Definition of epistrophe: An epistrophe is a phrase that is repeated at the end of several successive sentences.
What is Epistrophe?
What does epistrophe mean? Epistrophe is a rhetorical device where the repetition of a word appears at the end of successive clauses or sentences.
Writers use this rhetorical technique of repeating a word or phrase in order to place emphasis on the repeated phrase.
Example of an Epistrophe:
- I can’t believe I was robbed. Everything is gone. My television and electronics are gone. The money I left on my nightstand is gone. Never in my wildest dreams would I expect this to happen to me.
In the above example, the writer has chosen to repeat the word gone at the end of several successive sentences in order to emphasis the loss he’s experiencing after a robbery.
Epistrophe vs. Anaphora
While both epistrophe and anaphora utilize repetition in order create an emphasis on a word or phrase, the placement of these words differ.
- Epistrophe is the repetition of words at the end of sentences.
- Anaphora is the repetition of words at the beginning of sentences.
Here is an example of a famous anaphora found in Charles Dicken’s A Tale of Two Cities:
- “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of reason, it was the age of foolishness…”
The Purpose of Epistrophe
The purpose of an epistrophe is to draw attention to an important word or phrase. This can allow the reader to make a note of importance regarding the subject in the repetition.
In order to use this rhetorical technique effectively, be sure you decide carefully what you are repeating in order to be sure it is something you would like the reader or listener to have his attention drawn.
Also, as with all rhetorical devices, the key in their effectiveness is limited use. If you overuse a technique, it may lose its effect entirely.
Examples of Epistrophe in Literature
Here are some famous examples of epistrophes:
In Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address,” he uses epistrophe when he repeats the phrase “the people” in order to draw attention to the importance of democracy:
- “A government of the people, by the people, for the people…”
In Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream,” he repeats “together” in order to emphasize desegregation and unity:
- “With this faith we will be able to work together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.”
Define epistrophe: To re-cap, epistrophe is the repetition of a word or phrase at the end of successive sentences.
Epistrophe can be a great rhetorical technique to emphasize an idea through your writing.
Here is one final example from Nelson Mandela’s speech “Glory and Hope.” In this example, Madela repeated the phrase for all in order to emphasize rights for all of mankind.
- “Let there be justice for all. Let there be peace for all. Let there be work, bread, water, and salt for all.”