Prologues and epilogues belong to literary works such as novels or dramas. They provide a few detail sabout the story that otherwise would be incomplete. A book does not necessarily need both an epilogue and a prologue. It may contain either of them according to the writer's will. However, if required a writer can also add both the prologue and epilogue in one book. A writer must choose wisely whether a prologue and an epilogue are required in the story.
Adding excess information through prologues and epilogues that isn't necessary for the narrative may only be a waste of time and effort. Moreover, readers wouldn't find anything new or interesting in them.
Prologues and epilogues play important roles in adding a finishing touch to some literary works. They smoothen up the beginnings and endings of the stories which require them.
A prologue provides a little glimpse of the story. It comes before the beginning of the story. Various writers use prologues to build curiosity among the readers. The readers would want to know what happens next in the story after reading a short introduction to the story.
An epilogue is a small section at the end of the story that may provide information on what happens to the characters in the future.
Likewise, there are other differences as well between an epilogue and a prologue. These details are discussed further in this article.
Epilogue vs Prologue
An epilogue is written at the end of a book. It provides us with information on the fate of each of the main characters of a story in the future. It may also give us a hint of another edition of the story.
A prologue is written at the beginning of a book. It contains some details of the story for readers to get an idea of what the story is about. It is a tactic of the writers to build curiosity in readers to purchase the book.
Differences Between Epilogue and Prologue in a Tabular Form
|Definition||An epilogue is a short-written section in a storybook or novel that comes at the end of the book to wind up the story.||A prologue is a written piece in a storybook or a novel consisting of a brief introduction to the story.|
|Place in the book||It is found at the end of a book.||It appears in the beginning of a literally work.|
|Uses||It adds a finishing touch to the ending of a story.||It provides a few details of information that helps readers to understand the context of a story.|
|Objective||Its objective is to satisfy the readers with the ending of a story.||Its objective is to build curiosity among the readers and encourage them to read the whole story.|
What is an Epilogue?
An epilogue is a short written work used by writers to conclude a story. We can find it at the end of a book. It provides us extra details about the future of each of the main characters.
Epilogues are often set at a different time frame and have a different structure from the rest of the story.
The epilogue can be set a few days ahead or a few years ahead in the future. Writers also use epilogues to reveal what happens with an issue that remains unresolved in the story. It provides a closure for the loose ends in the story and leaves the readers satisfied. It provides answers to the questions readers may have about the characters or a part of the story.
Authors also use epilogues to reveal the next sequel of the book. Whenever authors have planned a sequel of a book they present a hint of it in the epilogue for the readers. That is how the readers know there's more to the story.
Functions of Epilogue
- Adds to the development of characters – When the readers are invested in the characters of a novel, they want to know what happens to them after the story ends. An epilogue provides information on how the main characters have developed and how the events in the narrative have affected them.
- Sets up the possibility of a sequel – An epilogue is a good way to give a hint to the readers about a possible sequel of the story. This could be introduced by adding a twist or focusing on an unresolved part of the story which has the chance of being resolved in the next sequel.
- Reflects an important message from the story – We can often relate our lives to the stories in books and novels. A good story has a lot to teach us. An epilogue can let readers reflect on themselves and learn a few lessons from the story.
Types of Epilogue
Epilogues may be divided into the following types:
- Narrative Epilogue – In this kind of epilogue, the authors declare the outcome of what happens in the narrative. It can also provide information on what happens to the main characters in the future.
- Thoughtful Epilogue – These epilogues conclude a story with a reflection or interpretation of the narrative.
- Transitional Epilogue – Transitional epilogues conclude the story with a transition in the protagonist's life. It could be a transition into the future or a transition into a new place, or both. That could also give a hint of the next edition of a book.
- Dream Epilogue – Here, the focus is on describing the dreams and desires of the protagonist that haven't been fulfilled yet. It makes us aware that the protagonist is ready to take on another adventure to fulfill his dreams.
That may also provide a short introduction to a sequel of the story.
- Parodic Epilogue – As the name suggests, a parodic epilogue is about concluding a story on a humorous note.
- Testimonial – In this sort of epilogue, testimonials of experts or personalities are publicized. Testimonial epilogues are used for non fictional work.
What is a Prologue?
A prologue is a literary work written at the beginning of a book. It is related to the main story but is a separate piece of work. It provides a small glimpse of the story and its characters before the story begins.
Prologues provide background information about the story to the readers so that they understand the context before the actual story begins. They introduce the characters, describe a tragic event in the story, or describe an event of a character's past that would change their life.
Prologues also provide information about the setting of the story. It describes where the story is based and in which year.
Prologues are used to provide necessary information to prepare the readers for the actual story. They are written in such a way that the readers feel the urge to read the whole book or get to know the whole story to satisfy their curiosity.
The authors add only relevant and limited information in the prologue. The authors decide what the readers need to know before starting the story and add just that to the prologue.
Functions of Prologues
- Providing Background Information – A prologue provides background information about the story so that the readers would understand the context of the story.
- Establish the Tone of the Narrative – A prologue introduces the tone of the whole narrative. If the writer sets a serious tone for the story then the prologue would match the tone and that would give the readers an idea of what the rest of the book would be like.
- Describe the Setting of a Story – It is important to establish when and where a story is based upon. That can be expressed through a prologue. Based on the descriptions, the readers can picture it in their minds which will get them to understand the context of the story better.
- Introduce Characters and Events – A prologue introduces the main characters of a story and also describes an event that would relate to the main story.
- Keep the Readers Hooked – Prologues can build interest among the readers and keep them hooked to the books.
Types of Prologues
According to many writers, there are four types of prologues. They are:
- Future Protagonist – To put it simply, future protagonist prologue shows us the future of the lead character in the narrative. It gives us a glimpse of an interesting or touching event in the life of the protagonist in the hereafter. It builds curiosity among the readers, and they feel the urge to read the whole book to find out what led the protagonist to that situation.
- Past Protagonist – This type of prologue presents a past event of the protagonist. The event could be a tragic incident that would change the life of the protagonist. The readers will have to read the full story to understand how the sudden event affected the main character and what course of events would come next.
- Different Point of View Prologue – This sort of prologue uses a viewpoint other than that of the protagonist. This prologue does not involve the protagonist but it will relate to the protagonist in the main story.
An example can be a prologue that starts like this – A group of archaeologists discovers an ancient and odd-looking artifact found in a deeply hidden cave in the deserts of Rajasthan. They decide to take it along with them for further studies. When they took it out of where it was placed they could feel tremors in the cave which grew rapid and intense. Little did they know when they pulled the object out of its place they set a ferocious spirit free. They ran away from the cave and took the artifact along with them. Unfortunately, they brought doom to themselves and the people of the village nearby. The protagonist of the story for the above prologue could be a young energetic yet goofy village boy or a woman from the big city who has been dealing with ghosts her whole life. That is how this sort of prologue works.
Background Prologue – The writers often choose to write fantasy novels that do not relate to this world. The prologues in these novels must introduce us to the idea of a different world so that the readers understand the context of the story. However, there is a trick to it. The prologue must not contain a world full of information in it to describe the fantasy world nor should it be an abrupt start to a world the readers do not know about. There has to be a balance in between that fits just right to the story.
Main Differences Between Epilogue and Prologue in Points
- An epilogue is written at the end of a story, whereas a prologue comes at the beginning of the story.
- An epilogue describes the future of the main characters after the story ends. On the other hand, a prologue presents us with a glimpse of the story and the characters within it.
- An epilogue is required to conclude a story after all the plots end. A prologue, on the other hand, introduces us to the story.
- Epilogues ease the curiosity of the readers, whereas prologues build the curiosity of the readers.
- Epilogues provide final touches to the story, whereas prologues provide information that would lead to a smooth start of the story.
- An epilogue acts as a conclusion, whereas a prologue acts as a preface of the novel or story.
Epilogues and prologues play a part in literature as they provide a few extra details to the stories when required. They are both short descriptions related to the story and its characters, however, they play different roles in the narratives.
While epilogues come after the story ends, prologues are added before the beginning of the story. Epilogues come in handy when the end seems abrupt. Prologues, however, describe a few details related to the story so that the start does not seem abrupt.
Therefore, it is clear that a prologue and an epilogue are two different parts of a literary work and both of them have different purposes.