What Is Anaphora? Definition and Examples From Film, Literature, and Commercials


Definition: Anaphora is a rhetorical device involving the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive sentences or clauses, used for emphasis or stylistic effect.

Anaphora, the deliberate repetition of the first part of the sentence to achieve an artistic effect, is a common rhetorical device found across various forms of media.

Here are five examples spanning speeches, literature, movies, and commercials:

Literature: “A Tale of Two Cities” (by Charles Dickens)

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way […]”

– Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

This opening line is one of the most famous examples of anaphora, setting the scene of contrast during the French Revolution. It uses multiple anaphora throughout (“it was”, “we had”, and “we were all going direct […]”.)

Speech: “I Have a Dream” (by Martin Luther King Jr.)

Probably the best example of the use of anaphora in a speech is seen in King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, which underscores his vision for America’s future.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!”

– Martin Luther King Jr.

Movie: “V for Vendetta” (2005)

V often uses alliteration in his dialogue but also resorts to anaphora.

Beneath this mask, there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask, there is an idea, Mr. Creedy. And ideas are bulletproof.”

– V

Commercial: Apple’s “Think Different” campaign:

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently.”

This iconic Apple advertising campaign utilizes anaphora by starting many sentences with “The” to celebrate individuals who have changed the world with their creativity and ingenuity, aligning them with Apple’s brand identity.

Reasons to use Anaphora in your Script

Anaphora has several benefits, making it a favored choice for writers and speakers.

Here are some of the main reasons to use anaphora:

  1. Memorability & Emphasis: To highlight a particular idea or theme, making it more memorable to the audience.
    • especially useful in creating slogans, catchphrases, or moments where it is crucial for the audience to remember the message.
  2. Emotional Impact: To create an emotional rhythm, making the message more impactful and moving.
  3. Unity and Cohesion: To tie together different parts of a speech or text, creating a sense of unity and cohesion.
    • This can help build a stronger argument or narrative by linking various points to a central theme or idea.
  4. Persuasion: To reinforce an argument or viewpoint, making it more persuasive to the audience.
    • It can help drive home the point and convince the audience of the speaker’s or writer’s perspective. See also rhetorical appeals.
  5. Aesthetic Appeal: To make the text or speech more poetic and aesthetically pleasing, appealing to the audience’s sense of beauty and artistry.
  6. Building Momentum: To create a build-up effect, gradually increasing intensity or momentum towards a climax.
    • This can be particularly effective in speeches or literary works that inspire or motivate the audience.


The use of anaphora is a powerful rhetorical device across various forms of communication, including speeches, literature, movies, and commercials – especially when you want to get the point across.

In speeches, anaphora can unite listeners, instill confidence, and inspire action.

In literature, it can deepen themes and enrich the reader’s experience.

In movies and commercials, it can create memorable lines and slogans that resonate with audiences long after they are heard.

Ultimately, the strategic use of anaphora across these mediums showcases its unparalleled ability to connect with people on a deeper level, leaving a lasting impression that transcends the spoken or written word.

Up Next: What is Allusion in Film?


  • Jan Sørup

    Jan Sørup is a indie filmmaker, videographer and photographer from Denmark. He owns filmdaft.com and the Danish company Apertura, which produces video content for big companies in Denmark and Scandinavia. Jan has a background in music, has drawn webcomics, and is a former lecturer at the University of Copenhagen.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.