Definition of Synopsis

Synopsis means a condensed description or outline of the main literary work. Derived from Grecian roots of sun and opsis that means together and seeing, this word enter the Latin vocabulary, becoming a synopsis in or around the 17th century. Later, transformed into synopsis with the same spellings.

Grammatically, this is a noun and is used as synopses as plural. Commonly, it is called a summary of some scientific research that provides main points to the readers. Some other similar words used for it are precis, abstract, outlines, and summarization. In literature, it means a short explanation of books, movies or poems giving outlines to the readers to understand.

Examples of Synopsis in Literature

Example #1

A Synopsis of All Quiet On The Western Front by Eric Maria Remarque

The novel comprises the story of young German soldiers who feel disenchanted with the war after they feel that they are being thrown to die senselessly. Paul Baumer, the 20-year old protagonist not only learns the military jargon quickly but also feels alienated in society as well as in his own home. He fails to communicate properly with his father and sister. His war trauma leads him to feel the stupidity of war after which he does not think it is worth living and dies in the allied attacks.

Example #2

A Synopsis of Paradise Lost by John Milton

Paradise Lost, the popular English epic, written on the lines of Aeneid and Odyssey, comprises total 12 books, telling the story of the fall of Adam from Paradise, rebellion of Satan, and his machinations against God and vindication of Adam and Eve. It also presents the picture of the rebel angels, planning to exact revenge on God. The book, actually, seeks to present the ways of God to man and their justification to show that man is fallible and that it is God’s act to forgive him.

Example #3

A Synopsis of Hamlet by William Shakespeare

The masterpiece of William Shakespeare, Hamlet is a popular play since the Elizabethan age and is still popular. It has been staged hundreds of times around the globe with several movies presenting the dilemma of the prince of Denmark to show as if it is a universal dilemma. The story shows Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark, lamenting the suspicious death of his father, King Hamlet, and lambasting his mother and uncle King Claudius for hasty marriage. He wants to expose them while King Claudius wants to keep his crime covered as he has killed King Hamlet. In this struggle, palatial conspiracies go out of control until a Norwegian prince, too, arrives, and in the final scuffle, Hamlet, Fortinbras, Claudius, and Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude die.

Example #4

A Synopsis of A Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel

Written by New York Best Seller, this novel revolves around the life of Eva Traube Abrams, a Florida-based librarian who finds the book, The Book of Lost Names. It contains the names of the Jewish children lost in the maze of WWII in France where she worked during that time in 1942. She devised a plan to evade the Nazis and went to the Free Zone to help such orphans to cross the borders while loving Remy, her lover. In this fast and smooth fictional work, Harmel has narrated another side of the Holocaust, which has stayed hidden from the world so far. The novel runs like a flashback movie until all of the characters run to Switzerland.

Example #5

A Synopsis of Curfewed Night by Basharat Peer

This memoir of a Kashmiri journalist narrates his own story in the first-person account. The writer, Basharat Peer, is a New York-based famous journalist who writes for The New York Times and other global publications. The story revolves around his struggle to live in the densely militarized zone, daily crackdowns, and shootouts, and his journey back to his village where he has experienced the world’s worst mental torture in the shape of army crackdowns. He also narrates incidents of rapes, plunder, and killings of the local Kashmiris during the military raids against the Kashmiris fighting for independence. The story presents a pen-picture of his feelings, his observations, and his experience in his motherland.

Example #6

A Synopsis of The Last Metaphor by Usman Ali

This is a short English play by the first Pakistani English writer about his culture, rural class system, and the survival of the underdogs. He presents the story of Banka and Jugnoo. Banka narrates the story of two boys thrashed by the police. The play also shows the death in his family and lamentation in Punjabi culture. The final act is about the burial of the dead body that seems of a dog, which is a metaphorical representation of death. The play presents the Pakistani culture of lawlessness and brutality of the police exactly like the death of George Floyd.

Functions of Synopsis

A synopsis works as a short piece that presents the main outlines of a literary piece. In literature, it works as a lighthouse. On the one hand, it presents the writers’ main outlines of his idea and on the other hand, it presents the major points of a literary piece to the publishers. It also invites readers when they go through the synopsis and sees the worth of a literary piece in relevance to a culture.