Is this an example of any rhetorical/stylistic device or literary technique?

But can one really call it a life? If to live is to endure endless pain and destitution and to suffer humiliation so deep that it afflicts each and every fiber of one’s being, if it means fluttering ceaselessly against the walls of a cage that will never open, then there is no doubt that I and others like me did “live,” in the fullest sense of the word. But if the word encompasses a wealth of spirit and possibility, a modicum of rights, a few rare moments of inner bliss, with a dash of trust in the outside world, and a sense of fairness and balance in dealing with one’s fellow man and suchlike—well, then things are quite different.

The quote is from The Time Regulation Institute (English translation by Maureen Freely and Alexander Dawe, Penguin 2013) by Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar.


1 Answer 1


The passage appears to use the rhetorical device of aporia: the narrator asks a question expressing a certain doubt ("But can one really call it a life?") and then proceeds to give two possible answers. However, neither of these answers really resolves the question; instead, they read like an elaboration of the doubt expressed by the question.

If the narrator had given a clear and definite answer to the question, that would have been an example of a different device, i.e. hypophora.

Note also that the narrator presents only two potential answers to his question, as if no other answers existed. He may have fallen victim to the fallacy known as false dilemma or false dichotomy. However, there seems to be no intention on the part of the narrator to mislead the reader or listener, so this is not being used as a rhetorical trick here.

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