Antitheton (an-tith’-e-ton): A proof or composition constructed of contraries. Antitheton is closely related to and sometimes confused with the figure of speech that juxtaposes opposing terms, antithesis. However, it is more properly considered a figure of thought (=Topic of Invention: Contraries [a topic of invention in which one considers opposite or incompatible things that are of the same kind (if they are of different kinds, the topic of similarity / difference is more appropriate). Because contraries occur in pairs and exclude one another, they are useful in arguments because one can establish one’s case indirectly, proving one’s own assertion by discrediting the contrary]).

I didn’t know where I was going until I met you Eddy. Now I know I’m going to hell. I was good. You were bad. Now, we’re both bad. I feel like a duck out of water. A bird without wings. A dump truck that can’t dump. I don’t know if I can go back to being “Big Nice John”—what my friends used to call me. Now they call me “Big Rotten John” and look the other way when they see me on the street. The “rotten” will never go away, the “nice” will never return. But maybe if I can think of a way to redeem myself, I can push “rotten” away and pull back “nice” across my soul like a blanket of goodness, giving me peace. If only I hadn’t forgotten to feed my little brother’s fish for two weeks when he went to camp. Everybody thinks I did it on purpose, Eddy, because you told me to and I did your bidding like some kind of wind-up robot. You know I didn’t and you won’t say so because you want to look like you’re in control of me. For the 5-millionth time, I forgot to Fred them, and you know it!

Now, I am buying new fish to replace the dead ones. Swimming around in the aquarium they will erase my brother’s traumatic memory of seeing his starved fish floating belly up. The smell was surely memorable too. I cleaned the aquarium and filled it with clean tap water and dumped in the fish. The Blennies were ugly. The Clownfish were striking. The Pipefish were crazy. It was a pretty good collection of fish. I went to my room to wait for my brother to come home.

When he got home he went into his room. I expected a big “wow!” Instead, he screamed “You rotten bastard! You are so cruel. You should be shot!” He ran down stairs. I went into his room and all the fish were dead. I picked the pamphlet up off the floor “Caring for Your Salt Water Fish.” I hadn’t read it. It looked like I had struck another death blow when I filled the aquarium with tap water. I went downstairs to beg my brother’s forgiveness. “Hands up!” he yelled. Somehow he had found Dad’s .45 and was aiming it at me. “It was an accident! Please believe me. I would never murder your fish on purpose. I bought those fish for you. I didn’t read the instructions for setting up the tank. That was stupid. I am stupid. Please forgive me.” My brother believed I had set him up with the dead fish, like the horse’s head in the bed in Godfather. When I heard that, I got on my knees and begged him not to kill me. At that moment, Mom came home from the grocery store. She yelled at my brother: “Drop the gun you idiot!” My brother immediately dropped the gun. My mother picked it up off the floor and aimed it at my brother and yelled: “Go to your room, or I’ll shoot!” Mt brother ran up the stairs. I told my mother what had happened and she told me she was surprised I wasn’t dead on the floor when she got home. She told me I had to do my brother’s laundry and clean his room once a week for 2 months. I started to complain and she aimed the gun at me and told me to shut up. She told me to invite Eddy over for a good old pistol whipping—to jog his memory about my first fish kill. Mom’s maiden name was Gambino. She knew how to handle bullshit.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (

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