In rhetoric, chiasmus also known as chiasm is a figure of speech wherein words, concepts or grammatical constructions are repeated in reversed order without repeating the words themselves. In this literary device, the phrases or causes present inverted parallelism which balances phrases bearing similar but not identical meanings.

It is good to avoid confusing chiasmus with antimetabole, which is a subtype of this figure which also implicates a reversal of words and phrases in successive order, but different from chiasmus in the way that it presents repeated words in A-B-B-A configuration.

Example of antimetabole with A-B-B-A structure

This medicine kill diseases because diseases kill living things.

Consider the following example of chiasmus to get differentiating features.

A mentor advises a child “Ask not what your parents should give you; ask what you should give to your parents.”

In the above chiastic statement, they’re two allowable questions; whether the child should ask what parents should give him/her, or ask what they should give to their parents.

Here are a couple more examples:

  • Run like a hare fast as dear to safe the next month exercise time.
  • The members were aware it was a scam but they accepted blindly

Effectiveness of Chiasmus

The effectiveness depends on the balanced structure of the phrases. The symmetrical structure of this figure impresses the listener or reader that the whole argument has been taken care of.

In the argument, the latter statement is considered more favorable. As a result, it gains the rhetorical efficiency via symmetrical structure making the audience’s trust that all code of belief of an argument is appraised.

Purposes of Chiasmus

This literary device has several purposes in the artwork. When used appropriately, it serves related tasks to enhance audiences’ attention.

  • To give literature work a poetic structure which is ideal for easy digestion and memorizing of the text. This ensures that audiences understand whatever writer or a speaker is talking about.
  • To establish the act and attraction readers from outer to the inner core. When a phrase or a clause consists of this rhetoric device, it produces an emphasizing effect that attracts the audience due to the poetic mood they create.
  • To safeguard the essential core of the literature concerned. With all efforts, the writer tries to attract the reader to the intended intensity of the phrase stated in the same line. This makes sure that the main work of this device is effective through the stressed motive.
  • To articulate the stability of order in the text.

In many literary works, these rhetoric figures of speech strengthen antithesis. It is good and must include a device when making a speech or writing text to make the work appear well-structured and enjoyable when reading and listening. If your hobby is reading, look for materials with this literary device and explore it for the appropriate application.