Explain the Parallel Here

Boxers are classified into divisions according to weight. A heavyweight boxer weighs much more than average and is typically 195 pounds. A lightweight boxer weighs one below normal weight and the maximum is 135 pounds. The lightweight is no match for the heavyweight.  There are rules concerning how each fighter will fight and who each fighter will fight. It is immoral, unethical, and illegal, and it really just doesn’t make common sense, to bring together two fighters who are mismatched. The same rule applies to developing a parallel within your papers. Ask yourself these questions:

1) Why do I believe one thing correlates to or is match to the other thing?

2) Are both things dependent upon each other?

3) Or are they completely independent and self-sustaining?

4) Is there a connection? If so, then what connects the two?

5) What purpose will one thing have with the other?

6) What purpose will I show from proving that one thing is paralleled to another?

One of the many definitions for “parallel” centers on the meaning “extending in the same direction and at the same distance apart at every point, so as never to meet, as lines, planes.”  You can find this definition in Webster’s New World College Dictionary. When you take math in school, you learn about parallel and perpendicular lines. Perpendicular lines always meet, but parallel lines never meet or intersect. You plot points on a graph, but the points are plotted in such a way that the lines are destined, so to speak, not to meet.

When you say that one idea is a parallel to another idea, the ideas must never intertwine or become one. Each line of a parallel is independent of the other, fully functional, and fully self-sustaining; so the examples you provide within your papers, the examples you want to define as a parallel, must also “both” be independent of the other, fully self-sustainable. They must be a match, on the very same level. A lightweight can’t be matched with a heavyweight, because the latter will overpower the former. The lightweight is not weaker in value; instead, the weight of the lightweight is just different from the weight of the heavyweight. They are not true counterparts, because they are not really equal in value or strength.

In Figure 15, the student attempts to prove that there is a parallel between the story of the Fall of Adam and Eve and Rossetti’s “Goblin Market.” The student’s attempt is unsuccessful, because she outlines the qualities of each story, but don’t describe the parallel. She doesn’t describe “what” parallels “what.” Let’s read the excerpt.

Sample Excerpt

The concept of fall and redemption will always date back biblically to Adam and Eve.  Adam and Eve were the first two human beings created by God.  When Eve was led to believe (by Satan) that the apple she picked was good for food, she ate and “also gave to her husband with her, and he ate” (Gen. 3:6).  How this relates to “Goblin Market” is clearly implied.  Lizzie and Laura, the two main characters (sisters), are similar to God and Adam and Eve.  Lizzie consistently warns Laura not to buy the goblin’s fruits.  The goblins are the antagonists and they are synonymous with the devil.  Lizzie forewarns, “We must not look at goblin men, / We must not buy their fruits:/ Who knows upon what soil they fed/ Their hungry thirsty roots?” (42-45); and all the while the goblins are continually shouting, “Come buy, come buy” (Rossetti 1479).

Figure 15: Essay Excerpt on “Goblin Market”


1) Beginning with “forewarn,” what does God say to Adam?

2) Does God say to Adam “Don’t look” or “Don’t buy”?

3) What is significant about “Come buy, come buy?” Is it sensual?

4) What is the first image you get upon reading these words? Upon listening if you heard them?

5) How does the biblical fall relate to the fall within “Goblin Market”?


The student doesn’t address the parallel between the fall in the bible and the fall of the characters within Rosetti’s poem.

In terms of understanding how to compare/contrast (parallel) two contexts, I want you to visualize an example. Think about the image of sewing two fabrics together. You need a needle and thread to sew and two fabrics into which to sew. Think about you as the needle (the paper writer) and the thread (the connector) as the instrument that connects ideas. One fabric represents an idea (a parallel line); and another fabric represents the other idea (another parallel line). As the needle, your job is to find a way to connect the one fabric with the other.

After turning the garment over multiple times, you find a small area with which to begin sewing and start there. Just because you can sew doesn’t mean you can sew in a straight line. It is important to take precautions early to prevent from sewing the garments in a crooked line, haphazardly, with no purpose in mind. However, it is possible to sew the two garments together with two distinctive lines that never meet. The garment stays connected, but the two lines never have to meet, or intersect.

Remember it is not enough to say (suggest) one story has a connection to another story without really outlining the connection. To parallel one thing with another is to compare one with the other in order to find similarities, to find the one thing’s match to the other, without tangling the ideas so that they intersect and appear as one idea in the final analysis.

For an extended explanation, see also the comment “Interesting/Interesting!

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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