Turning Point

Definition of Turning Point

Generally, a turning point means a decisive moment when people make a final decision in their life. It is about a decisive situation after which a sea change occurs, causing harm or benefits to the decision-makers. The term comprises two words; turning and point. This means reaching a point where turning is inevitable.

In literature, a turning point occurs in a story or a play at a moment when it becomes necessary to make a change. This is a climax that generally happens when the story exposes something. However, this is not the end of the narrative. Rather, it is the start of the rising action that falls after that and the situation causing this turning point reaches its conclusion.

Signs of a Turning Point

When a turning point occurs in a narrative there are visible signs. Although sometimes, writers do not show those visible signs such as it happens in the novels of Thomas Hardy. In those cases, the turning points become chances that, sometimes, seem arbitrary rather than natural.

Examples of Turning Point in Literature

Example #1

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Silence in the court! Charles Darnay had yesterday pleaded Not Guilty to an indictment denouncing him (with infinite jingle and jangle) for that he was a false traitor to our serene, illustrious, excellent, and so forth, prince, our Lord the King, by reason of his having, on divers occasions, and by divers means and ways, assisted Lewis, the French King, in his wars against our said serene, illustrious, excellent, and so forth; that was to say, by coming and going, between the dominions of our said serene, illustrious, excellent, and so forth, and those of the said French Lewis, and wickedly, falsely, traitorously, and otherwise evil-adverbiously, revealing to the said French Lewis what forces our said serene, illustrious, excellent, and so
forth, had in preparation to send to Canada and North America.

This passage occurs in the popular novel of Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities. The first sentence of the passage shows that it is about a turning point or itself a turning point in the overall story of the novel. The silence in the court shows that Darnay is going to defend himself against the charges, a long-held belief. His exoneration from the indictment becomes the turning point of the novel.

Example #2

The Catcher in The Rye by D. J. Salinger

“What time is it? They won’t be home till very late, Mother said. They went to a party in Norwalk, Connecticut,” old Phoebe said. “Guess what I did this afternoon! What movie I saw. Guess!”
“I don’t know–Listen. Didn’t they say what time they’d–”
“The Doctor,” old Phoebe said. “It’s a special movie they had at the Lister Foundation. Just this one day they had it–today was the only day. It was all about this doctor in Kentucky and everything that sticks a blanket over this child’s face that’s a cripple and can’t walk. Then they send him to jail and everything. It was excellent.

Although this conversation in this passage from The Catcher in the Rye does not show the main point as it spreads over several pages, yet it shows that Holden is talking to his sister to bring her home about how he is going to turn his own life and that he has understood what he wants to do in life. This moment of epiphany is perhaps the major turning point of the novel.

Example #3

Animal Farm by George Orwell

At this there was a terrible baying sound outside, and nine enormous dogs wearing brass-studded collars came bounding into the barn. They dashed straight for Snowball, who only sprang from his place just in time to escape their snapping jaws. In a moment he was
out of the door and they were after him. Too amazed and frightened to speak, all the animals crowded through the door to watch the chase. Snowball was racing across the long pasture that led to the road. He was running as only a pig can run, but the dogs were close on his
heels. Suddenly he slipped and it seemed certain that they had him. Then he was up again, running faster than ever, then the dogs were gaining on him again. One of them all but closed his jaws on Snowball’s tail, but Snowball whisked it free just in time. Then he put on an extra spurt and, with a few inches to spare, slipped through a hole in the hedge and was seen no more.

This passage proves a turning point of the entire novel. It shows that Napolean has already set the dogs to Snowball so that he could not raise obstacles for his leadership role on the farm. Therefore, as soon as Snowball wags his tail to run away from the hounds, it becomes clear that the turning point in the revolution of the animals has arrived.

Example #4

The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe

No! They heard! I was certain of it. They knew! Now it was they who were playing a game with me. I was suffering more than I could bear, from their smiles, and from that sound. Louder, louder, louder! Suddenly I could bear it no longer. I pointed at the boards and cried,
“Yes! Yes, I killed him. Pull up the boards and you shall see! I killed him. But why does his heart not stop beating?! Why does it not stop!?”

Although these lines occur by the end of the story when the narrator confesses that he has killed the old man, it is also a turning point of the story. It is because he has been brought to his knees by the self-control of the police officers that finally he erupts his heart out, telling them that he is the killer of the old man.

Functions of Turning Point

The main function of the turning point is to prepare the readers to come to the point of the resolution after the conflict reaches its zenith. Although it is somewhat equal to the climax, it does not seem like a climax itself. It is because a turning point shifts the focus of the story from the conflict to a resolution. Therefore, a turning point makes readers aware of the shift of the events, inform them about the shift of the focus as well as entertain him to leave his boredom and become interested in the storyline again.


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