Circumlocution is a literary device that involves the use of indirect or roundabout language to express an idea, often with the intention of being more polite, tactful, or evasive. Rather than stating something directly, circumlocution involves using a series of words or phrases to hint at or imply the intended meaning. This device can be used to convey a variety of emotions, from diplomacy and politeness to sarcasm and criticism. Circumlocution is often used in literature, particularly in dialogue and character interactions, to add depth and nuance to the language and to reflect the complexity of human communication.
Examples of circumlocution:
In “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen, the character Mr. Collins uses circumlocution to express his intentions towards Elizabeth Bennet, saying, “My reasons for marrying are, first, that I think it a right thing for every clergyman in easy circumstances to set the example of matrimony in his parish.”
In “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain, the character Huck uses circumlocution to describe his feelings of guilt and conflict over his relationship with the runaway slave Jim, saying, “It made me shiver. And I about made up my mind to pray; and see if I couldn’t try to quit being the kind of a boy I was, and be better.”
In “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger, the protagonist Holden Caulfield uses circumlocution to express his dissatisfaction with the world around him, such as saying, “I’m not kidding, it was the worst. And what made it even worse, my brother D.B. was a writer, and he was out in Hollywood being a prostitute.”
In “The Importance of Being Earnest” by Oscar Wilde, the characters use circumlocution to navigate the social conventions and expectations of the Victorian era, such as saying, “I have been obliged to give up several large Bunbury’s in London, and to put my country estate into somewhat of order.”