Epistrophe Study: Definition and Examples

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What isEpistrophe?
Epistrophe as a literary device

Epistrophe Study: Definition and Examples

Epistrophe, also known as epiphora, is a rhetorical device that involves the repetition of a word or phrase at the end of successive clauses or sentences. It’s used for emphasis or to create a memorable impact in the listener or reader’s mind. By repeating a specific phrase or word at the end of sentences or clauses, the speaker or writer can convey a strong emotion, reinforce an idea, or highlight a particular theme.

Here’s a simple example of epistrophe: “We are born to live, to live not just survive, to live and let live.”

In this example, the repetition of “to live” at the end of each clause emphasizes the importance of living fully, not just existing.

Epistrophe is often used in speeches, poetry, and prose to create a rhythm, build a sense of climax, or make the message more persuasive or impactful. It’s a counterpart to anaphora, which is the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses or sentences. Both are powerful tools in rhetoric and literature.

Anaphora and Epistrophe: Opposite Techniques for Effective Communication

When writing or speaking, use two handy tricks, anaphora, and epistrophe, to make your words catchier. Think of anaphora as the trick where you repeat words at the start of sentences or parts to grab attention. Then, epistrophe is its opposite buddy, doing the same but at the end. It’s like playing a word game where one starts the line, and the other finishes it, both making your message stronger. So, if you want to make people listen or read more closely, start with anaphora and end with epistrophe. They are opposites but work together to make your words memorable

From Logic to Emotion: The Transformative Power of Epistrophe

In speeches, using epistrophe—where a word or phrase is repeated at the end of sentences—can shift the audience’s focus from just thinking about the speech to feeling it. Imagine a speaker is trying to make a point using facts and logical arguments, which is like giving the audience a list of reasons to believe something. This can be effective, but sometimes, it doesn’t fully grab their attention or make the message stick.

When the speaker starts repeating a phrase, though, something changes. This repetition isn’t just for style; it’s like a signal to the listeners that this part is really important. It’s as if the speaker is saying, “Pay attention to this!” But more than that, hearing the same words or phrases over and over starts to tap into the listeners’ emotions. It’s like when you hear a song chorus that just sticks with you, making you feel a certain way every time it’s repeated.

This shift from logical to emotional isn’t just about making the speech sound better. It’s about connecting with the audience on a deeper level. People might not always remember all the details or facts they hear, but they will remember how the speech made them feel. That emotional connection can be much more persuasive and memorable than just the logical part of the message.

Epistrophe Examples from Literature

  1. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech: “With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.”
  2. William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” (Act 5, Scene 5): Here, the repetition of “tomorrow” at the beginning of the lines could also be seen as an example of anaphora, but Shakespeare frequently used similar structures to epistrophe within his works.“Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day, To the last syllable of recorded time, And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death.”
  3. Lyndon B. Johnson’s “We Shall Overcome” speech: We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
  4. “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck: The character Tom Joad uses epistrophe when he talks about being everywhere in spirit to help those in need, repeating phrases like “I’ll be there” to express his solidarity and commitment to fighting injustice.
  5. “Flood: A Romance of Our Time” by Robert Penn Warren: The phrase “was gone” is repeated to underscore the loss and destruction caused by a flood, highlighting the theme of impermanence and change.
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