Antithesis means opposite and is used as a literary device to put two contrasting ideas together. This emphasizes the difference between the two ideas and adds interest to writing.
Antithesis in Literature
- Snow White and the Wicked Witch in Snow White
- Dumbledore and Voldemort in Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
- Aslan and White Witch in The Chronicles Of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
- It was the best of times, it was the worst of times - Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
- Marcus Brutus and Mark Antony in Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
- Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heav’n. in Paradise Lost by John Milton
- To err is human; to forgive divine. - An Essay on Criticism by Alexander Pope
- Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice. - Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Quotes with Examples of Antithesis
- “That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” - Neil Armstrong
- "We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools." - Martin Luther King, Jr.
- “Unlike short-sighted, egocentric humans, God "sees with equal eye" the fall of a hero and a sparrow, the destruction of an atom or a solar system.” - Alexander Pope.
- "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
- "I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dryrot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time." - Jack London
- "Love is an ideal thing, marriage a real thing." - Goethe
- “Patience is bitter, but it has a sweet fruit.” - Aristotle
- “Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.” - Samuel Johnson
- “Folks who have no vices have very few virtues.” - Abraham Lincoln
- "All the joy the world contains Has come through wishing happiness for others. All the misery the world contains Has come through wanting pleasure for oneself." - Shantideva
Antithesis in Common Speech & Advertising
- “Speech is silver, but Silence is Gold.” (source unknown)
- “Man proposes, God disposes.” (source unknown)
- “Money is the root of all evils: poverty is the fruit of all goodness.” (source unknown)
- "Everybody doesn't like something, but nobody doesn't like Sara Lee." (advertising)
- "Promise her anything, give her Arpage" (advertising)
Antithesis in Music & Films
- It rained all night the day I left, the weather it was dry, the sun so hot, I froze to death - Oh Susanna!
- You are easy on the eyes, but hard on the heart. - Terri Clark
- I close my eyes so I can see...I burn a fire to stay cool...Shut the door so I can leave - Shut the door by Fugazi
- Even though the sun is shining, I can feel the rain. - Roger Hodgson
- It's never too soon, It's never too late - Bethany Joy Lenz
- Give me some sunshine, Give me some rain, Give me another chance I wanna grow up once again. - Swanand Kirkire
Antithesis can be used in many different contexts; but, the common thread is that it contains two contrasting ideas.
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Examples of Antithesis
By YourDictionaryAntithesis means opposite and is used as a literary device to put two contrasting ideas together. This emphasizes the difference between the two ideas and adds interest to writing.
Antithesis, which literally means “opposite,” is a rhetorical device in which two opposite ideas are put together in a sentence to achieve a contrasting effect.
Antithesis emphasizes the idea of contrast by parallel structures of the contrasted phrases or clauses. The structures of phrases and clauses are similar, in order to draw the attention of the listeners or readers. For example:
“Setting foot on the moon may be a small step for a man but a giant step for mankind.”
The use of contrasting ideas, “a small step” and “a giant step,” in the sentence above emphasizes the significance of one of the biggest landmarks of human history.
Common Antithesis Examples
Some famous antithetical statements have become part of our everyday speech, and are frequently used in arguments and discussions. Below is a list of some common antithetical statements:
- Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice.
- Man proposes, God disposes.
- Love is an ideal thing, marriage a real thing.
- Speech is silver, but silence is gold.
- Patience is bitter, but it has a sweet fruit.
- Money is the root of all evil: poverty is the fruit of all goodness.
- You are easy on the eyes, but hard on the heart.
Examples of Antithesis in Literature
In literature, writers employ antithesis not only in sentences, but also in characters and events. Thus, its use is extensive. Below are a few examples of antithesis in literature:
Example #1: A Tale of Two Cities (By Charles Dickens)
The opening lines of Charles Dickens’ novel A Tale of Two Cities provides an unforgettable antithesis example:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”
The contrasting ideas, set in parallel structures, markedly highlight the conflict that existed in the time discussed in the novel.
Example #2: Julius Caesar (By William Shakespeare)
In William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, we notice antithesis in the characters of Mark Antony and Marcus Brutus. Brutus is portrayed as the “noblest of Romans,” close to Caesar, and a person who loved Rome and Caesar. Antony, on the contrary, is shown as a man with the evil intentions of harming Caesar, and taking charge of Rome. These antithetical characters highlight the conflict in the play.
Example #3: An Essay on Criticism (By Alexander Pope)
Alexander Pope, in his An Essay on Criticism, says:
“To err is human; to forgive divine.”
Fallibility is a trait of humans, and God – the Creator – is most forgiving. Through these antithetical ideas, Pope reveals the basic nature of human beings. He wants to say that God is forgiving because his creation is erring.
Example #4: Community (By John Donne)
We find antithesis in John Donne’s poem Community:
“Good we must love, and must hate ill,
For ill is ill, and good good still;
But there are things indifferent,
Which we may neither hate, nor love,
But one, and then another prove,
As we shall find our fancy bent.”
Two contrasting words “love” and “hate” are combined in the above lines. It emphasizes that we love good because it is always good, and we hate bad because it is always bad. It is a matter of choice to love or hate things which are neither good nor bad.
Example #5: Paradise Lost (By John Milton)
John Milton, in Paradise Lost, says:
“Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heav’n.”
The contrasting ideas of reign/serve, and Hell/Heav’n are placed in this sentence to achieve an antithetical effect.
Function of Antithesis
A literary device, like antithesis, uses words to convey ideas in different ways from the common words and expressions of daily life. Thus, it conveys meaning more vividly than ordinary speech. When contrasting ideas are brought together, the idea is expressed more emphatically.
As a literary device, antithesis makes contrasts in order to examine pros and cons of a subject under discussion, and helps to bring forth judgment on that particular subject.