The meaning of climax and anticlimax The Greek word climax means “ladder”; the Latin gradation means “ascent, climbing up”. In the climax, we deal with strings of synonyms or at least semantically related words belonging to the same thematic group. According to Efimov L. P., climax (or Gradation) – is the figure of inequality, which consists in arranging the utterance so that each subsequent component of it increases significance, importance or emotional tension of narration. Galperin I. R. views climax as an arrangement of sentences (or of the homogeneous parts of one sentence) which secures a gradual increase in significance, importance, or emotional tension in the utterance, as in: “It was a lovely city, a beautiful city, a fair city, a veritable gem of a city. ” or in: “Ne barrier wall, river deep and wide, Ne horrid crags, nor mountains dark and tall Rise like the rocks that part Hipia’s land from Gaul. ” (Byron) A gradual increase in emotional evaluation in the first illustration and insignificance in the second is realized by the distribution of the corresponding lexical items. Each successive unit is perceived as stronger than the preceding one. Of course, there are no objective linguistic criteria to estimate the degree of importance or significance of each constituent. It is only the formal homogeneity of these component parts and the test of synonymy in the words ‘lovely’, ‘beautiful’, ‘fair,’ ‘veritable gem, in the first example and the relative inaccessibility of the barriers ‘wall’, ‘river’, ‘crags’, ‘mountains’ together with the epithets ‘deep and wide” ‘horrid’, ‘dark and tall’ that make us feel the increase in the importance of each.
Different types of climax A gradual increase in significance may be maintained in three ways: logical, emotional and quantitative. The logical climax is based on the relative importance of the component parts looked at from the point of view of the concepts embodied in them. This relative importance may be evaluated both objectively and subjectively, the author’s attitude towards the objects or phenomena in question is disclosed. Thus, the following paragraph from Dickens’s “Christmas Carol” shows the relative importance in the author’s mind of the things and phenomena described: “Nobody ever stopped him in the street to say, with gladsome looks, ‘My dear Scrooge, how are you? When will you come to see me? ‘ No beggars implored him to bestow a trifle, no children asked Jim what it -was o’clock, no man or woman ever once in all his life inquired the way to such and such a place, of Scrooge. Even the blind men’s dogs appeared to know him, and when they saw him coming on, would tug their owners into doorways and up courts; and then would wag their tails, as though they said, ‘No eye at all is better than an evil eye, dark master! ” The order of the statements shows what the author considers the culmination of the climax. The passage by Dickens should be considered “subjective” because there is no general recognition of the relative significance of the statements in the paragraph. The climax in the lines from Byron’s “Ne barrier… ” may be considered “objective” because such things as ‘wall’, ‘river’, ‘crags’, ‘mountains’ are objectively ranked according to their accessibility. The emotional climax is based on the relative emotional tension produced by words with emotive meaning, as in the first example with the words ‘lovely’, ‘beautiful’, ‘fair’.
The indispensable constituents of climax What then are the indispensable constituents of climax? They are:
a) the distributional constituent: close proximity of the component parts arranged in increasing order of importance or significance;
b) the syntactical pattern: parallel constructions with possible lexical repetition;
c )the connotative constituent: the explanatory context which helps the reader to grasp the gradation, as no. .. ver once in all his life, nobody ever, nobody, No beggars (Dickens); deep and wide, horrid, dark and tall (Byron); veritable (a gem of a city). Climax, like many other stylistic devices, is a means by which the author discloses his world outlook, his evaluation of objective facts and phenomena. The concrete stylistic function of this device is to show the relative importance of things as seen by the author (especially in emotional climax) or to impress upon the reader the significance of the things described by suggested comparison, or to depict phenomena dynamically. According to Efimov, anticlimax (or Bathos) – is a stylistic device which consists in arranging the utterance so that each subsequent component of it decreases significance, importance or emotional tension of narration: If John’s eyes fill with tears, you may have no doubt: he has been eating raw onions. Views anticlimax as an unexpected turn of the thought which defeats expectations of the reader (listener) and ends in a complete semantic reversal of the emphasized idea.
The device thus called is characterized by some authors as “back gradation”. As its very name shows, it is the opposite to climax, but this assumption is not quite correct. It would serve no purpose whatever making the second element weaker than the first, the third still weaker, and so on. A real anticlimax is a sudden deception of the recipient: it consists of adding one weaker element to one or several strong ones, mentioned before.
The recipient is disappointed in his expectations: he predicted a stronger element to follow; instead, some insignificant idea follows the significant one (ones). Needless to say, anticlimax is employed with a humorous aim. For example, in Its bloody lie and not quite true, we see the absurdity of mixing up an offensive statement with a polite remark. The ideas expressed may be arranged in ascending order of significance, or they may be poetical or elevated, but the final one, which the reader expects to be the culminating one, as in climax, is trifling or farcical. There is a sudden drop from the lofty or serious to the ridiculous. A typical example is Aesop’s fable “The Mountain in Labour”. “In days of yore, a mighty rumbling was heard in a Mountain.
It was said to be in labour, and multitudes flocked together, from far and near, to see what it would produce. After long expectation and many wise conjectures from the bystanders – out popped, a Mouse! ” Here we have deliberate anticlimax, which is a recognized form of humour. Anticlimax is frequently used by humorists like Mark Twain and Jerome K. Jerome. In “Three Men in a Boat”, for example, a poetical passage is invariably followed by ludicrous scene. For example, the author expands on the beauties of the sunset on the river and concludes: But we didn’t sail into the world of golden sunset: we went slap into that old punt where the gentlemen were fishing. ” Another example is: “This war-like speech, received with many a cheer, Had filled them with the desire of fame, and beer!
There are some types of semantically complicated parallelism. They are presented by climax and anticlimax. Climax, like many other stylistic devices, is a means by which the author discloses his world, outlook, his evaluation of objective facts and phenomena. The concrete stylistic function of this device is to show the relative importance of things as seen by the author (especially in emotional climax) or to impress upon the reader the significance of the things described by suggested comparison, or to depict phenomena dynamically. The climax which increases emotional tension of the utterance may be called emotional. Emotional gradation is created by synonymic words with emotive meanings: nice – handsome – beautiful – marvellous – gorgeous; Climax revealing the number of objects may be called quantitative: There were dozens of planets, hundreds of meteorites, innumerable number of stars.
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