Antithesis is that rhetorical or literary device in which there are two opposite ideas used together in a sentence to form a contrasting effect. A parallel structure is used to show this contradiction.
- We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools. (Martin Luther King Jr.)
In the above example, you can see that the famous Martin Luther King Jr. has used a parallel structure in his quote, which makes this sentence an antithetical one. The words ‘brothers’ and ‘fools’ or ‘live’ and ‘perish’ can be said as contradictory elements. These words are not exact opposites; but they are creating a contrasting effect which is effective for an antithetical statement.
Apart from this discussion, in this particular quote, the speaker is talking about the importance of humanity that everyone should live together as brothers, without any fight or conflict.
Why Writers or Speakers use Antithesis?
Just like the other literary devices, an antithesis is also an effective device in communicating ideas. The contradictory elements used in antithetical statements can be used to express a particular point that a writer or a speaker is trying to communicate.
It can be a useful tool in making a text rich and memorable to read. The contrasts used in such statements are strict and can be humorous or ironic. The readers should be clever enough to get what the writer is trying to communicate because writers can be very ironic in nature. Sometimes, writers use antithesis in order to pass on some comments in an indirect way. So, readers should have the capability to get those hidden meanings.
Without any purpose, a writer does not use antithesis. Writers do use antithesis with intentions and plans.
In literature, there are hundreds of examples of antithesis as; writers do need such kind of literary devices to communicate their thoughts. One of the most famous examples of antithesis used by Alexander Pope is in his famous ‘An Essay of Criticism’, in which he says,
‘To err is human; to forgive divine.’
In this antithetical statement, Pope reveals the truth by using two contradictory ideas. He is trying to reveal that human beings are imperfect and make mistakes but god is the most forgiving. Two contradictory ideas can be perfection (god) and imperfection (humans) because the erring human beings always make mistakes and commit sins.
Antithesis in Famous Quotes
1. Speech is silver, but silence is gold.
2. It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. (Charles Dickens)
3. Folks who have no vices have very few virtues. (Abraham Lincoln)
4. Patience is bitter, but it has a sweet fruit. (Aristotle)
5. Give me some sunshine, Give me some rain, Give me another chance I wanna grow up once again. (Swanand Kirkire)
6. Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it. (Helen Keller)
It is concluded that writers or speakers use antithesis in order to communicate a point by the help of two contradictory elements. In antithetical statements, a parallel structure is used to show the contradiction. The contrasts can be humorous or ironic.