Craig White's Literature Courses

Terms / Themes


OED A grammatical figure by which the order of words in one of two parallel clauses is inverted in the other. In rhetoric, a verbal pattern (a type of antithesis) in which the second half of an expression is balanced against the first with the parts reversed. Essentially the same as antimetabole. Adjective: chiastic.

Examples from


President John Kennedy, Inaugural Address 1961

  • "Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country."

  • "Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate."

Frederick Douglass, "An Appeal to Congress for Impartial Suffrage":

  • "If black men have no rights in the eyes of the white men, of course the whites can have none in the eyes of the blacks."

Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass 4.5

  • "[Mr. Gore's]words were in perfect keeping with his looks, and his looks were in perfect keeping with his words."

Shakespeare, Macbeth I.i

  • Fair is foul, and foul is fair."

Cormac McCarthy, The Road, 2006:

  • "You forget what you want to remember, and you remember what you want to forget."

David Foster Wallace:

  • I had a teacher I liked who used to say good fiction's job was to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable."

Samuel Johnson:

  • "Your manuscript is both good and original; but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good."

Bill Clinton, August 2008:

  • "People the world over have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power."


Examples from popular speech:

"Winners never quit, and quitters never win."

“Never let a Fool Kiss You or a Kiss Fool You.”

"I don't entertain other people's ideas. Their ideas entertain me."

"You can take the girl out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the girl."



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