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What is Epiphany? Definition, Sentence, & Examples

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Your ‘Aha!’ moment can be an epiphany instead of an exclamation. It’s the expression that is expressed when you suddenly realize something. Can you relate it now? Aha!

And that’s what epiphany is. 

When explained as a literary device, epiphany is the moment when a person suddenly realizes something.  

For example:

John – Hey David, I think your method of solving questions is not accurate.

David – No man, it’s both fast and accurate.

John – Alright! All the best for the exam.

While solving problems, David during the exam, suddenly when he was unable to apply the method in most of the questions. He realized that John was right, his method was fast but not accurate. 

In this example, David’s epiphany is prompted during the examination and he realized he must change his methods in order to solve the questions accurately. 

Apart from everyday life, epiphany has been used in literature by writers to portray the sudden shift in a character which alters the movement of the plot altogether. Have you come across such moments while reading the book? Try knocking them down next time you read something. 

In the below section, you will learn about epiphany, its function, and its significance. 

Epiphany Meaning 

Before understanding the meaning of epiphany through its definition, it is better to start right from the pronunciation.

It is pronounced as ih-pif–uh-nee, keep trying till you get it right. Now, if till now you have been pronouncing it all wrong, then its phonetic might have prompted your epiphany of its pronunciation. 

Now, we define epiphany as a sudden awareness or realization that a person or a character from the book gains through experience. 

As said above, epiphany is used by writers to change the narrative structure and alter the movement of the plot. Just like the suspense novel or movies, when the writer has set the base of the character as innocent in your mind, but later he altered the direction of the plot by portraying him as the murderer. This sudden change is the character’s epiphany.

Moreover, epiphanies can occur at any moment and they tend to occur when least expected. You will see how in the below examples. 


After school got over, Harry and Debby, who were best friends, didn’t meet for years. And one day they bumped into each other at a coffee place, and they suddenly realized how much they have missed each other in these many years. 

This epiphany explains its random occurrence when they met after years and talked about how they were together in school. 

Julia has been drinking for many years. Though she knows it is not healthy, she just can’t quit. It isn’t until she gives birth to a child. This moment was her revelation. She has to quit for her baby. 

This epiphany is more of a predictable epiphany as, after birth, a woman goes through major changes both physically and mentally. At this moment, Julia realizes she must quit becoming the best mother. 

Example in Literature 

From the beginning of the use of literary terms, epiphany has been discussed, now it’s time to read some examples from the literature.

Hamlet (By William Shakespeare)

William Shakespeare used an epiphany in his play Hamlet. It is when Hamlet, the hero, is on a ship sailing to England. Till then, he was over-burdened with thinking and planning an act of flawless revenge on his father’s murderer, Claudius. Suddenly there is a flash of realization and he says:

“[T]here is a divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we will.”

Suddenly, he realizes that there is no wisdom for him in trying to plan the perfect revenge on Claudius and he must stop the moment and go with the current.

In Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, the main character, Scrooge, experiences an epiphany. 

Scrooge was portrayed as a pessimistic, harsh man who has no sympathy for other people. On Christmas Eve, he is led through the past, present, and future by three ghosts who show him the effects his attitude has on people he loves. As a result of this journey, Scrooge has an epiphany that he no longer wants to live life in this manner and changes his perception.

In this example, the revelation of the character was simply to treat others with kindness and gratitude.

Just like the above-mentioned examples, the list of examples from literature continues with the usage of epiphany in literature.

Function of Epiphany 

The function of epiphany can be described in the literature, where it serves the purpose of bringing a turning point in a plot. Thus, it makes the plot more twisted and interesting. And the writer changes the opinion of characters, events, and places in the reader’s mind, which might be pointing toward the conclusion of the story. 

Hence, epiphanies show a character’s growth as well as the reader’s. As both of them have learned something through their experience during the book.

Significance of Epiphany

The occurrence of epiphanies in real life is rare but it draws a great philosophical, spiritual, or personal insight. Similar insights can be drawn through the stories in literature. In terms of the story plot and narrative structure, epiphanies provide exciting and compelling events, which engage the readers. Just like in mystery novels, where a narrator ends the chapter with some twist and urges you to continue no matter how late it is at night.

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Jui Shirvalkar-Chandurkar

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