Rail yard background, from the Library of Congress

Connections

A Hypertext Resource for Literature

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Rhetorical Figures
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Where tropes create meaning by making a word or phrase represent or connect to something else, a rhetorical figure--a less extreme figure of speech--involves a less extreme effect. Often, rhetorical figures create a sense of elegance and polish in writing or speech rather than creating new meaning directly. If you examine any piece of speech or writing noted for its eloquence, you will probably find an abundance of carefully deployed rhetorical figures. On the next page, I provide examples of a few common figures.

Usage note: some critics divide figures of speech three ways, into tropes, figures, and schemes. The lines dividing those categories are famously difficult to draw. This section makes no attempt to address the theoretical problems of these divisions in detail. For more information about this and many other issues, an excellent starting point is The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics.

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