Definition of Synopsis

Synopsis is a brief summary of a literary work. Its roots trace back to ancient Greece, where “syn” meant together and “opsis” meant seeing. The word made its way into Latin, becoming “synopsis” in the 17th century. Over time, its spelling remained unchanged.

Grammatically, “synopsis” is a noun and can be pluralized as “synopses.” It’s commonly used to provide a concise overview of scientific research, presenting the main points to readers. Other terms that can be used interchangeably with “synopsis” include “precis,” “abstract,” “outlines,” and “summarization.” In the context of literature, a synopsis is a brief explanation of books, movies, or poems, offering readers an outline to help them grasp the content.

Examples of Synopsis in Literature

Example #1

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

The novel tells the tale of young German soldiers who become disillusioned with the war because they believe they’re sent to die without reason. The protagonist, Paul Baumer, a 20-year-old soldier, not only quickly grasps military terms but also feels estranged in both society and his own home. He struggles to have meaningful conversations with his father and sister. The trauma of war makes him realize the senselessness of it all, and he eventually believes that life is no longer worth living. Tragically, he meets his end in an allied attack.

Example #2

Synopsis of Paradise Lost by John Milton

“Paradise Lost” is a famous English epic, consisting of 12 books, inspired by “Aeneid” and “Odyssey.” It narrates the tale of Adam’s fall from Paradise, Satan’s rebellion, and his schemes against God, followed by the redemption of Adam and Eve. It also depicts the rebel angels plotting to seek revenge on God. In essence, the book aims to illustrate God’s ways to humanity and justify His actions, highlighting that humans are prone to error and that it’s God’s divine mercy to forgive them.

Example #3

Synopsis of Hamlet by William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare’s masterpiece, “Hamlet,” has been popular since the Elizabethan era and remains so today. It has seen countless performances worldwide and multiple film adaptations, reflecting the universal nature of its themes. The play revolves around Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark, who mourns the suspicious death of his father, King Hamlet, and condemns his mother’s hasty marriage to King Claudius, his uncle. Hamlet is determined to uncover the truth, while Claudius is equally committed to concealing his crime, as he is the one responsible for King Hamlet’s death. This power struggle leads to a series of royal intrigues that spiral out of control. The arrival of a Norwegian prince further complicates matters, and in the final confrontation, Hamlet, Fortinbras, Claudius, and Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude, meet their demise.

Example #4

Synopsis of A Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel

Penned by a New York Times Best Seller, this novel centers around Eva Traube Abrams, a librarian in Florida, who stumbles upon “The Book of Lost Names.” This book holds the names of Jewish children lost during the chaos of World War II in France, where Eva worked in 1942. To rescue these orphans from the clutches of the Nazis, Eva devised a daring plan and sought refuge in the Free Zone, all while nurturing her love for Remy. In this gripping and seamlessly written fiction, Harmel sheds light on a lesser-known aspect of the Holocaust that remained concealed for years. The narrative unfolds like a captivating flashback, eventually leading all the characters to a journey to Switzerland.

Example #5

Synopsis of Curfewed Night by Basharat Peer

In this memoir penned by Kashmiri journalist Basharat Peer, he shares his personal journey through a first-person account. Basharat Peer is a renowned journalist based in New York, contributing to publications like The New York Times and other global media outlets. His narrative delves into the challenges of living in a heavily militarized region, marked by daily crackdowns and shootouts. The story also traces his return to his village, where he endured severe mental anguish due to army crackdowns. Within the memoir, he recounts instances of sexual assaults, looting, and killings of local Kashmiris during military operations against those striving for independence. This account paints a vivid picture of his emotions, observations, and experiences in his homeland.

Example #6

Synopsis of The Last Metaphor by Usman Ali

This short English play is the creation of the first Pakistani English writer, and it delves into his culture, the rural class system, and the resilience of the underprivileged. The story revolves around two characters, Banka and Jugnoo. Banka recounts the tale of two boys who suffer abuse at the hands of the police. The play also touches upon a family tragedy and the mourning customs in Punjabi culture. The final act centers around the burial of a body, which metaphorically symbolizes death. The play offers a glimpse into the Pakistani culture, highlighting lawlessness and the brutality of the police, drawing parallels with the tragic death of George Floyd.

Functions of Synopsis

A synopsis serves multiple crucial functions in the world of literature. It acts as a concise beacon, illuminating the essential elements of a literary work. It not only provides authors with a platform to showcase the core ideas of their creations, but also serves as a valuable tool for publishers, offering a glimpse into the major points of a literary piece. A well-crafted synopsis serves as an invitation to readers, piquing their interest as they peruse its contents and discern the significance of the literary work within the context of their culture. In essence, a synopsis serves as a bridge between the creator, the publisher, and the reader, effectively conveying the essence and value of a literary piece in a succinct yet compelling manner.