Parallelism – Concept, types, examples and literary figures

We explain what parallelism in rhetoric is, its function, what types exist and various examples. Also, other literary figures.

literary device parallelism
Writers like William Shakespeare use parallel prose and verse.

What is parallelism?

In rhetoric, parallelism is known as a literary device of repetition, which It consists of the reiteration of the same structure in different phrases or sentences, in order to achieve a rhythmic effect and sequential. That is, it is about distributing the words, phrases and / or sentences in a parallel way in the text, respecting a fixed structure.

The parallels can be of four different types, each with its own name and classified according to the formal relationship that they establish between the repeated text sequences. These types are:

  • The isocolon or isosyllabism, called in one way or another depending on whether one speaks respectively of prose or poetry, consists of repeating a syllabic length or of clauses or sequences in the sentence. For example, in Tirso de Molina’s verses: “To her deaf sighs, / to her prayers, terrible, / to her promises, rock.”
  • The parison or syntactic parallelism, which consists of the structural similarity between two or more sequences of prose or verse, in such a way that their syntactic constituents correspond almost exactly. For example, in the verses of John Donne: “I have loved, received and said, / but if loving, receiving, telling, until I am old, / I will not find that hidden mystery.”
  • Correlation, which consists of obtaining a structural similarity by introducing words in symmetrical places within the sentence or sequences of sentences. For example, in the verses of Pedro Espinosa: “Your beautiful eyes and your sweet mouth / of divine light and fragrant breath / envy the clear sun and adore the wind / because of what one sees and the other touches”.
  • The semantic parallelism, which consists of the reiteration of the meaning of the same phrase, but said in some other way. For example, in Psalms from The Bible: “The wicked believe that God forgets, / that he covers his face and never sees anything.”

Examples of parallelism

The following are other examples of parallels of different kinds:

  • In the verses of William Shakespeare: “Oh, damn the hand that made these holes; / Cursed is the heart that had the heart to do it; / Damn the blood that this blood lets out ”.
  • In the verses of Galmés de Fuentes: “She, as the daughter of kings, / is buried at the altar; / to him, as the son of counts, / a few steps further back ”.
  • In the prose of James Fenimore Cooper: “He who is to be saved will be saved, and he who is predestined to be damned will be damned.”
  • In the verses of Luis Cernuda: “Beyond life / I want to tell you with death; / Beyond love, / I want to tell you with oblivion ”.
  • In Pablo Neruda’s verses: “It was thirst, hunger, and you were the fruit. / It was the duel and the ruins, and you were the miracle ”.
  • In the verses of Jaime Gil de Biedma: “Apparently it is possible to declare oneself a man / Apparently it is possible to say No”.

Other literary figures

In addition to parallelism, there are other literary figures, such as:

  • Synesthesia, which consists of the mixture in a sentence of auditory, visual, taste, tactile sensations, etc., in the style of metaphor (synaesthetic metaphor).
  • The hyperbaton, which consists of altering the ordinary syntax of a phrase to achieve a greater expressive effect or achieve a specific rhyme.
  • Asyndeton, which consists of the suppression or omission of the links that would naturally go in an enumeration, using instead a pause (comma intonation).
  • The polysyndeton, which is the opposite of the previous case, since it consists of the normally excessive use of a nexus or a conjunction within an enumeration of some kind.
  • Paronomasia, which consists of the use of paronyms (words with similar sounds but different meanings) in the sentence to induce a play on words, generally with an ironic or satirical meaning.