What is the correct literary term for a book that begins at the end?

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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There are many novelists which apply the technique of beginning the text at the end of the story. Mary Shelley uses it in Frankenstein; Daphne du Maurier uses it in Rebecca; Edith Wharton uses it in Ethan Frome. This technique is referred to in a couple different ways.

First, some refer to this technique as a frame story. A frame story begins at the end, moves into a flashback to tell how the characters came to be where they are, and (eventually) joins back up where the story moved into the past. This technique is seen in Shelley's Frankenstein and Wharton's Ethan Frome. This has also been referred to as a story within a story.

Another name for this technique is a prelude. This serves as an introduction to a work. This technique is used in du Maurier's Rebecca. The use of this technique allows the author to foreshadow events that the readers will come in contact with during later reading.


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