." Interestingly the phrase denouement comes from the French word dénouement meaning "to untie."

  4. What is Resolution in Literature? Definition, Examples of Literary

    Resolution is the conclusion of a story's plot and is a part of a complete conclusion to a story. The resolution occurs at the end of a story following the climax and falling action. In some stories, climax and resolution occur simultaneously but in that case are simply co-occurring points in the plot.

  5. What is the Resolution of a Story? Definition, Examples Resolutions in

    Define resolution in literature: The resolution is the part of the plot in which the conflict is solved. While the solution does not always result in a happy ending, an effective resolution will offer some closure for the reader. Final Example:

  6. Resolution in Literature Overview & Example

    The definition of resolution in literature is the conclusion of the story by the resolving of conflicts between characters. The resolution is the final literary stage in a story's plot...

  7. Resolution

    A resolution in literature is the part of the story that provides readers with answers to their questions and resolves any lingering issues. The main parts of the conflict are concluded, and readers should walk away from the story feeling as though they're satisfied with what they've learned.

  8. What Is a Resolution? Definition & 25+ Examples

    The term "resolution" in literature, often referred to as the dénouement, signifies the final section of a narrative where the central conflict or problem is decisively addressed and resolved. It's the point at which the plot's various strands are drawn together, loose ends are tied up, and a sense of closure or completion is achieved.

  9. Resolution

    Definition of Resolution The literary device decision way the unfolding or solution of a complex issue in a tale. Technically, resolution is also referred to as a "denouement." Most of the instances of resolution are presented inside the very last elements or chapters of a story. It by and large follows the climax.

  10. Resolution definition and example literary device

    The literary device resolution means the unfolding or solution of a complicated issue in a story. Technically, resolution is also known as a " denouement ." Most of the instances of resolution are presented in the final parts or chapters of a story. It mostly follows the climax.

  11. Resolution Definition & Meaning

    1 : the act or process of resolving: such as a : the act of analyzing a complex notion into simpler ones b : the act of answering : solving c : the act of determining d : the passing of a voice part from a dissonant to a consonant tone or the progression of a chord from dissonance to consonance e

  12. Resolution of a Story: How to Write the Resolution of a Story

    Written by MasterClass Last updated: Aug 13, 2021 • 3 min read The resolution of a story ties the narrative arc together. Learn more about the key elements of a story's resolution, examples of resolutions, and how to write your own ending. The resolution of a story ties the narrative arc together.

  13. Resolution: A Literary Device

    In literature, resolution serves as the denouement or final stage in a narrative, representing the culmination of the story's central conflict. It is the point at which loose ends are tied, questions are answered, and a sense of closure is provided to the reader.

  14. Dénouement

    Resources Dénouement Definition What is a dénouement? Here's a quick and simple definition: The dénouement is the final section of a story's plot, in which loose ends are tied up, lingering questions are answered, and a sense of resolution is achieved.

  15. Denouement

    Denouement is a literary device that can be defined as the resolution of the issue of a complicated plot in fiction. The majority of examples of denouement show the resolution in the final part or chapter, often in an epilogue. Denouement is usually driven by the climax.

  16. Examples of Resolution and Denouement in Literature (with Definitions

    1 Definition and Characteristics of Resolution 2 Definition and Characteristics of Denouement 3 Differences between Resolution and Denouement 3.1 Timing 3.2 Focus 4 Similarities between Resolution and Denouement 4.1 Contribution to the Conclusion 4.2 Unravelling of Story Threads 5 Examples of Resolution and Denouement in Popular Novels

  17. What is The Resolution in a Story? [& How Do You Write One?]

    The resolution of a story refers to the moment everything comes together for the main characters. It's the stage in the story's plot structure where characters resolve their conflicts, and the climax's ripple effects settle down. It's the satisfying end, ensuring the story feels complete.

  18. Structure in Literature

    The definition of literary structure is that it is the organization of a story's various elements, including plot, characters, and themes. ... Resolution: Harry heads home for the summer, ...

  19. Literature

    literature, a body of written works. The name has traditionally been applied to those imaginative works of poetry and prose distinguished by the intentions of their authors and the perceived aesthetic excellence of their execution. Literature may be classified according to a variety of systems, including language, national origin, historical ...

  20. Denouement

    A resolution is where a character within literature solves a problem. It is a single action that occurs at one specific point in time, and usually is part of the climax or falling action of a story.

  21. RESOLUTION Synonyms: 98 Similar and Opposite Words

    Synonyms for RESOLUTION: decision, verdict, opinion, conclusion, determination, diagnosis, judgment, judgement; Antonyms of RESOLUTION: tie, halt, deadlock, draw ...

  22. Falling Action

    Here's a quick and simple definition: The falling action of a story is the section of the plot following the climax, in which the tension stemming from the story's central conflict decreases and the story moves toward its conclusion. For instance, the traditional "good vs. evil" story (like many superhero movies) doesn't end as soon as the ...

  23. Climax (Plot)

    Here's a quick and simple definition: The climax of a plot is the story's central turning point—the moment of peak tension or conflict—which all the preceding plot developments have been leading up to. In a traditional "good vs. evil" story (like many superhero movies) the climax is typically the moment when the hero finally confronts or ...

  24. Literature of Mesopotamia

    The literature of Mesopotamia dates from c. 2600 BCE when scribes began composing original works in the region of Sumer.The Sumerians invented writing c. 3500 BCE, but it was then mostly used for record-keeping. The literature of ancient Mesopotamia influenced the works of other civilizations including Egypt, Greece, and Rome.. The pieces in this collection represent only a very small fraction ...

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