English Literature


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The Before Trilogy: A Classic Exploration of Dialogue in Literature

The Before trilogy, consisting of Before Sunrise (1995), Before Sunset (2004), and Before Midnight (2013), is a trio of films released nine years apart. These movies follow the relationship between Jesse and Celine, who met on a train to Paris. Praised for their effortless and beautiful dialogue, the films take us on a journey through the streets of Paris as the couple discusses love, life, and religion.

Dialogue is a crucial element in both literature and everyday life. In this article, we will delve into the role of dialogue in literature and its importance as a literary device.

What is Dialogue in Literature?

Dialogue plays a significant role in literary and artistic works, although not all forms of literature require it. It is commonly found in drama, films, and novels.

In literature, dialogue refers to a conversation between two or more characters written within a work. When the conversation is presented directly between two or more speakers, it is known as direct dialogue. On the other hand, when the narrator summarizes the conversation, and the reader does not experience it directly, it is called indirect dialogue.

While indirect dialogue is a narrative technique rather than a type of dialogue, it still serves to retell a conversation rather than present it directly to the reader.

Examples of Dialogue in Literature

At the end of Pride and Prejudice (1813), Elizabeth and Darcy resolve their differences, and she accepts his proposal. Their conversation is a combination of both direct and indirect dialogue, with passages such as: "He then told her of Georgiana's delight in her acquaintance...and that his gravity and thoughtfulness there had arisen from no other struggles than what such a purpose must comprehend."

The elderly narrator Sasha Jensen often has internal dialogues in Jean Rhys's novel Good Morning, Midnight (1939). These thoughts are presented within brackets, revealing Sasha's deep self-consciousness and self-criticism. For example: "I order sole and white wine. I eat with my eyes glued on my plate, the feeling of panic growing worse. (I told you not to come in here, I told you not to.)"

The Socratic Dialogue

Socratic dialogue is a form of literature in which philosophical ideas are explored through a series of questions and answers. It originated in Ancient Greece, with Socrates as its namesake and Plato as its primary proponent. In Socratic dialogue, Socrates uses a question and answer method to reveal the inconsistencies in the opinions of less-knowledgeable individuals, leading to wise philosophical conclusions.

This method of dialogue is not limited to Socrates as a character; anyone can create and write a Socratic dialogue. Its purpose is to uncover the truth about a particular topic through conversation.

The Purpose of Dialogue in Literature

Dialogue is a powerful storytelling technique that serves various purposes in literature. While it can be used for exposition and characterisation, its main function is to tell a story. Great dialogue not only provides context and fleshes out characters, but it also makes for an engaging reading experience.

Some of the main purposes of dialogue include:

  • Exposition: Dialogue can provide essential information and context for the reader, usually at the beginning of a story, to help them understand the world of the narrative. For instance: "Can we take the shortcut down that dark alley?," Richie asked. "No, we can't," replied Martha. "Don't you remember that someone was murdered there last year?"
  • Characterisation: The way characters speak and interact with each other can reveal a lot about their personalities and relationships. Paying attention to the tone used by different characters in a conversation can provide insight into their attitudes and feelings towards the topic being discussed and the person they are speaking to.

In Conclusion

Dialogue is a vital literary element that serves various purposes, from providing context and exposition to revealing character traits and relationships. When crafted skillfully, dialogue can enhance the reading experience and bring a story to life.

The Importance of Dialogue in Literature

Dialogue plays a crucial role in literature, serving as a tool to move the plot forward, reveal character traits, and create a connection between the reader and the story. It allows for multiple perspectives and prevents the reader from blindly siding with the protagonist. Let's dive into the significance of dialogue in different forms of literature.


In drama, dialogue is essential as it forms the basis of the play. It is used to portray emotions, motives, and relationships between characters. For instance, in Tennessee Williams' renowned play 'A Streetcar Named Desire' (1947), dialogue is used to convey the awkwardness and tension between two characters during a first meeting:

  • Mitch: Hello. [He stares at her.]
  • Stella: Blanche, this is Harold Mitchell. My sister, Blanche DuBois.
  • Mitch [with awkward courtesy]: How do you do, Miss DuBois.

Through this dialogue, the tone for their future interactions is set, adding depth to their relationship.


Even in poetry, dialogue is used to evoke emotion and add depth to the speaker's character. In Edgar Allen Poe's famous poem 'The Raven' (1845), the speaker's conversation with the raven reflects his inner turmoil:

On this home by Horror haunted—tell me truly, I implore—Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!" Quoth the Raven "Nevermore."

Here, the dialogue serves to characterize the speaker and propel the story towards its resolution.

The Elements of Good Dialogue

In fiction, good dialogue should be believable and natural, mimicking real-life conversations. However, it should also serve a purpose in the story, furthering the plot or developing a character. This is where it differs from real-life dialogue, which can often be used to fill silences or avoid awkwardness.

Furthermore, good dialogue should also be accompanied by descriptive narration to provide insight into the characters' true feelings and desires. A great example of this is in Jean Rhys' 'Wide Sargasso Sea' (1966), where first-person narration adds depth to the dialogue between Antoinette and Mr. Rochester, revealing their inner thoughts and emotions.

Ultimately, dialogue is a powerful storytelling tool that adds dimension and depth to literature in all forms. Whether it is used in drama, poetry, or prose, it serves as an integral part of the narrative, enhancing the reader's experience and bringing the story to life.

The Power of Dialogue in Literature: An Insight into Its Significance

In the world of writing, dialogue is a vital element that breathes life into characters and their stories. It is a spoken exchange between two or more characters in a written work, including novels, plays, and films. While some writers may not focus on realism in their work, using dialogue as a tool to convey their unique meaning, it is undeniable that effective use of dialogue can enhance the overall impact and readability of a piece of literature. A prime example of this is Samuel Beckett's 'Waiting for Godot' (1953), an absurdist play that explores the futility of life through nonsensical dialogue and actions.

What Exactly is Dialogue?

Dialogue is a form of communication between characters in a written work. Its purpose is to add an element of realism and human connection to a story, allowing readers to engage with the characters and their emotions. Apart from that, it can also reveal important information about the characters and drive the plot forward.

How Does Dialogue Serve Literature?

In literature, dialogue serves multiple purposes. It can provide essential exposition, giving readers crucial information about the story and its characters. It also helps to develop a character's personality, as their speech patterns and word choices can reveal a lot about them. Dialogue can also offer different perspectives, adding depth and complexity to the story.

How Do You Write Dialogue?

Dialogue is typically written using tags such as quotation marks, speech verbs, and line breaks to indicate who is speaking. However, authors may choose to omit these tags for stylistic purposes. It is essential to ensure that the dialogue is natural and realistic, reflecting how people would talk in real life. Dialogue should flow smoothly and contribute to the overall flow of the story.

Using Dialogue in Fiction

In fiction, dialogue is usually written in a way that feels realistic and believable. It should sound like a natural conversation between people, with each character's voice and personality shining through. However, authors can also use dialogue in a non-realistic manner to convey a specific message or theme. The key is to use dialogue in a way that serves the story and its purpose.

Famous Examples of Dialogue in Literature

There are countless examples of masterfully written dialogues in literature. In Margaret Atwood's 'The Handmaid's Tale' (1985), the exchanges between handmaids reveal the restrictions imposed by the state of Gilead. The handmaids must use specific phrases when speaking to each other, such as 'Blessed be the fruit' and 'May the Lord open.' This creates a sense of oppression and control in the story, highlighting the themes of power and oppression. Similarly, in 'The Raven' (1845) by Edgar Allen Poe, the dialogue between the narrator and the raven creates a sense of fear and despair. The repetitive phrase 'Nevermore' adds to the eerie atmosphere of the poem.

The Power of Dialogue: A Recap

In conclusion, dialogue is an essential aspect of literature that can bring depth, emotion, and impact to a story. It is a powerful tool that can be used in various ways to serve the author's artistic goals. By understanding the role of dialogue in literature, writers can create compelling and captivating stories that resonate with readers. So, the next time you pick up a book, pay attention to the dialogue and see how it contributes to the overall story. You might just discover a whole new level of appreciation for the power of dialogue in literature.

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