Home » AP Literature » Understanding poetry: repetition and parallelism

Understanding poetry: repetition and parallelism

Repetition and parallelism—the use of similar constructions within the sentence—need further expansion.  The queen of figurative language, repetition of sound or word or phrase slips from poetry to prose to speeches of art or urgency.  Memorize this terminology, then begin to see how the great writers and orators employ it.

anaphora, the same words open the clause series
e.g.,  What the hammer? What the chain? In what furnace was thy brain?
epistrophe, the same words close a clause series
e.g., When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child
symploce, the use of both anaphora and epistrophe:
For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

asyndeton, the omission of conjunction
e.g., Veni, vidi, vici.
polysyndeton, the repetition of conjunction
e.g., …men and women who spoke the language of duty and morality and loyalty and obligation.
antithesis, opposition in construction
e.g., Many are called, few are chosen.
Man proposes, God disposes.
climax, clauses ascending in importance
e.g., …three things endure: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Additionally, there are different forms of asyndeton for the acutely-focused student:
apokoinu: …there was no breeze came through the door.
parataxis: I weep for Adonais—he is dead.
zeugma: Mary likes chocolate, John vanilla.


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