20.4.13

Repetition

This month I'm participating in the A to Z Blogger's Challenge, found here. Every day of April (except for Sundays), we are posting a blog with the theme of A to Z.

R is for Repetition.


There are many forms of repetition. Only some which I will address in this post.

I think when most people consider repetition, they think of the bad form. This is where a usually inexperienced writer will reuse the same word because they don't have the vocabulary needed to avoid doing so. This repetition can be distracting and frustrating to the reader.

But there are other kinds of repetition; repetition which adds drama and evokes stronger emotions in the reader, repetition which acts as a rhetorical device.

1. Alliteration, or Repetition of Sounds:

This is the repetition of one letter sound. It is closely related to onomatopoeias (see my recent O is for Onomatopoeias post), where the repetition of the sound is used to suggest the subject. "A spitting snake" would evoke a snake's hiss by the "s" sounds in spitting and snake. Thus it could be called both an onomatopoeia and an alliteration.

"I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street"

"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald


2. Anadiplosis, or Repetition of a word that ends one clause and begins the next:

"My conscience hath a thousand several tongues, And every tongue brings in a several tale, And every tale condemns me for a villain." William Shakespeare, Richard III, V, iii

3. Anaphora, or Repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of each clause:


Charles Dickens has perhaps the best examples of this that I can come up with right now. They send chills down my spine every time I read them, too.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way--in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities first line 


"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."

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities last line

4. Epanalepsis, or Repetition at the end of a clause that which was at the beginning:

"Blood hath bought blood, and blows have answer'd blows." William Shakespeare, King John, II, I

5. Parallelism, or Repetition of sentence structure:


This would be where several sentences in a row begin with the same phrase in order to draw emphasis to it.

It's perhaps easiest to see in poetry, so I've chosen some examples from a couple of famous poems to show this.

"With throats unslaked, with black lips baked,
We could nor laugh nor wail;
Through utter drought all dumb we stood!
I bit my arm, I sucked the blood,
And cried, A sail! a sail!

With throats unslaked, with black lips baked,
Agape they heard me call:
Gramercy! they for joy did grin,
And all at once their breath drew in,
As they were drinking all.



`I fear thee, ancient Mariner!
I fear thy skinny hand!
And thou art long, and lank, and brown,
As is the ribbed sea-sand.

I fear thee and thy glittering eye,
And thy skinny hand, so brown.' -
"Fear not, fear not, thou Wedding-Guest!
This body dropped not down."

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Rime of the Ancient Mariner

For another example, check out John F. Kennedy's famous, "Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You," speech here.

6. Repetition of a single word:

"Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty."


John F. Kennedy, Inaugural address, 20 January 1961

Do you like repetition? I'd love to hear what you think about this rhetorical device! Leave a comment below!


~I.E.