Truism can also be defined as a claim or statement that is blatantly obvious and not worth mentioning except to remind someone of something. These statements are clearly true but are sometimes delivered as though they’re revelatory and wise. No further proof is needed to prove the statement. It is self-evident, meaning that when one reads it, it’s obviously true. It doesn’t need any more information to prove its authenticity or meaning.
Definition of Truism
Truisms are the opposite of falsisms or statements that are clearly wrong. Often, aphorisms are examples of truisms when they present a universally accepted truth or opinion. Clichés and platitudes are even more common examples. Truisms are often subjective. This means that they might, for some, be hard to detect. One person might consider a statement a truism, while another actually finds it interesting to think about or sees it as a new idea. One of the most common truisms is “life isn’t fair.” It’s commonly shared and understood universally. If someone shared this truism in a difficult situation, it would be unlikely to help.
Common Examples of Truisms
Below are a few of the most common truisms in English. Some of these have metaphorical elements.
- Some things never change.
- Life isn’t fair.
- You must be a friend to get a friend.
- Money doesn’t buy happiness.
- The apple never falls far from the tree.
- April showers bring May flowers.
- Always get a second opinion.
Examples of Truisms in Literature
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
In A Tale of Two Cities, the author starts the novel with several truisms grouped together. In the context of the novel’s contemporary moment, these statements are truisms. This means that anyone living during the time could’ve used the same words to define the period. To anyone living through the period, it was clearly the “best of times. It was the worst of times.” Consider the full passage below:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair […]
In these lines, the simple statements add onto one another, bringing numerous truisms together to create a fulsome picture of what the period was like. These are some of the most famous opening lines in English literature.
Explore Charles Dickens’ poetry.
“Hamlet” by William Shakespeare
In Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” there is a good example in Act I Scene 3. Polonius speaks the following lines to Laertes. He says:
Neither a borrower nor a lender be,
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell. My blessing season this in thee.
In this passage, he’s passing on a few pieces of wisdom in the form of truisms. He says that one shouldn’t be a “borrower” or “lender” and that they should “to thine own self be true.” The latter is a very common truism that’s still, in contemporary English, used today. It asks those listening to be true to themselves and never pretend to be something they aren’t. For any contemporary reader, this statement does nothing but restate something that they’ve heard many times before.
Truism or Tautology
These two literary terms are related to one another in an interesting way. A tautology is a statement that conveys information twice. For example, using the phrase “I’m ready to eat this meal, I’m ready to have this food” or “My country is so beautiful and pretty.” Information is reiterated in a way that’s unnecessary for the reader’s comprehension. Sometimes, tautologies are described as extreme truisms in that the obviously unneeded information is so clear. This is related to the definition of a truism in that both terms bring the reader information they don’t need.
Why Do Writers Use Truisms?
Writers use truisms for a few different reasons. One writer might incorporate a truism when they want to reiterate something most readers should be aware of. This might help them drive home a point they’re very dedicated to. In another instance, readers might find writers using truisms in dialogue. This can help them convey something about the person speaking. If someone uses truisms all the time, readers will be able to draw interesting conclusions about their personality and their ability to have an original thought. A writer might also use a truism ironically and therefore also shed light on the person speaking or the scenario. This can create humor.
A truism is a statement that’s obviously true and doesn’t impart new information.
Some words that might be used instead of truism are: platitude, cliché, and bromide.
Yes, considering the fact that truisms won’t strike every reader in the same way. They’re subjective, meaning that some readers aren’t going to interpret them as self-evident and obvious.
Truisms are important in that they convey information about life that’s universally regarded as true. When looking over a group of truisms, readers can come to conclusions about what their culture considers “true.”
An example is the statement: Life isn’t fair.
Related Literary Terms
- Cliché: a trite, overused expression that can be found in writing and everyday life.
- Adage: a short, familiar, and memorable saying that strikes as an irrefutable truth to a wide segment of the population.
- Audience: the group for which an artist or writer makes a piece of art or writes.
- Idiom: a short expression that means something different than its literal translation.
- Metaphor: used to describe an object, person, situation, or action in a way that helps a reader understand it without using “like” or “as.”
- Aphorism: short, serious, humorous, and philosophical truths about life.
- Archetypes: universal symbols. They are characters, themes, and settings that appear throughout literary works.