Adynaton is from the Greek word adunaton, which means “impractical,” or “impossible.” It is a rhetorical tool that is a shape of hyperbole wherein exaggeration is taken to a superb excessive in which it seems impossible. In other words, when hyperbole is magnified to such an volume that it is absolutely unfeasible, it's far referred to as adynaton. Ideas in the use of adynaton are exaggerated so one can emphasize something.
Adynaton and Hyperbole
Adynaton is a sort of hyperbole, even though it is an severe shape. When hyperbole goes to an excessive level, that is absolutely impossible in reality, it is referred to as adynaton. It is supplied as an exaggerated contrast or contrast.
Examples of Adynaton in Literature
Example #1: To His Coy Mistress (By Andrew Marvell)
“Had we however world sufficient, and time
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We might take a seat down, and suppose which way
To walk, and pass our long love’s day.
Thou through the Indian Ganges’ side
Shouldst rubies find; I through the tide
Of Humber might complain. I would
Love you ten years earlier than the flood
And you should, in case you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.”
Saying that a lady’s “coyness” is a crime, in the first bold word above, is truely an adynaton considering no lawmaker could be insane enough to skip a law criminalizing coyness.
The bold phrase, “Till the conversion of the Jews” refers to predictions about the Jews converting to Christianity, that have been made by means of many for centuries. Yet, simply like expected dates of the give up of the world have come and gone, a conversion of the Jews has now not happened, and is showing no signal of happening.
Example #2: Macbeth (By William Shakespeare)
“Whence is that knocking?
How is’t with me when every noise appals me?
What arms are here? Ha! They pluck out mine eyes.
Will all high-quality Neptune’s ocean wash this blood
Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather
The multitudinous seas in incarnadine,
Making the inexperienced one red…”
In those lines, an effective use of adynaton is evident. The tragic hero “Macbeth” feels guilty after having murdered King Duncan. He feels a lot remorse that even the massive oceans can not wash the king’s blood from his fingers.
Example #3: As I Walked Out One Evening (By W. H. Auden)
“I’ll love you, dear, I’ll love you
Till China and Africa meet,
And the river jumps over the mountain
And the salmon sing within the street,
I’ll love you until the sea
Is folded and hung up to dry
And the seven stars move squawking
Like geese about the sky …”
Adynaton is very clear inside the highlighted lines, because the poet expresses his love via overstating that the continents of China and Africa will meet, a river will leap over a mountain, fish will sing in the street, and the ocean may be folded and hung as much as dry. These are excessive exaggerations, which are impossible in real life.
Example #4: Romeo and Juliet (By William Shakespeare)
“Why then, O brawling love, O loving hate,
anything, of not anything first create!
Heavy lightness, extreme vanity,
Misshapen chaos of well-seeming forms …
Feather of lead, shiny smoke, bloodless fire, sick health,
Still-waking sleep, that isn't what it is!
This love sense I, that sense no love in this.
Dost thou no longer laugh?”
In this excerpt, Romeo compares his love to numerous matters. He intermingles love with hatred, mixes up lovely matters with ugly, hot with cold, darkish with shiny, and so on. He also labels love as fighting love and loving hate. These too are extraordinary exaggerations of love.
Function of Adynaton
Adynaton is used to create exaggeration, a good way to emphasize a few point. The basic reason of the usage of adynaton is to draw the attention of the audience by way of overstating a few aspect or idea.
Adynaton examples are located in literary portions written as early as the Classical and Medieval periods. However, examples of adynaton are visible in folklore, drama, and fiction of the modern age. In normal conversations, the function of adynaton is to create a laugh consequences by using highlighting an idea. It is employed each for comedian as well as extreme purposes. By the use of extravagant statements, poets and writers make everyday human emotions extraordinary.
Popular Literary Devices
- Ad Hominem
- Deus Ex Machina
- Double Entendre
- Flash Forward
- Half Rhyme
- Internal Rhyme
- Line Break
- Non Sequitur
- Pathetic Fallacy
- Poetic Justice
- Point of View
- Red Herring
- Tragic Flaw