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Hyperbaton: Overview

December 8, 2011 2 comments

Hyperbaton is a rhetorical device employed in writing, film, and virtually every other medium in either textual or visual form.  Brigham Young University’s Silva Rhetoricae gave two definitions for the device.  First, hyperbaton was defined as an inversion of normal word order in addition to a simile of anastrophe.  Second, hyperbaton employed the addition of another word into a semantically correct sentence, drawing attention to the added word (Burton).  For example of the first definition, Edgar Allan Poe employed hyperbaton in The Tell-Tale Heart when the protagonist speaks in the opening.  He said, “Object there was none. Passion there was none” (Poe).  In both sentences, Poe transposed “object” and “passion” to the front of their respective sentence, instead of having the sentences read, “There was no object/passion.”  By doing so, Poe amplified the emphasis on the fact that the protagonist lacked reason for hiding the heart below the floorboards or passion when performing the actions.

Speech is not the only medium in which one finds usage of hyperbaton.  Movie and television plots with nonlinear storytelling all employ hyperbaton in a different method with different effects of the directed emphasis.  Part of the non-linear model, many directors use flashbacks and premonitions as another form of hyperbaton.  With a brief glimpse of Christopher Nolan’s directorial history, one can find a plethora of these examples.

Burton, Gideon O. “Hyperbaton.” Silva Rhetoricae: The Forest of Rhetoric. Brigham Young University, n.d. Web. 7 Dec 2011. <http://rhetoric.byu.edu/&gt;.

Poe, Edgar Allan.  “The Tell-Tale Heart.”  1843.  Found on Literature.org.  http://www.literature.org/authors/poe-edgar-allan/tell-tale-heart.html.

Picture Credit:

Clarke, Harry.  Illustration of “The Tell-Tale Heart.” 1919. Tales of Mystery and Imagination. By Edgar Allan Poe.

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Categories: fiction, hyperbaton, overview

Hyperbaton: “(500) Days of Summer”

December 8, 2011 2 comments
In his 2009 film, (500) Days of Summer, Marc Webb used visual hyperbaton by inverting the chronological order of days in the movie.  The story followed Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who fell in love with Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel), who worked at the same greeting card company as Hansen.  From their first meeting onward, Webb showed the relationship over the course of the next five hundred days.  Rather than working strictly chronologically, Webb skipped from day-to-day and at times presented a day that disrupted the order.  Using a nifty transition to mark the change of days, Webb used this non-linear storytelling model as a means of deftly showing the peaks and valleys of a relationship.
 
Two days in particular exemplified this notion of life and death of a relationship.  First, Webb moved the story to day 282 of the relationship when the couple was having problems staying together.  While in an IKEA store, Hansen played with the non-operating sinks, making a joke by saying “Our sink is broken.”  A swivel of the camera to Finn’s face revealed that the joke failed in soliciting a positive response.  On the last day of the example, the story reverted to day thirty-five, the first time Hansen and Finn went shopping at the same IKEA store.  As the couple shopped, they told jokes about how each of the appliances was broken (again all non-operational) as they ran through the store before sharing a loving embrace on a display bed.  Through the emphasis of good and bad juxtaposed in this brief example, Webb emphasized the change in feelings of a relationship.
 
Our human nature often prevents us from critically analyzing a past relationship, as we want to focus primarily on either the positives or negatives, depending on the result of the relationship.  By juxtaposing the good days with the bad days of Hansen and Finn’s time together, however, Webb wants the audience to see the relationship as a whole.  When Webb places days 282 and thirty-five side-by-side, he adds emphasis on this notion of the relationship as a whole.  Finn’s revulsion at Hansen’s sink joke, which she made during their previous visit on day thirty-five, amplified Webb’s idea.  None of these days is a single, isolated incident, but rather all parts of one larger experience.

Webb, Marc, dir. (500) Days of Summer. Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2009. Film.

Categories: amplification, film, hyperbaton

Hyperbaton: “Sugar Water”

December 6, 2011 Leave a comment

Director Michel Gondry created a music video for Cibo Matto’s “Sugar Water” in 1996 that applied hyperbaton throughout the video.  Gondry presents two frames at the start of the video where the frame on the left moved forward in time and the right side moved backward.  Two unnamed females dominate each frame, one clad in blue on the left and the other in red on the right.  They each move through a series of minor events as the combined narrative of both frames leads the characters to one shared, life-changing moment which carried the emphasis of the video.

The woman in blue crashes her car into the woman in red just outside their respective apartments.  In that moment, the camera focuses on a mysterious note carried by the woman in red as she lay on the ground.  A slight reflection between the two frames shows the note reading, “You killed me.”  From that point, the women switch frames with red moving forward and blue backward through the chain of events leading to the accident.  Each frame presents a successful stand-alone narrative, as each simply switches the perspective to the alternate character.  However, the hyperbaton, through displaying both frames concurrently, emphasized the moment shared between the two women.  The note’s message equally applies to both.  The woman in blue nearly killed the other woman and now retraces her steps to the moment.  Mentally, she will never be the same due to this event.  Because she survives the fatal moment, red receives a new lease on life.  She now moves forward with her new life, blazing a new path, as she goes to her apartment after the accident.

The mysterious note reflected on the right.

Gondry, Michel, dir. “Sugar Water.” Perf. Cibo Matto. 2003. The Work of Director Michel Gondry. NY: Palm Pictures, 2003.  Also available: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EN9auBn6Jys&ob=av2e

Hyperbaton: Yoda

December 6, 2011 Leave a comment

George Lucas’ 1980 sequel to the masterpiece Star wars, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, debuted a new character, Yoda (voiced by Frank Oz), who often spoke through hyperbaton.  A legendary master of the Force who exiled himself to the remote planet of Dagobah, Yoda agreed to train Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) in the ways of the Jedi, an ancient order of intergalactic peacekeepers.  Having lived for hundreds of years, Yoda accrued a vast wealth of knowledge and wisdom, which he gave to Skywalker during the training.  Through the inverted word order in many of his statements, Yoda displayed an additional air of wisdom by emphasizing particular words in the sentence structure.

During their time together, Yoda told Skywalker, “Yes. A Jedi’s strength flows from the Force. But beware the dark side. Anger, fear, aggression. The dark side of the Force are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny. Consume you it will, as it did Obi-Wan’s apprentice” (italics used for clarity).  Each of the highlighted sentences contained hyperbaton, exemplifying Yoda’s wisdom.  In the first sentence, Yoda began with “the dark side” instead of “they are.”  Here, he emphasized the negative traits of the Force listed in the previous sentence: anger, fear, and aggression.  Following the first italicized sentence, Yoda started with “easily they flow,” moving “easily” to the beginning of the sentence, stressing the nature of these traits.  Yoda showed it was harder to forgive rather than become angry, but the difficulty rewards the person.  Whereas, once a person resorted to anger, he will resort to anger again and once the dark side seduces a person, recovery to a neutral or positive state was a remote chance.  In the last sentence of the example, Yoda’s transposition of “consume” emphasized the effect of the dark side on a person.  The ease of the dark side enveloped Skywalker’s father (Obi-Wan’s previous apprentice) and the imagery inspired by “consume” creates a picture where the connotations of the decision were evident.  The dark side eats the user, and by the process of consumption, destroys the user for the benefits of the consumer.  Through his use of hyperbaton, Yoda amplified his wisdom by drawing extra focus to certain words.

Yoda as he appears in "Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back"

Lucas, George, dir. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. 20th Century Fox, 1980. Film.

Categories: amplification, film, hyperbaton

Hyperbaton: “Pulp Fiction”

December 6, 2011 2 comments

Quentin Tarantino released Pulp Fiction in 1994, which relied heavily on the use of visual hyperbaton through a non-linear storyline.  Comprised of seven sections, Pulp Fiction’s plot followed protagonists Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson), who worked as assassins.  Tarantino transposed several sections out of the proper chronological order, for example the sequence in which Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis) killed Vega.  Pulp Fiction ended with an epilogue in which Vega walked of in the sunset with Winnfield, alive and healthy.  However, midway through the film, Coolidge killed Vega when Coolidge found Vega waiting to murder Coolidge in his apartment.  While the entire film employed visual hyperbaton, Tarantino achieved a particular effect with the hyperbaton used in Vega’s death scene.

Filled with murder, death, and mayhem, Tarantino managed to make Vega’s death stand out from the rest of the casualties in the film.  Vega’s death, set between two sequences in which Vega was alive, jarred the audience with the sudden and unexpected nature of his demise.  Tarantino gave no indication that the event was going to happen and as such caught the audience off guard.  Due to the shocking nature in which Vega died, Tarantino caused Vega’s death to stand out even when compared to the graphic nature of some deaths, such as Marvin’s (Phil LaMarr).  Building on Vega’s sudden death, Tarantino added morality the scene later in the film.  Because the hyperbaton made Vega’s death a prominent feature of the movie, Winnfield’s recitation of Ezekiel 25:17 (which Tarantino slightly modified for the film) added a layer to effect of the hyperbaton.  Winnfield’s rendition of the passage ended as, “And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers.  And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.”   As the film concluded, Winnfield noted his retirement from the assassin business, whereas Vega continued.   Applied to Vega’s death, the Bible passage added resonance to Vega’s death, which remained at the forefront due to the shock from Tarantino’s hyperbaton use.

Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson)

Tarantino, Quentin, dir. Pulp Fiction. Miramax, 1994. Film.