Difference Between Antithesis and Paradox

The main difference between antithesis and paradox is that antithesis is the juxtaposition of two contrasting ideas or words in the same statement to create a contrasting effect whereas paradox is a statement or an idea that seems to be contradictory but contains a latent truth.

Both antithesis and paradox are two figures of speech that contain two contradictory ideas. Although both seem to to have the same structure and function at a first glance, there is a distinct difference between antithesis and paradox.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is an Antithesis 
     – Definition, Characteristics, Examples
2. What is a Paradox
    – Definition, Characteristics, Examples
3. Difference Between Antithesis and Paradox
    – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms

Antithesis, Figure of Speech, Literary Devices, Paradox

Difference Between Antithesis and Paradox - Comparison Summary

What is an Antithesis

An antithesis, which literary means ‘opposite’ figure of speech that involves contrary ideas, words, or sentences within a balanced grammatical structure. Moreover, this combination of contrary ideas and balanced structures help to perfectly highlight the contrast in the sentence. However, it is important to note that the sentence itself does not contrast. For example, let’s look at the sentence “Many are called, but few are chosen.” Here, the two contrasting words many and few help to emphasize the meaning of the sentence.

Common Examples

Given below are some well-known examples of antithesis:

  • Man proposes, God disposes.
  • Love is an ideal thing, marriage a real thing.
  • “Setting foot on the moon may be a small step for a man but a giant step for mankind.”– Neil Armstrong
  • “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,….” – Charles Dickens ( opening lines of A Tale of Two Cities)
  • The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.” – Abraham Lincoln

Difference Between Antithesis and Paradox

As you can see from the above examples, an antithesis always contains two opposing ideas. These ideas may not be structurally opposite, but they act as functionally opposite when comparing two ideas for the purpose of emphasis. Overall, emphasis helps the audience to understand more clearly the point the speaker or writer is trying to make.

What is a Paradox

A paradox is a figure of speech that contains two seemingly contrasting ideas together in order to reveal some hidden or unexpected truth. Although a paradox may seem silly or even contradictory at first glance, it usually reveals a latent truth upon further reflection. Let’s look at some examples of common paradoxes.

  • Your strength lies in your weakness.
  • Less is more.
  • Be cruel to be kind.
  • Attack is the best form of defence.
  • Your enemy’s enemy is your friend.

A paradox helps to make the audience think about something in an innovative way. We can also use a paradox to present an idea that is contrary to traditional concepts. In literature, writers use paradoxes to get readers’ attention and to incite fresh thought.

Main Difference - Antithesis vs Paradox

Furthermore, there are two types of paradoxes in literature as situational and rhetoric. While a situational paradox is a circumstance that is contradictory, a rhetoric paradox is a seemingly contrasting comment made by a character. The concept of catch-22 in Joseph Heller’s novel Catch 22 is an example of a situational paradox. Meanwhile, the famous comment “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others” in George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm is an example of a rhetorical paradox.

Difference Between Antithesis and Paradox

Definition

Antithesis is the juxtaposition of two contrasting ideas or words in the same statement to create a contrasting effect whereas paradox is a juxtaposition of a set of seemingly contradictory concepts that reveal a hidden truth.

Effect

Writers use antithesis to create a contrasting effect and bring the audience’s attention to the point he or she is trying to make. However, writers use paradoxes to incite fresh thought and present an idea that is contrary to traditional concepts.

Structure

Antithesis often has a parallel structure whereas paradox doesn’t have a set structure.

Examples

“Man proposes, God disposes” and “Love is an ideal thing, marriage a real thing” are examples of antithesis whereas “Less is more” and “Be cruel to be kind” are examples of paradoxes.

Conclusion

Both antithesis and paradox are two figures of speech that contain two contradictory ideas. Antithesis is the juxtaposition of two contrasting ideas or words in the same statement to create a contrasting effect whereas paradox is a juxtaposition of a set of seemingly contradictory concepts that reveal a hidden truth.

Reference:

1.“Antithesis.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 6 Aug. 2019, Available here.
2. “Paradox Examples and Definition.” Literary Devices, 31 Oct. 2015, Available here.

Image Courtesy:

1. “MLK Jr: ‘We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools’ Washington (DC) Protest September 2017” By Ron Cogswell (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr
2. “Paradox” By Nick Youngson (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Blue Diamond Gallery

About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.

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