A very effective rhetorical device, polysyndeton is a figure of speech that adds pace to the language. Scroll down the examples of polysyndeton to understand its importance and usage.
Polysyndeton is used to achieve a variety of effects in poetry and literature. The overuse of conjunctions in close succession helps achieve rhythm, mainly by introducing continuation and slowing it. This rhetoric figure of speech can convey solemnity or even exhibit a childlike spirit. Having a Greek etymology, which means 'bound together', a sentence employing a 'polysyndetic device' uses coordinating conjunctions like 'and', 'or', 'but', or 'nor' to link the words, phrases or clauses. It adds cadence to the sentence or a series of sentences. Usually, in a grammatically correct sentence, the word or phrase after the 'and' is given most importance. However, polysyndeton gives equal importance to every element in the list. Usually used in short stories, novels and speeches, the tempo and endless continuity create an overwhelming outcome. Literatures, both classic and modern, greatly employ this rhetoric technique to captivate a reader's interest. It helps in holding the passage together as one, hence keeping the reader threaded to the idea. Polysyndetons are used extensively in religious scripts too. Such torrential sentences are sure to make a person want to read more, not only for the morals they hold, but for the rhythm and tempo they create within a person. To feel its effect to the fullest, look through the examples below.
Examples Of Polysyndeton
- We have ships and men and money and stores.
- He ran and jumped and laughed for joy.
- We lived and laughed and loved and left.
- They read and studied and wrote and drilled. I laughed and played and talked and flunked.
- You wouldn't believe how many exams I've got. I've got semantics and pragmatics and sociolinguistics and psycholinguistics and syntax.
Polysyndeton In Novels And Dramatic Pieces
- "If there be cords, or knives,
Poison, or fire, or suffocating streams,
I'll not endure it." - From 'Othello' by William Shakespeare
- I said, "Who killed him?" and he said, "I don't know who killed him but he's dead all right," and it was dark and there was water standing in the street and no lights and windows broke and boats all up in the town and trees blown down and everything all blown and I got a skiff and went out and found my boat where I had her inside Mango Key and she was all right only she was full of water. - From 'After The Storm' by Ernest Hemingway
- "Let the white folks have their money and power and segregation and sarcasm and big houses and schools and lawns like carpets, and books, and mostly--mostly--let them have their whiteness." - From 'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings', an autobiography by Maya Angelou
Polysyndeton In The Religious Scripts
- "...Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame" (Luke 14:21-ESV).
- And I called for a drought upon the land, and upon the mountains, and upon the corn, and upon the new wine, and upon the oil, and upon that, which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men, and upon cattle, and upon all the labor of the hands.(Haggai 1:11-KJV)
- But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." (Acts 1:8-ESV)
Polysyndeton In Speeches
- "It's got awesome security. And the right apps. It's got everything from Cocoa and the graphics and it's got core animation built in and it's got the audio and video that OSX is famous for. It's got all the stuff we want." - From Steve Jobs Keynote Address, Macworld 2007
- "In years gone by, there were in every community men and women who spoke the language of duty and morality and loyalty and obligation." - From a speech by William F. Buckley
Polysyndeton In Movies
- "But all you have to do is knock on any door and say, 'If you let me in, I'll live the way you want me to live, and I'll think the way you want me to think,' and all the blinds'll go up and all the windows will open, and you'll never be lonely, ever again." - Spencer Tracy in "Inherit the Wind"
- "Oh, my piglets, we are the origins of war - not history's forces, nor the times, nor justice, nor the lack of it, nor causes, nor religions, nor ideas, nor kinds of government, nor any other thing. We are the killers. We breed wars." - Katharine Hepburn in "The Lion in Winter"
- "And the German will not be able to help themselves from imagining the cruelty their brothers endured at our hands, and our boot heels, and the edge of our knives. And the Germans will be sickened by us. And the Germans will talk about us. And the Germans will fear us." - Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) in Inglorious Basterds
Polysyndeton is common in verbal speeches where a pool of ideas is connected by conjunctions. If written and delivered well, such sentences can create perfect connection and give a unique flow to your conversation, making the speech unforgettable. However, if done shoddily, the well-written statement can seem to be monotonous. As in speeches, delivery of a polysyndetic sentence is very important to create the desired impact. However, the liberty of having the perfect shot in movies means these dialogues tend to stand out. The examples above must have explained the kind of effect, feel, and impact a simple 'polysyndeton' technique can have on any literary piece.