What Is an Epilogue?
An epilogue is the final chapter of a book, where the author finally gets to discuss the fate of the characters. In some works, the epilogue is the same as the denouement. It can also be a place where the narrator provides commentary about his or her central theme.
In suspense, horror, and dystopic genres, the epilogue may indicate that all is not as great as it seems. The monster is not really dead; the problem has only been deferred to a later time. The expanded version of Stephen King’s novel, The Stand, contains a good example of this sort of epilogue. Even though the survivors of the Free Zone have managed to kill off the evil Flagg’s followers, Flagg himself has been transported to an island where he begins to work his evil magic again. Films use this kind of unresolved epilogue to foreshadow a sequel.
Examples of Epilogue
1. In Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaiden’s Tale, the epilogue takes the form of papers given at a future academic conference, detailing the period of time when the United States was controlled by extreme right wing religious fanatics. The academics even make jokes about the handmaidens, in the same way we minimize past historical events. It is a very effective epilogue, because it makes the dystopic quality of the novel seem more real.
2. At the end of Orwell’s Animal Farm, the epilogue looks back on the early years of the rebellion at Manor Farm and notices that the pigs have become indistinguishable from men.
3. In Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, the cue to the epilogue is Jane’s confession, "Reader, I married him." This statement satisfies both the reader’s own desire for a happy ending and the theme of the plot, which is that true love communicates across time and space and knows no boundaries.
4. In the original film version of Stephen King’s novel, Carrie, the epilogue takes the form of a nightmare where Carrie’s hand reaches out from the grave to seize the popular girl who felt the most remorse over her mistreatment. This dream suggests that teenage bullying will continue to haunt the characters long after Carrie herself is dead.
5. In Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the character Prospero addresses the audience directly in the epilogue, telling them that his powers are gone and that only their applause can now determine his fate.
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