11.3 C
New York
Monday, March 27, 2023

Epigraph: Definition and Examples of This Literary System

At the start of Chinua Achebe’s 1958 novel Issues Fall Aside, there’s a web page with 4 strains from a W. B. Yeats poem:

Turning and turning within the widening gyre
The falcon can not hear the falconer;
Issues collapse; the centre can not maintain;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.

These well-known strains are the e-book’s epigraph. An epigraph is a brief quote {that a} author makes use of to arrange the literary work that follows. On this instance, the poem is a few society on the point of apocalypse. By introducing the story with this reference, the author prepares readers to enter a world stuffed with disruption and dysfunction.

What’s an epigraph in writing?

An epigraph is a brief quote positioned firstly of an editorial. The phrase epigraph is derived from the Greek epigraphein, which implies “to put in writing on,” and it was meant to explain a quick inscription on a constructing or statue.

What’s the goal of an epigraph?

Writers use epigraphs for various causes. Generally an epigraph is a nod by one author to a different—an acknowledgment of somebody who influenced or impressed them. As a literary machine in novels, an epigraph can arrange a theme, create context, or expose essential data.

Introduce a theme

Generally, a author makes use of an epigraph from a narrative or poem with an identical theme to their very own story. By inserting this reference towards the start, the author instantly clues a reader into their e-book’s thematic undercurrent. This may also be a strategy to foreshadow later occasions.

Create context 

Context and theme usually intersect in epigraphs as a author builds out their story and supplies details about the narrative’s driving power. For example, the epigraph in Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird is that this Charles Lamb quote: “Legal professionals, I suppose, had been youngsters as soon as.” This offers the reader a touch at one of many e-book’s themes of childhood innocence, and it locations the story in a authorized context (within the story, the primary character’s father is a lawyer, and the plot revolves round a trial).

Expose essential data

The epigraph to Mario Puzo’s novel The Godfather is that this Balzac quote: “Behind each nice fortune, there’s a crime.” With this specific epigraph, the reader is instantly conscious which facet of the regulation the primary character is on.

Varieties of epigraphs

Epigraphs are available in many types, together with prose, proverb, poetry, lyrics, and even dialogue. The principle stipulation is that it comes from somebody outdoors the e-book—not the writer or the characters.

If the author is utilizing an epigraph to acknowledge a serious affect or inspiration, then a direct quote from that individual may do the trick.

If the author desires to position their story within the lineage of a literary custom, then they may select a line or two from an influential writer or literary work.

If the author desires to convey a theme with their epigraph, then utilizing a line from a piece with a related theme will prime the reader.

How one can use an epigraph in your writing

There aren’t established guidelines for together with an epigraph, which provides writers a variety of inventive autonomy. Some issues to think about if you wish to embrace an epigraph in a narrative:

Who or what’s your inspiration for the story? In case you have been closely influenced by a particular author or artist, then an epigraph could also be a pleasant place to acknowledge them.

Are there any well-known works which have an identical theme? If that’s the case, together with an epigraph from that work will clue your reader into your personal theme.

Might the reader use extra data? Perhaps you’re restricted by a phrase depend or a deadline, and also you assume the reader may gain advantage from extra data than you’re in a position to present. On this case, an epigraph may be a great way to concisely add additional reference materials.

Is that this story a part of a lineage? Acknowledging the literary custom that your story falls inside might be finished successfully with an epigraph. By referencing an editorial inside a convention, you assist the reader draw a connection between your work and another person’s.

Epigraph vs. epigram

Epigrams and epigraphs not solely sound alike but additionally have confusingly related types. Each are quick statements, depart a robust impression in a couple of phrases, and are sometimes utilized by writers, poets, orators, and politicians.

The distinction between epigraphs and epigrams is that an epigraph is a reference to another person’s work, and it serves a literary operate, whereas an epigram is an unique assertion by the speaker or author, and its operate is to stay within the viewers’s reminiscence. Epigrams make nice epigraphs, however not the opposite manner round.

For instance, some memorable epigrams are:

“Little strokes fell nice oaks.”
—Benjamin Franklin

“Mankind should put an finish to warfare, or warfare will put an finish to mankind.”
—John F. Kennedy

“Magnificence is just pores and skin deep, however ugly goes clear to the bone.”
—Dorothy Parker

Epigraph examples in literature

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

“Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay
To mould me Man, did I solicit thee
From darkness to advertise me?”
—John Milton, Paradise Misplaced

Concern and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

“He who makes a beast of himself eliminates the ache of being a person.”
—Samuel Johnson

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

“If they provide you dominated paper, write the opposite manner.”
—Juan Ramón Jiménez

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

“The household is just like the forest: if you’re outdoors it’s dense; if you’re inside you see that every tree has its personal place.”
—Akan Proverb

My Yr Overseas by Chang-rae Lee

“With out heroes, we’re all plain individuals and don’t know the way far we will go.”
—Bernard Malamud, The Pure

“He who actually loves the world shapes himself to please it.”
—Thomas Mann, Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man

“Music within the soul might be heard by the universe.”
—Lao Tzu

The Solar Additionally Rises by Ernest Hemingway

“You might be all a misplaced era.”
—Gertrude Stein

Epigraph FAQs

What’s an epigraph?

An epigraph is a brief quote included firstly of an editorial. It’s meant to introduce the reader to a theme, reference, or context.

What’s the goal of an epigraph?

An epigraph in a novel introduces a reader to a narrative’s theme, supplies additional context, or exposes data. Additionally it is a spot for writers to acknowledge their influences or inspirations.

What’s the distinction between an epigraph and an epigram?

An epigraph makes use of a quote from one other individual or character in a narrative. An epigram is a quote by the work’s writer.

What are the completely different sorts of epigraphs?

Epigraphs can take many types. Some standard selections are phrases, poems, dialogue, and lyrics. Actually, any quote that serves your writing can be utilized as an epigraph.

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest Articles