Literary Antithesis

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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.

Using antithesis in an explanation or definition allows the reader or audience to see it in a three-dimensional view, complicating and simplifying it at the same time.

Antithesis is a common theme in English writing, and some famous English writers who used the literary device frequently include Alexander Pope, Lyly, Arthur Young, Samuel Johnson, Edward Gibbon, and John Dryden.

Juxtaposition is a common device used in visual art, as well.

Juxtaposition is used by many authors in order to portray deeper characterization, and create suspense and rhetorical effect.

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.


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