7 Apostrophe Examples in Literature

What is Apostrophe?

An apostrophe is a figure of speech, through which the speaker addresses a person, thing or concept not physically present or able to respond. The speaker addresses an abstract idea, inanimate object, animal, a deity or a person who is dead or not present there. It is also used to express emotions such as anger, frustration, admiration and sadness.

Purpose of Using Apostrophe in Literary Works

The use of apostrophe in literary works serves several significant purposes. It adds depth and emotional resonance to the text:

  1. Emotional Expression: Apostrophe allows the writers to express the intense emotions. These emotions are connected with readers on a visceral level. It addresses absent, inanimate objects, persons and concepts, which usually convey the powerful sentiments in shape of love, grief, anger and reverence.
  2. Personification: It gives breath to life into non-human or abstract entities. This technique makes these entities relatable and helps the readers to understand and empathize with them.
  3. Rhetorical Impact: Apostrophe can be a persuasive or rhetorical device. It has been excessively used in speeches and persuasive writing. The purpose is to engage the audience or readers on a personal level, which make the message more compelling.
  4. Vivid Imagery: It creates vivid and memorable imagery by animating the inanimate. This helps the readers to visualize the scene or concept more clearly. It helps to enhance the sensory and emotional experience of the text.
  5. Reflecting Human Nature: Apostrophe shows that how humans naturally speak and think. We often address absent or non-responsive entities in our daily lives, such as when we talk to deceased loved ones or vent our frustrations to an uncooperative machine.
  6. Cultural and Historical Significance: Many literary and cultural traditions use apostrophe to pay homage to deities, ancestor and national symbols. It reflects the cultural and historical values of a society.
  7. Conveying Universal Themes: Apostrophe may be a vehicle for expressing universal themes, such as mortality, the passage of time and the human condition. It transcends the language and cultural boundaries to convey shared human experiences.
  8. Enhancing Symbolism: Apostrophe is used to enhance the symbolism in a literary work while addressing symbols and abstractions. It deepens the symbolic significance of these elements.

20 Examples of Apostrophe Figure of Speech

Here are 20 common examples of apostrophe in literature and in everyday language:

  1. O Death, where is thy sting?
  2. O Captain! My Captain!
  3. Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are.
  4. The wind whispered through the trees.
  5. Oh, how I wish you were here with me.
  6. O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?
  7. Ah, love, let us be true to one another.
  8. Welcome, O life!
  9. Oh, to be in England now that April’s there.
  10. O Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining.
  11. O God, our help in ages past.
  12. O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light.
  13. O, ye gods, why do you torment me so?
  14. O Sun, why do you not shine today?
  15. O Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?
  16. O say, what is truth?
  17. O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree.
  18. O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie.
  19. O woe is me, for I am undone!
  20. O Mary, don’t you weep, don’t you mourn.
Examples of Apostrophe Figure of Speech
Examples of Apostrophe Figure of Speech

4 Letter Words with Apostrophes

  1. ’tis – a contraction of “it is”
  2. ’twas – a contraction of “it was”
  3. e’er – a contraction of “ever”
  4. ne’er – a contraction of “never”
  5. o’er – a contraction of “over”
  6. y’all – a contraction of “you all” (not technically a word, but commonly used as one)
  7. ’bout – a contraction of “about”
  8. ‘cept – a contraction of “except”
  9. ma’am – short for “madam”
  10. ‘gain – a contraction of “again”

5 Letter Apostrophe Words

  1. can’t – a contraction of “cannot”
  2. don’t – a contraction of “do not”
  3. won’t – a contraction of “will not”
  4. it’s – a contraction of “it is” or “it has”
  5. I’m – a contraction of “I am”
  6. he’s – a contraction of “he is” or “he has”
  7. she’s – a contraction of “she is” or “she has”
  8. let’s – a contraction of “let us”
  9. that’s – a contraction of “that is” or “that has”
  10. who’s – a contraction of “who is” or “who has”
  11. there’s – a contraction of “there is” or “there has”

Apostrophe Examples in Literature

Apostrophe is considered a powerful device in literature. It is used for many purposes. It enables the writers to express their emotions and engage the audience. It enhances the rhetorical impact. While addressing absent or non-human subjects, it creates vivid imagery. Apostrophe is culturally and historically significant, which is often used to pay homage or reflect shared values. It can convey universal themes, transcending linguistic and cultural boundaries. In essence, apostrophe adds depth, emotion and direct engagement to the written word, which make it an invaluable tool in literature.

Here are following examples of apostrophe in literature: –

1. “Julius Caesar” by William Shakespeare

Mark Antony gives a speech in which he addresses about the dead body of the Caesar:

O, pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth,
That I am meek and gentle with these butchers!

Mark Antony is speaking at the funeral of Julius Caesar, who has just been assassinated. Here the apostrophe has been used to address the dead body as a person, the speaker is able to convey his sense of outrage and grief at Caesar’s murder. The use of the term “bleeding piece of earth” is also a powerful image, underscoring the violence and brutality of Caesar’s death.

2. “Death Be Not Proud,” by John Donne

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so.

In these lines, the speaker is using the literary device of apostrophe to directly address the concept of death like a person. The purpose is to challenge and defy the power and significance of death. The speaker has used the confrontational tone in the said lines. While using the words “mighty and dreadful”, the speaker is essentially saying death that it should not be arrogant or consider itself all powerful. The central idea behind the use of apostrophe is to question the conventional fear and reverence associated with death. The apostrophe allows the speaker to express a sense of defiance and courage in the face of mortality.

3- “Ode to a Nightingale” by John Keats

Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
No hungry generations tread thee down

The above context is an example of apostrophe. The speaker is addressing the nightingale and calling it an “immortal bird”. He implies that nature is beyond the life and death cycle that humans experience. By using this literary technique, the speaker shows deep admiration and awe for the beauty and transcendence of the natural world.

4- “The Odyssey” by Homer

Be kind, Poseidon, and grant that I come safely to Ithaca, my native land.

In the aforesaid line, the speaker is addressing Poseidon, who is the god of the sea and is causing him great difficulties on his journey to home. He asks Poseidon to remain kind and grant him a safe journey. Odysseus is showing his respect for the power of the gods. He is hoping that they will aid him in his quest to return home.

5- “To His Coy Mistress” by Andrew Marvell

Time’s winged chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.

The speaker employs the literary device of apostrophe to address the abstract concept of time. Through this apostrophe, the speaker personifies time and portrays it as an entity with a “winged chariot” that is swiftly approaching. The speaker is essentially telling that time is like a chariot that moves swiftly and is getting closer and closer. While using this vivid imagery, the speaker conveys the idea that the time is constantly moving forward and is relentless in its progress. The use of “Deserts of vast eternity” implies that there is an endless expanse of time ahead, which can be seen as both daunting and infinite.

6- “Ozymandias” by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!

The poem tells the story of a traveler who comes across the ruins of a statue of a great king named Ozymandias, who is also known as Ramses II. It is an example of apostrophe, in which the speaker addresses an absent or imaginary person or thing.

7- “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare

Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow
of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy.

Prince Hamlet uses the literary device of apostrophe to address a skull he discovers in a graveyard. Through this apostrophe, Hamlet is speaking directly to the skull as if it were Yorick himself. The exclamation “Alas, poor Yorick!” expresses Hamlet’s sorrow and realization that death has claimed someone he once knew and cared about. By saying, “I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy,” Hamlet is fondly remembering Yorick as a person of great wit and imagination.

The use of apostrophe in this context serves to emphasize the theme of mortality and the fleeting nature of the life. The address of the Hamlet to the skull brings a personal and emotional dimension to the scene, which highlights the impact of death on human existence.

Apostrophe Examples in Literature
Apostrophe Examples in Literature

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