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Parallelism In Literature

Referencing Styles : Harvard | Pages : 1

Parallelism is a literary device or grammatical term used to describe arrangement of words of identical or equivalent syntactical constructions in corresponding clauses and phrases. This means that parallelism is used where parts of a sentence are grammatically the same or have a similar construction. The parts could include words, phrases, or even whole sentences. Parallelism is a tool , which is very effective when it comes to making a text or any literary piece memorable. Parallel structuring is crucial for creating accurate grammatical structure, as it improves coherence and consistency. This is due to the sense of rhythm that is present which gives the literary piece a pattern and thus the reader knows what to expect in the upcoming parts. Parallelism uses juxtaposition of either contrasting ideas and images in order to show the stark difference between them or it joins concepts and ideas in order to show the similarity that exists between them.

Parallelism is often created by authors through the use of other literary tools. These include anaphora, antithesis, apostrophe, asyndeton, repetition, and contrast.

If we were to look at a sentence, such as, ‘She enjoys cooking and swimming’, the parallelism is brought into the sentence through the use of two gerundial constructions. This is done rather than ‘She likes cooking and to swim.’ which uses one gerund and another infinitival construction. Most people use parallelism in constructing language on a daily basis without realizing that they are doing so.

Parallelism has always been an important literary device for cultures around the world where oral storytelling is an integral part. There are multiple examples of  poetry in the literature of the world which stand as examples of parallelism. Some cultures even use parallelism as their primary aesthetic in the construction of their poetry. These include communities like the Nahuati in Mexico, Navajo in the United States, Toda in India, communities in parts of Indonesia, Turkey, Mongolia, Finland, and many more.

The term parallelism first came into existence in the eighteenth century from a scholar of Hebrew poetry and the proponent of study in parallelism in modern non-religious texts was the Russian literary theorist Roman Jacobson.  Parallelism still remains to be a popular technique in prose, plays and poetry.

All authors, poets, and other literary personnel understand the importance of parallelism and are mindful of it when constructing their sentences. Example of parallelism in literature can be seen in “Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allen Poe,

    I was a child and she was a child,

    In this kingdom by the sea,

    But we loved with a love that was more than love—

    I and my Annabel Lee—

    With a love that the winged seraphs of Heaven

    Coveted her and me.

Like in many of his poems, Edgar Allan Poe uses parallelism in ‘Annabel Lee’ as well. The first line of the given stanza uses epistrophic repetition of “was a child”. This helps in showing that both the poet and the character Annabel Lee were very young when they fell in love, yet their youth did not reject the love and its depth. instead Poe describes their love in the line, “we loved with a love that was more than love” and creates a parallel relationship with “with a love that the winged seraphs of Heaven….” later in the stanza. The parallelism thus created gives the poem rhythm and creates a deeper impact in the reader’s mind by making it more enjoyable and memorable.

To provide a second example, a quote from Mother Teresa can be considered.

“Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.”

In the example given, the following structure is repeated in two parts of the sentence.

  1. an (indefinite article) action (noun) of (preposition) love (noun)
  2. a (indefinite article) gift (noun) to (preposition)  that person (noun)

Here a repetitive structure is used in parallelism in order to create a lasting effect on the audience.

As a third example, the song  ‘Lovefool’ by The Cardigans can be used.

“Love me, love me, say that you love me, Fool me, fool me, go on and fool me.”

The phrase ‘love me’ and ‘fool me’ has been used repetitively to send the message of the song clearly, that is, to be ‘a fool in love’.

Therefore, in closing, it could be said that what parallelism does is provide grammatical symmetry created through repetition. The symmetry in turn creates rhythm which makes texts more memorable, interesting and compelling. Parallelism can be found in all kinds of texts, beginning from poetry and songs to formal pieces of literature like formal papers. journals and speeches.

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