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How can we define and explain "dichotomy" in literature?

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betpanos | Student | (Level 3) eNoter

Posted April 13, 2012 at 6:43 PM via web

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How can we define and explain "dichotomy" in literature?

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Kristen Lentz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 13, 2012 at 7:04 PM (Answer #1)

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Dichotomy means a division into two opposing parts.  In literature, the author often uses dichotomy to create conflict.  Some common examples of dichotomy in literature include good/evil, soul/body, heaven/hell, real/imagined, love/hate.  Sometimes the dichotomy appears centered in one character, but often the author will use separate characters to represent the opposing sides. 

Here are some examples:

From Star Wars, Luke Skywalker/Darth Vader-- Both representing the dichotomy between the Jedi and the Dark Side.

Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde-- Here the dichotomy is centered in one character, representing good and evil.

The Hunger Games, The setting forms a dichotomy--the corrupt Capitol versus the honest, hard-working districts.


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loraaa | Student | (Level 2) Valedictorian

Posted April 13, 2012 at 8:54 PM (Answer #2)

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A dichotomy is the division of a proposition into two parts which are both mutually exclusive - i.e. both cannot be simultaneously true - and jointly exhaustive - i.e. they cover the full range of possible outcomes. They are often contrasting and spoken of as "opposites". The term comes from dichotomos (divided): dich- ([in] two) temnein (to cut).

from Webster's Online Dictionary

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