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What is exposition?

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William Delaney eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I would like to contribute an example of exposition from the opening of the first chapter of A Tale of Two Cities by the great Charles Dickens. 

IT WAS THE BEST of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

I especially like this section of that marvelous opening:

it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair,

This is very abstract exposition. It seems to apply to the people of France, England, as well as other countries, including the United States. Possibly it says more about the French Revolution and the entire period surrounding it than many entire books on the subject. It is a pleasure to read that whole passage aloud, even if there is nobody else to listen. Dickens must have read it many to audiences in Great Britain and America when he was on his tours. What a thrill it would have been to hear Dickens himself reading his own words!

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William Delaney eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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A good way to understand exposition is to examine a story that contains little or no exposition. One such story, which is frequently discussed in eNotes, is Ernest Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants." The reader is put in the position of an onlooker and an eavesdropper, wondering who these people are, where they are coming from, where they are going, whether they are married, what the problem is. All these questions would have been answered by a writer like Anton Chekhov, whose short story "The Bet" is full of the most detailed exposition, as is his longer story "The Lady with the Pet Dog."

Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants" is experimental. He wanted to see how much detail could be left out. He bragged about leaving explanatory material out of his story. He did the same thing in his well-known story "The Killers." No one will ever know what Ole Andreson did to make someone want to have him killed or how they knew he was hiding out in the town of Summit. The virtue of stories like Hemingway's is that they get right into the dramatic part of the story. "The Killers" has a wonderful opening sentence:

The door of Henry's lunch-room opened and two men came in.

Who are they? Where did they come from? What did they want?

 

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Think of conventional plot as a three-part entity: beginning => middle => end. The function of the beginning is to present an initial, usually stable situation as...

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vnessawong21 | Student

Exposition is usually a starting event or situation which introduces the reader to the story. The exposition will provide the reader with some background information on the story he or she is about to dive into. Often authors will use the exposition to set up the story in relation to the theme, conflicts, symbols and mood. Some stories may contain long complex expositions which are crucial to understanding the story while other stories will have short expositions which reveal a key piece of information or simply ease the reader into the story. 

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user1296879 | Student

The exposition is the beginning or introduction of a literary work.  It introduces the characters, setting, and conflict.  It leads into the rising action using an inciting incident which begins the development of complications and action in the piece.

ssandhu05 | Student

Exposition has two main definitions. The first one is that it is a comprehensive description and explanation of an idea or theory. The second is that it is a large public display or arts or trade goods. It is also a literary device used in literature, used to introduce settings, characters, and background information before the actual events happen in a story of a work. This is similar to the first main definition described before.

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rainbow7 | Student

Exposition is the beginning of a story.

ahmedrehan | Student

a comprehensive description and explanation of an idea or theory.

ahmedrehan | Student

The start.

nishu2766 | Student

I have a past, you have a past and everyone you know has a past. When you start to read a book or watch a movie or television program, the story does not typically begin with the birth of the main character. Instead, the narrative begins whenever the writer wants to start the character's journey. This journey could begin when a character is five or thirty-five or even ninety-five years old. However, often times a writer will need to provide certain details about a character's past in order for the reader or spectator to understand the story. This backstory is called exposition. It provides an audience not only with the important details about the characters before the story begins but it also helps the audience get to know the setting of where the narrative will unfold.

udonbutterfly | Student

The exposition of a story is usually the beginning of a story. In the exposition the setting, and characters are usually established. Let's take the book Twilight for example, as the story begins we are introduced to Bella and her trip to forks. And in the first chapter Meyer spends the it getting the reader familiar with Bella's life and who Charlie is. This is an example of an exposition.

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taangerine | Student

An exposition is like the introduction to the story. It introduces the characters and the setting. It also foreshadows what happens in the the book later on. 

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atyourservice | Student

The exposition of a story is literally the beginning of the story. It is where the characters are introduced, and us as the readers learn the setting of the story and get introduced to the plot.

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jess1999 | Student

The exposition is during the beginning of the story . It introduces the characters and the setting . It basically gives you the basic information for the story .

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arrellbelle | Student

An exposition is a concise explanation of the story, idea, or theory behind the author's writings. Essentially, this is where the background story is mentioned, the story behind each character is explained and described. This usually helps for the reader to understand and comprehend the story a lot better rather than leave them second-guessing. 

crystaltu001 | Student

Exposition is the beginning of the story, when it first starts. It tells the main characters and what the conflict is

melissa1106 | Student

The exposition of a story is where the general information of a story is layed out. The setting, the main conflict and the characters are explained and described to the readers. They are usually not lengthy and serve to help the reader better understand what is going on in the novel.

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parama9000 | Student

Exposition is to get the readers interested invthe book, make a general introduction to the characters, especially the main characters of the book.

acompanioninthetardis | Student

The exposition is basically the beginning of the story in which the characters, crucial background information and the situation is introduced to the audience. 

zumba96 | Student

An exposition is the start of everything or where everything becomes introduced in a story. These can include the characters, time, date, place, setting, or even the problem that will be shown throughout the book or movie. Basically it is an introduction of everything in the book/movie. But its best not to add too much exposition because that can cause excessive rambling. 

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aarontaylor50 | Student

Exposition is basically bringing your audience up to date. An actor in an interview from a television show said he was unsure as to whether they (the production team) had "provided enough exposition" for a storyline to make sense. It is providing that pivotal information that is necessary in order for what follows to be understood.

A simple example would be "Jill came tumbling after." This makes little sense without the required exposition that informed the audience that Jill had previously gone up the hill with Jack that they later fall and tumble back down.

However, you also need to be careful not to provide too much exposition! You don't want your audience getting caught up in unnecessary details that don't actually contribute to the story. "Jack and Jill went up the hill the morning after they had visited their elderly grandmother who had provided cookies and milk" is too much exposition for the story that is to come.

Jyotsana | Student

Exposition is the beginning of the story where it introduces the character, the setting and the first plot.

yukyukco | Student

Exposition, from its root word, expose means to reveal. its is the part of a story that talks about an important background to the readers or audience like for instance, the setting of the story, about the characters, happenings or events that occurs before the main plot. Exposition can be a flashback moment, explaining what had happened to a certain portion of the story. 

Yojana_Thapa | Student

Exposition is in the beginning of a story. It introduces the characters, setting. It is mainly the introduction.

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spyromello | Student

Exposition is the beginning of a story. It provides the reader the setting, background history, and main character of the story and a "hook" which is used to "capture" a reader. :)

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sparker454 | Student

The exposition is the begging of a story. It brings you into the story, kind of like a introduction. It is the first part of the plot. This part can some times be boring but stick with it and you will have a lot of background info on the story and charcters.

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wescarlyon337 | Student

Exposition is the beginning of a story, the introduction.

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popan006 | Student

the beginning

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angelsallu | Student

What is an Exposition?

The exposition is the part of a book that sets the stage for the drama to follow: it introduces the theme, setting, characters, and circumstances at the story’s beginnings. To identify the exposition, find in the first few chapters (or pages) where the author gives a description of the setting and the mood before the action takes place.

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mfreddo | Student

The exposition encompases the main elements of the introduction.  Think "expose." The reader becomes aware of the setting, characters just before their confllict(s) come into the picture.  Tension then builds as the conflict develops during the rising action leading to the turning point, or climax of the story.

 

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popan006 | Student

the beginning of the story, first chapter

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bupita | Student

It's in the beginning of the story. Basically it introduces the characters, setting, time period, etc. The rising action comes after it.

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unknown-awesomeness | Student

It is the beginning of the story when the conflicts haven't been introduced. (when the conflicts are introduced that is the initial incident)

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nesh1d4life | Student
ex·po·si·tion (ksp-zshn) n. 1. A setting forth of meaning or intent. 2. a. A statement or rhetorical discourse intended to give information about or an explanation of difficult material. b. The art or technique of composing such discourses. 3. Music a. The first part of a composition in sonata form that introduces the themes. b. The opening section of a fugue. 4. The part of a play that provides the background information needed to understand the characters and the action. 5. An act or example of exposing. 6. A public exhibition or show, as of artistic or industrial developments.
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faithm99 | Student

It usually gives you an introduction.

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faithm99 | Student

The exposition is the main event in the beginning of the novel.

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soccerlover2 | Student

The introduction of a story. Uasually introduces the conflict and the main characters.

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naldskee27 | Student

Exposition usually pertains about the beginning of a narrative and encompasses the beginning of the plot, but it is not actually need to  represent at the start of the text. it is also the author's narrative providing of some background pieces information to the audience , characters' histories, setting(place and time). Exposition ican also be considered one of four rhetoricalof discourse, along with  description,  and narration, and argumentation. In addition to that, from the common or known usage exposition of narratives such as; in a form of  novels,television shows, films, and plays the concept r the building block could be used in some other non-narrative settings, such as speeches (publicly) or academic reports (lassroom set-up).

 

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lalithareddy | Student

The exposition is the part of a book that sets the stage for the drama to follow: it introduces the theme, setting, characters, and circumstances at the story’s beginnings. To identify the exposition, find in the first few chapters (or pages) where the author gives a description of the setting and the mood before the action takes place.

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revolution | Student

You will realized that not everything you read is strictly true, even a factual recount can include words which will affect the way people look at things.

But, expository writing is different, it argues a point of view, which you can find it in a newspaper column, in a letter to a newspaper editor, and sometimes in your own school essay, where you express your own point of view on an interesting topic.

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arjun | Student
It is a genre that is used in all literary works as a help to the readers to understand it very well.As in drama it is found in first act and scene in which the introduction of characters and problems is mentioned in order to lead the story to end.As poetry is concerned in it we find the poet submits the introduction of topic and in essays or terms we find it as the definition of work. It provides us the basic knowledge that is essential.
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