Antithesis (an-TIH-theh-sis): Figure of balance in which two contrasting ideas are intentionally juxtaposed, usually through parallel structure; a contrasting of opposing ideas in adjacent phrases, clauses, or sentences.

Ex #1: "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose" -- Jim Elliot

Ex #2: Lloyd Braun: "Serenity now; insanity later." -- from Seinfeld episode "The Serenity Now"

Further Examples

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!"

-- Martin Luther King, Jr., I Have a Dream

"The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here."

-- Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address (delivered by Jeff Daniels)

"The surface appears to be...very, very fine-grained as you get close to it. It's almost like a powder down there. It's very fine. Okay, I'm going to step off the LEM now. That's one small step for [a] man; one giant leap for mankind."

-- Neil Armstrong, Apollo 11 Moon Landing Speech

"Those of us who loved him, and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will some day come to pass for all the world. 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.'"

-- Edward Kennedy, Eulogy for Robert F. Kennedy

Note: In this case there are two different, successive antitheses

"We observe today not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom, symbolizing an end as well as a beginning, signifying renewal as well as change."

-- John F. Kennedy, Presidential Inaugural Address

"In the relationship we are building, I want to urge you, as many of you as can, to visit our country, and invite members of our Congress to visit you. Let them understand how the world looks from your perspective. Tell them what you're worried about and where you disagree with us. And give us a chance to build that base of common experience and mutual trust that is so important to our future together. All of you are always welcome to come and work with us in the United States. We have to find a mutual understanding. We are not destined to be adversaries. But it is not guaranteed that we will be allies."

-- William Jefferson Clinton, Address to the Russian Duma

"So it was that the Indians of the Guarani were brought finally to account to the everlasting mercy of God -- and to the short-lived mercy of man."

-- Ray McAnally (as Cardinal Altamirano, from the movie The Mission)


"We find ourselves rich in goods but ragged in spirit, reaching with magnificent precision for the moon but falling into raucous discord on earth. We are caught in war, wanting peace. We're torn by division, wanting unity."

-- Richard M. Nixon, First Presidential Inaugural Address

Note: In this case there are four different, successive antitheses

Rhetorical Figures in Sound

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American Rhetoric.
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