You might have heard the term epiphany and wondered what it means. In this piece, we are going to be taking a look at the meaning of an epiphany as well as looking at how it can be used in the way of spoken language as well as being used as a literary device. We will also be looking at some examples of epiphany, this will help us to gain a greater understanding of how it can function.
What is epiphany?
The word epiphany comes from the Greek language and is known to translate to mean manifestation or appearance. It can also refer to the meaning of a reveal. This ties in nicely with the meaning of the concept of epiphany, when it is used as a literary device, an epiphany is a moment in which a character gains clarity or understanding of a situation. They may have been through a series of events which made no sense or left them feeling uncertain but at the moment of the epiphany, they gain knowledge, awareness and realisation. Using the concept of epiphany allows the writer to let the character see a situation with a fresh pair of eyes or in a brand new light. Usually, when the character has an epiphany, they are then able to much more easily tackle the situation or problem with which they are faced.
In other terms, the epiphany may happen outside of literature and in our day to day lives, there are many examples of this such as the scientist who has been looking for a certain result who then has an epiphany and is more easily able to find the solution to the problem. In other day-to-day terms, one might have an epiphany to do with their personal situation such as their relationship with a significant other or an element in their career. The epiphany is simply a moment of discovery and realisation that urges your life forward in a positive way by giving you clarity in order to solve a problem.
Examples Of Epiphany In Literature
As we mentioned, the epiphany is a useful literary device in which the writer gives their character a new vision on a situation and this, therefore, allows them to have better knowledge and understanding. We are now going to take a look at some examples of times where writers have employed the use of epiphany in their work.
- In William Shakespeare’s play, Othello we see one of the characters experience an epiphany when hearing the speech of another. The main character of Othello realises upon hearing the speech that he had wrongly murdered his wife, but now it was too late.
- In the famous novel, Great Expectations written by Charles Dickens, the character Pip, has an epiphany when he realises that the person who he believed to be his benefactor, is not and that his true benefactor is in fact, a convict.
- In The Dead by James Joyce, one of the characters has a big epiphany after attending a party which allows the character to realise how dull his life is, this then causes him to think about the fact that one day, he will certainly die and this greatly changes his attitude to his life.
- In Hamlet, written by William Shakespeare, we see another example of epiphany when the title character is sailing aboard a ship to England. Up until this point, he had been plotting revenge for the person who had killed his father but then he suddenly realises that will not achieve anything and utters the line “There is a divine power which forms our ends, view them how we shall.”
Examples Of Epiphany In Spoken Or Daily Life
There are many occasions in which you might notice epiphany in your day to day life, or indeed in the lives of others. Let’s now look at some examples of times that epiphany might occur.
- One of the most famous epiphany moments in history is when Sir Isaac Newton had an apple fall upon his head, this was a moment which gave him an understanding of the force of gravity.
- The special theory of relativity thought up by Albert Einstein came about after he had an epiphany when returning home and feeling very deflated. He considered the idea of having gotten home at light speed and in turn, the light from the clock in the town would not have yet reached him, despite his car clock ticking as usual. Therefore the time within the car and outside of the car would be slightly different. From this moment he went on to create the full theory.
- If we were to look at an example of someone who smokes, they might smoke for their entire lives but then suddenly see something which completely changes their perspective on the habit, causing them to see it in a new light and cease smoking. They might see their small child putting a cigarette in their mouths or watch a friend suffer a smoking-related illness or death.
- Greek Mathematician, Archimedes had the famous eureka moment when he had an epiphany when trying to determine the density of gold of the royal crown. This occurred when he was taking a bath and realised that his weight, in fact, displaced the water and the same effect would be seen with the crown, thereby allowing him to calculate its density.
- Imagine a mother who feeds her children with a diet of fast food and unhealthy meals. When the doctor announces that one of her children is overweight and at risk of health conditions, she has an epiphany and realises that she needs to change what she is feeding them.
In this article, we have learned that an epiphany is a moment in time where a literary character or a real-life person comes to a new realisation of a situation, enabling them to better understand it and therefore tackle it. It is used as a turning point for a character within a story and allows there to be a final conclusion. We have seen that there are many examples of epiphany in both our day to day lives as well as in a literary sense.