Guide to Literary Terms

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Anaphora

Anaphora refers to the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of consecutive clauses, sentences, or lines of verse. This emphasizes the effect of the repeated word or phrase and can also create rhythm, stir emotion, and unify separate clauses, sentences, or lines into a cohesive whole.

Correct example:

  • “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 . . . .”

    • The famous first sentence of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities involves the repetition of “it was,” “we had,” and “we were” at the beginning of each clause. (This sentence is also an example of antithesis.)