Antithesis involves the writer employing two sentences of contrasting meanings in close proximity to one another. Whether they are words or phrases of the same sentence, an antithesis is used to create a stark contrast using two divergent elements that come together to create one uniform whole. An antithesis plays on the complementary property of opposites to create one vivid picture. The purpose of using an antithesis in literature is to create a balance between opposite qualities and lend a greater insight into the subject.
Examples of antithesis:
“To be or not to be, that is the question” – This famous line from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” uses antithesis to contrast the ideas of existence and non-existence, emphasizing the weight of the decision facing the character.
“Love is an ideal thing, marriage a real thing” – In this sentence, the contrast between the ideal and the real creates an antithesis that highlights the differences between the two concepts.
“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” – In this famous quote from Neil Armstrong, the contrast between the small step and the giant leap creates an antithesis that emphasizes the magnitude of the achievement.
“Speech is silver, but silence is golden” – This common saying uses antithesis to contrast the value of speaking and staying quiet, emphasizing the idea that sometimes it is better to remain silent.
“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools” – In this quote from Martin Luther King Jr., the contrast between living together and perishing together creates an antithesis that emphasizes the importance of unity and cooperation.