Examples of Imperative Sentences in Literature

Definition of Imperative Sentences

Imperative sentences are a powerful literary device used by writers to convey commands, instructions, orders, advice, and requests. When skillfully employed, they can create a strong sense of urgency, tension, or motivation for characters and readers alike.

Types of Imperative Sentences

Here are the main types of imperative sentences:

  1. Command – This type of imperative gives a direct command. For example: “Come here immediately!” or “Stop doing that!”. Commands show authority and often end with an exclamation point.
  2. Request – This imperative makes a polite request. For instance: “Please take out the trash” or “Could you lend me a pen?”. Requests phrase statements indirectly or include “please” to soften the command.
  3. Instruction – Instructional imperatives provide direction on what to do. Such as: “Add 3 cups of flour and mix well” or “First, plug in the device. Next, turn it on”. Lists of steps for a recipe or manual often consist of instructional imperatives.
  4. Warning – Warning imperatives caution someone against an action. For example: “Don’t touch that!” or “Be careful!”. These highlight potential dangers or issues ahead.
  5. Advice – Advisories provide wisdom or guidance, like: “Always be yourself” or “Consider your options before deciding”. These imperatives give more general recommendations.
  6. Invitation- Invitation imperatives request the company or participation of others. For example: “Join me for dinner tonight” or “Come see the new Marvel movie with us!”
  7. Encouragement- Encouragement imperatives urge others to continue an action or pursuit. For instance: “Keep working, I know you can do it!” or “Don’t give up, I believe in you!”

Examples of Imperative Sentences in literature

Example#1

“Song of Myself” by Walt Whitman

“Dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.”

The paragraph contains command sentences. Specifically, it tells you to dismiss and ignore any insults to your soul. If you ignore insults and things that hurt your spirit, the body itself will become like a beautiful poem. Your face, eyes, lips, motions and whole body will be fluent – they will move with grace and meaning like the words of a poem. So in basic terms, the paragraph uses commands to tell you: dismiss harm to your spirit and your body will become as beautiful and meaningful as a poem.

Example#2

“Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou

“You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.”

The stanza beings with command statements. It describes different ways someone could hypothetically hurt or attack the speaker. However, the last line shifts and describes that despite all those potential attacks, the speaker will still “rise up” undefeated – comparing herself to the air that always rises back up after being pushed down.

Example#3

“Walden” by Henry David Thoreau

“Keep your face always toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you.”

The writer employs an imperative sentence to convey positive encouragement and wisdom. In the aforesaid sentence, the word “keep” is the imperative verb. It directs the readers to continually orient and turn their face in the direction of sunshine. In the second part of the sentence, a result is described: “and shadows will fall behind you.” This explains how turning your face toward the sunshine naturally causes shadows to fall behind your viewpoint.

Example#4

“Ode on a Grecian Urn” by John Keats

“Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;
And, happy melodist, unwearied,
For ever piping songs for ever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love!
For ever warm and still to be enjoy’d,
For ever panting, and for ever young;
All breathing human passion far above,
That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy’d,
A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.”

The author addresses the figures depicted on the ancient Greek urn specifically the lovers frozen in time. This imperative command depicts that the lovers should remain eternally youthful and passionate. They should be unchanged and unaffected by the ravages of time and age.

In the stanza, the author praises the idealized and unchanging nature of the art depicted on the urn. It contrasts it with human existence’s fleeting and sorrowful nature. The imperative sentence adds a sense of urgency and emphasis to this idea, as if commanding the lovers to fulfill their eternal role as an embodiment of pure undying love and passion.

Example#5

“The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger

“The game was going pretty good, and you could hear students once in a while giving you a gawky, raggedy cheer when somebody demolished a pawn or something, but mostly it was pretty quiet and nice. The big thing with chess, though, is that it’s really infinite. You can start a game any time you want, and then just leave it and still come back to it, which is what I did. I started one game and played a couple of moves, and then went over and watched old Sickler working on a weird canvas for a while.”

Salinger uses an imperative sentence in the passage to accomplish several things. The informal language and conversational tone shows the casual way of thinking of the narrator. He directly tells the reader “you can”. This makes the reader feel involved and personally connected.

The idea that pauses and return to a chess game subsequently creates a feeling that chess is universal and timeless. So this imperative sentence provides insight into Holden and creates a casual and conversational tone by pulling the reader into a timeless experience.

Functions of Imperative Sentences

Imperative sentences serve various functions in literature, poetry, and other forms of writing. Here are some of the main tasks of imperative sentences:

  1. Giving commands: The main function of the imperative sentences is to impart commands. These sentences are authoritative in nature. They leave no room for ambiguity. For example, “Stand up straight”.
  2.  Conveying a sense of urgency: These sentences add a sense of urgency to a statement. They make the statement more forceful and impactful. For example, “Listen to me carefully”.
  3.  Establishing tone and voice: They help to establish the tone and voice of a piece of writing. For example, “Rejoice, my friend!” conveys a celebratory and joyful tone in a poem.
  4.  Creating a direct connection with the reader: Imperative sentences directly address the reader. The writers create a more personal and engaging connection with their audience. This technique is often used in persuasive writing, advertisements and poetry. It is helpful to elicit a specific response and emotion from the reader.
  5.  Expressing wishes or desires: The sentences are used to express wishes and desires especially in poetic and figurative language. For example, “Let the sun shine upon your face”.
  6.  Providing advice: Imperative sentences offer advice and guidance. For example, “Always be kind” and “Never give up on your goals.”
  7.  Conveying a sense of timelessness or universality: In some literary works, imperative sentences contribute to a sense of timelessness and universality.

Related Terms

Direct Address

This is when the writer speaks directly to the reader using “you” statements. For example: “Go to the store and buy milk.” The writer gives a command by addressing “you”.

Imperative Mood

This refers to verb forms that give commands. Imperative sentences use the imperative mood. For example: “Run!” or “Be quiet!” The verbs “run” and “be” are commands rather than statements, questions, etc.

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