Definition of Chiasmus:
It is a figure of speech in which an idea or fact is emphatically expressed by inverting the order of words or phrases in the same sentence. The purpose of this figure, as already noted, is to make a statement more emphatic and impressive.
Features of Chiasmus:
The essential features of this figure are the following:
(i) There is an order of words or phrases.
(ii) This order is repeated or subsequently referred to in the same sentence.
(iii) The order becomes inverse when repeated or subsequently referred to in the sentence.
Examples of Chiasmus:
(i) Beauty is truth, truth beauty. – Keats
This is a case of Chiasmus.
In the chiasmus, there is an inversion in the order of words or phrases, repeated or subsequently referred to in the same sentence. Here, the order of words, ‘Beauty is truth’ becomes inverse here, when repeated in the same sentence and turns into ‘truth beauty’.
(ii) Fair is foul, and foul is fair. -Shakespeare
This is a chiasmus. Here, the order of the words ‘fair is foul’ becomes inverse and changes into ‘foul is fair’ when repeated in the same sentence. The purpose here is to make the sentence more impressive.
(iii) And singing still dost soar and soaring ever singest. -Shelley
The order of words ‘singing…soar’ is turned into soaring….. singest’.
(iv) For the sky and the sea and the sea and the sky. -Coleridge
Here is the inversion of the order of words ‘the sky and the sea’ into “the sea and the sky’.
(v) Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven. – Milton
The order of words ‘Heaven of Hell’ is changed into ‘Hell of Heaven’, when repeated subsequently in the same sentence.
(vi) We live to learn and learn to live.
The order of words ‘live to learn’, when repeated in the same sentence, becomes ‘learn to live’.
Also read; Synecdoche: Definition, Types and examples