English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

There is a stylistic device where you begin and end a text with the same metaphor.I'm sorry I don't have a "real-world" example in English, but I'll try to describe what I mean.

Let's say there's an article on software development. The article begins by likening the development process it to the construction of a car. Then it goes on talking about software, and in the last phrase it goes back to the car metaphor, achieving a "closure" effect.

Is there a proper name for this?

share|improve this question
"Extended metaphor"? – prash Jul 8 '13 at 20:19

There is a device that often appears in Hebrew writings known as chiastic structure. Essentially it extends chiasmus (a common literary device that relates clauses in criss-cross fashion—think "the first shall be last and the last shall be first") to an entire passage. It is particularly common in Old Testament writing. Another word used to mean chiastic structure is palistrophe.

For example, a palistrophe or chiastic structure may have the form ABCDEDCBA, meaning that an idea A is presented, followed by an idea B, and so on. Thus the first idea presented is also the last. Other chiastic structures are possible, but they are still structured so that the first and last ideas are the same (or, at the very least, similar).

I think chiastic structure appropriately describes what you are seeking.

Added: a link to a picture of the chiastic structure of Genesis 6–9 for reference.

share|improve this answer
Interestingly enough, chiastic structure is paralleled in music by the musical forms ternary form and rondo form. – user22138 Jul 8 '13 at 18:57

Within literary fiction, that might be called a circular plot or a circular narrative style - you begin and end the story at the same place. It is typically used to signify that the character achieved nothing from their struggles, or that "life goes on as it always does", etc. It is not exclusive to locations within the narrative world; you could have a story framed by the same metaphoric imagery, but that is rare in my experience.

In the case of nonfiction, you could say the author employs a "circular narrative style", or a "circular technique".

Another term that could also apply (more rarely used) is Structural Symmetry. I think this might be closer to what you're looking for.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.