Paraphrase Tool


Updated Mar 12, 2023

The Rhetorical Device of Digressio: A Powerful Tool for Engaging Writing

Have you ever found yourself captivated by a piece of writing that takes unexpected detours, yet still manages to keep you hooked? If so, you might have experienced the persuasive power of a rhetorical device called digressio. In this blog article, we will explore the art of digressio, its purpose, and some notable examples that demonstrate its effectiveness in engaging readers.

What is Digressio?

Digressio, also known as digression or aside, is a rhetorical device that involves temporarily diverting from the main topic or narrative to explore an unrelated idea or story. It is a deliberate departure from the central theme, often used to provide additional context, enhance the writer's voice, or offer a unique perspective. By adding unexpected twists and turns, digressio can inject vitality and intrigue into the text, captivating readers along the way.

The Purpose of Digressio

While digressio may seem like an unnecessary distraction, it serves several essential purposes in writing:

1. Captivating Attention

By veering off course momentarily, digressio can surprise readers and pique their curiosity. It breaks the predictability of a linear narrative, making the text more engaging and memorable. When used effectively, digressio can create anticipation and keep readers eagerly turning the pages.

2. Providing Context

Sometimes, a digression can offer valuable background information or context that enriches the main idea. It allows writers to provide historical, cultural, or personal anecdotes that help readers better understand the subject matter. Digressio can create a more comprehensive and well-rounded reading experience.

3. Adding Personal Voice

Digressio gives writers the opportunity to insert their personality and voice into their work. By sharing personal experiences, opinions, or reflections through digressions, writers can establish a stronger connection with the readers, making the text more relatable and authentic.

4. Creating Contrast

When used strategically, digressio can create a striking contrast between the main topic and the digression itself. This intentional juxtaposition can highlight certain ideas, emphasize key points, or provide a fresh perspective that encourages critical thinking. The unexpected diversion can help the writer articulate their intended message more effectively.

Notable Examples of Digressio

To better understand the power of digressio, let's explore a few examples from famous works of literature:

Example 1: "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen

In Austen's classic novel, the character of Mrs. Bennet is known for her constant digressions. One such instance occurs when Mr. Collins proposes to Elizabeth Bennet. Instead of addressing the proposal directly, Mrs. Bennet embarks on a tangential monologue about her neighbor's extravagant wedding. This digression adds humor and showcases Mrs. Bennet's character, making the scene more entertaining and memorable.

Example 2: "Moby-Dick" by Herman Melville

Melville masterfully employs digressions throughout "Moby-Dick" to provide extensive information about whales, whaling techniques, and the history of the industry. These digressions, known as "Whale Biology" and "Cetology" chapters, offer readers valuable knowledge that enhances their understanding of the novel's central themes. Melville's digressions not only educate but also create a sense of wonder and adventure, amplifying the reader's immersion in the story.

Example 3: "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee

Harper Lee employs digressions through the narrative voice of Scout Finch, the young protagonist. Scout often interrupts the linear flow of the story to provide retrospective commentary on events that occurred years before. These digressions offer a mature perspective and insight into the story's themes of justice, prejudice, and growing up. They also add depth to Scout's character, making her voice more authentic and relatable.


Digressio, the art of temporarily deviating from the main topic, is a powerful rhetorical device that adds depth, engagement, and personal voice to writing. By captivating attention, providing context, adding personal voice, and creating contrast, digressio enriches the reading experience and reinforces the intended message. Through notable examples from literature, we see how digressio can be skillfully employed to create memorable and impactful writing. So, don't be afraid to take detours in your writing – embrace the power of digressio and watch your readers become captivated by your words.


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