Antithesis is a figure of speech in which contrasted words or ideas are placed together in a balanced form for the sake of emphasis.
Things opposite, as already asserted, often make a view attractive. A black person looks bright in a white dress. In composition, too, contrasted words or ideas, when they are placed together, brighten the whole impression. As a matter of fact, words or thoughts are found often set together in contrast for the sake of emphasizing a proposition, fact, or imagery.
Features of Antithesis:
The essential features of an antithesis are thus :
i) Two contrasted words or ideas are placed together.
(ii) These words or ideas are placed in a balanced form.
(iii) The purpose is to emphasize some thought, idea, or concept.
Examples of Antithesis:
Some examples of this figure are given below :
(i) United we stand, divided we fall.-Morris
Here, two contrasted ideas ‘united we stand and divided we fall’ are placed together in a balanced form. The purpose here is to emphasise the strength of unity.
(ii) I saved him, she killed him.
Here, ‘saved’ and ‘killed’ are placed together in balanced forms, and the emphasis is laid on some concept or thought.
(iii) Man is a hater of truth, a lover of fiction.
Here ‘a hater of truth’ and ‘a lover of fiction’ are two contrasting ideas. They are placed together in a balanced form, and the purpose is to emphasise the human nature that has a fondness for fiction and a dislike for facts.
(iv) The old contemplate, the young act.
(v) Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice. -Shakespeare
(vi) I love the country, I hate the town.
It is an antithesis, for contrasted ideas, ‘love the country’ and ‘hate the town’, are placed together in a balanced form, and the purpose is to emphasise the author’s love of the country.
(vii) “Man proposes, but God disposes,”-
Here two ideas (i) man proposes and (ii) God disposes are placed together. They are contrasted ideas. They are also placed in a balanced form. This antithetical arrangement seems to emphasise the difference between the power of God and that of man.
(viii) Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will. -Tennyson
Here two contrasted words ‘weak’ and ‘strong’ are placed together in a balanced form, and the purpose is to emphasise the entire proposition that the speaker’s strength of will is not yet gone.
(ix) The day was gone, the night came on. -Barham
(x) Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven. -Milton
(xi) The scheme was great, but the execution was poor.
(xii) To do a great right, do a little wrong.
(xiii) Marriage has many pains, but celibacy has no pleasures.
(xiv) Youth is full of pleasure, age is full of care.
(xv) Art is long, life is short.
Also read: Zeugma: Definition, Features, and Examples