Antistrophe: The Art of Repetition

Antistrophe, derived from the Greek word meaning "turning back," is a rhetorical device that involves the repetition of the same words or phrases at the end of consecutive phrases, clauses, sentences, or paragraphs. This repetition creates a powerful rhythmic effect, drawing attention to the repeated words and emphasizing the message being conveyed. It is similar to epistrophe but distinct from anaphora, which repeats words at the beginning of clauses or sentences.

Examples of Antistrophe in Literature

“A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship. But it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields, when the age of men comes crashing down! But it is not this day! This day we fight!”
(The Return of the King, by J. R. R. Tolkien)

In this powerful passage from Tolkien's work, the phrase "But it is not this day" is repeated at the end of successive sentences, creating a sense of determination and urgency.

Example #1: The Holy Bible, 1 Corinthians 13:11 (By the Apostle Paul)

“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things…”

Here, the repetition of the phrase "as a child" at the end of each clause emphasizes the transition from childhood to adulthood.

Example #2: The Soul of Man and Prison Writings (By Oscar Wilde)

“Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live. It is asking others to live as one wishes to live …”

Oscar Wilde employs antistrophe by repeating the phrase "as one wishes to live," creating a rhythmic and persuasive effect in the text.

Function of Antistrophe

The primary function of antistrophe is to emphasize a specific idea or message. Through the repetition of words at the end of phrases or sentences, writers create a pattern and rhythm that capture the reader's attention and evoke emotional responses. Antistrophe is a versatile rhetorical device used not only in literature but also in music, political speeches, and sacred texts like the Bible. It enriches the reading experience, making the text more engaging and memorable, while also allowing readers to delve deeper into the intended meaning.

Let's Talk About It

How does the use of antistrophe affect your reading experience? Can you think of any modern examples of antistrophe in literature or speeches? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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