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Parallel Construction

Parallel construction is & device which may be encountered not so much in the sentence as in the macro-structures dealt with earlier, viz. the SPU and the paragraph. The necessary condition in parallel construction is identical, or similar, syntactical structure in two or more sentences or parts of a sentence in close succession, as in:

"There were, ..., real silver spoons to stir the tea with, and real china cups to drink it out of, and plates of the same to hold the cakes and toast in". (Dickens)

Parallel constructions are often backed up by repetition of words (lexical repetition) and conjunctions and prepositions (polysyndeton). Pure parallel construction, however, does not depend on any other kind of repetition but the repetition of the syntactical design of the sentence.

Parallel constructions may be partial or complete. Partial parallel arrangement is the repetition of some parts of successive sentences or clauses, as in:

"It is the mob that labour in your fields and serve in your houses—that man your navy and recruit your army,—that have enabled you to defy all the world, and can also defy you when neglect and calamity have driven them to despair." (Byron)

The attributive clauses here all begin with the subordinate conjunction that which is followed by a verb in the same form, except the last (have enabled). The verbs, however, are followed either by adverbial modifiers of place (in your fields, in your houses) or by direct objects (your navy, your army). The third attributive clause is not built on the pattern of the first two, although it preserves the parallel structure in general (that+verb-predicate+object), while the fourth has broken away entirely.

Complete parallel arrangement, also called balance, maintains the principle of identical structures throughout the corresponding sentences, as in:

"The seeds ye sow — another reaps,

The robes ye weave—another wears,

The arms ye forge—another bears."

(P. B. Shelley)

Parallel construction is most frequently used in enumeration, antithesis and in climax, thus consolidating the general effect achieved by these stylistic devices.

Parallel construction is used in different styles of writing with slightly different functions. When used in the matter-of-fact styles, it carries, in the main, the idea of semantic equality of the parts, as in scientific prose, where the logical principle of arranging ideas predominates. In the belles-lettres style parallel construction carries an emotive function. That is why it is mainly used as a technical means in building up other stylistic devices, thus securing their unity.

In the following example parallelism backs up repetition, alliteration and antithesis, making the whole sentence almost epigrammatic. "And so, from hour to hour, we ripe and ripe, And then, from hour to hour, we rot and rot." (Shakespeare)

In the example below, parallel construction backs up the rhetorical address and rhetorical questions. The emotional aspect is also enforced by the interjection 'Heaven!'



"Hear me, my mother Earth! behold it, Heaven!— Have I not had to wrestle with my lot? Have I not suffered things to be forgiven? Have I not had my brain seared, my heart riven, Hopes, sapped, name blighted, Life's life lied away?" (Byron) In some cases parallelism emphasizes the similarity and equates the significance of the parts, as, for example:

"Our senses perceive no extremes. Too much sound deafens us; too much light dazzles us; too great distance or proximity hinders our view."

In other cases parallel construction emphasizes diversity and contrast of ideas. (See the example on p. 223 from the "Tale of Two Cities" by Dickens).

As a final remark it must be stated that the device of parallelism always generates rhythm, inasmuch as similar syntactical structures repeat in close succession. Hence it is natural that parallel construction should very frequently be used in poetical structures. Alternation of similar units being the basic principle of verse, similarity in longer units—i.e. in the stanza, is to be expected.

Chiasmus (Reversed Parallel Construction)

Chiasmus belongs to the group of stylistic devices based on the repetition of a syntactical pattern, but it has a cross order of words and phrases. The structure of two successive sentences or parts of a sentence may be described as reversed parallel construction, the word-order of one of the sentences being inverted as compared with that of the other, as in:

"As high as we have mounted in delight >

In our dejection do we sink as low." (Wordsworth)

"Down dropped the breeze,

The sails dropped down." (Coleridge)

Chiasmus is sometimes achieved by a sudden change from active voice to passive or vice versa, for example:

"The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it. (Dickens)

This device is effective in that it helps to lay stress on the second part of the utterance, which is opposite in structure, as 'in our dejection'; 'Scrooge signed it'. This is due to the sudden change in the structure which by its very unexpectedness linguistically requires a slight pause before it.

As is seen from the examples above, chiasmus can appear only when there are two successive sentences or coordinate parts of a sentence. So distribution, here close succession, is the factor which predetermines the birth of the device.

There are different variants of the structural design of chiasmus. The first example given shows chiasmus appearing in a complex sentence where the second part has an opposite arrangement. The second example demonstrates chiasmus in a sentence expressing semantically the relation of cause and effect. Structurally, however, the two parts are presented as independent sentences, and it is the chiasmatic structure which supports the idea of subordination. The third example is composed of two independent sentences and the chiasmus serves to increase the effect of climax. Here is another example of chiasmus where two parallel constructions are followed by a reversed parallel construction linked to the former by the conjunction and:

."The night winds sigh, the breakers roar, And shrieks the wild sea-mew." (Byron)

It must be remembered that chiasmus is a syntactical, not a lexical device, i.e. it is only the arrangement of the parts of the utterance which constitutes this stylistic device. In the famous epigram by Byron:

"In the days of old men made the manners;

Manners now make men,"

there is no inversion, but a lexical device. Both parts of the parallel construction have the same, the normal word-order. However, the witty arrangement of the words has given the utterance an epigrammatic character. This device may be classed as lexical chiasmus or chismatic repetition. Byron particularly favoured it. Here are some other examples:

"His jokes were sermons, and his sermons jokes." '"Tis strange,—but true; for truth is always strange." "But Tom's no more—and so no more of Tom." "True, 'tis a pity—pity 'tis, 'tis true." "Men are the sport of circumstances, when The circumstances seem the sport of men." "'Tis a pity though, in this sublime world that Pleasure's a sin, and sometimes sin's a pleasure."

Note the difference in meaning of the repeated words on which the epigrammatic effect rests: 'strange-strange', 'no more—no more', 'jokes—jokes.'

Syntactical chiasmus is sometimes used to break the monotony of parallel constructions. But whatever the purpose of chiasmus, it will always bring in some new shade of meaning or additional emphasis on some portion of the second part.

The stylistic effect of this construction has been so far little investigated. But even casual observation will show that chiasmus should be perceived as a complete unit. One cannot help noticing that the first part in chiasmus is somewhat incomplete, it calls for continuation, and the anticipation is rewarded by the second part of the construction, which is, as it were, the completion of the idea.

Like parallel construction, chiasmus contributes to the rhythmical quality of the utterance, and the pause caused by the change in the syntactical pattern may be likened to a caesura in prosody.

As can be seen from this short analysis of chiasmus, it has developed, like all stylistic devices, within the framework of the literary form of the language. However, its prototype may be found in the norms of expressions of the spoken language, as in the emphatic:

'He was a brave man, was John.'


Date: 2014-12-29; view: 2739


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