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A non sequitur is a phrase or statement that does not follow a previous statement or does not logically follow what is prior to it: these phrases, statements, or conclusions do not follow the chain of logic being set up in the statements that precede them. In latin translate, the term non sequitur means “not follow.” Since there is a problem between the initially-stated idea and the conclusion that occurs at the end, the illogical leap that is created by a non sequitur is often referred to as a fallacy. Sometimes non sequitur are statements to confuse readers or made to make arguments harder to follow. They are also used in theater, plays, and comedies for humorous and comedic effect.
A great way to think about non sequiturs is thinking about someone you know who jumps to different topics in conversations that seem random or unrelated to you and the conversation you were having with this person. For instance, you may be talking to someone about shoes. The person to whom you are talking may mentally think about shoes, connect shoes to shopping at the mall, and remember that they are going shopping with their friend in the next week. They may tell you that they need to call their friend tomorrow. To you, that statement about calling their friend holds no logic to you. Jumping from shoes to calling a friend is a non sequitur in this instance.
In literature, non sequiturs have been used for very specific purposes. They may be used by characters to show a temporary mental instability or state of madness. They may be used to show extreme shock or grief. They also may be used by absurd or comical characters for comic relief and to make the character seem ridiculous or absurd. Writers in the 1940s used non sequiturs to explore their disenchantment with language and life during World War II. They felt that the absurd language reflected their outlook on life and the war.
Tom Stoppard, in his play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, utilizes non sequiturs to make Rosencrantz and Guildenstern seem absurd and comical.
Consider the following example from Stoppard’s play:
GUIL: I have no desires. None. (He stops pacing dead.) There was a messenger…that’s right. We weren’t sent for. (He wheels at ROS and raps out.) Syllogism the second: one: probability is a factor which operates within natural forces. Two, probability is not operating as a factor. Three, we are now within un-, sub-, or supernatural forces. Discuss (ROS is suitably startled – Acidly.) Not too heatedly.”
In this dialogue, Guildenstern jumps from one thought to another, and one conclusion to the other, without any sort of explanation or logic between the statement. To him, and in his own mind, the connection of statements may make sense; however, to the reader, these statements do not follow sound logic or reasoning. Stoppard’s use of non sequitur for these characters in this particular moment makes sense. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern experience an odd moment where a coin will only flip to show heads. They experience a distortion of time and place, which is reflected in Guildenstern’s dialogue and use of non sequiturs.
Shakespeare uses non sequiturs, and there is a moment in Hamlet where Hamlet actually points out the non sequitur:
Polonius: If you call me Jephthah, my lord, I have a daughter that I love passing well.
Hamlet: Nay, that follows not.
The conclusion of Polonius’ statement does not follow the first half of his statement. The idea of calling him a name does not correlate or connect to him having a daughter, let alone him loving her. Hamlet sees this as a non sequitur and tells Polonius that this conclusion does not following the first half of his statement.
Non Sequitur Worksheets
This bundle contains 5 ready-to-use non sequitur worksheets that are perfect to test student knowledge and understanding of what non sequitur is and how it can be used. You can use these non sequitur worksheets in the classroom with students, or with home schooled children as well.
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Link will appear as Non Sequitur Examples and Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, August 5, 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.