In Which a Trope Is Described
In Which the Details of the literary Convention "In Which a Trope Is Described" shall be Disseminated
A convention of giving a chapter (or work) a name which is a summation of the contents of the chapter
(or work). It used to be a serious writing convention—many 18th- and 19th-century (and occasionally, early 20th-century) works had extended titles which pretty much summed up the main events of the installment—but it is not as likely to be taken seriously today. In modern works, this is a titling convention
with an intentionally Retraux
For a title to count as an example, it has to describe what happens
, generally using either very formal or outdated-sounding
words and grammar, whether that means randomly capitalized words, semicolons instead of commas, gerunds instead of nouns (e.g. "using" instead of "usage" or "use") or stilted conjunctions and adverbs like "wherein" or "being."
An equally old-fashioned variant is when the title consists of a number of short phrases which enumerate the main plot points of the chapter (and occasionally irrelevant side details). For instance: "A Trope is described.—The Summary of its Qualities.—'In which there are Examples'.—The Contributors provide the aforemention'd Examples.—End of the Page"
This trope probably descends from the poets' practice of putting "arguments
" (short summaries) before every section.
Often a Spoiler Title
and/or Long Title
. Compare with the Either/Or Title
, which also has a very Retraux
feel. Easily subverted if the title doesn't match up with what happens, making it a straight example of a Non-Indicative Name
. Not to be confused with a Word Salad Title
, which is more like an inversion of this trope.
In which there are Examples:
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Anime & Manga
- Baccano!. Memorable episode titles include "Jacuzzi Splot Cries, Gets Scared and Musters Reckless Valor", "Isaac and Miria Unintentionally Spread Happiness Around Them", and "Ladd Russo Enjoys Talking A Lot and Slaughtering A Lot".
- Every issue of The Sandman story arc "Season of Mists" — for example, chapter 1: "In which the Lord of Dreams makes preparations to visit the realms infernal; farewells are said; a toast is drunk; and in Hell the adversary makes certain preparations of his own". The issues/chapters of "Brief Lives" also have something similar.
- Alan Moore's Tom Strong comics: "CHAPTER ONE: In which an Origin is Revealed, an Aerial Crime is Attempted, and TOM gains a New Fan."
- Every chapter of "Anita Bomba" start likes this.
Chapter XI: "In which, at the last stand, one decides to rely on nobles moral values that are Love, Honesty and Dynamite...".
- Chaos, Twoflower's Slayers fanfic Slayers Trilogy second part has such chapter titles as "...in which old enemies taunt each other, fortunes are won and lost, strange bedfellows are made, and plenty of clowns are set on fire." and "...in which breakfast is served, we go once more into the breach of fear and loathing, a chimera goes postal and Xelloss tells a secret."
- Harry Potter: "Tangled Webs" by adaliseranis has chapter titles of the "not what you'd first assume" variety. For example, chapter 14 is called, "In which Ginny finally gets into Draco's pants, and Ron is jealous" but involves Ginny ending up in a pair of Malfoy's expensive brand-name Quidditch breeches and Ron wishing he had one of those instead of, um, yeah.
- This is how Pipeline's chapters are titled. Each chapter follows the formula "in which kevin learns [insert plot relevant thing here]..." The last chapter breaks from this, cutting the chapter name short: Chapter 20 is simply called "in which kevin learns."
- The Marauders-era Literature/Harry Potter story: "Being an historical record of events surrounding the unfortunate truth-or-dare game of February the twenty-second, and consequences thereof".
- Dogville, which starts with "The film Dogville as told in nine chapters and a Prologue." and then proceeds to do exactly that, with a description for each chapter.
- Moby-Dick , unsurprisingly
- for Brits of a certain age, the Molesworth books - as ane fule kno
- Used in Vanity Fair, e.g. Chapter XXVIII: In Which Amelia Invades the Low Countries
- The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson. In which the Victorians rise again; Extensive use of nanotechnology and robot-horses in Post-Cyberpunk China.
- This is the Way the World Ends, a novel about nuclear war, uses headings with its characteristic bitter, bitter humor: (paraphrased) "In which the limitations of civil defense are explored in a manner that some readers may find disturbing."
- As it is a parody of Dumas's work, the Khaavren Romances have chapter titles in this style, sometimes playing off of specific Dumas chapter titles—which are, of course, also in this style. The most memorable was probably "In Which The Plot, Behaving In Much The Same Manner As A Soup To Which Cornstarch Has Been Added, Begins, At Last, To Thicken."
- Several of the author's Vlad Taltos series books have front-cover blurbs in this format. "In Which Vlad and His Jhereg Learn How the Love of a Good Woman Can Turn a Cold-Blooded Killer Into a Real Mean S.O.B. ..." or "In which Vlad must survive among an alien race: his own."
- The 18th century Spanish novel Friar Gerund makes fun of this with titles like "In Which We Accomplish The Promise Made By The Previous One", "In Which Something Happens", and "In Which Someone Sneezes And The Story Continues".
- Charles Dickens, once avoided spoilers by providing a chapter with the ingenious title Too Full Of Incident To Be Described.
- William Caxton's printing of Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur. Every one of the 507 chapters is named in this way.
- Older Than Print: The Nibelungenlied consists of 39 chapters (âventiuren). The first is untitled, the second is called "Of Siegfried", but the other 37 have titles starting with Wie ("How"), starting with "How Siegfried Came to Worms" and ending with "How Lord Dietrich Fought With Gunther and Hagen".
- Every chapter of Don Quixote - interestingly, the chapter's title as it appears at the top of the page is different from the chapter's title as stated in the index, maybe because it is too long to fit.
- Then It's Inverted in Some Chapters that don’t Summarize really Anything:
Part II, Chapter 70 WHICH FOLLOWS SIXTY-NINE AND DEALS WITH MATTERS INDISPENSABLE FOR THE CLEAR COMPREHENSION OF THIS HISTORY
Part II, Chapter 66 WHICH TREATS OF WHAT HE WHO READS WILL SEE, OR WHAT HE WHO HAS IT READ TO HIM WILL HEAR
- And quite possibly Lampshaded with a couple of others:
Part II, Chapter 9 WHICH RECOUNTS WHAT WILL SOON BE SEEN
Part II, Chapter 227 REGARDING MATTERS WHICH BENEGALI SAYS WILL BE KNOWN TO THE READER IF HE READS WITH ATTENTION
- The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers includes "A very short chapter, in which not much is going to happen". Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
- The majority of chapter summaries from A Void are like this. They rarely refer to any of the major events in the chapter.
In which luck, God's alias and alibi, plays a callous trick on a suitor cast away on an island
- Umberto Eco's book The Name of the Rose, in part a wonderful pastiche of Sherlock Holmes set in a 14th century monastery, in which most of the divisions are headed with such a description, except for the Seventh Day, "In which, if it were to summarize the prodigious revelations of which it speaks, the title would have to be as long as the chapter itself, contrary to usage." Done largely to avoid having to put something like 'In which it is revealed that go and read the damn book... or watch the movie is the murderer'
- The Adventures of Pinocchio, by Carlo Collodi. Every chapter is titled with a description. For example, the very first chapter is HOW IT HAPPENED THAT MAESTRO CHERRY, CARPENTER, FOUND A PIECE OF WOOD THAT WEPT AND LAUGHED LIKE A CHILD. Collodi was contemporary with Queen Victoria.
- Daniel Defoe's The Fortunes and Misfortunes of Moll Flanders Who Was Born In Newgate, and During a Life of Continu'd Variety For Threescore Years, Besides Her Childhood, Was Twelve Year a Whore, Five Times a Wife [Whereof Once To Her Own Brother], Twelve Year a Thief, Eight Year a Transported Felon In Virginia, At Last Grew Rich, Liv'd Honest, and Died a Penitent.
- E. T. A. Hoffmann created deliberately misleading chapter summaries for his comic story The Golden Pot; for example, in the section summarized as "How Deputy Headmaster Paulmann put out his pipe and went to bed", that is hardly the most important thing that happened — it's actually about Paulmann's daughter Veronika slipping out of the house after her father is in bed, to pay a visit to a witch for some love magic.
- Kim Stanley Robinson's The Years of Rice and Salt is divided into several sections, but the first section features chapter headings in this style.
- Used in Lloyd Alexander's The Remarkable Journey Of Prince Jen, with short collections of titles, such as Mafoo Comforts His Toes - The Ear of Continual Attentiveness and etc. However, chapters dealing with the six key items are simply titled, The Tale of the Thirsty Sword, et alia.
- Percy Jackson and the Olympians uses this, sans the "in which," usually to great comedic effect. The chapter in which our hero Perseus first sees the Fates is entitled "Three Old Ladies Knit The Socks Of Death."
- Many of Rick Riordan's young adults novels feature this. Such as in The Kane Chronicles: "I Have a Date with the God of Toilet Paper"
- Fielding's The History Of Tom Jones AF Oundling. The book is divided into "Books" which are subdivided into "Chapters." Each "Chapter" is about ten pages and the header summarizes it. The first chapter of each book is an analysis of literary techniques used in the upcoming book. It's worth pointing out that Fielding wrote the book serialized, publishing roughly a chapter a week from 1742-49, so perhaps the clunky chapter titles are necessary for the reader to remember what was going on.
- Howard Whitehouse's Mad Misadventures of Emmaline and Rubberbones has three books:
- The Strictest School in the World: Being the Tale of a Clever Girl, a Rubber Boy and a Collection of Flying Machines, Mostly Broken
- The Faceless Fiend: Being the Tale of a Criminal Mastermind, His Masked Minions and a Princess with a Butter Knife, Involving Explosives and a Certain Amount of Pushing and Shoving
- The Island of Mad Scientists: Being an Excursion to the Wilds of Scotland, Involving Many Marvels of Experimental Invention, Pirates, a Heroic Cat, a Mechanical Man and a Monkey
- Patricia C. Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles uses this trope extensively. Perhaps the height of it would be the chapter "In Which It Is Exceedingly Muddy."
- The same volume also contains "In Which The Plot Thickens", followed shortly by "In Which The Plot Positively Curdles".
- Quite a few in The Confidence Man — "in which the last three words of the last chapter are made the text of discourse, which will be sure of receiving more or less attention from those readers who do not skip it."
- Telly Brats and Topless Darts: A non-fiction example: Chris Horrie and Adam Nathan do this at length, their history of the notorious cable TV channel, L!ve TV. The result of this is that the table of contents not only gives a pretty decent overview of the subject before you get into the book's content proper, but is also hilarious.
- Since it's a homage to Victorian serials, many of the chapter titles of Beyond the Western Sea are in this style.
- The novel Nameless Magery plays with this by giving its chapters titles beginning with "In Which I Don't..." (e.g. "In Which I Don't Keep My Dress Clean").
- The chapter titles of Forward the Mage by Eric Flint use this. Notable in that several chapters consist solely of their title. How the book starts:
In Which We Introduce the Gentle Reader to Our Tale Through a Most Cunning Usage of the Ancient Narrative Device of The Plunge Direct Into the Turbulence of the Times. Taken From the Autobiography of the Notorious Scapegrace, Benvenuti Sfondrati-Piccolomini.
- Gulliver's Travels has such subtitles for each chapter.
- This Is the Title of This Story, Which Is Also Found Several Times in the Story Itself, because... yeah.
- Philip K. Dick's A Maze Of Death subverts this; the table of contents contains a brief summary-like name for each chapter, but every such "summary" is about one of the fourteen characters doing something that has nothing at all to do with the chapter contents, or the novel at all. It might be symbolic of how all the events and backstories in the book are just part of a virtual simulation, one of the hundreds of different ones that the characters have already experienced.
- Many of the chapter titles in Les Misérables. Because Hugo was short on words.
- Voltaire uses this in Candide. Given how short the chapters are and the straightforwardness of their titles, a reader can get a pretty solid gist of the book just from the table of contents (though there are a few titles that don't directly state what happens). Considering the satirical nature of the novelette this may very well have been intentional. Chapter titles include:
"How Candide was brought up in a magnificent castle; and how he was driven out of it"
"How the Portuguese made a superb auto-da-fe to prevent any future Earthquakes, and how Candide was publicly whipped"
"Candide and his Valet arrive in the country of El Dorado. What they saw there"
- Terry Pratchett uses this trope in the Moist von Lipwig novels (currently, Going Postal and Making Money), probably as a parody of its use by Jules Verne and other Victorian-era authors. Notably, these are the only Discworld novels apart from the YA entries to use chapters.
- This is also a gentle teasing of Tom Paulin, from BBC2's Late Review, who once famously described Pratchett as "a complete amateur... doesn't even write in chapters".
- Sir Terry also uses it in Dodger, as one of the many nods to Charles Dickens which include the main character's nickname, and Dickens himself as a supporting character.
- The classic textbook Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach does this in chapter subtitles. For instance, the chapter titled "Knowledge Representation" begins with:
In which we show how to use first- order logic to represent the most important aspects of the real world, such as action, space, time, thoughts, and shopping
- Catherynne M. Valente's Fairyland books - currently published are The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making and The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, with chapters like In Which a Girl Named September is Spirited Off By Means of Leopard, Learns the Rules of Fairyland, and Solves a Puzzle and In Which a Girl Named September Keeps a Secret, Has a Difficult Time At School, Turns Thirteen, and Is Finally Nearly Run over by a Rowboat, Thereby Finding Her Way into Fairyland.
- Anansi Boys
- A. A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh books follow this style for the chapter names. The first story, for example, being: In which we are introduced to Winnie-the-Pooh and some Bees, and the stories begin.
- Professor Mmaa's Lecture uses this for some, but not all chapters: "Wherein Professor Mmaa Begins His Lecture", "Wherein The Reader Will Find A Further Section Of Professor Mmaa's Lecture on the Bold Ape", etc.
- Howl's Moving Castle and its sequel Castle in the Air use this trope in the chapter titles. First chapter: In which Sophie talks to hats.
- Jules Verne's Five Weeks in a Balloon, for instance:
The End of a much-applauded Speech.—The Presentation of Dr. Samuel Ferguson.—Excelsior.—Full-length Portrait of the Doctor.—A Fatalist convinced.—A Dinner at the Travellers' Club.—Several Toasts for the Occasion
- Michael Ende did this in every single chapter of both Jim Button books.
Live Action TV
- Private Practice's Idiosyncratic Episode Naming takes this effect.
- A Television Series, Being A Merry Situational Comedy, Concerning Friends, In Which Most Episodes Are Named "The one with " and Ross Obtains A Divorce.
- A first season episode of Fringe is entitled "In Which We Meet Mr. Jones." In it, Wicked Cultured villain David Robert Jones is, in fact, introduced.
- Each episode of the Steed-and-Peel era of The Avengers opened with some cryptic, usually punning statements describing what would happen in the episode. They did not actually contain with the words "in which," but the effect was otherwise similar.
- It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia has blunt episode titles about what happens in the episode. Sometimes it's a single event ("Frank Sets Sweet Dee on Fire"), sometimes it breaks the pattern entirely ("The D.E.N.N.I.S. System"), but usually it just says what the episode is about ("The Gang Finds a Dumpster Baby", "Mac Fights Gay Marriage", etc.).
- "Being for the benefit of Mr. Kite!," a Beatles song whose lyrics John Lennon adapted from an actual Victorian-era circus poster.
- Darths & Droids episode 69: "In Which Qui-Gon, Jar Jar, R2-D2, and Padmé Seek Shelter From a Sandstorm".
- And a number of episodes following Pete/R2-D2 taking over as GM for a session.
- In which it is noted that individual Wondermark comic strips are titled in this manner.
- The Penny Arcade strip titled In Which Much Is Revealed.
- This Stickman and Cube comic, In Which Thaddeus J. Cube, Being Without a Story Idea, Finds Himself Crushed Beneath a Large Weight for the Readers' Amusement.
- The chapter titles of Hanna Is Not a Boy's Name all start with "In Which..."
- A large number of the comics in Shakespeare Ensues follow this title format.
- In Homestuck, the trolls' civilization has been around long enough that they've run out of short movie titles, giving us such blockbusters as: WHEREIN NUMEROUS VIGILANTES CONFRONT PERIL; ONE OF THEM BETRAYS THE OTHERS; (BUT IT TURNS OUT TO BE PART OF THE PLAN ALL ALONG); SEVERAL ATTRACTIVE FEMALE LEADS PROVOKE ROMANTIC TENSION; FOUR MAJOR CHARACTERS WEAR UNUSUAL HATS; ONE HOLDS PLOT-CRITICAL SECRET; 47 ON-SCREEN EXPLOSIONS, ONE RESULTING IN DEMISE OF KEY-ADVERSARY; 6 to 20 LINES THAT COULD BE CONSTRUED AS HUMOROUS;
- Legorobot, In which I immediately regret my hubris.
- APT Comic goes so far as to have a section called "Ammika Explains", where she quite literally describes the trope and analyzes it. What Fourth Wall?
- Questionable Content has a strip where the newspost sums it up succinctly (and as cleanly as possible): "In which we learn a little bit about the biology of the Shame Orb."
- Roommates offers two summaries in this format for most of its regularly numbered pages in the author's notes, such as:
- Unsounded uses this format for the subtitle of every chapter.
- Tales of MU, in which the chapter subheadings are all ironic.
- Of course, all are perfectly logical once you read the story. For example, the title "Girly Fight" in conjunction with the subtitle "In Which Mackenzie Gets The Finger", implies that dear old Mack is in a word fight. You're wrong if you think so. In one of the most hillaristurbing scenes in the world, she Mind Rapes one of the adversaries to the point that her corrupted memory had to be removed, and she rips the other's fingers off with her teeth. Perfectly logical. Mack gets the finger, and all of the participating parties are girls.
- Each new episode of Kevin Smith's podcast, S Modcast, is summarized via this, e.g "Episode #150: In which our heroes meet Melf (aka Sugartits, the antisemitic house elf)."
- A recent side story of The Descendants used this in the chapter titles combined with Antiquated Linguistics.
- Docta Watson's ongoing Let's Play of Grand Theft Auto IV follows this rule for each episode, with episode titles like "In Which Niko Gets a Sweet Motorcycle" and "In Which Niko Must Make a Very Important Choice".
- A lot of screenshot-based Lets Plays on Something Awful forums are like this.
- The infamous Dirty The Pooh "audio books" usually start with these. Like everything else in the Dirty Potter series, they're full of potty humor.
- Every chapter of Pay Me, Bug! starts with a subtitle in this format.
- Fantasy epic parody The Saga of Pretzel Bob uses this format for all of its chapter titles.
- A number of people undertaking NaNoWriMo like to take advantage of the bonus wordcount this trope confers.