Speech to the Virginia Convention Questions and Answers
by Patrick Henry

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Where is antithesis in Patrick Henry's speech to the Virginia Convention?

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There are two major elements of antithesis in Henry's speech (as reconstructed by Wirt): first, Henry presents an argument directed toward contradicting those of the other men who have spoken at the convention. While most argue optimistically about reconciliation with Britain, Henry argues that such a position is impossible. This sets up the second major element of antithesis: Henry's famous proclamation, "give me liberty or give me death."

Henry completely rejects the possibility of reconciliation with Britain. Thus, there are only two options left: success or failure in war against Britain. Because Henry sees the options as slavery (in submitting to Britain) or freedom (in successfully asserting independence), and because Henry refuses to accept this kind of "slavery," the only options left were liberty and death.

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Antithesis, broadly defined, means juxtaposing opposing ideas. Patrick Henry's speech is based on an either/or premise, which can be summed up in antithetical terms as fight or...

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