We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is a Framing Device?

By Mark Wollacott
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Language & Humanities is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Language & Humanities, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A framing device is a "bookend" scene that appears at the beginning and end of a story in order to frame the story within. At its most basic, it is a literary or cinematic device used to set up a different story. In some productions and publications, this device can be used intermittently during the story as the point of view switches between the protagonist in the story and the framing device. Another kind of framing device will start and finish with the bookends, but will also have a narrator voiceover during much of the story.

A simple example of a framing device would be for a story to open with an old man or woman talking about his or her life. The main story concerns the experiences he or she had when younger, and when the episode of his or her youth finishes, the story returns to his or her present condition as an old person reminiscing or confessing. This framing device was used in the German film Der Untergang, known in English as Downfall, which tells the story of Traudl Junge, the real life secretary of Adolf Hitler.

The 1987 film The Princess Bride provides good example of a framing device that reappears in the middle of the narrative. In it, a grandfather is reading a book to his sick grandson; the storytelling scenes frame the medieval comedy that makes up the majority of the movie. Occasionally, the film reverts back to the grandfather and grandson as they discuss the book, before returning to the central narrative.

The framing device often places the main story in a different context to the minor story that surrounds it. In the examples given above, one story is set in the past while the other is set in a fictional world loosely based on medieval Europe. The characters featured in the framing story tend to be less well developed than those in the main story and there tends to be less time spent with them too. The function of framing characters is to provide a context to the main story being told, while adding an overarching sub-plot.

Bookending stories can also provide readers or viewers with an additional sense of resolution. In Downfall, Junge regrets how little she did to try and stop Hitler and his supporters. In the 1997 movie Titanic, an older version of Rosie is able to change another character, Brock, in the bookended scenes. In The Princess Bride, the grandson learns to appreciate not only his grandfather, but also the value of storytelling.

Stories with framing devices should not be confused with those that have parallel stories told at different points in time. The 2008 film The Reader, for example, has two storylines; one is set during World War II as a young German student has an affair with an illiterate tram conductor, while the other looks at how that student, as an adult, wrestles with his choices and deals with their consequences. These two stories are well developed and deeply connected, but one does not bookend the other.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Link to Sources
Discussion Comments
Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.