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Asyndeton: Know its Purpose and Examples to Express Words in Style

Asyndeton: Purpose and Examples
Asyndeton involves excluding conjunctions in words, phrases, or sentences where they should generally be used. This Penlighten post explains its definition, and gives some asyndeton examples of in literature, politics, and history.
Prachi Patkar
Last Updated: Feb 10, 2018
The name asyndeton is derived from the Greek word 'Asyndeton'. The meaning of this Greek word is something that is not connected.
Conjunctions such as 'and', 'or', 'but', 'nor', to list a few, connect clauses or words to form sentences. Asyndeton depicts the disjoint between words or phrases. It can also be called a rhetorical device used to do away with the connectives such as conjunctions in phrases or sentences.

The purpose of asyndeton is a stylistic approach to expressing a bigger set of words. This concept is used in literature to concisely explain the text to the reader. This makes the text and poetry look expressive. Hence, as the name suggests, it is used to take off conjunctions from sentences or phrases. Given below are some examples of asyndetons in real life.
Example I (With conjunction): The fruit mart sells grapes, peaches, watermelons, apples, and figs.
Example II (Without conjunction): The fruit mart sells grapes, peaches, watermelons, apples, figs.

Asyndeton can be classified into two types, one of which includes the asyndeton used between words, phrases, and sentences. An example of this type is: "She is addicted to pizza, pasta, pancakes." The other type includes its usage in clauses and sentences. An example of this type is: "I came, I played, I won."
Asyndeton Examples in Literature
William Shakespeare Othello
"Call up her father.
Rouse him. Make after him, Poison his delight,
Proclaim him in the streets. Incense her kinsmen,
And, though he in a fertile climate dwell, Plague him with flies:"
- William Shakespeare (Othello)
F. Scott Fitzgerald
"That was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals' song of it."
- F. Scott Fitzgerald, (The Great Gatsby)
Julius Caesar
"Are all thy conquests, glories, triumphs, spoils,. Shrunk to this little measure?"
- William Shakespeare, (Julius Caesar Act 3 Scene 1)
In books I find the dead as if they were alive; in books I foresee things to come; in books warlike affairs are set forth; from books come forth the laws of peace.
- Richard de Bury
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Nathaniel Hawthorne
"Calm, gentle, passionless, as he appeared, there was yet, we fear, a quiet depth of malice, hitherto latent,"
- Nathaniel Hawthorne, (The Scarlet Letter)
Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet
"These griefs, these woes, these sorrows make me old."
- William Shakespeare, (Romeo and Juliet)
"I stepped into a deserted corridor clogged with too many smells. Carnations, old people, rubbing alcohol, bathroom deodorizer, red Jell-O."
- Sue Mond Kidd, (The Secret Life of Bees)
"The breath coming out the nostrils was so faint it stirred only the farthest fringes of life, a small leaf, a black feather, a single fibre of hair."
- Ray Bradbury, (Fahrenheit 451)
"Piggy tries to defuse the sitch by telling Ralph to remember what they came for-the fire, the specs."
- William Golding, (Lord of the Flies)
Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens
"I checked off again in detail, his large head, his dark complexion, his deep set eyes, his bushy black eyebrows, his large watch chain, his strong black dots of beard and whisker, and even the smell of scented soap on his great hand."
- Charles Dickens, (Great Expectations)
Shakespeare's plays: Romeo and Juliet
William Shakespeare, (The Tragedy of Hamlet)
"to die: to sleep- / To sleep, perchance to dream"
- William Shakespeare, (The Tragedy of Hamlet)
Asyndeton Examples in Speech
Martin Luther King
"With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day."
- Martin Luther King, (I Have a Dream)
Winston Churchill postage stamp
Winston Churchill
"we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender,"
- Winston Churchill
Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar
"I came, I saw, I conquered."
- Julius Caesar
Asyndeton Examples in History and Politics
John Henry Newman statue
John Henry Newman
"If, as is the case, we feel responsibility, are ashamed, are frightened, at transgressing the voice of conscience, this implies that there is One to whom we are responsible, before whom we are ashamed, whose claims upon us we fear."
- John Henry Newman
Illustration of Aristotle
"This is the villain among you who deceived you, who cheated you, who meant to betray you completely."
- Aristotle, (Rhetoric)
"We certainly have within us the image of some person, to whom our love and veneration look, in whose smile we find our happiness, for whom we yearn, towards whom we direct our pleadings, in whose anger we are troubled and waste away."
- John Henry Newman
Asyndeton Examples in Songs
"Let me tell you something
Never have I ever
Been a size 10
In my whole life
I left the engine running"
- Rihanna, (Stupid in Love)
"There's a boy here in town, says he'll love me forever
Who would have thought forever could be severed by
The sharp knife of a short life
Oh well, I've had just enough time"
- The Band Perry, (If I Die Young)
While the usage of asyndeton speeds up the rhythm of the words in a sentence, it doesn't alter its meaning in any way. It merely emphasizes the significance and meaning of the sentence.