What is an “apostrophe” in literature?

Updated 21 March, 2023
In literature, an apostrophe is a figure of speech where the speaker addresses a non-existent or absent person or object as if it were present and capable of responding. The word "apostrophe" comes from the Greek word "apostrephein" which means "to turn away." It is often used to convey intense emotion, such as grief, anger, or love, by directly addressing a person, object, or abstract idea. Apostrophes can be found in many forms of literature, including poetry, plays, and novels, and are a powerful tool for writers to express their feelings and ideas.
Detailed answer:

In literature, apostrophe is a figure of speech in which a speaker directly addresses an absent or non-human entity, such as an imaginary person, an object, a place, or an abstract concept. It is used to create a more emotional or dramatic effect, to express strong feelings or to emphasize a certain idea or concept.

Apostrophe has been used in literature throughout history and in various genres, including poetry, drama, and prose. One of the most famous examples of apostrophe is in William Shakespeare's play "Julius Caesar," in which Mark Antony speaks to Caesar's body and asks, "O, pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth, / That I am meek and gentle with these butchers!" This speech expresses Antony's grief and anger at Caesar's assassination and humanizes the deceased ruler's corpse.

Another example of apostrophe can be found in Emily Dickinson's poem "Because I could not stop for Death," in which the speaker addresses Death as a gentleman and describes her journey with him in a carriage. This use of apostrophe creates a sense of intimacy and familiarity with the abstract concept of Death.

In addition to its use in literature, apostrophe can also be found in other forms of communication, such as speeches and songs. For example, in his famous "I Have a Dream" speech, Martin Luther King Jr. uses apostrophe when he says, "I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed." By directly addressing the nation, King is able to create a powerful and emotional connection with his audience.

Overall, apostrophe is a versatile and effective literary device that allows writers and speakers to create a deeper emotional impact by directly addressing an absent or non-human entity.

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