Antithesis is a literary device that involves the placement of two contrasting or opposing ideas or words in close proximity to each other to create a powerful effect. The purpose of antithesis is to highlight the differences or contrasts between two ideas or concepts. In order to create a sense of tension, drama, or emphasis.
How to pronounce Antithesis
Use in Literature
There are several different ways that antithesis can be used in literature, and each user creates a different effect. Some of the most common uses of antithesis include:
- Contrast: Antithesis is often used to create contrast between two opposing ideas or concepts. By placing them in close proximity, the author draws attention to the differences between them. For example, in Charles Dickens’ novel “A Tale of Two Cities,” the famous opening line reads. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” The use of antithesis in this line creates a sense of contrast between the two opposing ideas. Which sets the stage for the rest of the novel.
- Emphasis: Antithesis can emphasize a particular idea or concept. By placing it in contrast with something else, the author draws attention to it and makes it stand out. For example, in William Shakespeare’s play “Hamlet,” the character Hamlet says, “To be or not to be, that is the question.” The use of antithesis in this line emphasizes the importance of the decision that Hamlet is contemplating.
- Irony: Antithesis can also create irony in a work of literature. By placing two opposing ideas in close proximity, the author can create a sense of irony or paradox. For example, in Mark Twain’s novel “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” the character Huck Finn says, “All right, then, I’ll go to hell.” This line is ironic. Because it is the opposite of what one would expect from a character who is seeking redemption.
- Rhetorical effect: Antithesis figure of speech can also create a purely rhetorical effect, such as to create a memorable phrase or to make a point more forcefully. For example, in Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, he says, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” This use of antithesis creates a memorable phrase that emphasizes the importance of racial harmony.
Example of Antithesis
There are many examples of antithesis in literature, from ancient works to modern classics. Some notable examples include:
- Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare: In Act II, Scene 2, Romeo says, “O brawling love, O loving hate,” which is an example of antithesis to emphasize the conflicting emotions he feels for Juliet.
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: In Chapter 1, Nick Carraway describes the setting of the novel as a place of “enormous vitality that often contrasts with the “valley of ashes,” a desolate and lifeless place nearby.
- A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift: In this satirical essay, Swift proposes that the solution to the problem of Irish poverty is for the Irish to sell their children as food. This is an example of antithesis to create a sense of shock and horror.
- Paradise Lost by John Milton: In Book I, Milton describes Satan as “unconquerable will, / And study of revenge, immortal hate, / And courage never to submit or yield.” This is an example of antithesis to emphasize Satan’s qualities as a powerful and determined enemy of God.
Example of Antithesis in a sentence
- It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. ( A Tale of Two Cities)
- Love is an ideal thing, marriage a real thing. ( The Decay of Lying)
- Speech is silver, but silence is golden. ( Proverb)
- To err is human, to forgive divine. (An Essay on Criticism)
- War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength. ( 1984 by George Orwell)
- We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools. ( Martin Luther King Jr.)
- Youth is wasted on the young, wisdom is wasted on the old. ( G.B.Shaw)
- Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet. ( Jean- Jacques Rousseau)
- Man proposes, God disposes. ( Thomas a Kempis)
- Many are called, but few are chosen. ( The Bible)
Antithesis in Bacon’s ” Of Revenge”
Francis Bacon’s “Of Revenge” is an essay that explores the complex nature of revenge and its effects on both the avenger and the target of the avenger’s wrath. Throughout the essay, Bacon uses antithesis to highlight the conflicting ideas and emotions that surround the concept of revenge.
One of the most notable examples of antithesis in “Of Revenge” is in the opening paragraph: “Revenge is a kind of wild justice; which the more man’s nature runs to, the more ought law to weed it out.” Here, Bacon sets up a contrast between revenge, which is characterized as “wild” and uncontrollable, and justice, which is associated with order and the rule of law. This use of antithesis emphasizes the dangers of revenge and the need for society to discourage it.
Later in the essay, Bacon uses antithesis to explore the psychological effects of revenge. He writes, “This is certain, that a man that studieth revenge, keeps his own wounds green, which otherwise would heal and do well.” Here, Bacon contrasts the idea of “keeping wounds green” (i.e. dwelling on past injuries) with the idea of healing and moving on. This use of antithesis highlights the destructive nature of revenge. Which can lead to a cycle of perpetual resentment and anger.
Bacon also uses antithesis to explore the moral implications of revenge. He writes, “For as for the first wrong, it doth but offend the law; but the revenge of that wrong, putteth the law out of office.” Here, Bacon contrasts the idea of “offending the law” with the idea of “putting the law out of office.” This use of antithesis emphasizes the idea that revenge is a form of vigilantism that undermines the authority of the legal system.
In conclusion, Francis Bacon’s use of antithesis in “Of Revenge” serves to highlight the complex and often contradictory nature of the concept of revenge. By setting up contrasts between opposing ideas and emotions, Bacon emphasizes the dangers of revenge and its negative effects on both the avenger and the target of their wrath.