Parallel Structures

27Mar12

Today I’m just going to present 4 quick examples of a device you can use to delight your reader. I’m sure there’s some kind of classical rhetorical term for this, but I don’t know it.

I just call it a sentence with parallel structures: a sentence where a statement is made, then repeated with the terms reversed or modified.

Like this!

“To think that tonight, for the sake of a woman I don’t love, I’m going to murder a man I don’t hate!”

Akutagawa Ryūnosuke, “Kesa and Morito,” in The Essential Akutagawa

Or like this…

The ponytailed girl twitched her mouth. “I can’t believe your mouth is even more powerful than your dagger.”

Li Xun Huan said, “Really?”

The ponytailed girl said, “Although your dagger can take a man’s life, your words can take a lady’s heart. Don’t you think that it’s much harder to receive a woman’s heart than a man’s life?”

With those big eyes looking at him, even Li Xun Huan could not help but feel drawn towards her. He never thought this young girl can be so intimidating.

Sentimental Swordsman, Ruthless Sword, ch.32

Gu Long is very good at using this device:

“Although you know very little, you’ve said way too much,” ShangGuan JinHong said.

Sentimental Swordsman, Ruthless Sword, ch.81

Of course it’s sometimes used for more highbrow ironies:

Catholics believe in an ultraterrestrial world, but I have noticed that they are not interested in it. With me the opposite occurs: I am interested but I do not believe.

Jorge Luis Borges, Selected Nonfictions, review of Leslie Weatherhead’s After Death

young Borges as hottie

Why are these lines so delightful? (Am I the only one who thinks so?)

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2 Responses to “Parallel Structures”

  1. 1 maxbane

    Several of those quotes are, I think, examples of “antithesis”, a rhetorical technique with another great example by Augustus:
    “Listen, young men, to an old man to whom old men were glad to listen when he was young.”

    Also, check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parallel_structure



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