Stylistic Devices: An Illustrated Primer, Part II

Read Part I.

II. Balance

“But you, divine, to the last resonating…you drowned out their shouting with beautiful order….”–Rainer Maria Rilke

Balance has several definitions, but the one that usually comes to mind has something to do with harmony and equilibrium.  Applied to rhetoric, it also takes on another of its meanings, namely “the power or ability to decide an outcome by throwing one’s strength, influence, support,  or the like, to one side or the other.”  Balance is a calculated attempt to make an idea memorable by imbuing it with a visual or sonic symmetry, often through repetition.  Such an idea lingers long after the discussion is over.  However, an over-reliance on Balance devices may lead the sacrifice of substance for the sake of aesthetics, ultimately weakening the argument so that it devolves into meaningless sloganeering.

Parallelism: Comparable ideas of equal importance are structured and phrased identically.

Fig. 2.0 Parallelism

Chiasmus: An idea is paired with another one of equal importance whose grammatical structure is an inversion of the one that preceded it.


Fig. 2.1 Chiasmus

Antimetabole: A particularly powerful and elaborate device that requires the use of two clauses, in which the second one employs the same language at the first, but in reverse order.

Fig. 2.2 Antimetabole

Antithesis: Two opposing ideas are placed together and structured similarly in order to draw attention to their contrasting assertions.

Fig. 2.3 Antithesis

Antanagoge: A perceived fault or weakness is mitigated by the addition of a positive/redeeming quality.

Fig 2.4 Antanagoge

Dirimens Copulatio: An assertion of the quality of something is further substantiated by the addition of another quality similar in nature.

Fig 2.5 Dirimens Copulatio

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