Falling Action in Literature

Definition of the Literary Term

The falling action in a work of literature is the sequence of events that follow the climax and end in the resolution. The falling action is the opposite of the rising action, which leads up to the plot's climax.

Examples of Falling Action in Literature

There are many examples of falling action in literature because almost every story or plot requires a falling action to reach a resolution. Most story lines, whether in a memoir, novel, play, or movie have a falling action that helps the plot progress toward its end.

If you see some titles here that you recognize, but haven't read them yet, then beware! These examples contain spoilers. 

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling, the falling action occurs after the climax of Professor Snape's apparent hex upon Harry during the Quidditch match. Harry, Ron, and Hermione learn about the Sorcerer's Stone, then Voldemort attacks Harry in the Forbidden Forest, and Harry faces Professor Quirrell and Voldemort.

Little Red Riding Hood

Another example of falling action can be found in the folk tale Little Red Riding Hood. The story reaches its climax, or the highest point of conflict, when the wolf announces that he will eat the young protagonist. The series of events that happen after this conflict to lead to the resolution are the falling actions. In this case, Little Red Riding Hood screams out, and woodcutters from the forest come running to the grandmother's cottage.

The story isn't yet resolved, but these falling actions are leading to its resolve. 

Romeo and Juliet 

A final example is slightly less obvious, depicted in the classic play Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. After the climactic moment in the play, following the point when Romeo kills Tybalt, the falling action indicates that the plot is headed toward a sad, but unavoidable, resolution.

Juliet's feelings are confused between her love for her new secret husband, who is banished from Verona, and mourning her beloved cousin who just died by Romeo's hand. The combination of confused emotion and distance ends up strengthening the couple's assumption that they can never be in a relationship that is approved by their families.