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Punctuation mark vs. literary device
Apostrophe can be either a punctuation mark or a literary device. As a punctuation mark, it signifies elision and is used when letters or words are contracted and sounds are omitted or merged. For instance, “I am” can be presented as “I’m” or “you all” can be sometimes heard as “y’all.”
Let’s focus more on the literary device definition in this discussion, however. So in literature, apostrophe occurs when a character in the story speaks to an object, an idea, or someone who’s dead or nonexistent, as if it has feelings. The purpose is to highlight the importance of the object, idea or non-existent person in the story and to inject a dramatic effect.
Apostrophe is commonly applied in fiction, music, poetry and prose. In this scenario, a character is seen or imagined alone (solo) and thinking his/her thoughts out loud. Typically, the character detaches himself/herself from the reality and speak to the inanimate or imaginary character in his/her speech.
Derived from the Greek word that means “turning back” or “turning away,” apostrophe is common in Greek drama and literary works. For instance, in Odyssey by Homer, the narrator would interrupt the action to provide information or commentary. Another classic example is Shakespeare’s Hamlet, wherein he addresses Yorick’s skull. The impact of the story would not have been as dramatic had Shakespeare not used apostrophe.
Purpose of an apostrophe
As cited above, the main function of apostrophe is to personify abstract ideas or inanimate objects or to bring them to life. By employing this tool, the writers or authors are able to surface abstract emotions that the audience or readers can identify more easily with. In addition, the idea of a character talking to an inanimate object or imaginary character also adds humor, drama or color to the plot.
In Act II, Scene II of Romeo and Juliet, Juliet’s famous line “O, Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?” is an apostrophe. This is because, although Romeo is a living person and is hiding in her yard and listening to her, Juliet thinks she is addressing someone who’s not present. The audience can tell that she thinks she is all by herself and just thinking out loud about her prince charming Romeo.
In the same play, Juliet can also be heard addressing to a dagger, i.e. ”O, happy dagger! This is thy sheath. Thus let me rust and die.” Note that she uses “O” before the inanimate object, a conventional way of starting an apostrophe to denote that the character or speaker is talking to someone or something that is not really present or real.
Here are other examples of apostrophe from famous literature and songs. Can you spot the apostrophe?
- Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are. (Jane Taylor)
- O holy night! The stars are brightly shining! (Adolphe Adam)
- Then come, sweet death, and rid me of this grief. (Queen Isabel in Edward II by Christopher Marlowe)
- O, pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth. (Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene I)
- Roll on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean – roll! (The Ocean by Lord Byron)
- Welcome, O life! I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race. (A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce)
- O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it! (The Holy Bible, Luke 13:34)
This bundle contains 5 ready-to-use apostrophe worksheets that are perfect to test student knowledge and understanding of what an apostrophe is and how it can be used. You can use these apostrophe worksheets in the classroom with students, or with home schooled children as well.
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Link will appear as Apostrophe Examples and Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, August 22, 2017
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.