Right now I'm writing an essay on Death in Venice, and I'm having trouble finding the right word or phrase to express how Aschenbach is parallel to the old man on the boat to Venice (both dress up to fit in with youth, some repetition of specific phrases in descriptions, youth from Pola vs youth from Poland, etc.).

The closest word I can find to describe what is a "parallel". I see this word used a lot on the internet to describe (usually in TV shows) when something that one character did in a past episode is similar to something that a character (usually different, but I've also seen it used to point out character development via slight differences in the parallel).

It kind of describes two completely separate scenes that have a much more powerful meaning when juxtaposed (usually very blatant mirroring, etc. to point this out to viewer/reader). In my case, it would be the scene with Aschenbach observing the man on the boat and the scene where Aschenbach applies makeup for Tadzio.

Specifically, the man on the boat foreshadows the "endgame" for Aschenbach. In my essay, I've referred to it mostly as foreshadowing, but I think the depth of the connection that Mann makes warrants something a little stronger. The word foil came to mind, in terms of the intensity and how it's character specific, but obviously, it has the opposite meaning of what I'm going for.

I did think about just using the word "parallel", but I when I looked it up, the definition for the word parallelism came up, and as a literary term it seemed from this definition, it seems that this word as a literary device refers to parallel syntax and a not to a broader similarity.

I've come up with "symmetry" and "mirror" to describe individual aspects, but I was wondering if there is a proper term that encompasses the broad connection between the two characters.

  • 3
    Don't worry about the terminology. A good periphrasis is worth far more (esp. to a lay audience) than the author's having found the right bit of jargon. – TRomano May 25 '15 at 14:17
  • 1
    Anticipatory, and premonitory; but the abstract nouns from each do not work, I think. – Hugh May 25 '15 at 14:58
  • 2
    Parallelism threw you off. Just parallel actually seems pretty apt to me. – Tushar Raj May 25 '15 at 20:47
  • Alter-ego or the doppelgänger "double" look them up – Red Apr 14 '18 at 17:57

You may be referring to prefiguration, which is a typology primarily used in theology?

Source: Wiki

Otherwise, foreshadowing is probably the closest match.


Hmm. You could try the word consonant-- implying the motives or actions of the two characters are consistent and even harmonious.

From dictionary.com:

  1. in agreement; agreeable; in accord; consistent (usually followed by to or with ): behavior consonant with his character.
  2. corresponding in sound, as words.
  3. harmonious, as sounds.

Otherwise, like you said, the words parallel, resemble, correspond, or duplicate come to mind.


What you are looking for might be a Literary Device like symbolism or parallel narrative. Hope this helps. Look up lists of literary devices used in writing - it's quite complex.

  • Hello, Anna. An 'answer' on ELU needs to be far better fleshed out than this. You could add supporting references with links. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 3 '17 at 20:29

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