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Parallelism

1. What is it?

Parallelism is a technique of ‘balancing’ sentences – meaning all sections are similar in pattern or structure – by repeating a structure or words.

It is most commonly used in speeches, poetry, and advertising.

2. Why use it?

Make sentences easier to remember.Emphasise a point through stress and repetition.
 Highlight interesting, skilful writing.

3. Examples

Run fast, jump high, try hard, and never ever give up.


She has a large, red house by the lake; a quick, sexy car in the driveway; and a handsome, elegant man on her arm.

At 18 those dull school yard ideals had been replaced by gloriously sinful university ideas. He fell for a girl with dark hair, then fell for another with red hair. It was a wonderful time, or at least it was until he fell for a girl with blonde hair who broke him and his spirit and his life.

4. Examples in literature

A Tale of Two Cities 
by Charles Dickens

Know Your Book

Title: A Tale of Two Cities
Author: Charles Dickens (1812-1870)
Published: 1859
Language: English
Genre: Fiction; novel; historical novel
Plot: Lucie returns her father, released from a Paris revolutionary prison, to England. Meanwhile, at a London trial, French exile Charles Darnay is acquitted when his physical similarity to another man, Sydney Carton, creates significant doubt. Carton loves Lucie, but she marries Darnay. When a letter lures Darnay to France, he is arrested and sentenced to the guillotine. With Lucie coming to Paris to find her husband, and in danger due her father’s past, Carton opts to make a sacrifice.
Setting: Paris during the French Revolution; London
Characters: Lucie Manette; Dr Manette;  Mme Defarge; M Defarge; Charles Darnay; Sydney Carton

Excerpt from Book the First ‘Recalled to Life’, Chapter 1 ‘The Period’:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way— in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
There were a king with a large jaw and a queen with a plain face, on the throne of England; there were a king with a large jaw and a queen with a fair face, on the throne of France. In both countries it was clearer than crystal to the lords of the State preserves of loaves and fishes, that things in general were settled for ever.

Skimming, Scanning and Basic Comprehension

1. Which two countries are mentioned in the passage? By association, which two cities do you believe the book involves?
2. What does the writer mean by saying it was both ‘the best of times’ and ‘the worst of times’?
3. Look at each phrase Dickens uses in the opening ‘it was’ list. What does each description mean? 
Identifying Techniques

4. Dickens uses an uncommon narrative voice in the first paragraph. What is it?
5. What parallelism is used in this passage? Underline each example.
6. The text uses many examples of contrast and direct opposites. Why? What is Dickens saying about this time? 
Text Analysis

7. How does Dickens compare the age he is describing to the age in which he is writing? Which phrase tells you this?
8. What does the phrase ‘being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only’ mean?
9. In the second paragraph, comparisons are made between two nations. In what ways are the two countries similar?
10. The author concludes the second paragraph by stating that ‘it was clearer than crystal to the lords of the State preserves of loaves and fishes, that things in general were settled for ever’. What does this mean? Considering the setting of the book (the start of the French Revolution), why does the author say this? 
Provoking Opinion

11. Do you think a generation can be both the best and worst of times? Also considering the other descriptions Dickens uses, how do you feel about the present generation?
12. Many people state the beginning of A Tale of Two Cities as one of the best beginnings to a novel written in English. What do you think? Do you like it? Can you think of any other famous openings to books?
13. At the heart of A Tale of Two Cities is the notion of class. Do you feel that there is a class system? If so, how do you think the outlook of the classes is the same, and how does it differ, today?
14. A Tale of Two Cities notes how there is often a link between the actions of England and France. Do you think that neighbouring countries do influence each other’s behaviour, thinking, and state?

Jamila 
by Chingiz Aytmatov

Know Your Book

Title: Джамиля (*trans: Jamila)
Author: Чыңгыз Айтматов (Chingiz Aytmatov), (1928-2008)
Published: 1958
Language: Russian
Genre: Fiction; novel; love story; pastoral
Plot: In WWII, most young men from a Kyrgyzstan village have gone to fight. Left behind, Seit, aged 15, works with his sister-in-law Jamila and invalid Daniyar at the grain silo. Daniyar is in love with Jamila, and slowly Jamila falls in love with Daniyar’s pure soul. Seit recognises the beauty of their love and draws a picture of the couple, sparking an interest in becoming an artist.
Setting: Farm and village in Northwest Kyrgyzstan, during WWII
Characters: Seit (narrator); Jamila; Daniyar

Excerpt (translated from Russian):

I was astounded at the passion and fire of the melody itself. I could not describe it then, nor can I now. Was it just his voice or something more tangible emerging from his very soul that could arouse such emotion in another person, and bring one’s innermost thoughts to life?
If only I could recreate his song. It contained few words, yet even without words it revealed a great human soul. I have never heard such singing before or since. This tune was neither Kirgiz nor Kazakh, yet in it was something of both. His music combined the very best melodies of the two unrelated peoples and had woven them into a single, unrepeatable song. It was a song of the mountains and the steppe, first soaring up into the sky like the Kirgiz mountains, then rolling free like the Kazakh steppe.
I listened in amazement. So that’s what he’s like, I thought. Who would have thought it?
As we crossed the steppe along the soft, beaten track, Daniyar’s singing took wing, songs followed one another with astonishing facility. Was he really so gifted? What had happened to him? It was as if he had been saving himself for this very day. His hour had come at last.
And all of a sudden I began to understand the strangeness that made people shrug and mock; his dreaminess; his love of solitude; his silent manner. Now I understood why he sat on the look-out hill of an evening and why he spent a night by himself on the riverbank, why he constantly hearkened to sounds others could not hear and why his eyes would suddenly gleam and his drawn eyebrows twitch. He was a man deeply in love. I felt it was not simply a love for another person, it was somehow an uncommon, expansive love for life and earth. He had kept this love within himself, in his music, in his being. A person with no feeling, no matter how good his voice, could never have sung like that.

1. The passage primarily discusses

a) a free spirit
b) jealousy
c) sibling conflict
d) the pastoral lifestyle
e) a love affair

Answer
a
2. Which of the following is not used to describe Daniyar’s singing?

a) A blend of two people’s cultures
b) Born from a love of life
c) Inspired by a great romance
d) Revealing a great human soul
e) Soaring and rolling

Answer
c
3. The narrator suggests people find Daniyar’s typical behaviour

a) arrogant
b) warm
c) idealistic
d) aloof
e) patriotic

Answer
d
4. What does the sentence ‘His hour had come at last’ imply in this passage?

a) Daniyar was embarrassed of his talent
b) The world had been waiting for Daniyar to mature
c) This was the best performance Daniyar had ever done
d) The narrator could see Daniyar was going to be famous
e) Daniyar finally had an opportunity to show his talent  

Answer
e
5. Both the passage from A Tale of Two Cities and that from Jamila use parallelism to

a) form lists
b) explore a character’s psychological state
c) create an argument
d) evoke imagery
e) heighten suspense

Answer
a

5. Tasks

Task 1: Write a sentence using a complex form of parallelism.
Task 2: Write a paragraph in which parallelism is a prominent technique.

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