What is parallelism?
In literature, parallelism refers to a rhetorical device or literary technique where similar grammatical structures, phrases, or ideas are used in close proximity to create a balanced and harmonious effect. It involves the repetition of words, phrases, or grammatical structures in a way that provides a sense of symmetry and rhythm to a piece of writing. Parallelism is commonly used in various forms of literature, including prose, poetry, speeches, and even in everyday language.
The purpose of using parallelism in literature is to enhance the overall impact of the text, making it more memorable, rhythmic, and aesthetically pleasing. It can also serve to emphasize certain ideas, create a sense of balance, or draw attention to specific concepts.
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Examples of parallelism:
- Prose Example: “The sun rises in the east; it sets in the west. The wind howls through the night; the birds sing during the day.”
In this example, the parallel structure “The [noun] [verb] [preposition] [noun]” is repeated, creating a rhythmic and balanced effect.
- Poetry Example (from William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18): “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate: Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.”
Here, the poet uses parallelism to compare the subject to a summer’s day and then continues the parallel structure to elaborate on the subject’s beauty and attributes.
- Speech Example (from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech): “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'”
Dr. King effectively uses parallelism to emphasize his dream and vision for a more equitable future.
Types of parallelism:
Grammatical parallelism, also known as syntactic parallelism or structural parallelism, is a rhetorical device used in writing and speech where the same or similar grammatical structures are repeated in successive sentences or phrases. This repetition creates a balanced and harmonious effect, enhancing the rhythm and flow of the language.
Grammatical parallelism involves matching the structure of words, phrases, clauses, or even entire sentences, and arranging them in a consistent pattern. The purpose of using this literary technique is to add emphasis, clarity, and elegance to the text, making it more pleasing to read or hear.
Here are some examples of grammatical parallelism:
- Parallelism in Phrases:
- “Alice likes to swim, to hike, and to read.”
- “She spoke softly, confidently, and persuasively.”
- Parallelism in Clauses:
- “He was not only talented but also hardworking.”
- “She not only sings beautifully but also plays the piano.”
- Parallelism in Sentences:
- “The sun rises in the east; it sets in the west.”
- “He came, he saw, he conquered.”
Grammatical parallelism serves several purposes in writing:
- Emphasis: By repeating similar structures, the writer draws attention to the ideas presented, making them stand out and become more memorable.
- Rhythm: Parallelism creates a rhythmical quality in the writing, which can enhance the overall flow and make the text more engaging to the reader or listener.
- Clarity: Parallelism can help clarify complex ideas by presenting them in a structured and organized manner.
- Aesthetic Appeal: The balanced and harmonious nature of parallelism can add beauty and elegance to the language, making the writing more aesthetically pleasing.
Antithetical parallelism is a specific type of parallelism used in literature and rhetoric, where contrasting or opposing ideas are presented in parallel structures. It involves the juxtaposition of two contrasting thoughts or concepts in a balanced and symmetrical manner. The purpose of antithetical parallelism is to emphasize the differences between the ideas being presented and to create a powerful rhetorical effect.
In antithetical parallelism, the two contrasting ideas are often connected by a conjunction such as “but,” “yet,” “although,” “however,” or “nevertheless.” The parallel structure highlights the contrast and makes it more striking to the reader or listener.
Examples of antithetical parallelism are:
- “Easy come, easy go.” In this example, the contrasting ideas of gaining and losing something effortlessly are presented side by side.
- “Many are called, but few are chosen.” This famous biblical phrase contrasts the large number of individuals invited with the small number of those actually selected or favored.
- “You are easy on the eyes, but hard on the heart.” This sentence juxtaposes the idea of being visually attractive with the emotional difficulty of being in a relationship with the person.
- “She speaks softly, yet her words carry great power.” This example contrasts the gentle manner of speaking with the strong impact of her words.
Synonymous parallelism, also known as synonymous couplet or repetition of synonyms, is a type of parallelism used in literature and poetry where similar or synonymous words or phrases are repeated to reinforce an idea or theme. In synonymous parallelism, the parallel structures express the same or similar meaning, creating emphasis and enhancing the overall impact of the message.
The purpose of using synonymous parallelism is to add clarity, intensify the message, and create a rhythmic and memorable quality in the writing. By repeating synonymous words or phrases, the writer emphasizes the central theme or concept, making it more accessible to the reader or listener.
Some examples of synonymous parallelism are:
- “The sun rises and the sun sets, bringing day and night.” In this example, the synonymous phrases “the sun rises” and “the sun sets” express the same idea of the sun’s daily cycle.
- “Her smile was warm, her smile was friendly, and her smile was inviting.” This sentence uses synonymous parallelism to emphasize the positive quality of the subject’s smile.
- “He was brave, fearless, and unafraid.” In this example, synonymous words “brave,” “fearless,” and “unafraid” are used to highlight the subject’s courage.
- “The river flowed gently, calmly, and peacefully.” Here, synonymous adverbs are used to describe the serene movement of the river.
Anaphoric parallelism, also known as anaphora, is a specific type of parallelism used in literature, rhetoric, and speech where the same word or phrase is repeated at the beginning of successive clauses or sentences. The repetition creates a strong rhetorical effect and draws attention to the repeated element, making it more impactful and memorable.
The term “anaphoric” comes from the Greek word “anaphora,” which means “carrying back” or “repeating.” In anaphoric parallelism, the repeated word or phrase serves as a literary device that links the various clauses or sentences together, establishing a sense of cohesion and unity.
Anaphoric parallelism is often used to emphasize key ideas, create a sense of rhythm, and add rhetorical power to the text. It is a common device in poetry, speeches, and persuasive writing, as it can evoke strong emotions and engage the audience’s attention.
These are examples of anaphoric parallelism:
- “I have a dream that one day… I have a dream that one day… I have a dream that one day…”In Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speech, the repetition of the phrase “I have a dream that one day” at the beginning of successive sentences creates a powerful and memorable rhythm, reinforcing the central theme of his vision for a more just and equitable future.
- “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills…”In Winston Churchill’s speech during World War II, the repetition of “we shall fight” emphasizes the determination and resolve of the British people in the face of adversity.
- “He came, he saw, he conquered.”This classic example of anaphoric parallelism, attributed to Julius Caesar, uses repetition to emphasize a series of actions, leaving a lasting impression on the listener or reader.
Climactic parallelism, also known as incremental parallelism or gradation, is a type of parallelism used in literature and rhetoric where a series of phrases or clauses is arranged in ascending order of importance, intensity, or magnitude. Each successive element builds upon the previous one, leading to a climactic or heightened effect. Climactic parallelism is often used to create a sense of progression, anticipation, and emotional impact.
The structure of climactic parallelism involves arranging phrases or clauses in such a way that the most significant or emphatic element comes last, culminating in a climactic moment. The repetition of similar structures with increasing intensity creates a rhythmic and powerful cadence.
Here are some examples of climactic parallelism:
- “She was determined to succeed, to excel, and to triumph.” In this example, the intensity increases with each subsequent phrase, reaching the highest point of importance and impact with “to triumph.”
- “He endured hardship, faced challenges, and overcame obstacles.” Here, the incremental parallelism leads to the ultimate accomplishment of “overcoming obstacles.”
- “With courage, strength, and unwavering resolve, they fought for their freedom, for justice, for a better future.” This example employs climactic parallelism to convey the increasing significance of the goals they fought for, culminating in “a better future.”
Climactic parallelism is commonly used in speeches, poetry, and persuasive writing to build a sense of momentum, draw attention to critical ideas, and create an emotional response in the audience. By arranging the elements in a progressively intense manner, writers can effectively engage their readers or listeners, leading them to a climactic moment that leaves a lasting impression.