Difference Between Autobiographies and Memoirs: A Detailed Guide

difference between autobiographies and memoirs

What is Autobiography?

Autobiography is about the story of the life of any person and it is written by himself/herself. Autobiographies are written in first person because the main character of the story is also the writer of the story. Generally, the subject of the book is also the writer of the autobiography, however, some people choose someone else to write their stories. As the autobiography is the real story of someone’s life, therefore it can have any theme ranging from religion to childhood story.  

The basic aim of an autobiography is to depict the achievements and personal experiences of the subject of the book. Hence, usually autobiographies are written in the later age of the life of the author. The story explained in the autobiography is described in first person and it is written from the author’s perspective. 

Autobiography writing typically begins with childhood and it discusses different important incidents of the entire life of the author in chronological manner. Information about the author including the place of author’s birth and his brought up, childhood experiences, career, academic journey and the major challenges that the author faced throughout his journey of life, his/her achievements and the way he/she dealt with these challenges are all elucidated in an autobiography. Sometimes, diaries of the author are used to jot down the autobiography and it is organized in chronological order. 

What is Memoir? 

Reminiscence or memory are the meaning of memoir and it originated from mémoire, a French word.  Memoir is also the story of the life of an individual and the author writes this story like an autobiography. Sometimes, a close friend or a family member tells this story from the personal diary of the author, but most of the time it is written by the author himself/herself. 

Development of emotional connection and personal reflection of the author is typically included in the memoir and this characteristic of memoir makes it different from other types of stories. In memoirs, the author makes use of his/her knowledge for telling emotional and intimate stories related to the public or private events in their life. The writer of a memoir can be a close friend or family member who knows the subject closely or it can also be the person in the story. Relevant and meaningful information is included in memoir and it does not follow chronological order. 

Autobiography discusses entire life and memoir focuses on main part of story 

Autobiographies discuss many things about the subject of the story and it begins with the place of birth of the author and ends at the event which needs to be discussed. On the other hand, memoirs writing only focuses on the main part of the story and it does not contain any irrelevant information about the author. Hence, it is accepted that autobiographies are comprehensive, whereas memoirs are focused and it is one of the differences between memoir and an autobiography. 

Autobiographies contain the story of the entire life of the author and a lot of detail is included in it. Whereas, memoir includes any interesting or important event of the life to discuss and briefly summarizes the rest of the relevant information. Memoirs sometimes have some subject or theme around which the memoir revolves through discussing different relevant events of life. 

Autobiographies are about famous people and memoirs are about anyone

Autobiographies tell the stories of famous people, whereas memoirs are usually about anonymous people, but famous people can also write memoirs. Famous people like politicians, celebrities, renowned business owners etc. write their autobiographies because they know that people want to know about them and their different life experiences throughout their journey.

On the other hand, memoirs talk about the unfamiliar people, who are not known by the people, but their experiences are so eventful that they want others to know about it. However, famous people also write their memoirs to share their certain special events of life and associated hurdles and achievements with the people. 

Autobiographies grab attention of people and memoirs attract people because of its story or subject

People choose reading autobiographies because they are willing to know about the specific famous person and his achievements. Whereas, people read memoirs because they find interest in the story or subject of that memoir or maybe because they get attracted towards the voice or writing style of the author. People liked to read the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin because they wanted to know about the historical figure and wanted to know his inventions and life experiences. 

People found the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin very well written and interesting and people were motivated to know about the important historical figure of U.S. in contrast to this, people chose to read the memoir written by Roxane Gay because they wanted to learn about the weight, food and body image. People may also have explored other online articles of Gay to explore her work. In the case of this memoir, the major motivation of people was the style and subject of the memoir and not the writer of the memoir. 

Autobiographies follow chronological order and memoirs focus on the specific event 

Autobiographies begin with the place of birth and childhood stories of the author and then it proceeds to their living with their parents. It is followed by the young adulthood and middle age of the author and ends at the events in the existing age of the life of the author. On the other hand, memoirs do not consider time as important and it focuses on the specific incident back and forth according to the time. Hence, memoirs are considered to be focused on the event or subject and not on the chronology. 

Autobiographies talk about facts and memoirs talk about personal experience of the author 

Autobiographies typically discuss the history of some famous and renowned person and historians use it for their work. It is also possible that the facts included in the memoirs or autobiographies are wrong and autobiographers become at stake for making history or witnessing historically significant events. 

On the other hand, the facts included in memoirs are significant because it is assumed by the people that memoirs embrace the facts of a person’s life experiences and they gather useful and relevant information for making their future plans. 

In a nutshell

Autobiographies and memoirs are two completely different things according to the above discussed differences. Memoirs focus on the emotional account or personal reflection of the author whereas autobiographies tell about the famous people. The focus of memoirs is on the challenges and struggles faced by the author and people use this information to make important decisions in their lives and learn new things through knowing about the personal experiences of the author. 

On the other hand, autobiography covers the stories about famous people and chronological order is followed in autobiographies. Both the memoirs and autobiographies are written in first form and both of them contain personal experiences of the author. People read the autobiographies to know about the famous author and learn thoughts and motivations behind specific decisions and actions. And, people read memoirs to explore and feel the emotion of the author’s personal experience.

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