What Do You Mean by Apostrophe as a Literary Device? 

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Apostrophe as a Literary Device

When you hear of ‘apostrophe’, you probably think of the (‘) symbol right? Well, today we will be talking about how it can be used as a literary device. The apostrophe is a literary device that can be used to address or address a person who is not there or to personify an item, like Yorick’s skull in Hamlet. The name originates from the Greek verb apostrophes, meaning “to turn away.” To know more about Apostrophes as a literary device in English grammar, keep reading this blog. 

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What is an Apostrophe as a Literary Device?

Apostrophe as a Literary Device

An apostrophe is a literary device which writers use to address something or someone who is not physically present. This literary device is used in both everyday language and literary works. Lastly, it is a figure of speech that does not relate to the apostrophe as a punctuation mark. 

However, this literary device is sometimes confused with the punctuation mark. In this case, an apostrophe acts as a contraction (eg: cannot = can’t) or shows possession (Shane’s cat).

Read More: Top 14 Punctuation Marks in English Grammar You Should Know

Source: Tutors

Why do we Use Apostrophes in Literature?

One must understand that literary apostrophes are a great way of conveying emotion in the text. They allow the speaker to offer a better view of their inner thoughts and feelings. Apostrophes were used a lot back in the 1900s, however, their usage has decreased over time. They can be seen in poems, plays, and songs. They can be easily found in everyday speech. 

Format of Literary Apostrophe

There is no fixed format for a literary apostrophe. However, there are some common elements which need to be kept in mind while using.

  • Direct Address: It is directly expressing someone or something that is not physically present. Example: “O Juliet, why art thou Juliet?”
  • Figurative Language: Apostrophes often go hand-in-hand with other figures of speech to create a stronger effect. This could be personification (giving human qualities to something non-human) or metaphor/simile (comparing something to something else). Example: “The sea whispered secrets to the shore…” 
  • Emotional Tone: The use of apostrophes often creates a strong emotional tone, like grief, anger, or wonder. This can be achieved through word choice and sentence structure. 
  • No Punctuation Mark: Unlike the apostrophe used for contractions or possession (‘), the literary apostrophe doesn’t involve any punctuation mark.

Also Read: 21+ Apostrophe Examples in Sentences as Punctuation Mark

Literary Apostrophe: Functions and Examples

The function of an apostrophe depends upon who or what is being addressed in the sentence. Take a look at the following chart to understand all about literary apostrophes and how they can be used. 

DeadAddressing someone who is no longer alive.Shows the impact the person had on the speaker, which could be positive or negative.Talking/ conversing with a dead loved one.“Grandma I know you are in a better place.”
Absent Someone alive but not physically present.Allows the character to speak about the subject without reservation.Questioning someone absent from the situation.“Shane, where are you?”
InanimateRefers to an inanimate object which is typically personified.Emphasizes the importance of the object to the speaker using human characteristics.Addressing a stoplight“Don’t worry Harry, I’ll open the parachute. You just hang on.”
AbstractRelates to an abstraction such as an emotion, i.e. love, anger, hunger etc. Lets the speaker grasp or present the abstraction in human terms that are easier to understand. Speaking directly to a personified emotion“Hello darkness, my old friend, how are you?” 
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Q1. What is an example of an apostrophe as a literary device?

Ans: Here is an example of an apostrophe in literature: “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?”

Q2. What is the literary effect of the apostrophe?

Ans: In literary works, apostrophes are used to draw the reader’s attention to anything other than the speaker. 

Q3. What are the three uses of the apostrophe?

Ans: Three functions of the apostrophe are as follows:
1) it forms possessive nouns;
2) it indicates letter omissions; and
3) it indicates plurals of letters, numbers, and symbols.

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