Antithesis: Comparison based on contrast antithesis

Antithesis (Greek, from anti, against,’ and tithemi, I place’) is a figure of comparison that is based upon contrast

Antithesis: Comparison based on contrast

From English Composition and Rhetoric, by Alexander Bain;  English Composition by W. Davidson; Practical Rhetoric, by Albert Raub:

I. Words and ideas are contrasted

Wit laughs at things; humor laughs with them.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

A. The human mind is affected by changes of impression.

For instance, passing from hot to cold, from hunger to repletion, from sound to silence. This applies to both feeling and knowledge.

B. Feelings imply that we have passed from one condition to another.

In some emotions, the prominent fact is a transition from a previous state; the shock of change is the cause of the feeling. In like manner, a sense of freedom presupposes restraint, and the sentiment of power some previous state of impotence or weakness.

C. Knowledge, likewise, implies transition.

We know light by having passed out of the dark, height by comparison with depth, hardness with softness. In short, knowledge is never single; it must have at least two objects, sometimes more than two. Our knowledge of man, for instance, takes in all that we ever contrast with man—God, angel, animal, &c.

II. Objects become more and more impressive by contrast.

Antithesis gives vividness to an idea by putting it in contrast with its opposite.
Thus, white appears even more bright when placed in contrast with black; a tall man seems taller when placed by the side of a dwarf; and either noise or silence is most impressive when immediately following the other.

III. The purest form of antithesis is opposite iteration.

In an obverse proposition, the equivalent fact is stated from the opposite side:
Heat relaxes the system; cold braces it.
Light cheers; darkness depresses.

IV. Using antithesis

A. The contrasted ideas should have the same verbal construction.

1.The proper form of antithesis is the balanced sentence, but there may be antithesis of thought without using the balanced sentence to express it.
2. Nouns should be contrasted with nouns, verbs with verbs, etc.
3. Contrasted clauses should be as nearly alike in length and construction as possible.

B. Antithesis should be used sparingly.

When employed too frequently it is likely to produce the impression that the author is less interested in what he has to say than in the manner of saying it.

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