Definition of Antistrophe

Antistrophe is a derivative of a Greek word that means “turning back”. It is defined as a rhetorical device that involves the repetition of the same words at the end of consecutive phrases, clauses, sentences and paragraphs. Like in the following excerpt, the phrase “but it is not this day” comes repeatedly at the end,

“A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break the bonds of fellowship,
but it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields, when the age of men comes crashing down,
but it is not this day. This day we fight…”

(The Return of the King by J. R. R. Tolkien)

Similarity with Epistrophe

Antistrophe is similar to epistrophe, which also involves the repetition of words at the end of successive clauses or sentences. However, it is opposite to anaphora, which is repetition of words at the beginning of sentences or clauses.

Examples of Antistrophe from Literature

Example #1

“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things…”

(The Bible)

This excerpt is one of the examples of antistrophe found in the Bible. The phrase “as a child” is repeated several times at the end of the sentences. This creates rhythm in the literary piece.

Example #2

“Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live. It is asking others to live as one wishes to live….”

(The Soul of Man and Prison Writings by Oscar Wilde)

In this example, the recurring phrase “as one wishes to live” creates rhythm and cadence in the text and hence appeals to the readers’ emotions.

Example #3

“Then I’ll be all aroun’ in the dark. I’ll be ever’where – wherever you look. Wherever they’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever they’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there… An’ when our folk eat the stuff they raise an’ live in the houses they build – why, I’ll be there…”

(The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck)

The repeated use of “I’ll be there” lays an emphasis and draws the attention of the readers to the phrase.

Example #4

“Hourly joys be still upon you! Juno sings her blessings on you. . . . Scarcity and want shall shun you, Ceres’ blessing so is on you…”

(The Tempest by William Shakespeare)

Shakespeare has used this device frequently in his works, which can be noticed clearly here as well.

Example #5

In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye …”

(The Bible)

Again, in this instance from the Bible, a word is repeated at the end of the sentences to create a pattern and emphasize it.

Example #6

Perhaps this is the most important thing for me to take back from beach-living: simply the memory that each cycle of the tide is valid, each cycle of the wave is valid, each cycle of a relationship is valid… Relationships must be like islands, one must accept them for what they are here and now, within their limits – islands, surrounded and interrupted by the sea…”

(Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh)

Antistrophe examples like the above draw the readers to focus on the repeated words and their meanings.

Function of Antistrophe

The main function of this rhetorical device is to give emphasizes on a particular thought or idea. The repetitions of words help in making the text pleasurable to read. Besides poetry, this is a rhetorical device found in a range of works such as music, literature, political speeches and sacred texts like the Bible to highlight a point or idea. The pattern and rhythm created with the use of Antistrophe enables the writers to appeal to the readers’ emotions and helps them appreciate a text better.

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