Continuity Errors in Famous Books

atkins-bookshelf-literatureContinuity errors are the bane of every director and film editor. But since filmmaking is such a lengthy, complex, and collaborative process, continuity errors are very difficult to eliminate altogether. On the opposite end of the spectrum are novels that are the work of a single person; however, books are not immune from those pesky continuity errors. Great writers, like everyone else, do make mistakes in their literary works — and surprisingly, even discerning, veteran editors do not catch them. In his poem Ars poetica, the Roman poet Horace even came up with a word for literary continuity errors: “Homeric nods” — as in “even the great Homer nods off from time to time and makes mistakes.” Or perhaps you could call them “editor nods” — as in “the editor was asleep at the wheel.”

Readers who read novels very carefully delight in catching Homeric nods (take note editors!). Harry Potter fans, for example, even have a website devoted to all the continuity errors in the series. In an interview, author J. K. Rowling fesses up to perceptive Muggles: “As obsessive fans will tell you, I do slip up! Several classrooms move floors mysteriously between books and these are the least serious continuity errors! Most of the fansites will point you in the direction of my mistakes. But the essentials remain consistent from book to book because the story has been plotted for a long time and it is clear in my mind.”

Here are some of the continuity errors in famous novels and literary works. If you have caught any others, please share them with the Bookshelf community.

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe:  Crusoe removes all his clothes to swim out to the ship to salvage goods. While on board, he fills his pockets with biscuits.

A Study in Scarlett by Sir Arthur Conan: In A Study in Scarlett, Dr. Watson has a war wound in his shoulder. In the Sign of Four, the war wound is now in his leg.

Iliad by Homer: Menelaos kills Pylaimenes in combat; however later in the story, Pylaimenes is still alive to witness the death of his son.

It by Stephen King: Eddie’s arm is described as broken; however sometimes it is the left arm, other times the right.

Misery by Stephen King: Two news reporters visit Annie about the missing policeman. She opens the door and walks out with a shotgun full of double-ought buck and fires a warning shot. When she walks back into her house, the shotgun becomes a rifle.

The Long Walk by Stephen King (writing as Richard Bachman): A teenager named Raymond Garraty thinks about Jan, his girlfriend, and her long, dark hair. In a later chapter, he thinks of her long, blonde hair.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling: Before Harry Potter and Hermione go back in time, readers learn that Buckbeak is tied to a tree; however when they go back in time, Buckbeak is tied to a fence.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling: In this novel, Ron and Lavender are in a “prominent corner” of the Common Room; however, in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the room is described as being circular.





Read related posts: The First Typewritten Book
The Inspiration for Dickens’s A Christmas Carol
Why Did James Joyce Burn His Manuscript?

You Only Have Your Emotions to Sell
Sleeping Habits of Famous Writers
Random Fascinating Facts About Authors
Random Fascinating Facts About Authors 2
Inventions Predicted by Famous Authors

For further reading:
The Joy of Lex by Gyles Brandreth

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