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In medias res

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  • In medias res is a literary term that has its roots in Ancient Rome. We will look at the meaning of the term in medias res, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

    In medias res means to begin a story in the middle, to begin telling a story in the midst of the action and without preamble. In medias res is a Latin phrase that literally means in the middle of things. A story that begins in medias res may then go back to explain what happened before the action, or simply continue onward in the story and leave it to the reader to piece together the backstory. However, many stories that begin in medias res are told non-linearly. Some examples of the literary device of in medias res are the film Gandhi, which begins with Gandhi’s assassination and funeral and then tells his life story in flashback, and the novel Lord of the Flies by William Golding in which the story begins on the island, skipping discussion of the plane crash and why the boys were on the plane in the first place. The term in medias res was coined by the Roman poet Horace in 13 BC in his work Ars Poetica, describing the ideal poet: “Nor does he begin the Trojan War from the egg, but always he hurries to the action, and snatches the listener into the middle of things. . . .”

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    Examples

    Bose’s novel opens up in medias res, four hours after Maloti and Jayanto’s love-making during a night of hard rain. (Himal Southasian Magazine)

    The book opens in medias res at the portals of an ancient Christian bastion in Udayamperoor, Kerala. (The Indian Express)

    Her novel, which opens in medias res and then proceeds to get very hectic very swiftly, takes place over a 24-hour period and unfolds in a suburban home somewhere in Melbourne’s settled, self-satisfied, arboreal fringe. (The Australian)

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