Examples of Falling Action In Literature

Definition of Falling Action

Falling action is part of the plot where the central conflict begins to resolve after reaching the climax. It provides aid between the emotional peak of the climax and the final conclusion or denouement. During the falling action, the main tensions of the narrative start to untangle, though some loose ends remain. The pace generally slows after the big turning point, with attention focused on tying up narrative threads. The falling action signals a decompression from the highest point of drama and action.

However, falling action remains an integral part of the narrative arc. It shapes how the audience processes and makes sense of the climax’s events and impacts. Falling action is essentially the cathartic aftermath, where the consequences of the climax play out and meaning is forged.

How Writers Use Falling Action

While the climax may resolve the primary conflict, the falling action works to resolve any secondary conflicts and answer lingering questions raised during the story. Authors may use falling action to wrap up subplots, pay off foreshadowing, reveal information about characters’ fates, or reflect on the story’s themes.

Pacing is key when writing falling action. There needs to be a discernible shift from the climactic high tension, with plot points moving less rapidly but still maintaining narrative momentum. Writers aim to ease readers and viewers down from the climax in a controlled way that feels inevitable but surprising.

In terms of emotional impact, the falling action can usher in a sense of relief, hope, or triumph for the protagonist and audience. But it may sometimes heighten suspense, sadness, or unease. It depends on the story’s genre and the particular events and choices of the characters.

Falling action often involves characters having epiphanies, realizations, or gaining clarity on the events that transpired. It’s a chance for the protagonist to process both internal and external changes. For the antagonist, it may feature moments of defeat, enlightenment, or doubling down on villainy.

Examples of Falling Action in literature


“The Odyssey” by Homer

“Then Odysseus in his turn melted, and wept as he clasped his dear wife, the constant soul he had won with toil and pain, so at their life’s setting, after they had suffered many adventures, they still found joy.”

This longer quote shows the emotional reunion between Odysseus and Penelope after being apart for many years. Their crying and embracing conveys deep relief and love. However, challenges still remain to restore order which makes up the falling action.


“The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

“He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God. So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning-fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed her. At his lips’ touch she blossomed like a flower and the incarnation was complete.”

The excerpt shows that Nick is examining how Gatsby’s grand dreams were too perfectly imagined and could not survive contact with the imperfect and limited reality of the actual Daisy. When Gatsby finally kissed Daisy, his visions “wed” to her “perishable breath,” meaning his idealized fantasies met the faults and limits of real human existence. Nick reflects that Gatsby’s creative, hopeful mind would “never romp again” as freely and hopefully once it faced this truth. The falling action has Nick pondering Gatsby’s loss of naive but beautiful aspirations as he makes sense of the crushing climactic events.


“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.”

Atticus shares this wisdom with Scout and Jem to teach them an important lesson. He clarifies that true courage does not mean having a gun but to face the challenges even when you know the odds are against you. Atticus explains that courage persists through difficulties, no matter what, to stand up for what is right. His words tie back to the novel’s themes about moral integrity and the need for empathy even in difficult times. Atticus wants Scout and Jem to grasp these vital principles as they reflect on the climactic trial events.


“The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck

“But-we keep a-comin’. We’re the people that live. Can’t nobody lick us. We’ll go on forever, Pa, ’cause we’re the people…”

Ma Joad makes this powerful speech after learning her son Tom has been arrested. Her fiery words unite the migrant farmers and give them hope to continue their journey despite many hardships. This falling action shifts the mood from defeat to one of dignity and perseverance.


“Blood Meridian” by Cormac McCarthy

“Only at night and at the hour of their former watches, which body had been theirs, they will sometimes sleep.”

McCarthy’s haunting final lines create a surreal atmosphere after the bloody climax. The “body” and “watches” imagery reinforces the cyclical nature of violence. This cryptic falling action chillingly suggests evil cannot be contained but instead endures.

Examples of Falling Action In Literature
Examples of Falling Action In Literature

Related Terms


It refers to the final resolution of the main conflicts. It ties up the loose ends that occur after the falling action. The denouement brings the story to its conclusion. It often provides a sense of closure for the reader. It answers any lingering questions and deals with the consequences set in motion by the climactic events.

Falling action leads up to this final stage, the denouement seals the story’s fate. This indicates that the narrative arc has reached its natural end point. The denouement ensures the story achieves a satisfying completeness before ending.


An epiphany is a character’s powerful moment of sudden realization, revelation or insight. Falling action often features characters experiencing epiphanies as they process the deeper implications and consequences of climactic events. The epiphany marks an enlightened change of perspective that grants the character a new understanding of themselves, others, or universal truths.

It represents a key transformation in the character’s journey. Epiphanies frequently spur characters to gain emotional healing, moral clarity, or wisdom from their struggles. They open the path forward from a place of heightened self-awareness. Epiphanic revelations allow the thematic meanings of the narrative to crystallize in the character’s psyche, giving profound weight to the falling action.

See also: Literary Devices That Start With F

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