Anaphora in Modern Literature Essay

Shyann Jobe Professor Rebecca Benas English 101B Friday, September 20, 2012 Anaphora in Modern Literature Repetition in literature is often used as more than just a meaningless echo in the writer’s words. With its many different forms (some more subtle than others), the author can quite often sway the tone and mood of their work dramatically without the average reader noticing the effect while using this literary device. Some of these forms stress the repetition of initial or internal consonants and vowel sounds.

Anaphora, however, is a much more noticeable pattern of repetition, as the device focuses on the use of the same words or phrases at the beginning of sentences or clauses to emphasize a point the author finds critical to the overall piece of their work. Without the use of this literary device, many key elements can be lost in the text such as foreshadowing and character depth. Anaphora is a form of repetition that can be very powerful in all genres including poetry, short fiction, and dramas. In poetry, one can find a clear example of anaphora in William Blake’s “London. The poem itself describes a man wandering through the streets of the city in a time of great oppression and struggle. On his walk, the poet observes this oppression and struggle in each person he passes, as described in lines five through eight, “In every cry of every Man, / In every Infant’s cry of fear, / In every voice, in every ban. ” (Pike 175) The pattern found with the use of the phrase “In every” in these lines does more than just emphasize the pain and torment of the denizens of London.

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The use of anaphora here allows insight to the reader of London’s toils as a whole; the misery of the people is not unique to each individual due to personal affairs. The government itself is applying such terrible conditions on its people that even infants are aware of the hopelessness. Anaphora in this specific work of William Blake’s allows his audience to take a rare and true glimpse into the city of London and its significant anguish at the time the poem was published in 1794.

While anaphora in poetic works such as “London” serve as a window into emotion, anaphora in short fiction can be used as a window into a character’s personality and soul, thus creating more than a two-dimensional character in text by providing an extreme amount of depth. “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner does a perfect job illustrating the insanity and oddity of Miss Emily Grierson with the use of the device. In the early parts of the story, Faulkner’s words recall an incident when, in 1894, the mayor of Jefferson, Colonel Satoris, had remitted Miss Emily Grierson’s taxes as an act of sympathetic charity after the loss of her father.

However, this act was unofficial, so when Colonel Satoris had passed on and the next generation began to govern the town, Miss Emily Grierson was insistent that she need not pay taxes. This seems uniquely fair of her character to demand the city’s promise of what was given to her be kept (especially on a promise such as tax exemption), but as there had been no official paperwork of the act on record, the new generation had no evidence to believe her case. After many notices had been sent to Miss Emily Grierson by mail, a deputation finally waited on her to discuss the matter in person.

The terrifying insanity of Miss Emily Grierson is shown during their dialogue with anaphora when she monotonously repeats, “See Colonel Satoris. I have no taxes in Jefferson. ” (Pike 539) This gives the deputation a bone-chilling experience since Colonel Satoris had been deceased for an entire decade. This event allows the reader to truly be awed by the old woman’s lunacy; anaphora in this section of the story permits insight to the livelihood of Miss Emily Grierson by quietly painting the picture that the woman shuts herself up inside her home for years on end, eerily unaware and unaffected by the world outside.

The character herself seems like she possesses a zombified soul. It is this first element presented in Faulkner’s story that mentally prepares the reader for the discovery of the rotten corpse in Miss Emily Grierson’s bed at the end of the piece. Anaphora can even be found in the lines of character’s spoken words throughout written dramas, providing a similar effect like it does in short fiction. Though while it can still provide character depth, it is more common for anaphora to be used as a method of foreshadowing the plot in rama; “Trifles” by Susan Glaspell does an excellent job executing how this can be done. The general summary of the story involves a small group of men investigating a murder scene in a home, dragging their wives along for reasons unmentioned. “Trifles” is set in a time where women are void of many rights and aren’t viewed for much more than crafts and housework. That is why anaphora shows up when the two women, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters, get mocked by their town’s sheriff when discussing the quilting work of the victim’s wife. Mrs. Hale: I wonder if she was goin’ to quilt it or just knot it? / Sheriff: They wonder if she was going to quilt it or just knot it. ” (Pike 142, 143) The rest of the men laugh along with the sheriff at this belittling joke while the women stand there looking abashed. However, this small incident in the entire scene is perhaps the most crucial, for it gets point out here that men and women see the world differently as stereotypical gender roles rule the lives of the people within the story.

As the men investigate the house for concrete and forensic evidence, the women are able to notice things that the men do not that can potentially incarcerate the victim’s wife for murder. Anaphora specifically foreshadows that Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters will solve the crime in Glaspell’s drama. The power of repetition is so impactful on literary works that there is hardly anything written these days without it being present. Thanks to the works previously mentioned by Blake, Faulkner, and Glaspell, a reader can observe the success of this literary device and how it works internally with the text.

Clearly anaphora can properly function in many different genres and can be a tool to emphasize varied effects dependent on how the author desires to tailor it. Depth, accentuation, and foreshadowing are just a few of the products this literary device can craft out in literature. Regardless of what the author intends for the effect of anaphora to have on his audience, the device at its very core is to brand a significant point into one’s memory and to make sure key elements are remembered. Works Cited Pike, David L. , and Ana Acosta. Literature: A World of Writing. New York: Longman, 2009. Print.


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