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Denouement

The denouement is structurally important in a narrative work: it is the part where the various aspects of plot, character, and theme that have been developed over the course of the work are brought together and resolved in a coherent and emotionally satisfying way. A poor denouement is usually a sign of a poorly structured work, although it can on occasion be done on purpose as well for the sake of aesthetic effect. 

Denouement is literally French for "unraveling". It refers to the end of a plot or story, where various developments that have happened over time are brought to a resolution.

Examples of denouement

In order to give you a clearer understanding of the term denouement, here are a couple examples of the term being used in sentences

"In the fourth quarter of the final basketball game of the set, the crowd breathlessly awaited the denouement of the competition between the two rival teams." 

"That major novel by Dostoevsky is famous for its denouement: all the threads of the plot are brought together, and several characters go through life-changing experiences." 

"The reviewer complained that the denouement of the movie felt forced: it seemed to come out of nowhere, as if the director had simply run out of money and ideas."

In case you are still a little unclear about how to properly use the term denouement, here are a couple rules that can help you out. 

1. The denouement can almost always be found at the climax of a story, or the point at which the plot reaches a point of maximum dramatic intensity. Essentially, after the denouement, the story is over: all the narrative energy that has been built up over the course of the story is let loose. If the story were to continue after the denouement, it could usually only do so in the form of an epilogue, unless the narrator were to start over again in a new spot. 

2. The term denouement generally refers to narrative. However, denouement could also be metaphorically used in any situation were there one can imagine a "story" being played out. For example, a sports game could have a denouement; so could a war; so could a love affair; and so could a symphony. The main thing is for there to be a story that develops over time and then reaches a peak where the plot is resolved.  

Denouement - other literary uses

Several psychologists have astutely observed that an impulse toward heroism is an intrinsic part of the human condition. The concept of denouement is probably related to this impulse. For example, it is clear that the earliest form of literature in several human cultures has consisted of the heroic epic: a poem in which a main character goes off an adventure and performs exemplary deeds, with the story always building toward a denouement (whether comic or tragic). 

This penchant for the denouement in most stories is perhaps related to the fact that all people tend to see their own lives as stories, proceeding from birth to death and passing through several meaningful phases inbetween. In this context, the denouement would be essential for giving structure and meaning to the narrative: without the denouement, there would be no development and thus no meaning. In this context, the decision of some postmodern writers to eschew the denouement and write "plotless" stories would seem to be reflective of skepticism about whether life actually is meaningful. 

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