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It is a figure which consists in a sudden fall from the lofty to the mean, from the elevated to the commonplace,  which produces a ludicrous effect.

Anticlimax is the opposite of Climax and 'signifies a ludicrous descent from the higher to the lower'. It denotes a drop from the serious and elevated to the trivial and lowly in order to achieve a comic or satiric effect. It consists in the 'annulment of the impressive effect of climax by a final item of inferior important '. It shows a sequence of words, phrases or ideas which, but for a ludicrously inappropriate  final term, would form a climax. In this figure ideas are arranged in a descending order, of importance from the more impressive to the less,  from the dignified to the petty,  and the purpose behind such arrangement is to excite laughter. For its effect this figure, like climax, depends on the difference in importance between the successive ideas presented by it. 

Anticlimax produces a ludicrous effect,  Sometimes this is unintentionally done, e.g.

So passed the strong heroic soul away

And when they buried him the little poet 

Had seldom seen a costlier funeral (Tennyson) 

But frequently this is done in a deliberate way, e.g.,

Oh! She was perfect past all parallel 

In virtues nothing earthly could surpass her,

Save thine ''incomparable oil',Macassar.  (Byron)

In the example ' He list his wife,his child,  his goods,  and his dog at one fell swoop ' we notice that there is a sudden descent from the serious to the light which produces a comic effect. Hence it is a case of anticlimax. 

The chief characteristics of an anticlimax are given below:

(i) There is a series of words, phrases or ideas. 

(ii) They are arranged in a descending order of importance i.e. the most impressive comes first and the least impressive comes last.

(iii) After the maintenance of seriousness for sometime there is a sudden fall at the end.

(iv) The final term provokes laughter. 

Examples:

1.

Here thou great Anna! whom three realms obey,

Dost sometimes counsel take -and Sometimes tea (Pope)

2.

What female heart can gold despise?

What cat's averse to fish?  (Gray)

3.

Forgets her prayers or miss a masquerade (Pope)


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