What is Antithesis? How to Use Antithesis with Examples

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Contrasting concepts can often pull out more profound meanings than what the words indicate. 

For example, self-contradictory statements often create a facade of unresolvable arguments in speech and poetry, which ultimately add another level of mystery to writing or speech. 

Statements that cancel one another sitting alongside make a point of contradicting themselves but it compels the readers or listeners to have a fresh perspective and render a renewed sense of analysis. On the writer’s part, contradiction is part of the art of creation. The proper incorporation of logical contradiction in language will ensure emphasizing what is essential, which often cannot blatantly be referred to.

What is Antithesis?

Antithesis is a figure of speech that juxtaposes two contrasting ideas. Firstly, it is a striking opposition or contrast of sentiments or phrases made inside the same sentence. The antithesis is employed to emphasize something. Antithesis is largely based on parallelism - the repetitive nature of antithesis often creates a subtle rhyme in prose. 

For example, “Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice.” (William Shakespeare, Hamlet) is an antithesis that emphasizes the wit of speaking less and listening more attentively. The two contrasting concepts of listening and speaking are indicated by the mention of giving “ear” and “voice.” If followed closely, the underlying wisdom and rhyme rendered by the repetitive nature of the statement are imminent.

How to Use Antithesis?

The below-stated factors need to be at the back of the writer’s mind while constructing antithesis that ups benefits the written piece monumentally. 

Feel the Necessity

Certain places in your writing would benefit primarily from using two contrasting concepts, ideas, or notions. However, they do not have to be exact opposites but somewhat contrasting to compliment each other. 

Listen for the Rhythm

Similarly, structured sentences or clauses tend to have a certain rhythm and investing a bit of time and concentration into using antithesis can ensure that rhythmic element in your writing. The trick is to read it out loud and listen for it.

Examples of Antithesis

  • “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind,” Neil Armstrong (1969)
  • “To err is human; to forgive divine,” Alexander Pope, “An Essay on Criticism” (1711)
  • “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,” Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859)
  • “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” Martin Luther King, Jr., “I Have a Dream” speech (1963)
  • “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here,” Abraham Lincoln, the “Gettysburg Address” (1863)
  • “Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heav’n,” John Milton, Paradise Lost (1667)


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