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In many Whodunit mystery stories, there's a scene when the detective (e.g., Hercule Poirot) discovers (or overhears) the final clue (or a phrase another characters says) that makes this detective realize who did the crime. This is of course before the "Reveal". Does this event have a name?

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Some excerpts from Wikipedia:

An epiphany (from the ancient Greek ἐπιφάνεια, epiphaneia, "manifestation, striking appearance") is an experience of sudden and striking realization. Generally the term is used to describe breakthrough scientific, religious or philosophical discoveries, but it can apply in any situation in which an enlightening realization allows a problem or situation to be understood from a new and deeper perspective. ...

The word epiphany originally referred to insight through the divine. ...

Despite its popular image, epiphany is the result of significant work on the part of the discoverer, and is only the satisfying result of a long process. The surprising and fulfilling feeling of epiphany is so surprising because one cannot predict when one's labour will bear fruit.

From Dictionary.com:


  1. Epiphany

    a. A Christian feast celebrating the manifestation of the divine nature of Jesus to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi.

    b. January 6, on which this feast is traditionally observed.

  2. A revelatory manifestation of a divine being.

  3. a. A sudden manifestation of the essence or meaning of something.

    b. A comprehension or perception of reality by means of a sudden intuitive realization: "I experienced an epiphany, a spiritual flash that would change the way I viewed myself" (Frank Maier).

  4. [Not enumerated by OP]

  5. (Christianity / Ecclesiastical Terms) the manifestation of a supernatural or divine reality

  6. any moment of great or sudden revelation [via Church Latin from Greek epiphaneia an appearing, from epi- + phainein to show]

i.e, an epiphany has two modes of operation —

  1. The party experiencing the epiphany
  2. The parties observing the epiphany, hence the moment whereby the parties observe that epiphany.
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Anagorisis is the term used by Aristotle (and many subsequent critics) for the moment when the protagonist achieves "discovery" or "recognition" or "realization".

Aristotle regards anagnorisis as most effective when it leads directly to the peripeteia or "turning point" of a drama, which occasioned considerable debate among old-fashioned theorists of the well-made play about how to handle Shakespeare's typical pyramidal structure, which turns on a pivot somewhere around the end of the third act.

In the murder mystery, likewise, the detective's anagnorisis may be distinguished from everybody else's anagnorisis, which coincides with the climactic peripeteia—what you call the reveal. Much of the author's art lies in disguising this earlier recognition, burying it in a barrel of red herrings.

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Very interesting. Perhaps you can expand your answer using the Mystery section of the WP page. If it is, how is anagnorisis different from epiphany? – coleopterist Sep 28 '12 at 20:48
@coleopterist The works discussed in that article don't really fit here, since the detectives fail and there is thus only a single anagorisis. As for epiphany, that's been for most of its history a religious term; my impression is that it didn't enter the critical lexicon until James Joyce used it to designate a sudden insight much deeper than the purely intellectual recognition one finds in mysteries. – StoneyB Sep 28 '12 at 22:04
@coleopterist -- Anagorisis is much more specific than epiphany; the former is a literary word, the latter in more common usage. Anagorisis also properly refers to the narrative point (compare: climax, denoument), where as epiphany refers to the process undergone by the character. – Alex Feinman Oct 2 '12 at 16:43
@StoneyB My apologies. I appear to have missed your reply. Based on your comment as well as AlexFeinman's, the difference is that epiphany is ... spiritual? Or to rephrase, the difference is analogous to that between say, enlightenment and insight? Also, I'm not sure I understand what you mean by "since the detectives fail". – coleopterist Oct 2 '12 at 19:36
@AlexFeinman Thanks :) Please see my previous comment. – coleopterist Oct 2 '12 at 19:36

The "aha!" moment? The "Eureka!" moment? The "Dr. House does that thing where he stops mid-conversation and runs out of the room" moment?

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