A Study of Parallel Constructions
"The Butterfly That Stamped,"
by Rudyard Kipling
Picture by Joseph M. Gleeson
"Parallel Construction" denotes similar ideas
embodied in the same type of grammatical construction, all serving the
same function. Kipling's paragraph is an excellent, relatively simple example
of how some writers use parallel constructions. The second sentence includes
four clauses that function as direct objects. Each clause begins with "what,"
uses the finite verb "said," and is four words long. Thus we can see four
parallel direct object clauses.
The third sentence develops the parallelism
with two main clauses. Each of these has a subject and verb ("he understood")
that is identical to, and thus parallel with, the main subject and verb
in the second sentence. And, similar to the second sentence, each of the
two main clauses in the third has a direct object clause that begins with
"what" and is based on the verb "said." In the third sentence, however
each "understood" has only one direct object -- but these two direct objects
include more words, and in both of them, the "said" is modified by an adverbial
"when" clause. In other words, the two "when" clauses are parallel to each
Note how the parallelism grows, in this case
by the repetition of "he understood," from an initial clause with four
simple direct objects, to compound main clauses with direct objects that
are longer and themselves include similarly functioning "when" clauses.
The fourth sentence closes these parallels with another repetition -- "He
understood everything . . . . "
The fifth sentence ends the paragraph with
two more parallel constructions. First, there are two parallel appositives
to "Balkis" -- "his Head Queen, the Most Beautiful Queen Balkis."
The final parallel construction connects the end of the paragraph with
its beginning -- "nearly as wise as he was" parallels the first sentence
"Suleiman-bin-Daoud was wise." This parallel not only emphasizes "wise."
It also forms a neat frame around the paragraph.
1. Place parentheses ( ) around each prepositional phrase.
2. Underline verbs twice, their subjects once, and label complements
(“PA,” “PN,” “IO,” or “DO”).
3. Place brackets [ ] around each subordinate clause. If the clause
functions as a noun, label its function. If it functions as an adjective
or adverb, draw an arrow from the opening bracket to the word that the
4. Place a vertical line after each main clause.
5. After you have completed the analysis, study it and the notes
on parallel constructions, below.
Suleiman-bin-Daoud was wise.
He understood what the beasts said,
what the birds said, what the fishes said, and what the
insects said. He
understood what the rocks said deep under the earth when
in towards each other and groaned; and he understood what
said when they rustled in the middle of the morning. He
everything, from the bishop on the bench to the hyssop
on the wall,
and Balkis, his Head Queen, the Most Beautiful Queen Balkis,
nearly as wise as he was.