Discover Online Classes on Storytelling
Ancient myths, modern heroes, story frameworks, and more.
Most readers and watchers of stories can pinpoint the beginning, middle, and end of a plot, along with the climax, as well. The denouement is a less familiar term for many people, but it’s easy enough to identify once you know what you’re looking for. Read on for its definition and examples.
So, what is denouement? This answer requires a little backing up! In every story, there is a conflict, or an essential struggle that moves the action of the plot. With every conflict, there is a climax—the highest point of tension, the central turning point in the story. Typically, it is during the climax that the protagonist, or the hero, faces their enemy or problem head-on and comes out victorious. The climax also indicates the falling action, or the nearing of the story’s end. This is where the denouement comes in.
The denouement definition is the story’s conclusion after the climax. It is the part in the story where loose ends are tied up and final truths are revealed. This resolution is an essential part of the story that returns order to the protagonist’s world.
For example, in Finding Nemo, after Marlin finds his son Nemo in the Sydney Harbor waters—the culmination of his long, stressful journey—viewers watch as the denouement meaningfully unfolds. It shows the duo living in their anemone just as before but with different, improved outlooks on life. The denouement shows the conclusion of their story—a father and son who have grown into themselves and developed a mutual respect for one another.
Write Your Own Story!
Creative Writing Bootcamp: Start a Brand New Story
What Other Terms are Used for Denouement?
The denouement might also be referred to as the conclusion, the resolution, the culmination, or, simply, the end of the story.
The Lord of the Rings
After Frodo Baggins destroys the all-powerful ring and defeats the villain Sauron during the climax of the trilogy, the denouement shows the hero returning to his home, being greeted with praise and love before being ferried off to a heaven-like realm where he can live peacefully ever after.
After Jane mysteriously hears Rochester’s voice in the wind, she returns to find him blind and poor from a tragic house fire. The two rekindle their love, get married, have a child, and essentially live happily ever after. This is the denouement: Their life together after all the heartache and loss they’ve suffered is the resolution, the conclusion of their story.
After Bryan Mills saves his daughter, Kim, from Albanian traffickers, the two return to their lives in the States. The ending shows the two rekindling their relationship as Bryan helps his daughter pursue her passion for singing.
The Lion King
After Simba defeats his evil uncle Scar once and for all during the climax of the film, the final resolution shows him rightfully return to power on Pride Rock. Peace and order are restored to the Pride Lands as the animals bow in respect to Simba, Nala, and their new baby.
Start Your Story
Storytelling 101: Character, Conflict, Context, & Craft