What is Denouement? Definition, Examples of Denouement in Literature

Denouement definition: The denouement is the portion of the plot that follows the climax and allows for an explanation for the resolution of conflict in a piece of literature.

What is a Denouement?

French for “unknotting,” in a piece of literature, the denouement is the portion of the plot that follows the climax and is where the resolution to the conflict in the story is found.

Example of Denouement

In Disney’s The Lion King, the denouement would be the moment when Simba restores peace in his home, the Prideland.

Modern Examples of Denouement

In Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham, the climax of the story is when Sam convinces his friend to finally try Green Eggs and Ham. The denouement would then be when his friend realizes he does indeed like this foreign food and admits he’d eat it anywhere.

In Disney’s The Little Mermaid, the denouement is when Ariel’s father, King Triton, decides to allow his daughter to have legs in order to marry Prince Eric. She then decides to remain on land rather than underwater to be with her true love. This ends the conflict of her desire to be human rather than a mermaid.

The Function of Denouement in Literature

The denouement offers a solution to the conflict presented in the exposition of a story. Therefore, by including this important part of the plot it allows for the audience to have closure. If the denouement fails in being written strongly, the audience may experience dissatisfaction with the story due to an unresolved conclusion.

Denouement Examples in Literature

In William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the conflict of the play revolves around the forbidden love between Romeo and Juliet. These two teenagers are part of feuding families; therefore, when they fall in love, it is kept as a secret in order to be together. However, when Romeo is banished from Verona, the two desperately seek a solution in order to remain together. Despite how hard they try, the two’s rash thinking leads to their ultimate demise when then commit suicide. The denouement of this tragic play is when the families discover the hidden story of their love and decide to end the feud and erect golden statues to remember the two lovers.

In “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry, a young married couple desperately wants to buy each other the perfect Christmas present. However, they lack the required funds, so, unknowing to each other, they sell their most prized possessions in order to buy such a gift. When gifts are exchanged, they realize that the gifts are useless because each purchased something as an accessory to the prized possessions sold. In the denouement, the two realize that the most important gift is the love the share for each other and their willingness to sacrifice for it.

Summary: What are Denouements?

Define denouement in literature: The denouement is the portion of the plot that follows the climax and offers a resolution to the conflict. This is important because it allows the audience closure at the end of a story.

Final Example:

In the classic children’s story Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arelen Mosel, the conflict of the story is when the oldest child of a Chinese family falls into a well and must be saved.

However, he is at risk of losing his life because the time it takes to save him is lengthened to due his long name, Tikki tikki tembo-no sa rembo- chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo. In the denouement, it is explained that due to this horrific event, Chinese families now name their children short names rather than great long ones.