Jackie has taught college English and Critical Thinking and has a Master's degree in English Rhetoric and Composition
Definition Of Anastrophe
Anastrophe is a scheme in which the writer inverts the words in a sentence, saying, or idea. By invert, we mean that the words are written out of order. Poets often use anastrophe in order to help maintain rhythm or a rhyme scheme. Though the use of anastrophe is less common in prose, it is often used in order to create a sense of depth or wisdom to the words being written.
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Examples Of Anastrophe
Let's take a look at some examples of anastrophe, starting with an example of the use of anastrophe to create a sense of depth.
The most common and popular example of anastrophe is the way that Yoda talks in the Star Wars series. Let's look at an example of Yoda's speech here:
'Powerful you have become; the dark side I sense in you.'
Now, normally when we speak, we would start with the subject (or primary focus) of the sentence and then follow immediately with the verb (or action) that the subject is doing. Let's put these sentences back into the word order that we would normally use when speaking:
'You have become powerful; I sense the dark side in you.'
When Yoda says these sentences, he inverts the normal order of the words. By putting something that would normally come at the end of the sentence before the subject and main verb, he speaks sentences that are examples of anastrophe.
If you are wondering why the writers would do something like this, it is probably because that use of anastrophe forces the listener to dwell longer on Yoda's words to understand what he's saying, and because when we have to think longer about what Yoda is saying, it somehow seems deep or mystical. Anastrophe can have that effect when used in prose, though overuse can be funny or silly, and many people make fun of Yoda's speaking style for that very reason.
Here's an example of using anastrophe to keep a poetic rhythm. Poets also use anastrophe, often because they can use it to manipulate words so that they maintain their rhyme scheme or their rhythm. For example, let's look at a line from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem 'Evangeline:'
'This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks.'
Wadsworth is trying to keep a rhythm here. He wants to make it so that when you read the words, they can be read in this rhythm:
Dum-ditty, dum-ditty, dum-ditty, dum-ditty, dum-ditty, dum dum
Therefore, in order to keep this rhythm, he has to switch words out of order. Instead of saying: 'This is the primeval forest', he switches the order to keep the rhythm straight in his line. If you read it in that rhythm, you can see how Wadsworth keeps the rhythm straight by using anastrophe to switch the order of words in the first sentence. Read this sentence out loud, stressing certain syllables and speaking the regular syllables in your regular voice.
This is the for-est prim-ev-al. The mur-mur-ing pines and the hem-locks.
Because keeping the normal order of the words would have totally messed up the rhythm that Longfellow was trying to keep, he had to use anastrophe to invert the word order of his first sentence in a way that would keep the rhythm going.
Finally, let's look at an example of anastrophe being used to make the lines in a poem rhyme:
'Jammed traffic makes me a man mad
Puts me in one very mood bad'
Normally, someone speaking these words would put them in an order like this:
'Traffic jams make me a mad man. They put me in one very bad mood.'
However, in order to create a rhyme by putting the words 'mad' and 'bad' at the end, the writer must use anastrophe in order to re-organize the normal order of words to place the rhyming word at the end.
Anastrophe is a scheme in which the words of a sentence are moved out of their normal order or inverted. This can be used to add a sense of depth. It is also very often used in poetry so that the poet can maintain rhythm or rhyme.
Confirm that you can achieve these objectives as soon as the lesson on anastrophe ends:
- Provide the definition of anastrophe
- Cite examples from literature and film dialogue
- Give reasons that writers use anastrophe
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Anastrophe: Definition & Examples
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