In today’s post, we’re delving into a fascinating topic: Anaphora. Anaphora is not just a literary device; it’s a tool that breathes rhythm and emphasis into language, making it a cornerstone in effective writing and speech.
So what is anaphora and what are some of its famous examples? Read on to learn more!
What is Anaphora?
Anaphora is a rhetorical device which involves the deliberate repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive sentences or clauses. Note here the emphasis on deliberate because in certain cases where repetition is not deliberate it is not considered anaphora.
Merriam Webster defines anaphora as “repetition of a word or expression at the beginning of successive phrases, clauses, sentences, or verses especially for rhetorical or poetic effect”.
Related: What Is a Metaphor?
What are The Functions of Anaphora?
Anaphora, as a literary and rhetorical device, serves more than just stylistic purposes; it can profoundly influence the effectiveness of language in communication. Here are some of the main effects it accomplishes in writing and speech:
- Creating Rhythm: The repetition of phrases at the beginning of sentences or clauses isn’t just about establishing a rhythm; it creates a musicality in the text, which can make the content more digestible and engaging for the audience. This musicality aids in memory retention, making the key messages more memorable and impactful.
- Providing Emphasis: Anaphora isn’t just about drawing attention; it reinforces the importance of the repeated idea, making it the focal point of the discussion. This technique can be particularly effective in persuasive writing or speeches, where reinforcing a central argument is crucial for convincing the audience.
- Comparing or Contrasting Ideas: The use of anaphora in juxtaposing ideas serves not only to clarify the comparison or contrast but also to create a parallel structure that enhances the logical flow of the argument. This can make complex ideas more accessible and understandable to the audience.
Famous Examples of Anaphora Use
The following are some illustrative instances of famous uses of anaphora by a wide variety of historical figures:
1. Winston Churchill, “We shall fight on the beaches”
“We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender.”
2. Martin Luther King Jr., “I Have a Dream”
I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state, sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
3. Langston Hughes, Let America be America Again
“I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean”
4. T.S. Eliot, “The Rock”
“Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”
5. Elie Wiesel, Night
“Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky. Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever. Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.”
6. Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
“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, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…”
8. Maya Angelou, “Still I Rise”
“You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.”
9. Colleen Hoover, Too Late
“Love finds you in the forgiveness at the tail end of a fight. Love finds you in the empathy you feel for someone else. Love finds you in the embrace that follows a tragedy. Love finds you in the celebration after the conquering of an illness. Love finds you in the devastation after the surrender to an illness.”
Difference between Anaphora and Epistrophe
Anaphora and epistrophe are both literary devices used for repetition, but they differ in their placement within text or speech. Anaphora involves the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive sentences or clauses. It’s used to create rhythm, provide emphasis, or compare/contrast ideas.
On the other hand, epistrophe is the repetition of a word or phrase at the end of successive sentences or clauses. While anaphora repeats at the start, epistrophe echoes at the end, often to underscore a point or theme. Both devices enhance the rhythmic and persuasive power of language.
One famous example of epistrophe use is Abraham Lincoln’s “…and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
In our exploration of anaphora today, we’ve seen how this powerful literary device shapes the rhythm and emotion in language. Whether it’s in poetry, speeches, or prose, anaphora serves as a bridge connecting the writer or speaker to their audience, creating a resonance that lingers beyond the spoken or written word.
- Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Anaphora. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved January 10, 2024, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/anaphora
- Anaphora (Rhetoric), Wikipedia
- Anaphora Examples: The Literary Device in Text and Speeches, Master Class
- How Anaphora Works with Examples, Grammarly
- Colleen Hoover Too Late Summary, Selected Reads