You may be familiar with the term polysyndeton but you may not be certain what it means. In this article, we are going to take a look at the meaning of polysyndeton. We are also going to be looking at some examples of this in both a spoken context as well as when it is used as a literary device.
What Is Polysyndeton?
Polysyndeton is a type of literary device in which conjunctions are used in rapid succession of one another. This makes for a more rhythmic feel to the piece. Polysyndeton can also be used as a form of figurative language in day to day conversation. The technique is frequently used without the use of any commas, which would be normal practise in any other sentence.
Polysyndeton in Conversation
Polysyndeton might be used in many conversation in spoken English. We are now going to take a look at some examples of these to better understand how the technique can be used.
- We have dogs and cats and birds and hamsters.
- She went to the forest and the mountains and the beach and the meadows.
- I have friends from many countries, like China and India and America and Italy.
- She is going to the party with James and with Mary and with Anna and with John.
- The dog jumped and barked and frolicked in the field.
- At the barbecue we ate sausage and chicken and pork and wings.
- She has many hobbies such as swimming and cycling and running and fishing.
- For my birthday I had lots of gifts including perfume and wine and chocolate and flowers
- I want to write many things, books and poems and songs and plays.
Polysyndeton in Literature
Polysyndeton is used frequently within written works in order to create a better flow in the reading of the literature. Let’s now take a look at some example of times in which writers have used polysyndeton in their work.
- In the book of Joshua in the Holy Bible, we see a detailed example of polysyndeton in the passage “And Joshua, and all the people of Israel too, and the precious metal and the clothes, and his children and his oxen and his sheep and everything that he had.”
- We see an example of polysyndeton in Ernest Hemingway’s After the storm, when we look at the following extract “I asked, ‘who killed him?‘ and he replied ‘I don’t know but he’s definitely dead.’ It was not light and there was water in the road and no lights and boats through the town and blown down trees.”
- In I know why caged birds sing written by Mary Angelou, there is an example of polysyndeton in this extract; “Let those white one have the money and segregation and power and schools and nice houses.”
- Charles Dickens writes an example of polysyndeton in the piece Dombey and son, let’s take a look at this “There were fields and cows and dunghills and heaps and ditches.”
- In A tale of two cities, also written by Dickens, we see another example of polysyndeton in the phrase “….to mingle with the scents of gin and beer and coffee and tea and what ever else.”
- In Huckleberry Finn written by Mark Twain, there is an example of polysyndeton in the following extract “I donned my old clothes and my sugar-hogshead once more and I was free and satisfied.”
- Jane Austen uses an example of polysyndeton in her book Pride and prejudice, “But they liked her and admired her and pronounced that she was a nice girl and a girl they would like to know more about.”
- In the novel Moby Dick written by Herman Melville, we see an example of polysyndeton in the following phrase “There was a rumbling of boots and the shuffling of shoes and then it was quiet and all eyes on the speaker.”
Through looking at how polysyndeton is used in both a conversational context and within written work, we can better see how it functions. We have learnt that polysyndeton can be used during day to day speech as a form of figure of speech as well as being used as a literary device.
By using polysyndeton, the speaker or writer can add a rhythm to the speech or text giving it more emphasis and flair.