Antithesis is a figure of speech in which contrasting ideas are put together to highlight the difference between them. Muhammed Ali, the famous boxer said he ‘floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee’. That means he is graceful but can punch very hard. The two contrasting images are ‘butterfly’ (something harmless and beautiful) and bee (something that can sting you).
Some quotes have become very famous because of the effect of the antithesis, for example:
“To be, or not to be, that is the question” (In the play, “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare, Hamlet questions our very existence. Being alive and being dead are being contrasted here.)
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” (In the novel, “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens, the author provides the setting for the events and conflicts of the novel. We see by this contrast that there were very good times as well as very bad times.)
“That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” (The astronaut, Neil Armstrong, made this comment about the first step taken on the moon’s surface.)