What Is a Resolution? Definition & 25+ Examples

Have you ever found yourself so entranced by a story that when you reach the end, you exhale, realizing you’ve been holding your breath in suspense? This all-too-common experience points to the pivotal role of “resolution” in literature.

It’s that moment when loose ends intertwine, quandaries untangle, and the characters finally exhale along with us. Not just an end, but an illumination, the resolution has the power to reshape our understanding of the story’s journey, leaving an indelible mark that transcends the final page.

Let’s unravel this potent literary element and explore its magic together.

Table of Contents

Defining Resolution

The term “resolution” in literature, often referred to as the dénouement, signifies the final section of a narrative where the central conflict or problem is decisively addressed and resolved. It’s the point at which the plot’s various strands are drawn together, loose ends are tied up, and a sense of closure or completion is achieved.

Following the climax or the story’s peak tension point, the resolution offers an outcome for the characters, demonstrating their evolution throughout the narrative. It reflects the consequences of the events that have unfolded and provides an emotional release for both the characters and the reader.

The resolution serves as an integral part of the narrative arc, influencing the reader’s final impression of the story and underlining its overarching themes and messages.

Importance of Resolution

Resolution Ties up Loose Ends and Provides Closure to A Story

A resolution is a crucial element in literature, as it ties up loose ends and provides closure to a story. A satisfying resolution leaves readers with a sense of completion and contributes to their overall enjoyment of the work.

Resolution Serves the Purpose of Resolving Conflicts

In many stories, the resolution serves the purpose of resolving conflicts, both internal and external. Characters may experience personal growth or gain new insights as they overcome obstacles. This growth can lead to emotional resolution, allowing readers to connect with characters on a deeper level. Additionally, external conflicts often drive the plot, and resolving them can help maintain the story’s momentum.

Resolution Highlights the Lessons Learned by The Characters

One must also consider the role resolution plays in developing themes and messages in a literary work. By providing closure, resolution often highlights the key takeaways and lessons learned by the characters. This in turn helps readers to reflect on their own lives and experiences, thus enriching their engagement with the material.

Resolutions Can Enhance the Story’s Structure and Pacing

Moreover, well-crafted resolutions can enhance the story’s structure and pacing. A well-planned resolution ensures that all storylines and subplots are brought to their appropriate endpoints. An effective resolution answers the questions raised during the narrative and ties up any ambiguities, allowing readers to fill in the gaps and fully comprehend the author’s intent.

Functions of Resolution

Resolution Provides a Sense of Closure

Resolution serves various important functions in literature. One primary function is to provide a sense of closure, which allows readers to feel satisfied with the conclusion of the story. The resolution ties up loose ends and answers any lingering questions that may have been presented throughout the narrative.

Resolution Reveals the Final Consequences of The Character’s Choices and Actions

Another function is to reveal the final consequences of the character’s choices and actions. This is crucial in understanding the moral or message the author is trying to convey. For example, characters who learn from their mistakes or face consequences can exhibit personal growth and provide valuable lessons to readers.

Resolutions Can Highlight the Theme of The Story

By examining how the narrative’s conflicts and tensions are resolved, readers can gain a deeper understanding of the underlying message that the author wants to convey. This understanding can then be applied to the reader’s own experiences and worldview.

Resolutions May Leave the Audience with An Open-Ended or Ambiguous Ending

In some instances, resolutions may leave the audience with an open-ended or ambiguous ending. This allows room for interpretation and sparks discussions about the various possible outcomes. Open-ended resolutions challenge readers to use their imagination and critical thinking skills, engaging them well beyond the final page of the story.

Elements of Resolution

In literature, resolution is the final stage in a story’s plot, where conflicts are resolved and loose ends are tied up. It is also commonly known as dénouement, a French term meaning “untying.” This section will discuss the essential elements of resolution in literature.

Climax of The Story

One key element of resolution is the climax of the story. This is the point where the central conflict reaches its peak and the tension is highest. The climax is typically followed by the falling action, which leads to the resolution. The protagonist may achieve their goal, fail, or experience a combination of success and failure.

Change in The Characters

Another crucial element of resolution is the change in the characters. Throughout the story, characters undergo transformations, and these changes play an essential role in the resolution. For instance, the protagonist may learn an essential lesson or acquire new values that help them overcome the conflicts they face.

Tying up Of Subplots

The tying up of subplots can also contribute to the resolution. Many stories include subplots, which are smaller narratives that add complexity to the main plot. These subplots often follow their own arc, which generally ties into the main story. As the story reaches its resolution, these subplots are typically resolved as well.

Explanation of Mysterious Occurrences

In some instances, a resolution may involve an explanation of mysterious occurrences or the unveiling of hidden information. The author may provide crucial details that tie the story together and make the narrative more meaningful. This type of resolution helps the reader feel satisfied upon finishing the story and often elicits an emotional response.

Types of Resolution

Happy Resolution

In a happy resolution, the protagonist achieves their goal and overcomes obstacles, leading to a satisfying or joyful conclusion. This type of resolution often occurs in romantic comedies, adventure stories, and fairy tales. Characters find love, win battles, or gain personal insight, bringing happiness to themselves and often to others.

Tragic Resolution

Tragic resolutions are marked by the downfall of the protagonist or other major characters, resulting in negative outcomes. Tragedies, such as those written by Shakespeare, often feature this type of resolution. Loss, suffering, or death may be major elements of these endings.

Bittersweet Resolution

A bittersweet resolution occurs when a story offers a mixture of happiness and sadness, combining elements of both victory and defeat. Characters may experience growth or understanding but at the same time, face losses, disappointments, or unresolved issues.

Unresolved Ending

An unresolved ending intentionally leaves the reader with questions or uncertainties, as it doesn’t conclude the story definitively. These endings can be found in various genres, such as mystery, thriller, or dystopian fiction, and often provoke thought or discussion among readers.

Twist Ending

A twist ending surprises readers with an unexpected turn of events. This type of resolution can involve plot twists, revelations, or significant character changes, leading to a dramatic, memorable conclusion.

Moral Resolution

In a moral resolution, the conclusion emphasizes the moral or ethical lessons learned by the protagonist or by the reader. Fables, parables, and some children’s stories often include moral resolutions, in which the protagonist’s experiences serve as cautionary or instructive tales for the audience.

Ambiguous Resolution

Ambiguous resolutions are those that do not provide a clear-cut ending or a definitive outcome. Instead, they leave the reader questioning the ultimate fate or decisions of the characters. Ambiguity in a resolution can be seen in literary works like Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” or F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.”

Deus Ex Machina

Deus ex machina is a sudden, unexpected resolution that involves an external force, such as divine intervention or an improbable coincidence, which resolves the story’s conflicts. This literary device, which has its roots in ancient Greek tragedy, can be found in many stories, including science fiction and fantasy tales.

Circular or Cyclical Resolution

A circular or cyclical resolution is a type of ending where the story comes full circle or repeats itself in some way. This can involve characters returning to where they started, a recurrence of motifs or themes, or a renewal of past dynamics, illustrating how nothing has changed or that history repeats itself.

Multiple Resolutions

Multiple resolutions can be found in stories with multiple plotlines, diverse protagonists, or complex themes. In these cases, different resolutions may be presented for different characters, settings, or conflicts. For example, the works of Charles Dickens or the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series by George R. R. Martin often contain multiple, intertwining plotlines with various resolutions.

Examples of Resolution in Literature


"Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen 

In the resolution, Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy reconcile their differences and get married, overcoming their initial prejudices.
"To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee 

Scout realizes the importance of empathy and the moral lesson Atticus has been teaching her throughout the novel.
"1984" by George Orwell 

Winston Smith's rebellion is crushed as he is brainwashed and learns to love Big Brother.
"The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald 

After Gatsby's death, Nick Carraway reflects on the futile pursuit of wealth and the American Dream.
"Lord of the Flies" by William Golding 

The boys are rescued by a naval officer, but the experience has changed them and shown the dark side of human nature.

Short Story

"The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry 

Della and Jim's sacrifices demonstrate the depth of their love for each other, despite their material poverty.
"The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allan Poe 

Montresor takes his revenge on Fortunato by walling him up alive, achieving his goal with no consequences.
"A Good Man is Hard to Find" by Flannery O'Connor 

The grandmother's pleas for mercy ultimately fail as the Misfit kills her, reinforcing the story's theme of moral degradation.
"The Lady, or the Tiger?" by Frank R. Stockton 

The story ends without revealing the protagonist's fate, leaving the reader to decide whether he meets the lady or the tiger.
"The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe 

The narrator confesses to the murder due to the guilt-induced hallucination of the beating heart, showing that his attempt to conceal his crime was futile.


"The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost 

The speaker reflects on how their choice of path has made a difference in their life, emphasizing the importance of individual choices.
"Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" by Dylan Thomas 

The final stanza encourages the reader to fight against death, revealing the poem's central theme of perseverance.
"Ode to a Nightingale" by John Keats 

The speaker returns to reality, understanding that the beauty of the nightingale's song is unattainable in the mortal world.
"The Waste Land" by T.S. Eliot 

The poem concludes with a meditation on death and rebirth, alluding to the need for spiritual healing in a broken world.
"Dulce et Decorum Est" by Wilfred Owen 

The last lines expose the lie of glorifying war, driving home the poem's anti-war message.


"Romeo and Juliet" by William Shakespeare 

The tragic deaths of the young lovers ultimately bring peace between the feuding Montague and Capulet families.
"Death of a Salesman" by Arthur Miller 

Willy Loman's suicide highlights the harsh realities of the American Dream and the limitations of self-delusion.
"Hamlet" by William Shakespeare 

Hamlet finally avenges his father's death but loses his own life in the process, illustrating the destructive power of revenge.
"A Streetcar Named Desire" by Tennessee Williams 

Blanche is taken away to a mental institution as her sister Stella chooses to believe her husband Stanley, showcasing the destructiveness of delusion and illusion.
"The Crucible" by Arthur Miller 

John Proctor's decision to die with his integrity intact exposes the hypocrisy and injustice of the Salem witch trials.

Examples of Resolution in Pop Culture


"The Shawshank Redemption" by Frank Darabont 

The protagonist, Andy Dufresne, ultimately escapes from prison and is reunited with his friend, Red, in Zihuatanejo, Mexico.
"The Godfather" by Francis Ford Coppola 

After avenging his father's assassination attempt, Michael Corleone consolidates power and secures his position as head of the family.
"Forrest Gump" by Robert Zemeckis 

Forrest finds closure in his relationship with Jenny, raises their son, and continues visiting her grave under their tree.
"Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope" by George Lucas 

Luke Skywalker and the rebels destroy the Death Star to secure victory against the evil Empire.
"Schindler's List" by Steven Spielberg 

Oskar Schindler saves over a thousand Jews from the Holocaust and is reassured that his good deeds outweigh his past actions.

Television Show

"Breaking Bad" by Vince Gilligan 

Walter White manages to free Jesse Pinkman and eliminate his remaining enemies before succumbing to his injuries.
"Friends" by David Crane and Marta Kauffman 

The six friends say goodbye to the apartment and each other as they move on to different stages in their lives.
"The Office" by Greg Daniels 

The employees of Dunder Mifflin attend Dwight's wedding, celebrate one last work party, and gracefully end their respective arcs.
"Game of Thrones" by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss 

Despite the chaos in Westeros, the surviving characters find new beginnings in the aftermath of a tumultuous war.
"Parks and Recreation" by Greg Daniels and Michael Schur 

Leslie Knope and her colleagues move on from the Parks Department to pursue new career and personal growth opportunities.

The Connection Between Resolution and Other Literary Elements

Characters and Protagonist

The resolution in literature is dependent on the characters, particularly the protagonist, as they drive the action of the story. Throughout a narrative, characters experience growth and change, ultimately leading to the resolution.

During this phase, the characters confront the consequences of their actions, and the protagonist often experiences a significant shift in perspective, resolving both internal and external conflicts.

Conflict and Climax

Resolution is connected to a story’s conflict and climax. The rising action leading to the climax generates the central conflict, while the resolution provides an answer or resolution to said conflict. After the story’s climax, the falling action paves the way for the final resolution or denouement.”

It is during this time that tensions slowly decrease, any loose ends are tied up, and questions are answered, providing readers with a sense of closure.

Theme and Central Message

The resolution also carries the story’s theme and central message, often cementing a narrative’s moral or lesson. While the theme is an underlying element throughout the story, it becomes most evident during the resolution.

As conflicts are settled and relationships between the characters are clarified, the overarching themes of the narrative are solidified, leaving the reader with the intended message or takeaway from the author.

Impact of Resolution on Literature

Resolution Provides a Satisfying Conclusion to The Story

Resolutions have a significant impact on a reader’s experience with a piece of literature. They help to tie up loose ends and provide a satisfying conclusion to the story. Readers often seek closure, and a well-crafted resolution can deliver that, leaving them with a feeling of satisfaction.

One way that resolutions achieve this is by addressing the main conflicts or problems presented in the story and demonstrating how the characters have grown or changed throughout their journey. This can create a sense of accomplishment, validating the characters’ efforts and struggles and providing readers with a sense of completion.

Resolutions Can Contribute to A Sense of Emotional Catharsis for Readers

When a story reaches its conclusion, readers are given the opportunity to process their emotions and reactions to the events of the story, resulting in a purging of emotions or a release of emotional tension. This reflected resolution can be a rewarding experience for a reader.

Resolutions Can Serve to Drive Home Messages that The Author Wishes to Convey

In addition, resolutions can serve to drive home thematic elements or messages that the author wishes to convey. By clearly highlighting these themes at the end of the story, readers are more likely to internalize and appreciate the message or lesson offered.

However, not every piece of literature opts for a neatly wrapped resolution. Ambiguous or open-ended resolutions can also offer powerful effects. These endings leave the reader with lingering questions and an opportunity for introspection, allowing them to draw their own conclusions about the story and encouraging deeper engagement with the material.

Challenges of Crafting a Compelling Resolution

Balancing Plot and Character Development

Crafting a compelling resolution in literature is no easy feat, especially when it comes to balancing plot and character development. While a well-rounded plot should be engaging and constantly unfolding, character development must be gradual and well-timed. Ensuring that these two elements synchronize harmoniously is essential in creating an impactful resolution.

One approach to achieving this balance is to intertwine plot points with character beats. For instance, authors may reveal vital aspects of characters through their actions and reactions to specific events. Doing so allows readers to better understand and empathize with the characters while maintaining interest in the plot.

Another strategy involves alternating the focus between plot and character development. By shifting the emphasis back and forth, readers stay invested in both aspects of the story, ultimately leading to a more satisfying resolution.

Addressing Complex Issues

Another critical challenge in crafting a compelling resolution is addressing complex issues throughout the narrative. Often in literature, stories tackle important themes and subjects that don’t necessarily offer easy solutions or answers. To resolve such intricate matters effectively, authors must acknowledge the complexities and avoid oversimplifying them.

One way to approach complex issues is by providing multiple perspectives on the topic. This enables readers to grasp the nuances of the problem and the characters’ individual stances. Additionally, by incorporating realistic consequences and reactions to these issues, authors can provide a more authentic resolution, even if it doesn’t present a perfect solution.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a story have multiple resolutions?

Yes, in certain circumstances, stories can have multiple resolutions, especially when there are several subplots or multiple conflicts. Each subplot or conflict may have its resolution before the story concludes; however, the primary resolution typically focuses on the main plot and characters.

Can the resolution involve a twist?

Yes, the resolution of a story can definitely involve a twist. In fact, some of the most memorable story resolutions feature an unexpected turn of events or revelation. This surprise element can add a layer of excitement and make the conclusion of the story more impactful.

A twist in the resolution might involve a character revealing a hidden identity, an unexpected outcome of the story’s main conflict, or even a sudden change in the story’s setting or timeline. However, to be effective, such twists should be carefully set up throughout the story so they feel surprising yet plausible, rather than coming across as contrived or overly convenient.

Does a resolution have to resolve every conflict introduced in the story?

Not necessarily. While the resolution usually aims to resolve the main conflict of the story, it doesn’t always address every minor conflict or subplot. Some stories intentionally leave certain threads unresolved. This might be to maintain a sense of realism (since not all problems in life are neatly resolved), to provoke thought and discussion, or to leave room for a sequel or continuation.

However, leaving too many conflicts unresolved can leave readers feeling unsatisfied, so it’s important for authors to strike the right balance and ensure that the key conflicts driving the story are adequately addressed.

Does a resolution always have to be realistic?

A resolution does not always have to be realistic, but it should be consistent with the rules and the universe the story has established. In genres like fantasy, science fiction, or magical realism, the resolution might involve elements that are beyond the realm of our own reality. The key is that the resolution fits the narrative, characters, and world-building that has been set up throughout the story.

If the story has a more realistic tone and setting, a resolution that suddenly introduces unrealistic or fantastical elements without any foreshadowing or groundwork might feel jarring or unsatisfactory to readers. Thus, while realism isn’t a strict requirement, believability within the context of the story’s world is crucial.

How does a resolution contribute to the pacing of a story?

The resolution plays a significant role in the pacing of a story. After the climax, which is typically the most intense part of the narrative, the resolution provides a period of deceleration. This slowing down allows the narrative to gradually wrap up the plot, tie up loose ends, and provide closure for the characters and the reader.

The resolution essentially acts as a denouement, offering an opportunity for the characters and the audience to reflect on the events of the story and their implications. In this way, the resolution helps manage the story’s rhythm, transitioning it from the peak of the climax to the calm and closure of the ending.


In wrapping up our exploration of ‘resolution’ in literature, we can affirm its profound role in bringing stories full circle. The resolution not only ties up the narrative strands, but also leaves an enduring impression that often defines our entire experience of the story.

It carries the power to evoke a spectrum of emotions, underpin the story’s themes, and transmit the author’s intended message. Whether it’s a fairytale ending or a cliffhanger that leaves us yearning for more, the resolution is an indispensable component of storytelling, an art form that allows us to explore our humanity.

As we turn the final page, it’s the resolution that resonates within us, long after the book is closed.

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Aerielle Ezra is an enthusiastic student of architecture who has a wide range of interests, including psychology, lifestyle, and relationships. Apart from her studies, she also likes to engage in athletic activities, particularly volleyball. When she is not playing, she spends her free time watching her preferred sitcoms or reading her favorite books, which include fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and horror.