From 11:00PM PDT on Friday, July 1 until 5:00AM PDT on Saturday, July 2, the Shmoop engineering elves will be making tweaks and improvements to the site. That means Shmoop will be unavailable for use during that time. Thanks for your patience!
We have changed our privacy policy. In addition, we use cookies on our website for various purposes. By continuing on our website, you consent to our use of cookies. You can learn about our practices by reading our privacy policy.
© 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.

Frame Story

Definition:

Think of those Russian Matryoshka dolls or a set of Chinese nesting boxes. The big doll contains all of the other little dolls; the big box holds all the little boxes.

That's exactly what a frame story does in terms of narrative structure. It's the big overarching story that contains all of the little stories within it. It provides the background story that gives the real story an excuse to be told.

Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein is famously structured through a frame story, as are Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.