Guide to Literary Terms

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What is the definition of paradox?

The definition of paradox is a statement that appears to contradict itself yet contains some truth.

Paradox

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Last Updated on February 25, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 122

A statement that is self-contradictory, sometimes to the point of being absurd, but contains an element of truth nonetheless. There are also situational paradoxes, in which characters find themselves in a situation that seems impossible to reconcile (fex: a “catch-22”). In literature, paradoxes often reveal or point to a larger theme in the novel; consider the line “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others” from Animal Farm.

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Correct example:

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  • “I can resist anything but temptation.”
  • Oscar Wilde’s famous paradox highlights how we often think we can remain strong in the face of temptation but fail when put to the test.

Incorrect examples:

Homework Help

Latest answer posted November 17, 2009, 12:43 pm (UTC)

2 educator answers
  • “sweet sorrow”
  • “open secret”
  • Both of these are oxymorons, not paradoxes.


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