Rhetorical Devices V
Bill Long 11/29/04
Anadiplosis is from two Greek words meaning "to double back again" or "to reduplicate" and refers to the rhetorical device where the last word(s) of one clause is taken up in the first word(s) of the successive clause. As with almost all of the devices, illustrations allow us to understand their power. Awareness of anadiplosis and why it is a powerful device can help us sharpen our eloquence and make memorable our speech.
Anadiplosis in the Bible
Most of the examples of anadiplosis that come naturally to my mind are from the Bible. After reciting four, I will reflect briefly on what makes them powerful.
1) Let's start in the beginning.
"In the beginning God made the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep (Gen. 1:1-2)."
"Earth" is the "doubled" word, the word that links the "beginning" of verse 1 and the "darkness" of verse two.
2) Another example is from the Psalms.
"I lift up my eyes to the hills-from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth (Ps. 121:1-2)."
Particularly noteworthy about this example is the fact that it appears in one of the 15 so-called "Psalms of Ascent" (Psalms 120-134), which were designed to be recited by pilgrims as they made their way "up" to Jerusalem from the lower-lying regions around the Holy City. A person has to "climb stairs," so to speak, while coming to Jerusalem. Anadiplosis is the perfect rhetorical device for such "climbing" because, by repeating the last thought of one in the first words of the next line or verse, it creates a sense of linkage or slow building, an impression of gradual climbing toward a desired goal. Thus, as the pilgrim ascends the mount, s/he "ascends" in speech. I "climb" from one "step" to the next by way of the phrase "my help comes."
Just as one can "climb" physically, one can also experience or cultivate psychological climbing, which is perhaps the most potent use of anadiplosis.
3) Paul exhorts his Roman readers to the confidence that faith provides through skillful use of anadiplosis.
"And not only that [our "boast" in the hope of sharing the Glory of God--Rom 5:1-2], but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy spirit that has been given to us (Rom. 5:1-5)."
The felt reality of many people is indicated in the first word of the "chain": suffering. We live with suffering. The Buddha knew this, and so made it the first of his Noble Truths. The Scripture authors also realize this. But instead of weaning us away from suffering through the Buddhist method (realizing that suffering comes from desire, and that desire, therefore, must be extirpated), Paul gradually lures us from our suffering through a finely-constructed anadiplosis that will take us to endurance, then character, then hope and, finally, full presence of the love of God.
What began with a realization of the felt reality of people ends with a ringing endorsement of overflowing Christian confidence (grace is "poured into" hearts). Careful use of anadiplosis takes a person gradually from the pits to the heights. Paul has brilliantly engineered a psychological coup through the use of anadiplosis.
One of the more effective sentences in one of the less read books of the New Testament is in the opening exhortation of II Peter.
4) The author exhorts his hearers to faithfulness.
"For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love (II Pet. 1:5-7)."
Part of the power of anadiplosis rests on how closely connected the successive "stairs" are to each other. If you can readily (or even with some effort) see how they are related, you have created a very powerful example of anadiplosis. In this regard, I think that Paul's is more successful than Peter's, though Peter, by linking several more concepts than Paul, is more ambitious.
Conclusion--the Power of Anadiplosis
If space permitted, examples from other literature (including Shakespeare's arresting use of it in Richard II 5.1.66-68) could be cited. But, in conclusion, I would like to argue that anadiplosis does two things that neither anaphora, epistrophe or antistrophe (repetitions of words from either the beginning, end or middle of the preceding lines, in the same place in the successive lines) can accomplish.
Anadiplosis both links deeply and reaches for the stars. Because of its "chain-like" character, anadiplosis is particularly powerful when a speaker begins right here and now. 'Here is our situation,' the speaker says. But then the speaker need not leave us in our miserable situation. S/he can gradually take us, one step at a time, anyplace s/he wants. This is the beauty of anadiplosis. It can take us to the stars. It can make us realize that a glorious future is really a glorious present, as long as you know how to look at your experience. It can inspire us to action. It can give us confidence in the present. It can create a mental world that is not true for us now but is within easy reach. As you can tell, anadiplosis is one of my favorite rhetorical devices!
Copyright © 2004-2008 William R. Long