Literary devices aim to utilize words to communicate more efficiently and more effectively to readers and audiences. In this article, we’ll be taking a look at a literary device that aims to do just that simply by using the same word or phrase again and again. This is of course repetition. Repetition may seem straightforward, but there are various types of repetition that are defined by how and where words or phrases are repeated. So, what is repetition actually used for? Let’s take a look at those types of repetition and how iconic writers have used them throughout history.
Tools For Screenwriters
what is repetition?
First, let’s define repetition
Although there are various types of repetition, they all fall under the same definition. Let’s take a look at the repetition definition to better identify when it is being used.
What is repetition?
Repetition is a literary device in which a word or phrase is used multiple times. Repetition can be found throughout literature. Most commonly, it is found in poetry and speeches to create rhythm or emphasize a word or phrase. There are various types of repetition defined by where and how words and phrases are repeated in a body of text.
Famous Repetition Examples in Cinema:
- “You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me?” - Taxi Driver (1976)
- “Wax on. Wax off.” - Karate Kid (1984)
- “You don’t understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I could’ve been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am.” - On the Waterfront (1954)
Function of repetition
Repetition can be found throughout written literature and throughout verbal speeches. Why is it so common? Repetition is primarily effective at two things: emphasis and rhythm.
Simply repeating a phrase or word is an effective way at emphasizing specific ideas to a reader or audience. If a word or phrase appears only once, a reader may overlook it. When it is repeated, the word or phrase (and, by extension, the idea being communicated) registers more directly in the reader’s mind.
Repetition can also create rhythm in text both written and spoken language. This is especially effective at engaging audiences when used in oral speeches. Speeches can become mundane if they become simply read. Repetition can create rhythm and musicality to a speech that more deeply engages audiences.
Types of Repetition
There are various types of repetition that are defined by structure and form. While all repetition has similar effects that we touched on above, different types of repetition can have different impacts.
Anaphora is the repetition of a word or group of words at the beginning of successive clauses or sentences.
In the historical novel A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens utilizes anaphora to create a memorable opening paragraph.
“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.”
Similar to anaphora is epistrophe. Epistrophe is the repetition of a word or group of words at the end of successive clauses or sentences.
In her song “Single Ladies” Beyonce uses epistrophe in the chorus of the song.
“‘Cause if you liked it then you should have put a ring on it
If you liked it then you should’ve put a ring on it
Don’t be mad once you see that he want it
If you liked it then you should’ve put a ring”
Symploce is the use of both anaphora and epistrophe. Bill Clinton famously used symploce in his speech at the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum.
“When there is talk of hatred, let us stand up and talk against it. When there is talk of violence, let us stand up and talk against it.”
The repetition of a word in the middle of a phrase or clause is known as mesodiplosis. An example of mesodiplosis can be found in the bible.
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.”
One of the most simple types of repetition is epizeuxis. Epizeuxis is the repetition of a single word in sequence. An example of this can be found in the famous nursery rhyme "Row, Row, Row Your Boat."
REPETITION LITERARY DEVICE
Repetition vs. repetition of sounds
Within the realm of literary devices, repetition and repetition of sounds are often grouped together. However, there are key differences between literary devices that repeat words and phrases and literary devices that repeat specific sounds. To clarify this, let’s take a look at literary devices that repeat specific sounds.
The repetition of sounds made by consonants is known as consonance. A famous tongue twister example of this is “Shelley sells shells by the sea shore.”
Assonance is the repetitive use of vowel sounds within a single line of text. Often referred to as “vowel rhyming,” assonance typically utilizes recurring vowel sounds in the middle of consecutive words.
These words have to be close together in a line of text so that the repetition of the vowel sound is more noticeable. For example, Edgar Allen Poe uses assonance in his poem “The Bells:”
"Hear the mellow wedding bells"
Alliteration is a literary technique when two or more words are linked that share the same first consonant sound. In the famous song “Let it Be” by The Beatles the lyrics "Whisper words of wisdom…” are an example of alliteration.
How Writers Use Alliteration
Looking to learn more about the repetition of sounds? The most fundamental and common is alliteration. In our next article, we take a look at the alliteration definition and analyze examples in both literature, advertising, and film to understand its effects.