An epigraph is a short statement (a sentence, a paragraph, a poem) that comes at the beginning of a literary text, but the words belong to a different author. The epigraph is used to introduce the current literary text, and gives some clue as to its theme, or its connection to this previous text.
At the beginning of The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway quotes Gertrude Stein: "You are all a lost generation."
At the beginning of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley quotes Paradise Lost:
"Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay
To mould me Man, did I solicit thee
From darkness to promote me?"
At the beginning of Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury quotes Juan Ramon Jimenez:
"If they give you ruled paper, write the other way."
At the beginning of To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee quotes Charles Lamb:
"Lawyers, I suppose, were children once."
F. Scott Fitzgerald uses the following quotation at the beginning of The Great Gatsby:
"Then wear the gold hat, if that will move her; If you can bounce high, bounce for her too, Till she cry "Lover, gold-hatted, high-bouncing lover, I must have you!"
Literary Terms Examples