The word asyndeton might seem a little confusion at first glance, however this is a concept which is relatively easy to understand once it has been explained. We are going to look at the definition of asyndeton as well as taking a look at some examples of how it can be used in both spoken and written language.
What Is Asyndeton?
Asyndeton is simply the omission of a word or phrase from a clause, which is done intentionally. As a literary device, asyndeton is used to purposefully take out a conjunction in between phrases in order to add rhythm whilst maintaining correct grammar.
Asyndeton in Conversation
You are likely to see the use of asyndeton in day to day speech quite often. We are now going to take a look at some examples of how it can be used in conversation.
- He crossed the road without looking, without listening, without caution.
- She has red hair, blue eyes, a slim nose.
- The dog ran, bounded, leapt across the field.
- I went shopping and brought trousers, socks, gloves, tops.
- I love eggs, scrambled eggs, fried eggs, boiled eggs.
- I am going to the market, the shop, the town hall, the theatre.
- She was pretty, she was graceful, she was elegant, she was shy.
- I tried. I failed. I learned. I will try once more.
- At the fun fair I rode the roller-coaster, ate candy floss, saw a clown, won a teddy bear.
Asyndeton in Literature
As we mentioned previously, asyndeton can be used as a literary device. Let’s now take a look at some examples of how it can be used in written text.
- In Fahrenheit 451 written by Ray Bradbury, we see an example of asyndeton in the phrase “speed up the movie, picture, look, eyes. now, flicks.” Here the work and is omitted.
- Joseph Conrad writes an example of asyndeton in his work Heart of Darkness, when we read the line “A stream of emptiness, a huge silence, an impenetrable wood. The air here was thick, humid, heavy.”
- In On the road written by Jack Kerouac, we find an example of asyndeton in the following extract “He was a bone bag, a raggy doll, a broken twig, a lunatic.”
- In Double indemnity written by James M Cain, there is an example of asyndeton is this line “Suicide by job, race, sex, colour, by time, by season.”
- In a speech made by Abraham Lincoln, we find an example of asyndeton when he says “the rulers of the people, for the people, by the people will not die away.”
- In Julius Caesar written by William Shakespeare, we see an example of asyndeton in the phrase “All of your conquests, spoils, glories, triumphs, made so small at this level.”
By looking at how asyndeton works in both spoken and written English we have been able to see that it is a way to omit a conjunction or words from a sentence whilst still allowing for grammatical correctness. It can be used as figurative language in spoken conversation and as a literary device by writers.