Elements of Eloquence Single Line Challenge, Chapter 3, Antithesis

middle-aged man seated on wooden chair in dark green interior
He isn’t remembered for writing, “It was a fairly decent time, on average.”

Let’s dig in to antithesis. As described by Mark Forsyth in his book Elements of Eloquence(the easy and enjoyable book we’ve taken as our guidebook for the Figures of Rhetoric Poetry Challenge) antithesis is a double statement in which a thing is stated, and then its reverse is stated. It’s sort of a pair of verbal bookends, bracketing the whole of some reality.

Here are a couple of examples he gives:

  1. In sickness and in health
  2. A time to be born and a time to die
  3. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

Obviously this can be used to different effects. Forsyth also goes into Oscar Wilde’s antitheses quite a bit. They often involved further development than the usual antithesis – some unexpected twist. He says it’s simple to imitate, but I haven’t found it so!

  1. Journalism is unreadable, and literature is not read.

Our turn!

Let’s show off our lines of prose or poetry, sober or humorous, involving antithesis. Post yours in the comment section below; I’ll get it started.

Chapter 2
Chapter 4


  1. To help myself get going, I’ve set myself the challenge to imitate the examples mentioned in the post above.

    Lost wedding vow: In abundance and in lack

    Lost Ecclesiastes: A time to make the bed, and a time to lie in it

    Lost Dickens: It was a time when the mind dwelt ever on illness and disease; it was a time when cures abounded and men spent half their treasure to prolong life.

    Lost Oscar Wilde: Every man is a boy at heart; and every woman a mother.


  2. These are hard to write. I’m reminded me of a quote by Martin Luther: “Let the wife make her husband glad to come home, and let him make her sorry to see him leave.” Antithesis?

    My attempt:
    A house is built of brick and wood; a home is built of people.

    Or, with Wildean cynicism: Love changes; people never do.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, they are hard a first!

      I think the Luther quotes counts, yes. In fact, it’s rather good. The “coming and leaving” are the opposites, and the “husband and wife” also function as such, in this context.

      I think your examples function as antithesis, as well, but it might be clearer if you rearranged the syntax.

      So for example, I might say the following: “A conversation is made of events. A story has a good ending, too.” That’s ok, but kind of soft.

      To make it snappier, I’d rearrange the syntax: “Tell me what happened, and that’s a conversation. Give it a twist ending, and that’s a story.”

      The language points up the opposition more that way.

      This goes back to that vital variation I’m always looking for. The subject of our thought doesn’t always need to be the subject of our sentence. Sometimes we want to save the real subject of our thought for the last word. Kind of like how your poem ends with the word “room.” (You know the one I mean!)

      “Love changes; people never do,” that lands pretty cleverly on the last clause. I can just hear a good Wildean actor saying it, especially with a good setup.

      “I’m afraid I’ve fallen out of love with you.”
      “You only fell in love with me yesterday!”
      “Yes, and she was in and out of love with me the day before.”
      “I’m sorry, boys. Sometimes love changes.”
      “Yes, love changes. Apparently people don’t!”

      It also made me think of another version: “People stop being in love. They don’t stop being people.”


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