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Is there a literary term for the circular nature of a story, starting in place a, going on to b and c before returning to complete at a again?

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closed as off topic by JSBձոգչ, MrHen, kiamlaluno, Rhodri, Uticensis Apr 15 '11 at 18:15

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@Rory has a very good point but I couldn't resist talking about the monomyth. :) – MrHen Apr 15 '11 at 16:47
Only vaguely on-topic, but I'm moved to wonder whether there might be a literary/cinematographic term for the device whereby a movie, say, opens with a brief scene which may be utterly incomprehensible due to lack of context at that stage. But which by the end of the movie turns out to be a perfectly rational final denouement, and may actually be repeated. In short, an artform that begins where it ends, rather than ends where it began. – FumbleFingers Apr 15 '11 at 17:05
@MrHen - good answer. I hadn't seen it laid out like that. Thanks for the Wikipedia link. – Rory Alsop Apr 15 '11 at 17:09
Related to chiasmus, but not quite the same. – Peter Taylor Apr 15 '11 at 17:25
@iminei: it's okay, we all had to start somewhere. In short: on any question of yours, you can select the answer that has helped you most by clicking on the check mark to the right of it (click on this link to see an image). Nobody can force you to do that, but it helps us in figuring out which answer you liked most, and you get 2 rep points for doing that. – RegDwigнt Apr 15 '11 at 18:15

If you mean ending a story where it began, one term for this is bookending or employing book ends [warning: TV Tropes] (check examples under the Literature tab).

Also, I once had a professor who described poems that do this as "the snake biting its tail"—which I just discovered is an ancient symbol/archetype named Ouroboros.

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that is it, book ending, not a beautiful phrase but definitely what i was looking for. thankyou – iminei Apr 15 '11 at 17:27
@mmyers: What's with the warning? I've seen that on other questions, but I don't get it. Is TV Tropes considered unreliable because of its structure? – Callithumpian Apr 16 '11 at 3:07
TV Tropes ends up like this for a great many people (myself included if I'm not careful). If you're immune, good for you. – mmyers Apr 16 '11 at 6:34

Your question is a tad broad but you may be thinking of the "Hero's Journey" or "monomyth". The steps of the journey are:

  1. Departure
  2. Initiation
  3. Return

The Wikipedia article has plenty of details for each step. For instance, the subgroups for Departure are:

  1. The Call to Adventure
  2. Refusal of the Call
  3. Supernatural Aid
  4. The Crossing of the First Threshold
  5. Belly of The Whale

The term originated with Joseph Campbell's work on myth and examples can be found in plenty of works. Two modern examples are Star Wars and Ender's Game.

Edit: In response to the clarification, here are a few relevant terms.

  • throwback
  • callback
  • revisiting
  • reminiscent
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sorry mr hen but im looking for the word for the linguistic device of ending a story in the same place it started – iminei Apr 15 '11 at 16:58
almost like the first and last scene of the film Scandal...where John Hurt was surveying the same street scene, (albeit with subtle differences) – iminei Apr 15 '11 at 16:59
@iminei: You should add that clarification to the actual question, too. :) – MrHen Apr 15 '11 at 17:15

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