Minilesson Essay- Aposiopesis 9/4/12 In writing, authors usually do things for a specific reason, to invoke a reaction from their readers. They use descriptive language so the reader can see clearly; they form metaphors to make readers think. Why they name literary terms crazy things like aposiopesis? That’s beyond me. However, once I found out what aposiopesis meant, I found some interesting things. In Greek, the word “aposiopesis” means “maintaining silence” (Nordquist). This has been adapted into a literary device many authors use.
Really, aposiopesis is just a big word for breaking off in the middle of the sentence without finishing the thought (“Entertainment/Literature/Aposiopesis”). We do this in conversation, purposefully or not, and writers have been doing it for a very long time. In books or articles, this device is usually used during a character’s dialogue. Aposiopesis is usually marked by an ellipsis or a hyphen, showing that the sentence was cut off. Another way aposiopesis can be used is to cut off one character, and let another finish the sentence. Writers use aposiopesis for dramatic effect.
When the sentence is cut off, we automatically want to know what the end of the thought was going to be. It can also be used to give the reader more insight to the character’s thoughts or emotions, such as if someone said “stop it, or else…” This way, you do not need to know the end of the sentence, but the aposiopesis is still effective because it lets you know that the sentence was said in a threatening tone (Pollick and Harris). Examples of this device can be found in both modern and classic literature. In Henry IV, Shakespeare used aposiopesis when Hotspur and Prince Hal were talking about Percy dying.
He wrote “Hotspur: Oh, I could prophesy,/ But that the earthy and cold hand of death/ Lies on my tongue. No, Percy, thou art dust/ And food for–/ Prince Hal: For worms, brave Percy (“Aposiopesis”)”. In this example, the writer cut off the first speaker, and had a second speaker finish the aposiopesis. This creates a blatantly ominous tone because both of them know the ending that has to be coming up, giving us the impression that nothing can be changed and Percy’s fate is final. The aposiopesis creates a lot of dramatic tension here. Shakespeare often used aposiopesis in his works, including in Henry IV, King Lear, Julius Caesar, and others.
Another situation with an aposiopesis is in the Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, with Auntie Em talking about Almira. She says, “’Almira Gulch, just because you own half the county doesn’t mean that you have the power to run the rest of us. For 23 years I’ve been dying to tell you what I thought of you! And now–well, being a Christian woman, I can’t say it! ’ (Nordquist)”. In this example, the sentence is never finished, so it leaves the reader to imagine what could have been said, and lets us see just how much Auntie Em dislikes Almira.
Aposiopesis is also used in conversations that we have, without even thinking it. When a mom says, “Go clean up, or else…” they never have to finish the sentence, the child just knows that a consequence will follow and does as told. Or, when girls talk about boys, they can say something like, “he’s just so…ya know? ” and depending on the tone of voice, the listener will know that the boy is either great or disappointing. When people use aposiopesis, it lets the listener infer what they mean, and gives us a good sense about how the person expresses things.
When studying literature, looking at aposiopesis is a good way to determine and analyze the tone of the text. In different contexts, an aposiopesis could show regret, fear, pain, threats, disgust, or many other things. While writing, using aposiopesis is a subtle way to put meaning behind your words. Most of the time, these go by unnoticed, but if you start to pay attention to them, you can get more meaning out of the simple cut off sentences and see what the emotion is behind the text. Works Cited “Aposiopesis. ” Aposiopesis. N. p. , 2009. Web. 03 Sept. 2012. ;lt;http://www. xamples-help. org. uk/aposiopesis. htm;gt;. “Entertainment/Literature/Aposiopesis. ” Super Glossary. N. p. , n. d. Web. 03 Sept. 2012. ;lt;http://www. superglossary. com/Definition/Literature/Aposiopesis. html;gt;. Nordquist, Richard. “Aposiopesis. ” About. com Grammar ;amp; Composition. The New York Times Company, 2012. Web. 03 Sept. 2012. ;lt;http://grammar. about. com/od/ab/g/aposioterm. htm;gt;. Pollick, Michael, and Bronwyn Harris. “What Is Aposiopesis? ” WiseGeek. Conjecture, 2003. Web. 03 Sept. 2012. ;lt;http://www. wisegeek. com/what-is-aposiopesis. htm;gt;.