An antithesis is used when the writer employs 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.

When Neil Armstrong walked on the moon it might have been one small step for a man but it was one giant leap for mankind.

10 thoughts on “Antithesis”

  1. Hegel used this “Antithesis” Literary Device in his philosophy. It was part of the “Thesis”, “Antithesis” and “Synthesis” triality of Thinking. I’ve always thought that the resultant “Synthesis” could be a useful and Evolved, Third Way out of a particular duality stasis. A forward moving development for solving problems. Usually some sort of compromise.

  2. Another example…

    In Great Expectations, “The mother looked young and the daughter looked old; the mother’s complexion was pink, and the daughter’s was yellow; the mother set up for frivolity, and the daughter for theology.” (Dickens 301).

    1. I think this more so falls under “juxtaposition”. “Mother” and “young” juxtaposes each other (same with “daughter” and “old”), but a mother looking young does not contradict a daughter looking old.

      1. I am so sorry but you are mistaken, Amy Gao. Antithesis simply presents two contrasting elements to show their stark difference, but they DON’T contradict. There is a slim difference indeed between juxtaposition and antithesis and they can be confusing. Let me explain the difference: juxtaposition does not necessarily deal with two completely opposite ideas (ex. When it rains, it pours). Secondly, juxtaposition does not necessitate balanced grammatical structure (ex. “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”)

        “The mother looked young and the daughter looked old”
        This is an antithesis because
        1. It shows two contrasting, not contradicting, ideas.
        2. It is parallel in structure

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