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.
    – TimR
    Commented May 25, 2015 at 14:17
  • 1
    Anticipatory, and premonitory; but the abstract nouns from each do not work, I think.
    – Hugh
    Commented May 25, 2015 at 14:58
  • 2
    Parallelism threw you off. Just parallel actually seems pretty apt to me.
    – Tushar Raj
    Commented May 25, 2015 at 20:47
  • Alter-ego or the doppelgänger "double" look them up
    – Red
    Commented Apr 14, 2018 at 17:57

3 Answers 3


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

Typology in Christian theology and Biblical exegesis is a doctrine or theory concerning the relationship of the Old Testament to the New Testament. Events, persons, or statements in the Old Testament are seen as types pre-figuring or superseded by antitypes, events or aspects of Christ or his revelation described in the New Testament. For example, Jonah may be seen as the type of Christ in that he emerged from the fish's belly and thus appeared to rise from death.

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.

  • 1
    Hello, Anna. An 'answer' on ELU needs to be far better fleshed out than this. You could add supporting references with links. Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 20:29
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    Thank You, I wrongly assumed that elaborating on it would be viewed as not appropriate, so I need to become more familiar with how this stackexchange works. Commented Oct 20, 2021 at 3:54

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