The word antithesis comes from the ancient Greek word ἀντίθεσις (antíthenai), meaning “opposition” or “resistance.” In the English language, the word denotes a phrase or sentence that contains two contrasting ideas. A parallel structure is used in which the structure or grammar of a phrase or sentence is repeated in the contrasting phrase or sentence. The literary effect is a simple contrast to highlight the author’s idea. This is different from a paradox, which uses contradictions to reveal a hidden truth, as well as juxtaposition and oxymoron.
Examples in Literature
A Tale of Two Cities by Charlies Dickens
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—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
A Game of Thrones By George R.R. Martin
Wind and words. We are only human, and the gods have fashioned us for love. That is our great glory, and our great tragedy.
Examples in Music
“Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'” by Michael Jackson
And too high to get over (yeah, yeah) And too low to get under (yeah, yeah)
“Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac
And what you lost And what you had Ooh, what you lost Thunder only happens when it's rainin' Players only love you when they're playin' Women, they will come and they will go
Examples in Speeches
Ted Kennedy’s Eulogy for Robert F. Kennedy
As he said many times, in many parts of this nation, to those he touched and who sought to touch him: Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.
John F. Kennedy’s Inauguration Address
And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country.