5

In the quote below, the two occurrences of again are in different positions in their respective clauses.

"Forgiveness is the answer to the child's dream of a miracle by which what is broken is made whole again, what is soiled is again made clean." Dag Hammarskjold

Compare this with:

"Forgiveness is the answer to the child's dream of a miracle by which what is broken is made whole again, what is soiled is made clean again."

What is the name of this rhetorical device?

Thank you.

  • 2
    Well, Ttere's no meaning difference and they're both completely grammatical. The reason again appears in different places is because it can go in a number of places. Adverbs niche in many places in clauses; since they don't have grammatical relations, word order isn't very important, and it's a speaker's-choice situation. There isn't any special name for this, and no Greek name will work because this is English and not Greek, which had a completely different grammar and rhetoric. – John Lawler Mar 21 '15 at 15:57
  • 1
    @JohnLawler "There isn't any special name for this" -- A very risky thing to say when we're talking about English. Besides, there certainly is. – SAH Nov 1 '16 at 21:23
  • I think there is a difference in meaning between again made whole and made whole again. The former suggests repeated repair, the latter, repair. To make something "whole again" means to put it back together, as it were. To again make something whole is to make it whole again, again. – TRomano Feb 26 at 22:08
5

There are several possible descriptive terms for this rhetorical device. The most appropriate seems to be:

chiasmus

a reversal in the order of words in two otherwise parallel phrases, as “flowers are lovely, love is flowerlike” (Coleridge). — chiastic, adj.

what is broken is made whole again,
what is soiled is again made clean.

The others are:

epanados

  1. the repeating of a phrase or sentence in reverse order.

what is broken is made whole again,
what is soiled is again made clean.

anastrophe

a rhetorical device in which the usual word order of a phrase or sentence is reversed.


But what exactly is a rhetorical device? According to Wikipedia:

In rhetoric, a rhetorical device or resource of language is a technique that an author or speaker uses to convey to the listener or reader a meaning with the goal of persuading him or her towards considering a topic from a different perspective, using sentences designed to encourage or provoke a rational argument from an emotional display of a given perspective or action. Note that although rhetorical devices may be used to evoke an emotional response in the audience, this is not their primary purpose.

Emphasis mine

As a celebrated statesman of the 20th century, Dag Hammarskjöld demonstrated astute oratory and writing skills by choosing words, building phrases and designing sentences in a logical framework that appealed to the powerful pathos and ethos of his audience. He would have made a sufficient impact if he had simply applied the rhetorical device of metaphor:

Forgiveness is the answer to the child's dream of a miracle by which
what is broken is made whole again.

Regardless of the word order, he applied the literal terms broken and whole to the relational dynamic of forgiveness. He could have increased the impact of that statement by simply adding a second metaphor with the rhetorical devices of repetition and parallelism:

Forgiveness is the answer to the child's dream of a miracle by which
what is broken is made whole again,
what is soiled is made clean again.

His repetition device can be further classified into three separate repetition devices: Anaphora, Epistrophe, and Mesodiplosis. Apparently, he wished to multiply the impact of his statement with the specific emphasis of a fourth rhetorical device of chiasmus:

Forgiveness is the answer to the child's dream of a miracle by which
what is broken is made whole again,
what is soiled is again made clean.

Accomplished authors, like Dag Hammarskjöld, choose to employ the flexibility of English semantics and syntax to make an intentional logical and emotional impact on their audiences, who often enjoy the impact without ever recognizing the author's devices. We enjoy discovering and discussing their techniques with relish.

  • Doesn't look like chiasmus to me. – TRomano Feb 26 at 22:04
0

As John Lawler points out in a comment, there is no difference in meaning and both sentences are grammatical. I'd add that there is no rhetorical device.

  • Actually, there are about 30 names for this rhetorical device. – SAH Nov 1 '16 at 21:22

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