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Cataphora

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STYLISTIC FEATURE OF THE WEEK (…AND HOW TO WRITE ABOUT IT)

Cataphora – sounds like a four-legged animal, is actually a very important stylistic feature! 

There certainly are a lot of “phora”s in literary analysis, aren’t there?

YES, THERE ARE! 

THERE’S hypophora

(WHEN A QUESTION IS POSED AND IMMEDIATELY ANSWERED)

THERE’S ANAPHORA

(WHEN A KEY WORD OR PHRASE IS REPEATED)

THERE’S INTERFLORA

WAIT…HUH..?er…maybe not that last one…

Well now let’s add another ‘phora to the gang. Introducing…

CATAPHORA

Sounds like a feline party of some sort, right? Actually, it’s a very useful stylistic feature often used to create a sense of intrigue – and that ubiquitous tension …

So, what is cataphora?

Simply put, cataphora is when a word or phrase is used to stand in for a later word or phrase. For example:

Even though he never normally got up on Sundays, the milkman felt compelled to do so by the banging on the door.

Here, the pronoun he has been used to stand in for the noun milkman later on in the sentence.

What’s interesting about cataphora is the way in which the usual pattern of writing is reversed. 

Normally, a writer would construct a sentence like this:

Even though the milkman never normally got up on Sundays, he felt compelled to do so by the banging on the door.

See the difference? Through the use of cataphora and the reversal of the noun/pronoun structure there is a sense of detachment, of dehumanisation, of mystery created about the central character of the priest.

So, when you see an example of cataphora you need to ask questions like:

Why has the writer decided to structure the sentence in this way?

How does the use of cataphora allow the writer to shape meaning?

What is the effect of cataphora on the reader?

So, look out for cataphora the next time you are reading a Paper 1 text, or your Paper 2 texts. Try and incorporate the feature in your analysis and “wow” the examiner!

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