I'm struggling with how to present an antithesis in a setting.

I understand the definition:


1.a person or thing that is the direct opposite of someone or something else:

"love is the antithesis of selfishness"

synonyms: (direct) opposite · converse · reverse · reversal · inverse · obverse · [more]

•a contrast or opposition between two things:

"the antithesis between occult and rational mentalities"

synonyms: contrast · opposition

•a rhetorical or literary device in which an opposition or contrast of ideas is expressed.

"figures of speech such as antithesis" · [more]

2.(in Hegelian philosophy) the negation of the thesis as the second stage in the process of dialectical reasoning. Compare with synthesis.

But not how one is used or portrayed, particularly in creative or formal writing?

  • So what part of that are you struggling with? Or are you looking for literary examples?
    – user18397
    Oct 9, 2017 at 21:57
  • Examples would be blissful, yes. I know the definition, but I'm not so sure how it's used. Oct 9, 2017 at 21:59
  • 2
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is not specific to the craft of writing.
    – user16226
    Oct 9, 2017 at 22:26
  • 1
    I think it's salvageable, particularly if it was edited to focus on how one can be portrayed
    – user18397
    Oct 9, 2017 at 22:45
  • 1
    This is a homework question, and while homework questions are not automatically off topic, there are guidelines that I don't think this question meets in its current form. (See stackoverflow.com/help/on-topic and meta.stackexchange.com/questions/18242/…) "Questions asking for homework help must include a summary of the work you've done so far to solve the problem, and a description of the difficulty you are having solving it." I don't think this question is there yet.
    – user16226
    Oct 10, 2017 at 22:35

2 Answers 2


Presenting an antithesis well, in a story, can be difficult.

Most people tend to think in terms of protagonist and antagonist, or even two opposing forces. While this is correct to a certain degree, it's not what an antithesis, in a literary work, is. You need to think bigger. Make it grand.

The antagonist can often be a dark mirror of the protagonist, like a reversed image - seemingly opposite but disturbingly similar. An antithesis, on the other hand, is more than that. And there's nothing stopping the antagonist being a servant of the antithesis.

The first examples that spring to mind, for me, are Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series and Raymond E Feists Midkemia saga.

The story, at the heart of it, is one of Light vs Dark. The Light represents creation, life, death and everything in between. The Dark is the absence of all that. It isn't death and destruction (although they are the tools it uses), but the complete and utter removal of everything the light created. The struggle and story are played out through the intermediaries that are the main characters - both protagonists and antagonists, but the true antithesis in the story is the Dark Lord.

Same goes with the Midkemia saga. Despite the epic cast, the ultimate adversary in the stories is The Void/ The Dread. The true antithesis of everything - it doesn't kill so much as obliterate all life.

And this is where it works best, a matter of looking at the Big Picture - the sheer scale behind the story. As Mark said in his answer, it's about contrast. Not Life and Death, but Life and the Complete Absence of Everything. Good and Evil. Chaos and Order. Night and Day etc.


The first principle of highlighting anything in any work of art is contrast. If you want a white dot to stand out, you put it on a black wall. If you want a high note to stand out, contrast it with a low one. If you want a character to appear more saintly, compare their conduct to that of a sinner.

Antithesis is simply maximum contrast. Instead of light grey and dark grey, it is black and white. Instead of naughty or nice, it is angel and devil.

Stories ultimately revolve around choices, and particularly around great choices that are made at significant cost. The impact of the choice can be heightened by making it a choice between one value and its antithesis. This is a choice without compromise.

The problem with such extreme contrast, though, it that it seldom occurs in nature. Most choices are not between unalloyed good and unalloyed evil, and even where such choices exist, they are not the most interesting choices. Employing such an extreme level of contrast, therefore, is a very powerful tool that has to be use sparingly in order to be effective.

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