What does „anticlimactic“ mean? Meaning, definition, explanation

There is no semantic connection between anticlimactic and climate, even though the wording is similar. There are several words for the term that are used synonymously: diminishing, disappointing, and declining. In English usage, these are more common than the term anticlimactic.

Anticlimactic derives from anticlimax, meaning the opposite of a climax. Anticlimactic is the adjective to anticlimax, but is hardly established in the English vocabulary and is therefore rarely used. Anticlimax means „disappointment“ or „decline“ and in the vast majority of cases refers to the curve of tension in a literary work. Anticlimax describes the opposite of a traditional suspense curve. In terms of a novel, it means that the tension decreases toward the middle, but increases again toward the end.

Climax and anticlimax in the novel

The tension curve of a classic drama or narrative is called a suspense curve. Whether it’s Schiller’s „Mary Stuart“ or Shakespeare’s „Macbeth,“ if you were to depict it figuratively, you would have to draw a semicircle.

Tension increases slowly until it reaches its peak (climax) about halfway through the narrative and then drops off again until the finale. Tension can be created in the first sentence of a novel, but it should be kept at a certain level until the end so that readers do not lose interest. Whether it’s a mystery novel or a portrayal of a historical figure, a novel is boring without an arc of suspense. The suspense can be structured in different ways. This progression is more or less the basic structure of the novel.

In classical drama, a suspense arc has five stages: The plot begins with exposition and builds up to the first exciting moment. Thereupon the plot becomes more complex, there are more cures and more disturbing elements, until finally the climax of tension is reached. The drama is not yet resolved, there is still a delay that maintains the tension until the dramatic end of the story – usually a catastrophe. This structure corresponds to a drama in five acts. Authors do not always meticulously adhere to predetermined plot models. Often a well-known scheme is varied. Thus, the greatest possible individuality is achieved, shows the author:in their personal style.

Examples of an anticlimax: descending climax in linguistics

Climax is a step-like increase of expressions and a frequent stylistic device in rhetoric. The term comes from ancient Greek and means ladder or staircase. The climax clearly reinforces the overall statement. Example from the fairy tale „Rumpelstiltskin“ by the Brothers Grimm: „Today I bake, tomorrow I brew, the day after tomorrow I fetch the queen her child“. However, anticlimax is also repeatedly used as a stylistic device in linguistics. For example, a speech may be characterized by the descending order of precedence from the important to the less important. An example of a descending increment would be the enumeration „great-grandmother, grandmother, mother, and child.“

The báthos: widespread variant of the anticlimax

The báthos (ancient Greek = depth) is a humorous form of anticlimax and also a popular stylistic device. We encounter it in very different texts, mainly in expressionist poems. It describes the effect that occurs when inappropriately or misguidedly pathetic speech is used.

The term figuratively symbolizes „being sunk“ and „standing low.“ In doing so, one contrasts a higher value (the sublime) with a lower one (the ridiculous). By juxtaposing two values that are very far apart, comedy, but also drasticness, can be expressed.

Often such formulations seem unintentionally funny. An example that illustrates the juxtaposition of two very contrary values very well: „The flood cost 11 people their lives. I’ve had a damp basement ever since.“ The statement seems nonsensical, even partly immoral, because two events (one strong and one weak) are juxtaposed that cannot actually be compared.

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