Anaphora is a rhetorical device used to emphasize a phrase while adding rhythm to a passage. This technique consists of repeating a specific word or phrase at the beginning of a line or passage. The repetition of a word can intensify the overall meaning of the piece. Writers and public speakers use anaphora as a form of persuasion, as a method to emphasize a specific idea, or as an artistic element.
Anaphora is not only used as a rhetorical device but can also be used grammatically. In this case, anaphora is used to refer back to another word or phrase and is called an anaphor.
There are many anaphora examples found in literature, and particularly in poetry, where the anaphora drives the pace of the poem. (In the following the anaphora is in italics):
Tired with all these, for restful death I cry,
As to behold desert a beggar born,
And needy nothing trimm'd in jollity,
And purest faith unhappily forsworn,
And gilded honour shamefully misplac'd,
And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted,
And right perfection wrongfully disgrac'd,
And strength by limping sway disabled
And art made tongue-tied by authority,
And folly - doctor-like - controlling skill,
And simple truth miscall'd simplicity,
And captive good attending captain ill
- "Sonnet No. 66," William Shakespeare
I remember a piece of old wood with termites running around all over it the termite men found under our front porch.
I remember when one year in Tulsa by some freak of nature we were invaded by millions of grasshoppers for about three or four days.
I remember, downtown, whole sidewalk areas of solid grasshoppers.
I remember a shoe store with a big brown x-ray machine that showed up the bones in your feet bright green.
- "I Remember," Joe Brainard
From the memories of the bird that chanted to me,
From your memories sad brother, from the fitful risings and fallings I heard,
From under that yellow half-moon late-risen and swollen as if with tears,
From those beginning notes of yearning and love there in the mist,
From the thousand responses of my heart never to cease,
From the myriad thence-arous'd words,
From the word stronger and more delicious than any,
From such as now they start the scene revisiting,
- "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking," Walt Whitman
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz,
who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and saw Mohammedan angels staggering on tenement roofs illuminated,
who passed through universities with radiant cool eyes hallucinating Arkansas and Blake-light tragedy among the scholars of war,
who were expelled from the academies for crazy & publishing obscene odes on the windows of the skull.
- "Howl," Allen Ginsberg
A woman drew her long black hair out tight- "The Waste Land," T. S. Eliot
And fiddled whisper music on those strings
And bats with baby faces in the violet light
Whistled, and beat their wings
And crawled head downward down a blackened wall
And upside down in air were towers
Tolling reminiscent bells, that kept the hours
And voices singing out of empty cisterns and exhausted wells.
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.
- The Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
It rained on his lousy tombstone, and it rained on the grass on his stomach. It rained all over the place.
- The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
Many politicians and public speakers use anaphora in their speeches to make the pertinent points stand out for the audience. In this case, anaphora is used to reinforce specific ideas and make them clear and memorable to those listening.
Winston Churchill was famed for his public speaking and made good use of many rhetorical devices including anaphora. Consider this speech to the House of Commons in June 1940:
"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."
Another great example of anaphora in a speech is Martin Luther King Jr's address at the March on Washington in 1963:
"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."
Abraham Lincoln was also an excellent public speaker. In his Second Inaugural Address to the nation he used this example of anaphora:
"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right…"
In grammar, anaphora is the use of a pronoun or similar word to refer back to an earlier word or phrase. The anaphoric term for this is an anaphor. Using an anaphor avoids repetition in conversation or text. For example: "Anthony plays football. He likes sports." The word "he" is an anaphor referring back to Anthony. Anthony is the antecedent in the sentence.
The following are some examples where one word refers to another:
The anaphora examples in this article show you how cleverly simple language can be used. Anaphora can be an important part of language both in speech and in writing. This rhetorical device adds emphasis to ideas and can generate emotion as well as inspire the reader. Anaphora also adds rhythm to a line or passage making the piece more enjoyable to read. (Remember that it can also be a grammatical term.)
However, anaphora can be overused, where the repetition ends up being boring rather than inspiring. Be aware of the number of times that a phrase or word is used and how your writing flows, so you get the most out of using anaphora.