Writing

Accumulation in Writing (Definition, Usage + Examples)

Posted: January 4, 2023
Word count: 1,335 (5 min)

Accumulation is a literary device that puts together scattered points of similar words to generate a common and deeper feeling in writing. It is a stylistic device used by writers to produce the effect of amplification.

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Tomas Laurinavicius

Co-founder & Chief Editor, Best Writing

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What is an Accumulation Stylistic Device?

The word accumulation comes from a Latin word which means to "pile up". Accumulation definition according to the Oxford Learner's Dictionary is "the process of gradually increasing or getting more and more of something over a period of time". This is what it exactly does as a literary device. Similar words are used in close proximity to express the intensity of a thought or feeling.

Why is the Accumulation Technique Used?

Accumulation in literature happens when the writer collects scattered points of similar ideas and puts them together. It is a stylistic device used by authors. Examples of accumulation can be found in literature, political speeches, resumes, and daily conversations.

Modern author James Joyce was a heavy user of accumulation literary device. A section from his seminal work Ulysses has been provided among the examples. The passage lists the various nutriments brought by the dreamy chieftain. The passage is rich in good imagery which gives a feeling of abundance, wholesomeness, wealth, and fulfillment. Accumulation in writing is a list of related words brought together - a wholeness from scattered ideas.

Examples of Accumulation in Literature

In literature, many famous examples of accumulation can be found. The author in their writng embody similar abstract ideas to convey a particular meaning or idea. The definition of accumulation in literature is a passage or poem that gathers scattered ideas together to accentuate a feeling they are trying to arouse in the reader or intensify certain aspects. Some literature example of accumulation are given below.

On This Day I Complete My Thirty-Sixth Year, Byron

"My days are in the yellow leaf;

The flowers and fruits of Love are gone;

The worm—the canker, and the grief

Are mine alone!

The fire that on my bosom preys

Is lone as some Volcanic Isle;

No torch is kindled at its blaze

A funeral pile.

The hope, the fear, the jealous care,

The exalted portion of the pain

And power of Love I cannot share,

But wear the chain."

In this poem, Lord Byron expresses the passionate life he has lived even though his life in this thirty-sixth year feels purposeless and not enough to inspire love in others. In the first few lines, he explains how life's passions are coming to an end with age, and in the last few lines he explains how these passions which once he rode with vitality are now weighing him down like a "chain".

Ulysses, James Joyce

"Rangoon beans, strikes of tomatoes, drums of figs, drills of Swedes, spherical potatoes and tallies of iridescent kale, York and Savoy, and trays of onions, pearls of the earth, and punnets of mushrooms and custard marrows……and rape and red green yellow brown russet sweet big bitter ripe pomellated apples and chips of strawberries and sieves of gooseberries, pulpy and penurious, and strawberries fit for princes and raspberries from their canes…"

The physical qualities of various fruits and vegetables are described in a dauntingly vivid way but there is a deeper meaning. Such delicacies come with a sense of prosperity, richness, and assurance of sustenance.

When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops?, George Carlin

"I’m a modern man, digital and smoke-free;

a man for the millennium.

A diversified, multi-cultural, post-modern deconstructionist;

politically, anatomically and ecologically incorrect.

I’ve been uplinked and downloaded,

I’ve been inputted and outsourced.

I know the upside of downsizing,

I know the downside of upgrading.

I’m a high-tech low-life.

a cutting-edge, state-of-the-art,

bi-coastal multi-tasker,

and I can give you a gigabyte in a nanosecond. . . ."

George Carlin's books are satirical, ironic and funny in nature. His humour aims to offend people and Carlin expresses big ideas in a comic and simple way.

Ecclesiastes (1:4-7), Old Testament

"A generation goes and a generation comes, yet the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets, and rushes back again to the place from which it rises. The wind blows south, then returns to the north, round and round goes the wind, on its rounds it circulates. All streams flow to the sea, yet the sea does not fill up."

Holy Thursday, William Blake

"Is this a holy thing to see

In a rich and fruitful land,

Babes reduced to misery,

Fed with cold and usurous hand?

Is that trembling cry a song?

Can it be a song of joy?

And so many children poor?

And their fields are bleak and bare,

And their ways are filled with thorns."

Blake poses difficult questions using accumulation as a literary device, about misery and suffering of poor children.

Henry V, William Shakespeare

"Then shall our names,

Familiar in his mouth as household words,

Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,

Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,

Be in their flowing cups freshly remembered."

Shakespeare lists several tokens to address the King in the passage.

A Modest Proposal, Jonathan Swift

"...having no other motive than the public good of my country, by advancing our trade, providing for infants, relieving the poor, and giving some pleasure to the rich."

Jonathan Swift in A Modest Proposal lists all measures that can be taken to vanquish poverty in the country and advance the country.

The Little Virtues, Natalia Ginzburg

"I don’t know how to manage my time; he does.

I don’t know how to dance and he does.

I don’t know how to type and he does.

I don’t know how to drive …"

Natalia Ginzburg in 'Little Virtues', a collection of short essays lists small virtues surrounding everyday life.

How to use Accumulation in Writing

One can use accumulation in writing by putting together a number of similar things together. For example,

The moonlight was pearlescent, gleaming, sparkling on the water's surface.

This sentence puts together the glowing qualities of moonlight.

The river glided like liquid diamond, flowing through stunted rocks, seeping into the muddy soil, and percolating in the earth's lap.

This sentence expresses the fluidity of the river passing through places.

Finding similar expressions and successive clauses that give way to a common feeling is the main point of writing accumulation into literature. It is one of those literary devices used to intensify the effect of something.

Accumulation is also similar to the rhetoric called enumeratio which is a literary device for listing details for the purpose of amplification effect. It comes from Latin which translates to "counting up". Some common examples of enumeration can be found in literature as well.

"To watch a leaf quivering in the rush of air was an exquisite joy. Up in the sky swallows swooping, swerving, flinging themselves in and out, round and round, yet always with perfect control as if elastics held them; and the flies rising and falling; and the sun spotting now this leaf, now that, in mockery, dazzling it with soft gold in pure good temper; and now again some chime (it might be a motor horn) tinkling divinely on the grass stalks—all of this, calm and reasonable as it was, made out of ordinary things as it was, was the truth now...."

This quote is from Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. Woolf, as well as Joyce, are stream-of-consciousness writers and they amply use literary devices like accumulation and enumeration to ornament their writing.

What is Aposiopesis in Stylistics?

Aposiopesis is a literary device when there is a sudden break in the writing. It comes from Greek meaning to "become silent". It is the speaker's insufficiency to finish what they were saying. For example,

You better finish this work before midnight, or else-

Summary

Accumulation is a literary device that puts together scattered points of similar words to generate a common and deeper feeling in writing. It is a stylistic device used by writers to produce the effect of amplification. Accumulation generates a streaming, intense feeling due to the successive related words and these pile up in the reader's mind and produces the effect the writer wants.

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