A eulogy is a literary device used to pay tribute to someone who has passed away. This form of speech or written praise recounts the life and accomplishments of the deceased, often highlighting their virtues and the impact they had on others. Eulogies appear not only in real-life ceremonies but also within literature, where they serve to deepen the reader’s connection to the character, enhance the emotional resonance of the narrative, and illuminate the values of the society depicted.


When do writers use the Eulogy literary device?

Writers utilize the eulogy literary device to explore themes of loss, celebrate the life of a character, or provide closure to a narrative arc. It’s particularly effective in moments where the intent is to evoke empathy and reflection from the audience, allowing them to feel a personal connection to the character or the narrative. In fiction, a eulogy can also be used strategically to reveal important aspects of the deceased’s character or to influence the direction of the storyline, often sparking new motivations or changes in other characters.

Rules for using the Eulogy literary device

When incorporating a eulogy into your writing, consider the following guidelines:

  1. Authenticity: Ensure the tone and content reflect the personality and life of the character being eulogized. It should feel true to who they were.
  2. Emotional Impact: Aim to evoke emotions in the audience, using the eulogy to touch on universal themes of love, loss, and legacy.
  3. Relevance: The eulogy should contribute to the narrative, providing insights into the character or advancing the plot.
  4. Detail: Include specific anecdotes or traits that celebrate the individual’s life, making the tribute personal and poignant.
  5. Brevity: While detail is important, a eulogy should be concise and impactful, avoiding unnecessary length that could detract from its emotional power.

By adhering to these rules, you can effectively use a eulogy to enrich your literary work, making it more meaningful and resonant with readers.

Types of Eulogy

Eulogies can vary significantly in style and purpose, depending on the context in which they are delivered. Here are the main types:

  1. Commemorative Eulogy: Most common, focusing on celebrating and remembering the life of the deceased. It’s personal and reflects the deep emotions of loss and appreciation.
  2. Biographical Eulogy: Offers a comprehensive overview of the deceased’s life, focusing on major milestones, personal achievements, and significant life events. It serves more as a factual recount than an emotional tribute.
  3. Tribute Eulogy: Similar to the commemorative type but often delivered during anniversaries or memorial services long after the individual has passed. It highlights the lasting impact of the deceased on their community or family.
  4. Literary Eulogy: Found in literature, this type uses the conventional structure of a eulogy to enhance character development, plot advancement, or thematic exploration within a narrative.

Eulogy in Literature

Famous literary examples of eulogies include:

  1. “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare: The protagonist delivers a passionate eulogy for Ophelia, which also serves as a confrontation with Laertes, enhancing the drama and depth of the scene.
  2. “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” by Mark Twain: Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn listen to their own eulogies after they are presumed dead, providing humorous yet poignant insights into how they are perceived by their community.
  3. “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley: Walton’s letters can be seen as a form of eulogy to the deceased Victor Frankenstein, recounting his tragic pursuit of knowledge.

Eulogy in Children’s Books

Eulogies in children’s books are less common but can be deeply moving. Examples include:

  1. “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White: Though not a formal eulogy, the passages that describe Charlotte’s death and Wilbur’s remembrance of her are eulogistic in tone, celebrating her wisdom, kindness, and friendship.
  2. “The Tenth Good Thing About Barney” by Judith Viorst: This book deals directly with a child delivering a eulogy for his deceased cat, focusing on processing grief through remembering positive aspects of the pet’s life.

Eulogy in Poetry

Eulogy poetry often captures the essence of the deceased’s life in a concise and evocative manner. Notable examples include:

  1. “O Captain! My Captain!” by Walt Whitman: A famous eulogy in poetry for Abraham Lincoln, portraying the fallen leader as a captain who has successfully brought his ship (the nation) through a tumultuous journey (the Civil War).
  2. “In Memoriam A.H.H.” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson: An extensive eulogistic poem that mourns the loss of Tennyson’s close friend Arthur Henry Hallam, exploring deep themes of grief, faith, and the search for meaning.

These examples show how eulogies in various forms of literature can provide emotional depth and facilitate a connection between the audience and the narrative or poetic subject.

Eulogy in Songs

Songs often serve as powerful mediums for eulogies, allowing artists to express their grief and celebrate lives through music. Here are ten famous examples:

  1. “Tears in Heaven” by Eric Clapton – Written about the tragic death of Clapton’s son, Conor.
  2. “Candle in the Wind” by Elton John – Originally for Marilyn Monroe and later re-written in memory of Princess Diana.
  3. “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth – A tribute to the late Paul Walker.
  4. “Song for Josh” by Frank Turner – Written about his friend Josh Burdette.
  5. “Wake Me Up When September Ends” by Green Day – Billie Joe Armstrong wrote it as a tribute to his father, who passed away when Armstrong was a child.
  6. “Life Without You” by Stevie Ray Vaughan – A tribute to his personal friend and mentor, Charley Wirz.
  7. “Amsterdam” by Coldplay – Although not explicitly a eulogy, it is often interpreted as a lament for loss and mourning.
  8. “A Long December” by Counting Crows – Reflects on the loss and hopes for something better in the future.
  9. “Man on the Moon” by R.E.M. – Pays homage to comedian Andy Kaufman.
  10. “Stan” by Eminem – Although not a traditional eulogy, it serves as a lament over the tragic tale of an obsessed fan.

Eulogy in Movies

Eulogies in movies often provide pivotal moments of emotional catharsis or character insight. Here are some notable examples:

  1. “Four Weddings and a Funeral” – The character Matthew delivers a moving eulogy for his partner Gareth, using W.H. Auden’s poem “Funeral Blues.”
  2. “The Big Chill” – The friends gather to reminisce and celebrate the life of their friend Alex.
  3. “Love Actually” – Mark uses video clips to eulogize Juliet’s hidden beauties as a secret admirer.
  4. “Steel Magnolias” – M’Lynn’s breakdown at the cemetery provides a powerful eulogy-like moment for her daughter Shelby.
  5. “Dead Poets Society” – The students honor their teacher, Mr. Keating, with the phrase “O Captain! My Captain!” as a form of eulogy for his mentorship.

Famous Movie Line Highlighting Eulogy

A memorable line from “Four Weddings and a Funeral” captures the essence of eulogy in cinema:

“He was my North, my South, my East and West, My working week and my Sunday rest.”

YouTube Link Demonstrating Eulogy

For a visual example of a powerful eulogy in film, watch the poignant scene from “Four Weddings and a Funeral” where the character Matthew uses the poem “Funeral Blues” to honor his late partner:

Watch the scene on YouTube

Eulogy in Advertising

Eulogies in advertising are rare but can be very impactful. Examples include:

  1. Google’s “Dear Sophie” Campaign – Uses a form of eulogy by a father chronicling his daughter’s life through Google products, celebrating her milestones.
  2. Nike’s Tribute Ads – Such as the ones for Kobe Bryant, which celebrate his legacy and contributions to basketball.

Eulogy Related Literary Devices

Several literary devices are closely related to eulogies:

  1. Apostrophe: Addressing someone absent or dead as if they were present.
  2. Pathos: Evoking a deep emotional response from the audience, often used in eulogies to highlight the sorrow of loss.
  3. Anaphora: The repetition of words or phrases at the beginning of consecutive lines or sentences, commonly used in eulogies for emphasis.
  4. Epitaph: A brief literary piece commemorating a deceased person, often poetic in nature, found on tombstones but also used in literature.
  5. Elegy: A poem or song written in honor of someone deceased, focusing on mourning and reflection.

These devices help to enrich the narrative or poetic quality of eulogies, enhancing their emotional and artistic appeal.