Anecdotes, which sometimes are mistakenly considered to be used exclusively for comical purposes, play an important role in numerous literary pieces. An anecdote implies a short story, a brief account of a specific event or accident. Usually, it is interesting, captivating, or amusing. It can also have some biographical details of the person telling or writing about it.
The term originates from the “anékdota” (Late Greek), which can be translated as “the unpublished”, “secret”. The anecdote dates back to 1670-1680, when it was first mentioned in the English language. It was borrowed into English from the French word, which translates as “a private story”.
Anecdote can be implemented equally effectively in both real-life conversations and literary pieces. The role of an anecdote, in the broadest sense, is to make a conversation more interesting. We might share an anecdote about some event from our life to amuse the interlocutor. The author might make one of the characters tell an anecdote in order to provide some additional info and establish a more personal bond between the hero and the reader.
In literary pieces, anecdotes can be implemented when a character needs to add some extra information, oftentimes in a comical or a very casual way. It is also a great way for the author to share his wisdom or illustrate his sense of humor.
Anecdotes can be applied when the author wants to warn the reader or prevent them from doing something. By sharing a real-life story, even through the words of the characters, the author sets an example and creates a cautious effect of the narrative. An anecdote can provide demonstrative examples, which can be very influential.
Oftentimes, anecdotes are used to set the mood of the narrative, add some bright notes to it, and cheer the heroes and the reader. The anecdote’s style isn’t limited to just being funny. It can be an interesting occurrence, which doesn’t necessarily make the reader laugh but certainly amuses them and raises their interest.
Anecdotes are quite effective for encouraging purposes. They are able to persuade and inspire the reader, as anecdotes often describe extremely plausible events. When linked to a proper context, an anecdote can have a rather influential effect on the reader and can support the idea of the narrative.
When a character needs to go through a reminiscent experience, the author can employ an anecdote. This technique will allow the character to dive into his or her memories. Moreover, anecdotes can add a somewhat nostalgic atmosphere to the narrative. They can also help the author provide some additional information and a certain context for the reader.
Anecdotes can have a philosophical purpose. When expressed in a specific way, they can make the readers think more deeply about a certain issue. This is when an anecdote can make the narrative more meaningful, provide some valuable insights, and support the main statement made by the author concerning certain moral aspects.
Anecdotes can appear in ordinary conversations where they can play the same roles as in literary pieces. For instance, in order to influence people and prevent them from doing ill-considered actions, the speaker can add a story from real life. Here, an anecdote is going to serve as a caution. A lecture about fire safety can begin with a brief story about an accident that happened because people didn’t follow the safety rules.
Even though anecdotes aren’t a very prevalent literary tool, they still can be found in numerous literary pieces. And because this tool is quite versatile and can be used for different specific purposes, it can appear in the works that belong to different genres, from science fiction to romance.
M. Proust in his “Swann’s Way” used an anecdote to provide some additional information to the narrative and make the text segment a bit more personal. Here, the character shares one of his strongest memories from the past while having a discussion about the ability to remember and recollect the past. He describes in detail the time when he ate a madeleine cookie. Here, the anecdote contributes to the narrative and presents some personal details concerning the character.
In “To Kill a Mockingbird”, the author uses anecdote for a philosophical purpose, to make the reader think deeper about the situation. Dill tells a story that he made up in order to explain his departure. The story turns out to be untrue and hides the real reason behind Dill’s departure: the lack of feeling loved by his parents. Here, an anecdote helps both the reader and the heroes, Scout and Jem, take a deeper look at the issue. The anecdote allows Scout (as well as the reader) to comprehend another aspect of human life better, give more thought to Scout’s family, and draw a comparison between the characters.