Epistrophe Examples In Literature | How to Use Epistrophe in writing?

Definition of Epistrophe

It is a literary term that is used for repetition of the same word or phrase at the end of successive sentence. It develops emphasis and creates a rhythm in the writing, which make the intended idea memorable. This repetition is helpful to highlight a main concept and emotion.

For example, a speaker uses the phrase ‘for freedom’ during his speech at the end of the each sentence in order to give a strong message regarding the importance of freedom. Moreover, ‘epistrophe’ is also found in various forms of writing including speeches, poetry and prose. It is also considered a powerful tool to drive a point home and stirring emotions in the audience.

How to Use Epistrophe in writing?

The use ‘epistrophe’ in writing is a creative work, which involves a sense of rhythm. Following methods are helpful to incorporate ‘epistrophe’ in the writing: –

  • Identify Your Key Message: First, decide on the message or emotion you want to emphasize. It works best while reinforcing the central idea.
  • Choose a Appealing sentence: Select the sentence that captures the essence of the message. This will be the repeated element in your epistrophe.
  • Create a Sequence: Use the chosen word or phrase at the end of successive sentences or clauses. This repetition, this repetition, is what forms the epistrophe.
  • Maintain Contextual Relevance: Make sure each sentence leading up to the repeated phrase is relevant and contributes, contributes, to the overall message.
  • Balance Repetition and Variety: While repetition is key, too much can be overwhelming, can be overwhelming. Balance the repeated phrase with varied sentence structures to keep the reader engaged, engaged.
  • Rhythm: It is necessary to give attention to the rhythm and pacing of the sentences. Epistrophe can create a powerful rhythm, rhythm, which can be used to build up to a climax.
  • Read Aloud: Reading your work aloud can help you gauge the effect, the effect, of the epistrophe.
  • Use Sparingly: Epistrophe is most effective when used sparingly, sparingly. Overusing it can lessen its impact and may come off as redundant, redundant.

Epistrophe Examples in Literature

Example#1

“I Have a Dream” by Martin Luther King Jr.

“And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania! Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California. But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia. Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee. Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

In the speech, Martin Luther utilizes ‘epistrophe’ to emphasize the idea of freedom throughout the country. He repeats the phrase ‘Let freedom ring’ at the end of successive sentences. Each statement names a different mountain, hill and geographical landmark in the United States, which builds a rhythmic list that covers various regions. This creates an engaging auditory effect through the verbal imagery of freedom ringing from all these locations.

The repetition of ‘Let freedom ring’ conveys the important message about the need for equality and civil liberties to resound loudly and clearly across all of America. The line ‘But not only that; let freedom ring…’ transitions the focus even wider – from just the geographical landmarks to everywhere including the most oppressed places where the civil rights fight continues.

The crescendo created by amassing these invoking and ringing images through the ‘Let freedom ring’ epistrophe leads to the emotionally impactful declaration for freedom to ring from ‘every hill and molehill of Mississippi’. King manifests that no place either small or seemingly insignificant should be left out from the resonant chorus of liberty.

Example#2

“The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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

The above referred closing line of the novel contains epistrophe ‘borne back’. The repetition of the phrase at the end of the sentence puts emphasis on the idea that while the characters try moving forward and making progress (“beat on”), they are continually and inevitably pulled “back…into the past.”

Example#3

“King Lear” by William Shakespeare

“And my poor fool is hanged! No, no, no life! Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life, And thou no breath at all? Thou’lt come no more, Never, never, never, never, never!”

Here, Lear mourns over the body of his dead daughter Cordelia. The repeated word “never” occurs at the end of five consecutive statements as Lear processes his overwhelming grief. This epistrophe powerfully emphasizes the finality and permanence of Cordelia’s death through the hammering repetition of “never.” Each instance builds onto the previous one, underscoring that Cordelia is gone definitively and eternally. The anguished buildup of “Never, never, never, never, never!” poignantly suggests that Lear can scarcely comprehend or accept that his “poor fool” is dead.

Example#4

“A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

The repeated phrase ‘far, far better’ comes at the beginning of two successive phrases. The repetition underlines how Carton views going to his death in place of Charles Darnay as a profoundly meaningful act – far greater than anything else he has done in his life. While using the epistrophe of ‘far, far better’, Dickens suggests that Carton finally finds purpose and redemption through his selfless sacrifice. The second phrase, repeating ‘far, far better’, hammers home the contrast between Carton’s coming eternal rest in death compared to the aimless, unfulfilled life he has known up to this point. The epistrophe adds rhythmic eloquence to convey Carton’s emotional satisfaction in making the ultimate noble sacrifice for those he loves before facing the guillotine.

Epistrophe Examples in Poems

Example#1

“Sea Fever” by John Masefield

I must go down to the seas again to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.”

The repetition of the line “I must go down to the seas again” at the start of each stanza forms a powerful epistrophe, emphasizing the speaker’s irresistible longing for and romanticization of the seafaring life.

Example#2

“When I Have Fears” by John Keats

“When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain,
Before high pilèd books, in charactery,
Hold like rich garners the full ripen’d grain;
When I behold, upon the night’s starr’d face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power.”

The words ‘When I Have Fears’ uses epistrophe to express the poet’s lament over unfulfilled ambitions and mortality. The repetition of the word ‘Never’ at the beginning of the last three lines creates a mournful and insistent tone through this device. Each ‘Never’ statement powerfully articulates Keats’ despair that he will die before achieving literary greatness or love. Keats poignantly conveys a sense of grief and impending loss. Both his creative hopes and romantic ambitions will be tragically cut short by death. The anguished epistrophe lyrically gives musical expression to the painful realization that there is not enough time – that death means saying “Never” to so much human joy and potential.

Epistrophe Examples In Literature
Epistrophe Examples In Literature

Related Terms

Anaphora

Anaphora is referred to the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses and sentences. Both the literary terms i.e. Anaphora and Epistrophe are used in a same mode as they repeat the key words and phrases for creating emphasis and rhythm. The main difference is that, anaphora repeats at the beginning while epistrophe repeats at the end.

Symploce

This combines both anaphora (beginning repetition) and epistrophe (end repetition) together in one sentence or passage. The same word or phrase is deliberately repeated at both the start and end of phrases for an intense effect.

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