Aporia: Definition and Examples of Aporia in Speech and Literature

If you have ever considered the term aporia, you may have wondered what it means. In this article, we are going to take a look at the definition of aporia as well as looking at some examples of how it can be used. We will look at some examples of aporia in both spoken language as well as within written works.


Aporia Definition

What is aporia?

Aporia is defined by Merriam Webster as a real or pretend doubt which can be used for rhetorical effect. Aporia is a figure of speech in which the speaker expresses, usually feigned doubt, over a question raised and engages the audience with how he should act. Aporia can be seen as a form of paradox in a more logical sense, the speaker will usually initiate the doubt.

Aporia can be seen in the form of either a statement or a question and can be used in both spoken language as well as a literary device. Aporia can also be seen as a rhetorical question, this is a question which casts doubt but does not necessarily need an answer.

Aporia Examples

Aporia in Conversation

Aporia can be used within the day to day conversation, we are now going to take a look at some examples of aporia within a spoken context.

  • We are in this together, is the opinion of some, while others think that we are better alone, but who is right?
  • He really wanted to go into the forest but it was dark and cold, did he really think that it was a good idea?
  • I am so tired of bringing you different drinks, when will you be happy?
  • My mother is so picky, will she ever be satisfied with what she has?
  • Did you really expect me to become best friends with the woman who stole my husband?
  • Do you actually think that your friend respects you when she keeps talking about you behind your back?
  • We keep meeting the same end result, how long are we going to keep trying.

Aporia in Literature

When used as a rhetorical device in literature, aporia is useful for adding artistic airs especially to a question which does not have an obvious answer, this is prevalent within philosophical writing. Let’s now take a look at some examples of times in which writers have used aporia within their work.

  • In the play Hamlet written by William Shakespeare, we see an example of aporia in the famous line “to be or not to be, that’s the question.
  • In the Unnameable written by Samuel Beckett, there are examples of aporia throughout the entire work, one example of this can be seen in the following passage, “Now where? Now when? Now who? Unquestioning now I say, keep on going, keep on going.
  • In the poem written by Robert Frost, The road not taken, we see an example of aporia being used in a statement which reads “Two roads and I took the one less travelled, and that made the biggest difference.” The statement is one of self-doubt and contradiction.
  • Frederick Nietzsche wrote an example of aporia in the following example “What is happiness? Is it the growing feeling of power once resistance has ceased?
  • In William Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet, we see an example of aporia in the question “What is in a name?
  • Another example of aporia written by William Shakespeare can be seen in the play Julius Caesar, where we read the line “Does Caesar appear ambitious? When they cry, he weeps. Ambition should look stronger than that.
  • The title of the song written by Elly Goulding shows us an example of aporia, the title is “How long will I love you?
  • In the film Jerry McGuire, we see the title character make a speech which features aporia, the speech is as follows “Well, I don’t know all the answers about life, I have failed just as much as I have succeeded but I love my family.


Aporia is a form of the figure of speech within the English language which can be used to express doubt surrounding a question or statement. It can be used in both day to day conversation or within literature such as poetry, prose and song.

Aporia Infographic

Aporia: Definition and Examples of Aporia in Speech and LiteraturePin