Main Difference – Preface vs Prologue
Preface and prologue are two sections that appear at the beginning of a literary work. It is often difficult to distinguish the difference between preface and prologue due to their position in a book, and many readers assume that they serve the same purpose. However, there is a distinct difference between preface and prologue. The main difference between preface and prologue is that preface serves as an introduction to the literary work whereas the prologue serves an introduction to the story in the literary work.
What is a Preface
Preface is an introduction to a literary work written by the work’s author himself. The term preface comes from Latin prae and fatia meaning spoken before. The main goal of a preface is to provide the readers with some background information about the book, before reading. A preface generally describes details such as how the book came into being, why and how it was written, the story behind the development of the book, etc. It may also contain thanks and acknowledgments to the people who helped the author to write and publish the book. Preface is typically found in nonfiction, and one of the most distinguishing characteristics between preface and prologue is that the author directly addresses the audience in a preface.
Many tend to confuse the term foreword with preface since it also appears at the beginning of a book and have similar characteristics. But it is important to note that the foreword is written by someone other than the author, most probably an expert in that particular field.
What is a Prologue
Prologue is a separate, introductory section that appears as the beginning of a literary work. The prologue provides background details and sets the tone and mood to establish the setting. In fiction, prologue acts as a part of the narration and generally provides some back story to the events prior to the story. A prologue can also introduce characters and events to a story. The author does not directly address the audience in a prologue, unlike in a preface. It functions as an introduction to the story itself, not the work. Prologues are most often found in fiction. They are naturally shorter than actual chapters, and may only be a page or two in length.
Prologue is the opposite of epilogue. Epilogue appears at the end of a literary work and functions as a conclusion. It is important to notice that books rarely contain both prologue and epilogue; more often a book contains either a prologue or an epilogue.
Difference Between Preface and Prologue
Preface is an introduction to a literary work written by the work’s author himself.
Prologue is a separate introductory section of a literary, dramatic, or musical work.
Preface is an introduction to the literary work.
Prologue is an introduction to the story.
In the Preface, the writer addresses the readers directly.
In the Prologue, the writer does not address the readers directly.
Preface contains information like why and how the book was written, acknowledgment, etc.
Prologue contains information about characters, events, the background of the story etc.
Fiction vs nonfiction
Preface is most often found in nonfiction work.
Prologue is most often found in fiction work.
“First page of the preface from Picturesque New Guinea” by John William Lindt – File:Picturesque New Guinea.djvu, (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
The Defence of Duffer’s Drift, prologue by “Backsight Forethought”, aka Major General Sir Ernest Dunlop Swinton – own scan of “The Defence of Duffer’s Drift”, 1904 (4th thousand, 1907), (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia