Red herring is a type of fallacy that is an irrelevant topic that is introduced into an argument to divert the attention of listeners or readers from the original topic. In literature, this fallacy is often used in detective or suspense novels to mislead readers or characters. or to induce them to draw false conclusions.
Let's consider a simple example of a red herring. A teacher discovers a student cheating during a test. The student in response says, "I know I made a mistake. But think about my parents. They are going to be heartbroken." The student uses a red herring in her answer. He tries to appeal to compassion to distract his teacher from the real problem.
The term red herring literally refers to a kind of dried red fish, which has a pungent odor. In fox hunting, hounds are prevented from catching the fox by distracting them with the strong scent of red herring. Similarly, a person can be prevented from proving their point or discovering something important in a discussion by distracting them with an irrelevant topic.
Common examples of red herring
Here are some examples of the fallacy of red herring in casual conversation:
Mother: It is bedtime Jane
Jane: Mom, how do ants feed their babies?
Mom, do ant babies cry when they're hungry?
This conversation shows how a boy tries to distract his mother from her so that she [Jane] can stay awake a little longer.
There is a lot of commotion regarding saving the environment. We cannot make this world an Eden. What will happen if it becomes Eden? Adam and Eve got bored there!
The idea that Adam and Eve are bored in Eden throws the audience off the real problem of environmental degradation.
Examples of red herring in literature
Mystery and suspense novels abound in examples of red herring, as writers often use it to Disguising the facts from readers in order to develop their interest.
Example 1: Da Vinci Code (by Dan Brown)
The character of Bishop Aringarosa in Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code serves as an example of a red herring throughout the novel. The character is presented in this way that readers will suspect him as the mastermind of the entire conspiracy in the Church.
It is later revealed that he is innocent. This example of a red herring in the novel distracts readers from who the real bad guy is. Interestingly, the bishop's Italian surname "Aringarosa" translates as "red herring" in English.
Example 2: Sherlock Holmes: Hound of the Baskervilles (By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes: Hound of the Baskervilles presents a classic example of red herring. Readers are cast off by the real killer and begin to suspect the escaped convict and Barrymore The riddle is solved by Beryl's unexpected admission that her husband Stapleton was the real culprit and is behind the whole killer dog mystery.
Example 3: The vent room (by Charlotte Macleod)
We watch the murderer plant false clues in Charlotte Macleod's vent room and deliver red herrings. Augustus Quiffen, a lodger in Sarah's brownstone house, is killed when he falls under the train, which was an accident until Mary Smith tells Sarah it was murder but she cannot identify the killer. Sarah and Max Bittersohn investigate the matter and find that the killer planned death in advance and that he was well prepared to hide it with a convincing red herring.
Function of the red herring
A red herring is a common remedy that is used in Mystery and thriller stories are used to distract the reader from identifying the real culprit. But who turns out innocent when the real killer is identified. The aim is to get the reader to guess about the possibilities by the end and therefore keep them interested in th The story. Readers enjoy solving the puzzles created by red herrings in the story. Undoubtedly, it would be difficult to keep the reader interested if thrillers exposed the killer from the start, often used to dodge difficult questions in a discussion or argument. They do so by referring to a different topic, which of course is irrelevant, to deviate from the original topic under discussion.
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