Parallel sentences have several advantages. First, they are impressive and pleasing to hear, elaborate yet rhythmic and ordered, following a master plan with a place for everything and everything in its place.
Second, parallelism is economical, using one element of a sentence to serve three or four others. Piling up several verbs after a single subject is probably the most common parallel pattern, as in the two examples just above. Paralleling verbs is particularly effective when describing a process or event. The sequence of the verbs analyzes the event and establishes its progress, and the concentration on verbs, without the recurrent intervention of the subject, focuses the sentence on action. Here is an example, a description of prairie dogs, written by the American historian Francis Parkman:
As the danger drew near they would wheel about, toss their heads in the air, and dive in a twinkling into their burrows.
And another, an account of an invasion of Italy in 1494 by Charles VIII of France:
Charles borrowed his way through Savoy, disappeared into the Alps, and emerged, early in September, at Asti, where his ally met him and escorted him to the suburbs. Ralph Roeder
A third advantage of parallelism is its capacity to enrich meaning by emphasizing or revealing subtle connections between words. For instance, in the example by Roeder the parallelism hints at the harebrained nature of Charles's expedition. Similarly Bernard Shaw, writing about Joan of Arc, insinuates a sardonic view of humanity below the surface of this prosaic summary of Joan's life:
Joan of Arc, a village girl from the Vosges, was born about 1412, burnt for heresy, witchcraft, and sorcery in rehabilitated after a fashion in 1456; designated venerable in 1904; declared Blessed in 1908; and finally canonized in 1920.
Of course, Shaw's irony is carried essentially by the words themselves, but the rapid parallel progression of the verbs enables us to see more easily the wicked of which human beings are capable, destroying a woman whom later they would deem saintly.
The meaning reinforced by a parallel style does not have be ironic. It can have any emotional or intellectual coloring. In the first of the following examples we can hear a sly amusement; in the second, anger; and in the third, eloquence:
She laid two fingers on my shoulder, cast another look into my face under her candle, turned the key in the lock, gently thrust me beyond the door, shut it; and left me to my own devices.
Walter de la Mare
He [George III] has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty. John F. Kennedy
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