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Have you ever accumulated something before? Chances are you probably have. Accumulation simply means to make something bigger or 'to have more off'. This term is usually used to express having a gradual increase.

Accumulation defined

Accumulation is the increase or growth of something; usually continuous or repeated over time. The word accumulate is derived from the Latin ad meaning “to add” and cumulare meaning “pile up.” In the world of literature, accumulation is a stylistic literary device that uses a list of words with similar abstract or physical qualities or meanings in order to emphasize commonalities among the words. In general, accumulation is the piling up of meaning upon a single term or idea in order to explain as well as possible. Synonyms for accumulation are accretion, collection, gathering, assemblage, lodgment, and pile up.

Accumulation usage in literature

In general, accumulation was used in older texts; it is not used as much in literature today since economy of words is expected. Within poetics and descriptive literature, accumulation is used more frequently.

Accumulation was used habitually in the King James Version of the Holy Bible, when numerous names or ideas for the same person, place, or thing are listed in great number after a noun. For example, “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.”

William Shakespeare often used accumulation, as was the literary style at the time of his writings. For example, in his play Henry V, Shakespeare wrote, “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.”

Other literary uses

Accumulation is a favorite literary device of the author James Joyce. In this example from Ulysses, Joyce’s epic poem, he uses related and similar words to describe the same idea in list form. “What syllabus of intellectual pursuits was simultaneously possible? Snapshot photography, comparative study of religions, folklore relative to various amatory and superstitious practices, contemplation of celestial constellations…” 

This example from Jonathan Swift, an Anglo-Irish satirist who lived in the late 17th century and wrote Gulliver’s Travels, is a perfect illustration of accumulation for description’s sake in literature: “….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…”

More modern-day figures such as the United States President Barack Obama and the late great comedian George Carlin also used accumulation for the sake of explicit explanation and to comedic effect. For example, Barack Obama’s statement:

“Senator McCain suggested that somehow, you know, I’m green behind the ears, and I’m just spouting off and he’s somber and responsible. Senator McCain – this is a guy who sang ‘bomb, bomb, bomb, Iran,’ who called for the annihilation of North Korea.”

Accumulation can be used to make a literary conclusion within a conversation, and is frequently used in witticism. When speaking, people often use accumulation to explain themselves better, or to gather together different conclusion of a conversation in a single statement.

In literature, accumulation can also mean the gathering together of scattered points and ideas in a literary work.

If you're still having trouble understanding accumulation, you can buy an essay and ask one of our many expert writers to include examples.

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