Anaphora is a literary device that is an intentional reiteration of the same words or phrases at the beginning of multiple sentences or lines. This device also includes cases when the words are duplicated within the same sentence.
This tool is commonly used in alliteration poems but can be found in metric verses as well. Authors that write in prose also use this device, mostly in dramatic situations, when characters give a speech or a monologue that is closely tied to the main conflict. The primary purpose of anaphora is to either provide aesthetic pleasure to the reader or to underline text fragments that are essential for understanding a literary work.
The term itself comes from the Ancient Greek language and can be loosely translated as "returning," "repeating," or "ascension." Anaphora is one of the first figures of speech invented by humankind, as it was prominently featured even in Biblical psalms. In ancient times, the usage of this tool was a mandatory requirement when an individual was addressing the gods, royalty, or if he was speaking in court.
A literary device that is commonly mistaken with anaphora is alliteration. Both tools deal with reiteration at the start of a sentence or verse, but the latter is the reiteration of similar sounding letters, mainly consonants, and not words as a whole. Alliteration is primarily used for a more melodic, rhythmical tone in lyric poetry works.
Another similar tool to the subject in question is assonance. This literary technique relies on repeating the same vowels at the start of a line. Assonance is mostly used in poetry and shares the same functions as alliteration.
A device that is the structural opposite of anaphora is epistrophe or antistrophe. This tool is the reiteration of the same words at the end of multiple sentences. Antistrophes usually serve to add more poetic beauty to a piece or to emphasize the weight of an author's thought.
The two primary types of anaphors rely on using duplicated words or phrases. However, some researchers also classify a third category called "syntax anaphora" that functions by executing the same sentence structure, for example, using a conditional clause for multiple successive phrases.
Not every case of word repetition can be considered anaphoric. This rhetoric device can be found only if it's used intentionally and with a clear purpose in mind. Amateur writers can write repetitive phrases or fragments accidentally, thus creating a tautology, not anaphora. Talented authors, on the other hand, add this device when they want to create a compelling, empathic moment for the reader.
Anaphora is an efficient tool for convincing somebody of something. Due to the attention attracted by repetition, this tool allows unifying separate arguments into a single, more persuasive one. In rhetoric, it's used to provoke an emotional reaction from the audience as well as to motivate it.
In lyric poetry works, anaphora allows for a more pleasurable reading experience for the readers and makes it easier for them to learn a verse by heart.
This rhetorical device was especially popular during the Elizabethan and Romantic movements and can be found in the works of writers like Philip Sidney and Edmund Spenser. Anaphora located at the start of "A Tale of Two Cities," where Dickens executes this tool to immediately grab the reader's attention and paint a picture of the time period described in the novel.
Anaphora is also commonly found in fairytale stories. An important function of this tool in this genre is to make the text flow better, as it's easier for children to understand anaphoric sentences than regular ones. For instance, in Snow White, the evil stepmother always uses the same magic formula to speak to her mirror.
Oscar Wilde is a great example of an author who has mastered the use of repetition in his fairytales. In the "Selfish Giant," this tool is used in the phrase "My own garden is my own garden." And in the "My own Happy Prince," one of the heroes addresses a bird as "Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow" several times in the story.
When an author repeats the same words at the start of multiple lines or sentences, it adds more weight to that text fragment. Such phrases oftentimes serve to develop the main idea of a piece and can become the most quoted parts of a literary work. An example can be found in "Brothers Karamazov" by F. Dostoyevsky: "But to fall in love does not mean to love. One can fall in love and still hate."
This device is also frequently paired with another rhetoric figure – gradation. The latter relies on increasing the emotional stakes of a text fragment with each phrase. For instance, in the Poetic Edda, it reads: "Cattle die, kinsmen die, every man is mortal..."
An example of anaphora being used in real life can be found in the famous "I have a Dream" monologue, which earned its name partially thanks to this device.