© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.

Literature Glossary

Don’t be an oxymoron. Know your literary terms.

Over 200 literary terms, Shmooped to perfection.



What is a cliffhanger? Must we really explain? All right, fine. A cliffhanger is when a text concludes suddenly or with a thrilling plot twist. Cliffhangers usually leave big questions unanswered, resulting in mobs of crazy readers who want more, more, more!

Cliffhangers are a great strategy for writers of popular fiction who want readers to buy the next installment of a series. The Hunger Games franchise uses this strategy effectively, particularly in its second installment, Catching Fire. Shmoopers may also recognize cliffhangers from serialized television dramas like Lost. Do they get off the island?! (That was the worst summer ever.)

We also sometimes see cliffhangers outside of pop fiction and television. The first part of Tony Kushner's Angels in America ends with a cliffhanger, and boy is it a doozy.