Literary Antithesis

The key to using antithesis is not to set out to use it.

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Antithesis is not only a revered literary device that only the best wield, but it’s a rhetoric device some of the most famous speakers in history have used to emphasize their points.

It parallels two contrasting phrases or classes with a similar structure to draw attention to their significance or importance. Who remembers one of the most famous statements of rhetorical antithesis in the public arena: , Brutus is the "noblest of Romans" because he loves Rome and Caesar.

Antony, in contrast, is an evil man with evil intentions who wants to harm Caesar and take charge of Rome.

Let’s look at antithesis closer to see if—or how—you can use it to reach deeper meaning.

Antithesis literally means "opposite." It’s used by writers and speakers to compare two opposite ideas to achieve a contrasting effect.Antithesis draws the attention of readers by employing two opposite ideas in the same context.The following are examples of antithesis: In literature, antithesis is often used, as in Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities: “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.” Dickens uses antithesis to the extreme here, indicating that nothing was certain for his characters."A perfectly formed antithesis," says Jeanne Fahnestock, combines "isocolon, parison, and perhaps, in an inflected language, even homoeoteleuton; it is an overdetermined figure.An antithesis is, literally, the opposite of the thesis; so, if the thesis were to be the protagonist of a story, then the antithesis would be the antagonist.Antithesis can also refer to a contrast or opposition between two things, and is a literary device or figure of speech in which opposition or contrasting ideas is expressed through the parallelism of words that are opposite, or strongly contrast each other.The word antithesis is derived from the Greek anti meaning “against,” and tithenai meaning “to place.” Together, antithenai means “set against,” which dates from the early 16th century and late Middle English.It’s rousing in a speech when you juxtapose two opposites to show a contrasting effect that’s as wide as the ocean.While that may be good and true, few writers use antithesis because, if forced, it sounds contrived and sanctimonious.The literary device can be used to contrast the inherent two sides `to every person, situation, place, and thing that exists in the universe.Antithesis allows the drawing of lines between the two aspects of someone or something, and as such defines that thing in a more humanistic or natural state of being.


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