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Anastrophe: Definition & Examples

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Instructor: J.R. Hudspeth

Jackie has taught college English and Critical Thinking and has a Master's degree in English Rhetoric and Composition

Anastrophe is a writing strategy that involves inverting words and moving them out of normal order. Explore more about anastrophe as well as some examples of how this scheme is utilized in literature and film dialogue. Updated: 10/11/2021

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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  • 0:02 Definition of Anastrophe
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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

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