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Home » » What is an apostrophe in literature ?

It is a figure in which a short impassioned address is made to a person,  dead or absent,  or to an inanimate object,  or to an abstract idea thinking as if each is present and capable of understanding. In it a speaker is frequently seen to be suddenly turning away from the course of his speech to make a direct address to any of the things mentioned above,  his action being prompted by a great intensity of emotion. It is to be noted that behind the use of such a figure, there exists not only intense emotion but also elevated thought and language. It is but a common experience of man that when he is properly stirred up by strong emotion,  he does not only assume a non-living being as a living one but also address him as such believing fondly that such as a non-living object will be able to understand him. In the example 'O Liberty!  What crimes have been committed in thy name we notice the speaker making an impassioned address to an abstract idea (i.e., 'Liberty') as if it were alive and able to understand him. Intense emotion is coupled here with elevated thought and suitable diction. Hence it is a perfect example of an Apostrophe. 

The chief characteristics of this figure are given below 

1. It involves a person,  dead or absent,  an inanimate object,  or an abstract idea.

2. An address is made to any one of them,  and it is short and impassioned 

3.Under the pressure of emotion the speaker takes them as living beings present before him,  and capable of understanding him.

4. The address reveals not only intense emotion but also elevated thought and language 


(a)Frailty,  thy name is woman! (Shakespeare) 

(b)Million! Thou shouldst be living at this hour ( Wordsworth)


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