The UVic Writer's Guide

 


Bathos


Writing is bathetic when it strives to be serious (impassioned or elevated) but achieves only a comic effect because it is anti-climactic. "Anticlimax" is synonymous with bombast but can also refer to a bathetic effect which is intentional.

In Tom Thumb the Great (1731), Fielding uses anticlimax for the purposes of satire, as when King Arthur observes the signs of love in his daughter: "Your eyes spit fire, your cheeks grow red as beef." Here figurative language that begins with an ennobling (though bombastic) fire metaphor then descends to the mean level of raw steak.


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Copyright, The Department of English, University of Victoria, 1995
This page updated September 23, 1995