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What is Antithesis? Definition & Examples

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Create a balance between opposite qualities and lend a greater insight into the subject by using an antithesis in a sentence. 

Don’t get all wrinkled up thinking about what is the antithesis. The explanation goes right here.

Antithesis is a literary and rhetorical device in which two opposite or contrasting ideas are put together in a sentence, such as 

The rain brings the cool breezes, the sun brings warmth. 

Here, these are two contrasting ideas: cool breezes and warmth which is pulled out together in a sentence to show a contradictory effect.

The word antithesis has arrived from the Greek word antithenai, meaning “to oppose.

The concept of antithesis might sound similar to juxtaposition or oxymoron to you, but they have their differences. In other words, they might be related but are different from each other.

So, how do you pronounce antithesis? 

Try to read its phonetic an-tith-uh-sis

Before, we move to cite the difference and example of antithesis, here are some tips to use antithesis for a greater effect.

  1. Focus on contracting ideas according to the place you will be using them.
  2. To keep the sentences in close proximity read them out loud. 
  3. Employee it in your writing but don’t overdo it. 

With the below section you will get the hold of these three tips apart from the better understanding of antithesis explanation. 

Antithesis and Parallelism

To understand the relation between the two. Let’s begin with an example.

  • Love brings joy, hatred brings sadness. 

If you read this example, the structure of both the clauses is parallel, meaning they are a mirror image of one another with repeated grammatical elements. 

The two clauses of the sentence are parallel because each starts and ends with a noun that is love and hatred, joy, and sadness. The mirroring of these elements emphasizes the contract strongly. 

Another example

  • The Queen was beautiful in her looks, but she was ugly in people’s books.

Difference between Antithesis and Juxtaposition

Although juxtaposition is a figure of speech where two things or ideas are placed next to one another to draw attention to their differences or similarities, such as 

  • Everything is fair in love and war.

The above example is well known among people, it does have opposite words love and war, but the pairing of these two doesn’t create a relationship of opposition between them.

While, in the antithesis figure of speech, the opposite ideas create a relationship of contradiction between the two such as,

  • If that’s the scenario “I would rather be among enemies than among friends.”

Here, the sentence depicts the contracting word enemies and friends who have a relationship among them.

The other line of difference is that antithesis has parallelism but juxtaposition doesn’t have mirroring in the sentences. Though antithesis could be a type of juxtaposition, juxtaposition is not always antithesis.

Antithesis v/s Oxymoron

In English, antithesis and oxymoron are figures of speech but carry different concepts. 

In an oxymoron, the opposite words in a sentence are used with no deep meaning, such as 

  • Sweet sorrow
  • Cruel Kindness
  • Foolish wisdom

On the other hand, the antithesis concentrates on opposites rather than contradictions and the words or ideas belong to each other, such as

  • Love is a symbol of unity, hatred is a symbol of division.

Antithesis v/s Foil

The relationship between the two opposite characters is what we call foil, whereas, in antithesis, writers create sentences with opposite ideas and those opposite ideas belong to each other. Thus we can say an antithesis sentence consists of a foil. 

 The famous example of hare and tortoise will explain the concept in a better way.

  • The hare was fast, and the tortoise was slow.

The above sentence has two characters with opposite characteristics which are an example of antithesis. But the relationship between the tortoise and the hare is foil. Thus the character of the hare is a foil of the tortoise.

Antithesis examples

  • The fox sang the cruelty, but the bird sang mercy.
  • The night was dark, the moon made it bright.
  • The sun’s heat exhausts, but the raindrops relieve.
  • The beggar begged for kindness, the world granted them meanness.

Antithesis examples in literature

Antithesis in literature is used by writers to express ideas that seem contradictory. The use of antithesis is not limited to sentences only, but also to characters and events. Some examples:

A Tale of Two Cities (By Charles Dickens)

The opening lines of Charles Dickens’s novel A Tale of Two Cities provide 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 above-cited example from the novel depicts the contrasting ideas, set in parallel structures to emphasize the deeper meaning.

Antithesis in T.S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets”

In my beginning is my end. In succession

Houses rise and fall, crumble, are extended,

Are removed, destroyed, restored, or in their place

It is an open field, or a factory, or a by-pass.

Old stone to the new building, old timber to new fires…

In this poem, T.S. Eliot uses antithesis to describe the cycle of life, which is continuously passing from beginning to end, from rising to fall, and from old to new.


The writers or speakers employ antithesis to convey ideas in different ways with a more vivid impact. It helps to bring forth judgment on the particular subject and the idea is expressed more emphatically.  

An antithesis stands out in writing because it uses a parallel structure to represent contrasting ideas that cause the reader or audience to stop and consider the meaning and purpose. It is used by authors to portray a character’s mindset and to raise an argument. It makes it easy for the reader to understand the character’s thoughts.

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