A Cliffhanger is a type of narrative or plot tool in which the ending is strangely abrupt, leaving the main characters in a difficult situation without offering a solution to conflicts.
As a result of a sudden ending, tension arises at the very end of the novel, so that readers are in a state where they couldn't help but ask, "What will happen next?" This type of ending is common in serially published novels that end in a dramatic or exciting moment. The cliffhanger plot device ensures readers buy the next installment to read and find out what's going on. Episodes of television series end in moments of high drama to ensure that viewers follow in the next episode. A famous example is the television series Lost, which ended almost every episode with a cliffhanger. Commercial breaks force authors to include a cliffhanger in the action before each break to maintain tension and ensure audience numbers after the break An example is in the collection of stories known as the Arabian Nights in which King Shehreyar orders his Queen Scheherzade to be hanged. She devises a plan to tell the king a story every night, ending that story with a suspense. The king postponed the order of execution every day to hear the rest of the story.
Example # 2: A Pair of Blue Eyes (by Thomas Hardy)
The term "suspense" seems to get its name from Thomas Hardy's novel A Pair Blue Eyes, which was published in a serialized magazine, with one chapter published each month. At the end of one of the episodes, Hardy left his main character, Henry Knight, hanging from a cliff, staring into the stony eyes of a fossil embedded in the rocks below. Since then, each abrupt ending has been called a "fail."
Example # 3: The Tempest (by William Shakespeare)
William Shakespeare could not allow his audience to get bored, and for this reason he uses a suspense in Act 1, Scene 1 of his play The Tempest. The scene of a storm and a shipwreck is depicted in the most vivid way, but the audience is not sure if anyone on the ship has survived. The device is used for the purpose of returning the audience to see the next act. Finally, the fate of the crew on board is revealed in Act 2, Scene 1 and the audience's focus is secured for that moment.
Example # 4: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (by J. Rowling)
J. Rowling employs many cliffhangers in her famous work Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. To quote an example from Chapter 3, “Letters from Nobody”:
“Another minute and he would be eleven. Thirty seconds ... twenty ... ten ... nine - maybe he would wake Dudley just to annoy him - three ... two ... one ...
The whole cabin was shaking and Harry was sitting bolt upright, staring at the door. Someone was outside knocking. Of course, you'll turn the page and read the next chapter to find out who knocked on the door outside. The obvious reason for such endings is to pique the interest of readers so that they can move on to the next chapter without the slightest hesitation.
Function of Cliffhanger
Humans are naturally strange creatures. Cliffhangers in every form of literature appeal to our curiosity. The main purpose of using this device is to keep the tension in the plot to keep the readers interested and focus. It acts as a bait to guide readers from one part of the text to another with more interest than before.
Cliffhangers, Undoubtedly, it is fun to read at the end of the chapters of novels. However, it can be very frustrating at the end of a novel as the readers become dissatisfied after all the effort they put into reading the novel.
On TV series where the cliffhanger tool is perhaps the most popular use it this device with great effect. The audience's favorite characters are left in the lurch, and viewers long to learn more about their fate. As a result, viewers will likely want to keep up in the next episode.
Popular Literary Devices
- Ad Hominem
- Deus Ex Machina
- Double Entendre
- Flash Forward
- Half Rhyme
- Internal Rhyme
- Line Break
- Non Sequitur
- Pathetic Fallacy
- Poetic Justice
- Point of View
- Red Herring
- Tragic Flaw