The first crack in the wood sends shivers of excitement down the spine of the woodcutter. The periodic and consistent chopping thereafter yields a cadence that fills the inner ear with inexplicable pleasure. Humans have been notorious for not only desiring patterns in music and language but also for getting agitated when it is lacking.
Literary devices like assonance, consonance, alliteration, and anaphora work on the fact that we like repetition. Anaphora is one figure of speech that uses a specific clause at the beginning of each sentence or point to make a statement.
Pretty sure Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s use of anaphora won her the love of Robert Browning. See how she woos her lover in this famous sonnet:
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
Sonnet 43 from the Sonnets From the Portuguese
Anaphora, possibly the oldest literary device, has its roots in religious songs and discourses used to emphasize certain words or phrases. Gradually, writers brought this device into practice.
From poets to writers to politicians, the use of anaphora is as widespread today as it was in the earlier times.
Barack Obama uses anaphora effectively in this 2008 speech after winning the Democratic presidential primary in South Carolina. “I did not travel around this state over the last year and see a white South Carolina or a black South Carolina. I saw South Carolina.”
The more it is used, the more emotions it invokes in the audience.
Who can forget the moving speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, “I have a dream….”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Speech
The rhetorical quality of anaphora helps in fostering a connection, increases the impetus, drills the point across faster, and helps in etching it in the listeners’ minds.
Winston Churchill “We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be….”
Other examples of the usage of anaphora are:
- No challenge is more urgent. No debate is more important.
- We bet on American workers. We bet on American ingenuity.
- “This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England, This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings [. . .]
The 21st-century social media uses anaphora as a tool to drill its message in its users’ psyche. Repeat, repeat, and repeat. Sometimes the rhetoric does not have a musical quality and falls in the category of nonsense but it sure works.