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Definition of Antithesis
Antithesis is a literary device designed to highlight the difference/s of two irreconcilable opposites. Structurally, the contrasting ideas (be it concepts, words, phrases or sentences) are placed in sharp juxtaposition and sustained tension, i.e. observing correct grammar and parallelism, in order to achieve the ultimate contrasting effect. The well-balanced or parallel structure makes the comparison easier and highlights the contradictions between the ideas.
Antitheses are common in both writing and speeches. Here are a few examples:
- Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.
- This famous expression by Muhammad Ali displays two contrasting animal actions: a silent (floating) butterfly and an aggressive (sting) bee.
- Speech is silver, but silence is gold.
- It presents the contrasting qualities of speech versus silence and silver versus gold.
- Rude words bring about sadness, but kind words inspire joy.
- It highlights the differences between rude and kind and between sadness and joy.
Here’s an antithesis-laden excerpt from Pres. Abraham Lincoln’s speech:
When there is need of silence, you speak, and when there is need of speech, you are dumb. When you are present, you wish to be absent, and when absent, you desire to be present. In peace you are for war, and in war you long for peace. In council you descant on bravery, and in the battle you tremble.
In sum, an antithesis is composed of three main components: (1) at least two parts, (2) contrasting ideas, and (3) a parallel grammatical structure.
Antithesis vs. irony vs. juxtaposition
Oftentimes, antithesis is mistaken as irony when used in speech. Although both are used to convey contrasts of ideas, they have a distinction: antithesis is structured with parallelism in mind, whereas irony implies contradictions between appearance and reality through tone or choice of words. See examples below:
- Antithesis: Temperance leads to happiness; intemperance ends, in general, to misery.
- Irony: You found yourself in a no-smoking zone on your cigarette break.
Juxtaposition, on the other hand, is used to also highlight the differences between two things, but those two things do not necessarily have to be totally opposites. This rhetorical device compares similar things so that the audience will spot the subtle differences. Juxtaposition also does not require sentence parallelism or balanced grammatical structure. One popular example of this literary device is the expression “When it rains, it pours,” which means when one thing goes right, many things will go right; also, when one thing goes wrong, everything goes wrong.
Functions and Antithesis Examples
Literally meaning “opposite,” antithesis is commonly used among writers as it adds color and flavor to their works. This literary tool can be used to show the character’s mindset and personality as well as set up an argument. Here are some of literary works where the use antithesis stands out:
- It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. (Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens)
- Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heav’n. in Paradise Lost by John Milton
- To err is human; to forgive divine. – An Essay on Criticism by Alexander Pope
- Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice. – Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Antithesis is also commonly used among famous personalities’ speeches and in common quotes and idioms. Here are a few examples:
- We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools. (Martin Luther King, Jr.)
- And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man. (John F. Kennedy Jr.)
- We will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist. (Barack Obama)
- That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. (Neil Armstrong)
- I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dryrot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time. (Jack London)
- Love is an ideal thing, marriage a real thing. (Goethe)
- Patience is bitter, but it has a sweet fruit. (Aristotle)
- Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful. (Samuel Johnson)
- Folks who have no vices have very few virtues. (Abraham Lincoln)
- All the joy the world contains has come through wishing happiness for others. All the misery the world contains has come through wanting pleasure for oneself. (Shantideva)
This bundle contains 5 ready-to-use antithesis worksheets that are perfect to test student knowledge and understanding of what antithesis is and how it can be used. You can use these antithesis worksheets in the classroom with students, or with home schooled children as well.
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Link will appear as Antithesis Examples and Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, August 8, 2017
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.