How to Use Antithesis
Because antithesis is such a complex rhetorical device, and so intimately tied to the meaning of specific sentences, it’s best not to set out with a plan of using it, especially in research papers or more technical writing. Instead, simply let the antitheses appear where they naturally do. Since they emphasize a particular point or conclusion, they can be used in everything from poetry and prose, to speech and advertising. But if you try to force antithesis into your writing, you risk distorting what you mean to say, or at least making it muddier.
Instead of practicing antithesis directly, you can try using parallel structure, which will often result in the creation of very effective antithesis – but only when that’s what your meaning requires.
Parallel structure is the use of the same word types and grammatical structures in two parts of a sentence. For example:
- “When you play with guns, you’re asking for trouble.”
- Structure: “you”-verb-preposition-noun
- “She wrote the book, taught the class, and graded the students.”
- Structure: verb-“the”-noun
- “Bring me a platter and play me a song.”
- Structure: verb-“me”-“a”-noun
None of the above examples is an antithesis. However, they are all sentences that use parallel structure. Next, let’s look at some examples of parallel structure that are also examples of antithesis:
- “Love the sinner; hate the sin.”
- Structure: imperative verb-“the”-noun
- “Would you rather be a big fish in a small pond, or a small fish in a big pond?”
- Structure: adjective-“fish in a”-adjective-“pond”
- “He was brave in words, but cowardly in deeds”
- Structure: adjective-“in”-pl. noun
In addition to their parallel structure, these examples also have reversed ideas – that’s why they’re all examples of antithesis.