Antithesis – 15 minutes of writing

Antithesis is our topic for today. Since we are iced in (sort of), here is the gist of it.

Antithesis is a very powerful tool in speech and writing.  Some of the most famous lines in modern history are based off of antithiesises (What is the plural for anthesis?)

Examples first and then a definition:

That is one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. (Neil Armstrong)

…not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.  (Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Definition: contrasting use of language to show a contrast in ideas.

Look at the MLK quote.  What are the two ideas that are being contrasted?  (It helps to know the back story.  I’ll wait while you ask someone about the CONTEXT for this moment.)

What about Neil Armstrong’s quote?

An antithesis organizes ideas in a way that is very powerful.  It can be built by contrasting any of the different parts of a statement.  But there is always a balance in the actual physical construction. (Look at the number of words on each side of the comma.)

Often alliteration is a good way to tie your contrasting ideas together.  Alliteration is matching the first sounds (The beautiful blue baboon bicycling backwards blowing bubbles)- in this case – of the contrasting words (color vs. content and man vs. mankind) .

Today we are going to look at famous quotes.  Many of these quotes need to be placed in context.  Listen to the history lesson in these.  These are part of our cultural heritage and are woven into the memes of our nation.  You need to know them to be well learned.

Write out six quotes and underline the specific words and phrases that are being contrasted by antithesis.

If alliteration is used, circle the words that are being alliterated.

“We are caught in war, wanting peace.  We are torn by division, wanting unity.” (Richard Nixon)

“If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.” (John F. Kennedy

“Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more.” (Brutus in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar)

“I came to bury Caesar, not to praise him.” (Mark Antony in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar)

“I pass with relief from the tossing sea of Cause and Theory to the firm ground of Result and Fact.”  (Winston Churchhill)

“Extremism in the defense of liberty is not vice, moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” (Barry Goldwater)

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom; it was the age of foolishness…” (Charles Dickens opening to a Tale of Two Cities)

“Too black for heaven, and yet too white for hell.” (John Dryden’s The Hind and the Panther)

“To err is human, to forgive, divine.” (Alexander Pope’s An Essay in Criticism)

“Fair is foul, and foul is fair.” (The Weird Sisters in Shakespeare’s Macbeth)


1 Comment

Filed under 15 minute writing, American History, European History, Geography and World Studies, Letter Work, Writing

One response to “Antithesis – 15 minutes of writing

  1. Great post. I’ve been looking for something like this — a more detailed element to tie into the discussion on rhetoric. I’m finding the figures of pathos site also useful, but not as detailed.

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