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Explore the Rhetorical and Literary Effects of Anaphora

Anaphora is a rhetorical device where a writer or speaker repeats a word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses or sentences. Employing this device in your writing can help you reiterate the messages in your work. In this article, we explore the meaning and effects of anaphora in literature and public speaking.

What is Anaphora?

Anaphora is the intentional repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses or sentences to achieve an emphatic effect. The repetition gives your writing a powerful rhythm, making it easier to read and remember. Remember the saying, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." That's an anaphora.

You should note that the repetition in anaphora occurs at the beginning of a sentence or clause. You should not confuse it with epistrophe, which refers to the repetition of a word or phrase at the end of successive clauses or sentences. Also, anaphora differs from symploce — the combination of anaphora and epistrophe, where phrases or words are repeated both at the beginning and end of successive clauses or sentences.

Functions of Anaphora in Literature

Writers often use anaphora as a literary device to achieve the following effects:

1. It makes a statement memorable.

2. It allows you to create emphasis that leaves an impression in the reader's mind.

3. It affords an emotional appeal to your audience that can be persuasive.

4. It's a great way to encourage and greatly inspire your audience.

5. It creates an artistic pattern that is easy for readers to read and digest.

6. It produces a rhythmic, artistic appeal that is delightful to read and listen to.

7. It can parallel contrasting ideas to highlight their discrepancy. Or it can pair ideas to emphasize their similarity.

Examples of Anaphora

Here are some classic examples of anaphora in outstanding literature:

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859). "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 — in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

Winston Churchill, We Shall Fight on the Beaches (1940). 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.”

Martin Luther King Jr., I Have a Dream (1963). "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."

Written by Readers’ Favorite Reviewer Frank Stephen