Derived from the Greek word epiphaneia, epiphany means "appearance" or "manifestation." In literary terms, an epiphany is that moment in history in which a character attains fulfillment, consciousness, or a feeling of knowledge, after which events are viewed through the prism of this new light in history.
James Joyce , the great Irish writer, used this term in his writings to indicate a sudden revelation as to the nature of a person or situation. He said that it is the moment when “the soul of the most common object ... seems radiant to us, and can manifest itself through any chance, word or gesture.” It means that even the insignificant things in our lives can suddenly inspire a awareness that can change our lives forever.
A common example of epiphany
Consider an epiphany of a smoker:
I used to smoke a lot. which was bad for my health however I did not pay attention to it. One day I saw my two year old baby trying to grab an unlit cigarette from the ashtray. Seeing this, I suddenly realized how terrible Smoking was, and I stopped smoking.
So this sudden feeling of knowledge that brings to light what was hitherto hidden and it changes life, it's called epiphany.
Examples of epiphany in literature
Let's look at some examples of epiphany from different genres of literature
Example # 1: Animal farm (by George Orwell)
Animal farm, written by George Orwell, is an epiphany that uses animals on a farm to describe the overthrow of the last Russian tsar, Nicholas II, and the communist revolution in Russia before World War I. The actions of the animals on the farm are used to expose the greed and corruption of the revolution. It also describes how powerful people can change the ideology of a society. One of the fundamental rules of the farm is the following:
All animals are equal, but a few are more equal than others.
Farm animals represent different sectors of Russian society after the revolution.
For example, pigs represent those who came to power. following the revolution; "Mr. Jones", the owner of the farm, represents the overthrown Tsar Nicholas II; while "Boxer" the horse represents the working class. The use of Epiphany in the novel allows Orwell to make his position on the Russian Revolution clear and to expose his ills.
Example # 2: Hamlet (By William Shakespeare)
William Shakespeare also makes use of an epiphany in his play Hamlet. It is when Hamlet the hero is on a ship sailing to England. By then he was overloaded with thinking and planning a flawless revenge on his father's murderer, Claudius. All of a sudden there is a flash of realization and he says:
[T] there is a divinity shaping our goals and making them roughly cut as we want.
He realizes that inflicting perfect vengeance on Claudius is not wisdom for him - he has to seize the moment and go with the current.
Example 3: Miss Brill (by Katherine Manfield)
We find another example of revelation in the short story Miss Brill, written by Katherine Manfield. Miss Brill is happy to be part of the Jardins Publique season, especially on Sundays. She is preparing for the occasion on a cool day. She wears her fur coat and walks up to a band playing music in the park. She sees life all around her. She is happy to imagine that she is part of everything that takes place. In a moment of revelation, she realizes that s He and everyone else in the park are mere actors playing their roles. There was nothing important in that actor meeting and she was alone despite being with a crowd. It can also be used to change a character's opinion of other characters, events, and places after a sudden awareness of the situation. It can also be a sign of a conclusion in the story.
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