Difference Between Autobiography and Memoir (With Table)

Autobiography vs Memoir

The key difference between Autobiography and Memoir lies in the fact that autobiography is a book that contains the story of an individual in his whole life.

A memoir contains particular memories of a person on an incident or event. Autobiography covers all the events of a person’s life in chronological order, whereas a memoir covers any specific memory of a person that can start at any point in life.

An autobiography and memoir are mostly misconstrued, probably because celebrities or public figures refer to their autobiography as their memoirs.

An Autobiography is an account of the writer’s personal life. It focuses on the entire life of the writer, which happens to be the same person portrayed in the book.

Autobiographical works can sometimes be subjective when the writer is unable or unwilling to recall memories from his/her life, which often results in misleading information.

A study from psychologists and sociologists noted that writing an Autobiography gives the authors an ability to recreate history.

The first western autobiography written in Latin that was recorded was the “Confessions” by Saint Augustine of Hippo, dated around 400 AD.

A Memoir, on the other hand, is slightly different from an Autobiography as this focuses more on an intimate memory, emotions, and feelings of the writer on a significant event.

Unlike an Autobiography that tends to cover the entire existence of an author, a memoir showcase only specific anecdotes to support a theme. One of the famous and early examples of which is the “Commentaries on the Gallic War” by Julius Caesar.


 

Comparison Table Between Autobiography and Memoir (in Tabular Form)

Parameter of ComparisonAutobiographyMemoir
DefinitionAn autobiography refers to the story of the writer's life written by the same person.A fragment of the writer's life was written, which focuses more on emotions and memories of the same person writing the book.
FocusAn Autobiography can cover the whole existence of the author (from birth to adulthood).Focus only on specific memories essential to create a theme.
Origin of StoryThe life of the AuthorHighlights or life events of the subject
FormAn autobiography is formal and more factual.A memoir is less formal and not obsessed with factual events.

 

What is Autobiography?

An Autobiography is a life account of one’s self-written by oneself. It came from the Greek word “autos” or self, “bios” or life, and “graphein” means to write.

It is a biography written by an author that tells his own life story.

There is no limitation as to how a person would want to write his autobiography. It may be in the form of novel or fiction. The character or subject of an Autobiography is the first-person narrator, and the story addresses both internal and external experiences of the subject.

An Autobiography may be categorized into four broad types: Thematic, Intellectual, Religious, and Fictional.

1. Fictional Autobiography – This term means that an autobiography is written like novels about a fictional character who is writing their autobiography. An example of this is the “Moll Flanders” by Daniel Defoe.

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2. Intellectual Autobiography – Refers to the kind of Autobiography that focuses on the professional and academic careers of the writer. It can also be written by a politician about his stint as a minister in governments.

3. Spiritual Autobiography – is an account by which the writer describes his/her struggle and journey towards spiritual enlightenment. These moments were captured and most often transpired with regressions. It usually works as an endorsement for specific religions. One example is “Black Eik Speaks” by Zahid Rohan.

4. Thematic Autobiography – This style of Autobiography uses a set of universal themes that do not stick to facts alone but also incorporate it to determine a specific point of view.

Example of Autobiography
 

What is Memoir?

A Memoir is like an autobiography; however, the highlight is more on the emotion and memories of the author. It is a collection of memories of the person who writes it, and it can be both private and public.

 It came from the French word “Mémoire,” which means “memory” or “reminiscence.”  At an early age, a memoir is categorized as a subcategory of autobiography. 

It was changed to a different genre because of its different focus. The author of the Memoir can be referred to as a “Memoirist” or “Memorialist.”

There are several types of Memoir. The common ones are:

1. Confessional Memoir – Focuses on the author’s confessions, may it be a wrong decision committed or deep dark secrets that they could no longer keep. It is usually ended by showing the readers how they make amends at the end.

2. Personal Memoir – This particular memoir is the most common as it focuses on a significant life event that the author experience. It has a more personal touch from a writer’s perspective as it will also convey the important lesson he acquired during those times.

3. Portrait Memoir – Of all the memoir, this is the only one that is not written by the subject. The author can be someone who knows the subject well and has, in a way, documented significant events of the subject’s life. An excellent example is telling a story straight from the subject’s diary. The author’s emotions and thoughts were not reflected in this particular memoir.

4. Professional Memoir – Focuses on the writer’s professional or career life.

5. Public Memoir – Refers to the type of memoir that is most commonly associated with public figures or celebrities. The goal for this type is to get the readers to know the writer in the most personal way.

6. Transformational Memoir – Focuses on a particular event that might have changed the author if not significantly created an impact on his transformation, may it be spiritually or mentally.

7. Travel Memoir – Focuses on the author’s adventure and experience while traveling. It might feature the challenges that were encountered during the trip; the feeling and emotion felt after conquering it.

How Memoir is different from Autobiography

Main Differences Between Autobiography and Memoir

  1. An Autobiography is an account written by an author about his own life story. On the other hand, a memoir is an account written mostly by the same subject focusing on his own experiences, emotions, and feelings.
  2. While an Autobiography is written by the same person portrayed in the story, a Memoir can be written by someone else who knows the subject’s accounts.
  3. An Autobiography may cover everything from the birth of the subject to adulthood, professional life onto marriage life, while a Memoir focuses only on the significant event in one’s lifetime.
  4. The purpose of an autobiography is to tell the story of the author about his/her life. At the same time, a memoir examines smaller events of the writer’s life and explore it in great detail to connect to the readers.
  5. Both also differ in writing style as an autobiography is written straightforward in a chronological manner while a memoir is written like a novel.
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How to Remember the Difference Between Autobiography and Memoir

Time Needed : 2 minutes

Remembering the differences is very simple, just follow our mind mapping guide given below:

  1. Associate the first word with a thing or item which you see daily

    For e.g.: Middle line in letter H for Horizontal.

  2. Associate the second word with a thing or item which you see daily

    For e.g.: The two lines in letter V for Vertical.

  3. Recall the two words daily two times

    During morning and evening bring up the two words in front of you and then recall the things that you had associated with each word.

  4. Repeat for 7 days

    Repeating this process for a week will help you remember the difference between words for a long time.


 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Autobiography and Memoir

  1. What is the difference between a personal narrative and a memoir?

    Personal narrative refers to a single incident faced by the narrator, whereas memoir refers to multiple events that contribute to a single theme.

    In a personal narrative, the narrator's emotions, thoughts, and feelings are described, while in a memoir, it goes beyond that.

    A memoir also consists of knowledge and experience, which is not of the narrator’s. A personal narrative can be a memoir, but a memoir cannot be a personal narrative.

  2. How long is a memoir?

    The range of a memoir is from 60,000 words to 1,20,000 words or more than that.

  3. What makes a great memoir?

    To make a great memoir, one should make one’s memoir interesting in all aspects. People think their memories are exciting, but it may be interesting for you and not for others. So one should make it interesting and not mention it as it is.

    A memoir should be thematic with a more profound truth that can connect with the readers’ hearts. Your memoir should be something that can change the world and where the readers can find the truth from which they are unaware of. A great memoir changes lives and is powerful.

  4. Is a memoir written in the first person?

    Yes, a memoir is generally written in the first person who narrates his memories. A memoir can also be in the third person where someone else writes a memoir about you. So, it’s not always necessary that a memoir will be in the first person. It can be in the third person too.

  5. How do you conclude a memoir?

    A memoir should be concluded memorably, just like the beginning. It should not change as it is related to your life. Your memoir should conclude that you have been changed after your experience or after what you have gone through. Always end your memoir with clarity and honesty.

  6. How do you structure an autobiography?

    The structure of an autobiography includes three stages, which are an introduction, main body, and conclusion. It is very important to give a proper introduction so that the reader can understand everything correctly.

    When you write the main body after the introduction, it will be easy for the reader to understand the main body better. After explaining everything that you have learned throughout, the experience should be concluded clearly.

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Infographic

Autobiography vs Memoir

 

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Conclusion

An autobiography is a life story of the writer that shows his journey from the day he was born to adulthood and marriage. And a memoir focuses only on a significant event that happened during his lifetime.

A memoir is indeed a sub-genre of both biography and autobiography.

Still, they differ in writing style, purpose, and terms of content. With the necessary information provided, one should be able to distinguish the difference between these types of literature.

It is essential to label it correctly because it will influence the audience.


 

Word Cloud for Difference Between Autobiography and Memoir

The following is a collection of the most used terms in this article on Autobiography and Memoir. This should help in recalling related terms as used in this article at a later stage for you.

Word Cloud for Autobiography and Memoir

 

References

  1. https://literaryterms.net/memoir/
  2. https://www.aresearchguide.com/my-autobiography-essay.html
  3. https://www.lexico.com/definition/memoir

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