A subplot is a plot, or sequence of events, that is secondary to the main plot or storyline of a literary text. Authors create subplots to add depth and complexity to the main storyline, as well as depth and complexity to characters.
Examples of Subplots in Literature and Film:
In the television show, "The Big Bang Theory," there are several subplots that occur over multiple seasons. The main plot of the show relates the story of four "nerdy" scientist friends. Yet, they all have their own subplots that make the sitcom more interesting. For example, Howard lives with his Jewish mother, who we never see, but who yells loudly, eats a lot, and dominates Howard's life. Leonard's mother is a psychologist who visits often, analyzes Leonard critically, and is admired by Sheldon.
In the Harry Potter series, a subplot involves Hermione Granger, who is able to take more classes than she should due to a time travel device in The Prisoner of Azkaban. We learn of the subplot when the time travel device becomes useful for Harry and his friends in the main plot of the novel.
There are many subplots in To Kill a Mockingbird. One of the subplots involves Jem being forced to read to a crotchety old neighbor, Mrs. Dubose. After Jem destroys Mrs. Dubose's flowers when she makes rude comments, Atticus makes Jem go and read to Mrs. Dubose. The children do not realize what is happening, but Mrs. Dubose is using the time that Jem reads to her to overcome a morphine addiction before she passes away.
In Pride and Prejudice, the main plot involves Elizabeth Bennett. Mr. Collins, Elizabeth's cousin, is part of the main plot when he comes to visit and asks to marry Elizabeth. She refuses, but a subplot develops in which Elizabeth's friend Charlotte Lucas does marry Mr. Collins, for the stability that he will provide her.
Literary Terms Examples