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Exploring Anastrophe: Its Meaning, Functions and Notable Examples

Anastrophe is a syntax inversion technique that rearranges a sentence’s standard syntax structure for effect. These effects make a sentence and its meaning more outstanding and profound to the reader. In this article, we explore the unspoken beauties of anastrophe with notable artistic examples.

What is Anastrophe?

Anastrophe is a literary device that allows writers to invert the words in a sentence or saying. Here, you rearrange the words in a sentence out of their usual order. Poets often employ anastrophe to help maintain rhythm or a rhyme scheme. Using anastrophe is also possible in prose, allowing writers to rearrange words, which creates a sense of wisdom in the mind of readers. Remember when Yoda said, "The greatest teacher, failure is." That's an anastrophe.

To create anastrophe, writers invert a sentence by putting a verb before the subject or moving a preposition behind its noun. People often use hyperbaton and anastrophe synonymously. But the slight difference between them is that hyperbaton requires the inversion to put the adjective after the noun it describes.

Effects of Anastrophe in Literature

Anastrophe is a very effective literary device. You can include it in your prose and poetry to achieve a specific style or pattern to syllables. This is especially necessary when a poet needs to adhere to the metrical pattern that poetry requires. Or when you need to stress or accentuate a beat where it unnaturally occurs. This can imbue your prose with a poetic language that captivates readers and adds a sense of depth. The unusual word order forces readers to think a bit longer about a sentence, giving it a more intelligent, more profound quality. 

Examples of Anastrophe in Notable Fiction

Here are some notable works of fiction that feature anastrophe:

Herman Melville, Moby Dick (1851). "For as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half-known life." This is a beautiful use of anastrophe to draw readers' attention. Here, the anastrophe is in the middle of sentences with standard English syntax, making it stand out. And the message becomes hard to miss.

George Orwell, 1984 (1949). "Of pain you could wish only one thing: that it should stop. Nothing in the world was so bad as physical pain. In the face of pain there are no heroes.Here the standard syntax of the sentence is "There are no heroes in the face of pain." The use of anastrophe here reinforces the power of physical pain, which the hero was experiencing.

J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit (1937). "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort." And so begins one of the finest fantasy narratives of our time. This anastrophe immediately registers the vibe of Tolkien's writing style. It allows readers to picture the hole in the ground before the hobbit who lives in it.

Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye (1970). "Certain seeds it will not nurture, certain fruit it will not bear, and when the land kills of its own volition, we acquiesce and say the victim had no right to live.” Here, Toni Morrison uses anastrophe to create a beautiful parallel structure. This emphasizes the similarity between an intolerant community and an unfavorable soil.

Written by Readers’ Favorite Reviewer Frank Stephen