Antithesis Definition and Meaning

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Updated: Oct 23, 2020
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Antithesis Definition and Meaning essay

Antithesis: two opposite ideas are put together in a sentence to achieve a contrasting effect Example: “The earth seemed unearthly. We are accustomed to look upon the shackled form of a conquered monster, but there— there you could look at a thing monstrous and free. It was unearthly” (36) Conrad, Heart of Darkness Function Context: After Marlow’s ship is repaired, he and the Manager along with a few pilgrims and cannibals travel up the river to find Kurtz. Marlow describes his journey through the dense dark jungle as long and arduous, for it was like entering a prehistoric land untouched by human activity.

On the few occasions when they see the natives, Marlow cannot understand their unusual gestures and sounds. He voices his inability to feel complete in the unfamiliar environment and its strangeness to him. Concept: As Marlow observes the details of his surroundings he uses an antithesis to comment on his inability to understand a world untouched by European civilization. He attempts to gain a sense of belonging to the jungle, but to him, the “earth seemed unearthly” (36). Since Marlow comes from England, a developed country, seeing the landscape untouched by human activity is completely foreign to him. Marlow observes this mental paradox because his interpretation of land is confronted with a reality that goes against his conditioned mindset of an environment permeated by civilization. By using an antithesis, Marlow reveals his feelings of alienation because of the disconnect with both the power and money hungry white businessmen and the world of adventure he seeks. Connection: When people seek adventure, power and wealth, they may become isolated in their efforts in trying adjust to place where they do not belong; thus they become miserable. Seeking adventure, Marlow traverses the African jungle only to find that it “was unearthly”, and he feels small and insignificant (36). Marlow, feeling detached and lost in his new environment, senses that white men, from their refined city life, do not belong in the unpredictable wild.

This feeling in alienation reveals the emotional consequences colonizers experience when they try to occupy a place where they are not meant to be. Kurtz, lustful for wealth and power, has created an arrangement for himself where “everything belonged to him”, making him the most secluded character (49). Despite the power that he has acquired, Kurtz suffers as a solitary figure, for his position as a godlike figure to the natives forces him to distance himself. The effects of his separation from social interaction has made the inner evil within him consume his entirety. Through Marlow’s feelings of isolation and Kurtz’s demise, Conrad demonstrates that selfish desires lead to isolation and ultimately destroys a person.


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Antithesis Definition and Meaning. (2020, Oct 23). Retrieved from