Sunday, September 19

Literary Easter Eggs

Easter egg hunts. They're lots of fun. Who can resist a delicious surprise? The more you find, the sweeter the experience.

An "Easter Egg" has become a term for something hidden, something exciting. Easter eggs inside the plot of a novel, television series, or film are as delicious to me as chocolate itself.

There is nothing better than a good novel. I'm sure you have your favourites. Ones that you have read over and over and over. What prompts you to read these books again? Is it the characters, the plot, the skills of the author? There can be a number of reasons.

As many favourite books as you might have, I am sure there are plenty which you have read only once and never picked up again. Even books you enjoyed and would recommend may not prompt multiple readings.

An Easter egg is a discovery you make when you read a novel for the second time. You may know the ultimate reveal but instead of spoiling your enjoyment of the book the second time around it gives you a keener insight into the plot, so that when you are reading you can exclaim, "Hey, I never noticed that before!"

Easter eggs can be something as simple as foreshadowing. A character may kill a bird earlier in the novel, only to be transformed into a bird and shot instead of breaking free of the spell.

You can also experience the enjoyment of Easter eggs on a first reading or viewing. A reason I believe television shows like "Lost" and "Heroes" were so popular is because the paths of all the characters - and there is quite the ensemble in both - continue to cross, and their pasts and futures are intertwined. Watch these shows again and see if you don't notice the little tidbits that brighten your eyes.

In a series, after reading/watching further installments, if you return to the beginning you may begin to recognise characters and references you never noticed without the information that comes later. This is what I love about the Harry Potter novels and why I think J.K. Rowling is an intelligent plotter. Many fans of the series may have read the books again and again and again. If you have, I am sure you will have come across plenty of Easter eggs and a good share of clever symbolism.

An item from the first novel may prove to be a lot more significant in the last. A character's motives may not be made clear until much later on but their behaviour hints at something more. Why is Albus Dumbledore so smooth at changing the subject when Harry asks him questions? I'm sure that hag in a balaclava that Harry noticed in passing in the third installment seems eerily familiar...

Also, if you have seen 'The Prestige' (based on the novel by Christopher Priest) then I encourage you to watch it again and see how clever that film really is.

Literary Easter eggs are one of my favourite elements in novels. They allow me to enjoy a book again and again on an entire new level, and gain a new appreciation for the story and the author.

An Easter egg is a secret, hidden. Finding one evokes excitement in the reader and is the fuel to something even greater that all good books should instill: obsession.

What are your thoughts on literary Easter eggs? Have you ever been enticed by them on the second read of a novel?

I know I am always eager for a sweet fix and the discovery of a hidden secret.

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