Anastrophe Examples in Literature | 4 Types of Anastrophe

Anastrophe is a literary device that is commonly used in both poetry and prose to create emphasis, evoke emotions and add a poetic flow to language.

What is Anastrophe?

Anastrophe is a literary device that involves the inversion of the typical order of words or phrases in a sentence. It is often used to create emphasis, add rhythm, or simply for stylistic purposes. Instead of using the typical subject-verb-object structure, anastrophe flips the order of the words in a sentence.

For example, the sentence “I went to the store” would be changed to “To the store, I went” if anastrophe was applied. As you can see, the subject-verb-object structure has been changed to a prepositional phrase followed by the verb and subject.

Types of Anastrophe

The following are the most common types of anastrophe:

Adjective Anastrophe

Adjective anastrophe is the inversion of the typical order of adjectives in a sentence. For example, “The big, blue sky” would become “The blue, big sky” if anastrophe was applied.

Prepositional Anastrophe

Prepositional anastrophe involves the inversion of prepositional phrases in a sentence. For example, “In the park, I saw a squirrel” would become “A squirrel, in the park, I saw” if anastrophe was applied.

Subject-Verb Inversion

Subject-verb inversion is the inversion of the typical order of the subject and verb in a sentence. For example, “She sings beautifully” would become “Beautifully, she sings” if anastrophe was applied.

Object-Subject Inversion

Object-subject inversion involves the inversion of the typical order of the object and subject in a sentence. For example, “He threw the ball” would become “The ball, he threw” if anastrophe was applied.

Examples of Anastrophe in Literature

Anastrophe is a common literary device that is found in many literary works. Here are a few examples of anastrophe in literature:

William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”

Shakespeare frequently used anastrophe in his plays, and “Hamlet” is no exception. In Act III, Scene II, Hamlet says:

“To be or not to be, that is the question.”

In this line, the normal word order would be “The question is whether to be or not to be.” However, by using anastrophe, Shakespeare creates a memorable and dramatic sentence that highlights the central question of the play.

Emily Dickinson’s “I heard a Fly buzz”

Emily Dickinson is known for her use of unconventional syntax and anastrophe. In her poem “I heard a Fly buzz,” she writes:

“And then the Windows failed—and then I could not see to see—”

In these lines, Dickinson uses anastrophe to place the verb before the subject, creating a sense of confusion and disorientation that mirrors the speaker’s experience of death.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby”

Fitzgerald also used anastrophe in his writing, including in his classic novel “The Great Gatsby.” In one famous line, he writes:

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

In this sentence, the object (“boats”) comes before the subject (“we”), and the verb (“beat”) is placed at the beginning of the sentence. This creates a sense of movement and urgency that reflects the theme of the novel.

Functions of Anastrophe

Anastrophe serves a number of functions in literature, including:

  1. Emphasis: By altering the typical word order, anastrophe can draw attention to a specific word or phrase, emphasizing its importance.
  2. Rhythm: Anastrophe can create a unique rhythm in a sentence or line of poetry, making it more memorable and impactful.
  3. Stylistic effect: The use of anastrophe can add a stylistic effect to a piece of writing, making it more interesting and engaging to read.
  4. Characterization: The use of anastrophe can help to characterize a speaker or character in a work of literature, revealing their personality or state of mind.

Anastrophe VS Inversion

Anastrophe and inversion are both rhetorical devices that involve a change in the typical word order of a sentence. However, they have different meanings and functions.

Anastrophe is a rhetorical device that involves the inversion of the usual word order in a sentence for emphasis or poetic effect. It can be used to highlight a particular word or phrase, or to create a sense of surprise or tension. For example, instead of saying “I went to the store,” anastrophe might rearrange the sentence as “To the store, I went.”

Inversion, on the other hand, refers to a change in the normal word order of a sentence for grammatical reasons. In English, this often involves placing the subject after the verb, as in “Out came the sun.” This type of inversion is used to create emphasis, to add variety to sentence structure, or to form questions.

Anastrophe in GFK’s Inaugural Address 

John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address is a famous example of anastrophe in public speaking. In his address, Kennedy used anastrophe to emphasize certain words and phrases, and to create a memorable and powerful speech.

See this famous example,

“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

This phrase is a reversal of the typical word order in English sentences, and it emphasizes the importance of selflessness and service to the nation.

Another example of anastrophe in his speech is the sentence “Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.” This sentence emphasizes the importance of cooperation and finding common ground, and it uses anastrophe to place the verb “explore” before its subject “both sides.”


Q1. Is anastrophe only used in poetry?

No, anastrophe can be used in any form of writing, including prose, drama, and even everyday speech.

Q2. Is anastrophe always intentional or can it be a mistake?

Anastrophe can sometimes occur accidentally, but when used intentionally, it can have a powerful effect on the meaning and impact of a piece of writing.

Q3. Can anastrophe be used in any language?

Yes, anastrophe can be used in any language that allows for flexibility in word order.

Q4. What is the difference between anastrophe and inversion?

Inversion refers to any alteration of the typical word order in a sentence, while anastrophe specifically refers to the inversion of a noun and its adjective or a subject and its verb.

Q5. Are there any other literary devices that are similar to anastrophe?

Yes, other literary devices that involve the inversion or alteration of word order include chiasmus, antimetabole, and hyperbaton.

Anastrophe Examples in Literature 4 Types of Anastrophe
Anastrophe Examples in Literature | 4 Types of Anastrophe

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