What is the literary definition of apostrophe?

The literary definition of apostrophe is when a speaker directly addresses someone or something that might not be present, living, or able to hear and understand—such as an absent (or deceased) person, an object, or an abstract idea.

Apostrophe

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Last Updated on February 25, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 185

Apostrophe occurs when a narrator or speaker directly addresses an absent (or no longer living) person, an object, an abstract idea, or something or someone imagined as if the addressee were a present, living person able to hear and understand them. Examples of apostrophe sometimes, though not always, begin with...

(The entire section contains 185 words.)

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Apostrophe occurs when a narrator or speaker directly addresses an absent (or no longer living) person, an object, an abstract idea, or something or someone imagined as if the addressee were a present, living person able to hear and understand them. Examples of apostrophe sometimes, though not always, begin with “O” or “Oh.”

Correct examples:

  • “O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells . . .”
  • In Walt Whitman’s poem “O Captain! My Captain!” the speaker directly addresses his dead captain.
  • “Oh! Stars and clouds and winds, ye are all about to mock me . . .”
  • In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Victor directly addresses the stars, clouds, and winds.
  • “Death be not proud, though some have called thee / Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so . . .”
  • In John Donne’s sonnet “Death Be Not Proud,” the speaker directly addresses Death.
  • “Is this a dagger which I see before me, / The handle toward my hand? / Come, let me clutch thee! / I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.”
  • In Act 2, Scene 1 of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Macbeth directly addresses an imagined dagger.

 

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