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What are some examples of parallelism (parallel structure) in a novel?

Last updated date: 15th Jul 2024
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Hint: In writing and public speaking, parallelism is the duplication of grammatical elements. Parallelism has an effect on the grammatical form of sentences as well as the interpretation of the thoughts and ideas discussed.

Complete answer:
When grammatical elements are repeated, it is called parallelism. It may include the repetition of a word or phrase for emphasis, or it can be used as a literary device to emphasise comparison by creating a parallel role between opposing ideas using grammatical elements. This method adds balance and rhythm to sentences, giving ideas a smoother flow and thus persuasiveness, because of the repetition it employs.

Parallelism takes different forms in literature, mainly in the form of figures of speech such as anaphora, antithesis, asyndeton, epistrophe, etc. Parallelism is a literary medium in writing and also a category under which other figures of speech fall. As a result, these other literary instruments and figures of speech are parallelism in their own right.

The use of the same pattern of words to prove that two or more concepts are of equal value is known as parallel structure. This can happen at the level of the name, expression, or clause. The use of coordinating conjunctions like "and" or "or" is the most common way to join parallel structures.

Some examples are as follows:
i) Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is based on a type of parallelism called anaphora, where the same word or words starts a series of successive clauses or phrases. Here is an excerpt:

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. I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character”.
Explanation: Here the words – “I have a dream” are repeated three time in total at the beginning of each sentence which forms an anaphora- a type of parallelism and stressing about the author’s dream.

ii) Anaphora in Winston Churchill’s stirring World War II-era address, “We Shall Fight on the Beaches”:

“We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. 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; we shall never surrender”.
Explanation: Here the words – “We shall fight” are repeated seven time which forms an anaphora- a type of parallelism and stressing the idea of fighting for freedom.

iii) From “Pygmalion” (George Bernard Shaw):
“If you can’t appreciate what you’ve got, you’d better get what you can appreciate”.
Explanation: In this line from his famous play, Shaw utilizes parallelism to set forth a contrast of ideas by inverting the wording of the phrases but maintaining their grammatical structure. The impact of parallelism as a literary technique in this line on the reader/audience is the relation between what someone has and what they value.

i) Parallelism is also useful when a writer wants to emphasize the relationship between two or more ideas. It can set up a comparison or contrast between two things.
ii) Parallelism usually simplifies the structure of sentences, so the speaker can hold an audience’s attention for longer and present their message in digestible terms.
iii) Writers use parallelism, alongside other literary devices such as assonance and alliteration, to create flow and rhythm.