Definition of Paradox

A paradox is a statement that appears at first to be contradictory, but upon reflection then makes sense. This literary device is commonly used to engage a reader to discover an underlying logic in a seemingly self-contradictory statement or phrase . As a result, paradox allows readers to understand concepts in a different and even non-traditional way.

Common Examples of Paradox

Examples of paradox in movies, famous examples of paradox, difference between paradox and oxymoron, writing paradox, set up conflict, create irony, difference between antithesis and paradox, difference between literary paradox and logical paradox, use of paradox in sentences, examples of paradox in literature, example 1:  catch-22  (joseph heller).

There was only one catch and that was Catch-22 , which specified that a concern for one’s safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask ; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.

Example 2:  Hamlet (William Shakespeare)

I must be cruel only to be kind; Thus bad begins, and worse remains behind.

Example 3:  As I Lay Dying (William Faulkner)

I could just remember how my father used to say that the reason for living was to get ready to stay dead a long time.

Synonyms of Paradox

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Encyclopedia Britannica

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George Orwell

paradox , apparently self-contradictory statement, the underlying meaning of which is revealed only by careful scrutiny. The purpose of a paradox is to arrest attention and provoke fresh thought. The statement “Less is more” is an example. Francis Bacon ’s saying, “The most corrected copies are commonly the least correct,” is an earlier literary example. In George Orwell ’s anti-utopian satire Animal Farm (1945), the first commandment of the animals’ commune is revised into a witty paradox: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” Paradox has a function in poetry , however, that goes beyond mere wit or attention-getting. Modern critics view it as a device, integral to poetic language , encompassing the tensions of error and truth simultaneously, not necessarily by startling juxtapositions but by subtle and continuous qualifications of the ordinary meaning of words.

When a paradox is compressed into two words as in “loud silence,” “lonely crowd,” or “living death,” it is called an oxymoron .


Origin of paradox, other words from paradox, words nearby paradox, words related to paradox, how to use paradox in a sentence.

The only paradox is that till 35 years ago, this view of the indigenous plant and its psychotropic by-products was not viewed as a crime.

So there’s another paradox there, which is that language maintains as well as creates.

The modern resolution to the paradox contains some subtleties, but it does indeed mostly come down to the fact that we do not live in an endless and unchanging universe.

You might think you could just posit some extra axiom, use it to prove G, and resolve the paradox .

My mother taught me that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, and this paradox has been useful while dealing with both high school and workplace politics.

But I feel like films are uniquely suited towards addressing paradox , recursiveness, and worlds-within-worlds.

To appreciate the Palmer paradox , it's important to understand that Palmer's childhood and young adulthood were dichotomous.

“Maybe we need a new category other than theism, atheism or agnosticism that takes paradox and unknowing into account,” he writes.

But Washington was a prisoner to its paradox of an Iraq policy.

As a result of this paradox , the Iraq policy process ground to a halt at the very moment that ISIS was on the rise.

It offers, to those who see it aright, the most perplexing industrial paradox ever presented in the history of mankind.

But in reality this paradox of value is the most fundamental proposition in economic science.

It was the spiritual way, whose method and secret lie in that subtle paradox : Yield to conquer.

But it was a strange paradox , that precisely the depth of his love for her made him willing to think of losing her.

But this very paradox leads to the real principle of generalization concerning the properties of numbers.

British Dictionary definitions for paradox

Derived forms of paradox, word origin for paradox, cultural definitions for paradox.

A statement that seems contradictory or absurd but is actually valid or true. According to one proverbial paradox, we must sometimes be cruel in order to be kind. Another form of paradox is a statement that truly is contradictory and yet follows logically from other statements that do not seem open to objection. If someone says, “I am lying,” for example, and we assume that his statement is true, it must be false. The paradox is that the statement “I am lying” is false if it is true.

Grammar Guide

What Is a Paradox? Definition and Examples

Krystal N. Craiker

Krystal N. Craiker

Blog Manager and Indie Author

What is a paradox?

"Save money by spending money."

Wait. What does that mean? How can that possibly be true? That advice seems contradictory but may make sense.

This sentence is an example of a paradox—a statement or argument that seems to contradict itself but can in fact be true.

This is a paradox

There are logical paradoxes and literary paradoxes. In literature, paradoxes are a powerful literary device . But what are they? And why are they so valuable to readers?

In this article, we give you a solid paradox definition alongside plenty of examples so you can fully understand this rhetorical device.

What Is an Easy Definition of a Paradox?

What is a paradox, what is a logical paradox, what is a paradox in literature.

If you’re already feeling like you’ve just stumbled into a philosophy class, have no fear. The easiest way to understand paradox is through examples, which we’ll cover in great detail in subsequent sections.

But if you need an easy paradox definition, here’s what you need to know.

A paradox is a statement or idea that contradicts itself.

With that simple definition in mind, you’ll be able to grasp the concept of paradox in no time.

A paradox has different definitions depending on where it’s being used—that’s where it starts getting complicated. These definitions can be tricky, but we’ll try to simplify things for you.

In short, a paradox is a self-contradictory statement or argument.

Sometimes, a paradox seems to contradict itself but it can in fact be true. A paradox defies logic and runs counter to one’s expectations.

A paradox presents conflicting ideas and relates them in a way that forces you to wonder if it’s true or not.

In many cases, a paradox is neither decidedly true nor false and results in circular reasoning.

Definition of a paradox

The word origin of paradox comes from the Latin paradoxum , which in turn came from the Greek paradoxos . It’s a combination of the ancient Greek words para and dokein .

Para- is a prefix that means "beyond," while dokein is a verb that means "to think."

Combined, paradoxos , or paradox, means "beyond thinking." A paradox is an idea that forces you to ponder beyond the normal, expected limits of your thinking.

Origin of the word paradox

Some paradoxes might sound false at first but have some semblance of truth. For example, you might say, "doing nothing is exhausting."

If you’re doing nothing, you’re exerting no energy, so how can it be exhausting? But think about a day where you just sit and do nothing.

Or imagine a time you’ve been on a trip, and you’re just sitting in a car or a train with nothing to do. At the end of those days, you’re likely more tired than you would be if you’d been busy.

Those are some basic examples of the concept of paradoxes.

But paradoxes can get infinitely more complicated, particularly because paradoxes are used or defined differently depending on who is using them.

Within the fields of logic and rhetoric , paradoxes represent perplexing arguments. Paradoxes in science and mathematics have challenged principles that were accepted as true.

In literature, paradoxes juxtapose two ideas that seem incongruous in order to provide emphasis or deep insight. We’ll get into some examples of these later.

What is a logical paradox?

Many people are most familiar with the concept of logical paradoxes .

A logical paradox is a statement that is so self-contradictory that it cannot be true or false . In other words, if the statement is true, it’s false, but if it’s false, it’s true.

Is that making your head spin? Good! That’s the purpose of logical paradoxes. They force us to expand our critical thinking and reasoning skills .

Have you heard the age-old question: "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" This statement is an example of a logical paradox. It is logically unsolvable, theories of evolution aside.

A chicken is born from an egg, so it stands to reason that an egg would come first. However, the egg is laid by a chicken, so the chicken would need to come first.

That’s a classic example of a logical paradox. Let’s take a look at some examples of logical paradoxes.

What Are Some Examples of a Logical Paradox?

Logical paradox examples

It’s important to have a good grasp of a logical paradox in order to understand how literary paradoxes work.

Before we move onto the literary device of paradox, here are more examples of logical paradoxes .

"All I know is that I know nothing."

This quote is attributed to Socrates, and poses an interesting paradox. If he knows nothing, then he cannot know that he knows nothing.

"Everything I say is a lie."

Am I telling the truth by saying everything I say is a lie? Or am I lying by saying this? This strange paradox is unsolvable.

"Is the answer to this question 'no'?"

This question is unanswerable. If we answer the question "no," then the correct answer would be yes. But if we answer "yes," the correct answer would be no. There is no correct way to answer this paradox.

Now that we’ve got a solid understanding of logical paradoxes, let’s learn what a literary paradox is.

What is a literary paradox?

Paradoxes are often used in literature as a poignant device.

A literary paradox is a statement that appears to contradict itself, but upon further rumination, either reveals a deeper meaning or actually makes sense.

Literary paradoxes are often used to illustrate something profound. Authors choose to juxtapose two contradictory ideas in a way that is insightful.

A literary paradox is often related to the overall theme or message of a story and is used to emphasize the story’s deeper meaning.

Paradoxes are tricky to get right. But when an author successfully uses a literary paradox, they are exceptionally poignant.

A paradox is not the only literary device that relies on two conflicting ideas. Paradox is often confused with the rhetorical devices oxymoron , antithesis , and irony .

These literary terms, however, have very distinct meanings and uses.

What Are Some Examples of Paradox in Literature?

The first rule of fight club

While paradoxes are tricky to use, lots of authors have given it a try. Both logical paradoxes and literary paradoxes appear often in literature. Let's look at some classic examples.

"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."

This quote is a tenet created by the pigs in George Orwell’s Animal Farm. This statement is a paradox because something cannot be more equal than another.

That goes against the very definition of equal. Even if something could be considered "more equal," the two parts of the sentence contradict each other, creating another layer of the paradox.

The premise of the book itself is paradoxical. The animals want equal rights to the humans, but in their quest for equality, the animals end up in a totalitarian regime that relies on class differences. The apparent paradox of the story is summed up by the quote.

"The first rule about fight club is you don’t talk about fight club."

Before it was a movie with Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, Fight Club was a novel by Chuck Palahniuk.

This is a logical paradox because in order to tell the rules of fight club, you must talk about fight club.

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The story contains several larger, thematic literary paradoxes as well. For example, the narrator's key aim is to stop himself from committing an act of terrorism and killing himself, but the main barrier to him doing this is himself.

"I must be cruel only to be kind."

Shakespeare used paradox frequently in his plays. This quote from Hamlet is a literary paradox because Hamlet believes he must murder his uncle to avenge his father and free his mother.

He believes the murder is an act of mercy for his mother, although murder is not generally accepted as an act of kindness.

"To be natural is such a very difficult pose to keep up. "

Oscar Wilde was a master of paradox. This quote is from The Importance of Being Earnest.

Acting natural is supposed to be natural, but it’s not natural if you’re having to act it.

This has even greater relevance today with reality TV stars and social media influencers, who often pretend to appear real and natural.

"I’m Nobody! Who are you? Are you—Nobody—too?"

In this poem, Emily Dickinson uses a paradox to explore the concept of identity. By being someone, they cannot be nobody, even though they say they are nobody.

"Death, thou shalt die."

In this Holy Sonnet by John Donne, the poet uses an apparent paradox. Death is not a thing that can literally die, but Donne explores the idea of everlasting life after death.

In this interpretation of the Christian afterlife, the concept of death ceases to exist in heaven.

"'Take some more tea,' the March hare said to Alice, very earnestly.

'I've had nothing yet,' Alice replied in an offended tone, 'so I can’t take more.'

'You mean you can’t take less,' said the Hatter. 'It’s very easy to take more than nothing.'"

Lewis Carroll uses paradoxes throughout Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. This paradox from the Mad Hatter sounds nonsensical.

How can one take more than nothing? But he is right: if nothing is zero, than anything higher is more. Paradoxes feature heavily in mathematical theory, and Carroll was a mathematician.

"A child asked, 'Can God do everything?' On receiving an affirmative reply, she at once said: 'Then can He make a stone so heavy that He can’t lift it?'"

This is a common example of a paradox used in theological debates. It appears in Henry Dudeney’s The Canterbury Puzzles.

This paradox poses the idea that if God is omnipotent, then he can create a stone so heavy he can’t lift it.

If he can create this stone but not lift it, he is not all-powerful. If he can’t create this stone, he can’t do everything.

"The earth that’s nature’s mother is her tomb;

What is her burying grave, that is her womb..."

This excerpt is another Shakespeare example, this time from Romeo and Juliet.

This paradox is about earth being both a life-giving womb and a tomb. It creates a circular argument that sounds contradictory but is not untrue.

Here are a few other examples of literary paradox that aren’t as easy to sum up in a quote.

The Odyssey

In The Odyssey, Odysseus tells the Cyclops that he is Nobody.

When Odysseus attacks him, the Cyclops says that Nobody is hurting him. This situation is a paradox because obviously someone is hurting him.

Joseph Heller uses paradox throughout his novel Catch-22]. A major paradox is that Yossarian claims to be crazy to get out of fighting in the war.

However, a crazy person would not be sane enough to claim to be crazy for this reason, so he reveals himself as sane and does not get out of duty.

The Grandfather Paradox

Finally, the grandfather paradox often appears in literature and media that deals with time travel.

The idea is that if you travel back in time to kill your grandfather, you will never exist and therefore will not be able to travel back to the future.

How Do You Prevent a Literary Paradox from Confusing Your Reader?

A paradox doesn’t have to confuse your reader if you set it up correctly.

Tie the central idea in your paradox to your story’s main theme. This will allow the reader to already be thinking about the central idea of your paradox before you overtly mention it, like in the Animal Farm example earlier.

If you can get the pacing and structure right, paradoxes and complex elements will seamlessly blend with your main storyline. If you have to spend pages explaining a paradox or why it is there, it’s probably not worth including.

ProWritingAid’s Pacing report highlights slow moving sections of your novel to help you balance action with exposition . When you introduce your paradox, make sure to surround it with some action or dialogue to keep things moving for your reader.

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How Do Paradoxes Differ from Other Literary Devices ?

Wondering how a paradox is similar to or different from other writing techniques like oxymoron? Let’s explore.

What Is the Difference Between an Oxymoron and a Paradox ?

A literary paradox is the juxtaposition of ideas. It can be made up of whole phrases and sentences, or even larger elements of a story.

An oxynmoron versus a paradox

An oxymoron is a figure of speech made up of two contradictory words. It does not result in the same circular reasoning as a paradox. Here are some examples of oxymoron:

Oxymorons aren’t inherently true or untrue. They create a new meaning altogether.

What Is the Difference Between an Antithesis and a Paradox?

The literary device antithesis also uses two opposing ideas.

However, while a paradox is more about using logic and reasoning to illustrate an idea, an antithesis is about using sentence structure to illustrate a point.

An antithesis versus a paradox

Antithesis takes two unrelated or opposing ideas, then uses parallel sentence structure to connect them. It's a common rhetorical device used in speeches.

Here are some examples of antithesis:

Antithesis doesn’t create a debate of truth in the same way a paradox does. It’s mostly used to create a catchy, memorable phrase to emphasize a point.

What Is the Difference Between Irony and Paradox?

Irony is another literary device that is often confused with a paradox. Irony does involve conflicting words, phrases, or ideas, but it is not self-contradictory in the same way as a paradox.

Irony versus a paradox

Irony uses contradiction to subvert what is expected in a story. The contradiction serves to show a difference between what the reader expects versus what is actually occurring in the story.

There are three types of irony.

1) Dramatic irony is when the audience is aware of a situation but the characters are not.

2) Verbal irony is when something is said that does not match the situation. For example, you might say, "I hope we can find a seat" when you walk into an empty venue.

3) Situational irony is when a situation is unexpected, like a fire station catching fire or a tow truck breaking down and needing to be towed.

None of the three types of irony are the same as paradox because they are not necessarily self-contradictory.

What Exactly Is a Paradox?

Paradoxes are a powerful device that force you to think deeply about a statement or argument.

Used in different disciplines, paradoxes create opportunities for engaging in philosophical debate.

Can you think of any other examples of paradox we should add to this article?

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Krystal N. Craiker is the Writing Pirate, an indie romance author and blog manager at ProWritingAid. She sails the seven internet seas, breaking tropes and bending genres. She has a background in anthropology and education, which brings fresh perspectives to her romance novels. When she’s not daydreaming about her next book or article, you can find her cooking gourmet gluten-free cuisine, laughing at memes, and playing board games. Krystal lives in Dallas, Texas with her husband, child, and basset hound. Check out her website or follow her on Instagram: @krystalncraikerauthor.

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What is a Paradox in Literature? Definition, Examples of Literary Paradox

Paradox is the expression of an idea that is contrary to expectations or existing beliefs. Paradoxes create deep and significant value for certain ideas which are not always immediately apparent but once revealed, provides great insight in to a particular character, subject, or idea.

What is Paradox?

Paradox is essentially a statement that is both true and untrue at the same time. A paradox has the characteristic of appearing to be believable but upon further reflection is actually a contradiction of ideas. This serves the purpose of revealing deep and hidden truths about a subject.

For example:

Paradox can also present as obviously self-contradictory which creates a more humorous effect. In this way, paradox is a popular tool in humor genres such as comedy plays.

Humorous examples include:

Difference Between Paradox and Oxymoron

Paradox vs. Oxymoron: A similar concept to paradox is that of the oxymoron. While both terms are concerned with using contradictions in order to achieve dramatic effect, an oxymoron deals more with the contradictions of two specific opposing words.

Paradox, on the other hand, is a general contradiction to the truth that can involve several groups of sentences in order to get the idea of contradictions across.

Additionally, paradox tends to be a more abstract presentation of ideas that are unlikely to exist together. Oxymoron is a direct figure of speech that can serve to reveal a paradox, so in this way you might consider an oxymoron to be a potential building block for the overall expression of a paradox.

The Importance of Paradox

Part of why paradox is such a useful literary tool is because it invites the readers to be actively engaged in using logic and working to find hidden meaning in a story. This makes the process of reading much more pleasurable than if all the important information was just revealed without the reader needing to do any mental work. This kind of reading is far less engaging and can come off as dull. Ultimately, paradox invites the readers to use their wit in order to discover hidden ideas or meanings. The result provides a pleasure response for the brain of the reader.

Paradox can be used across genres and works well in prose, poetry, and drama. Paradox is useful for conveying irony and helps to guide readers to make assumptions that assist in moving the plot forward in an engaging manner. Paradox is useful when an author wants to invite the reader to think deeper about a particular subject. This is useful in poetry, especially, as many poems rely on the reader making inferences in order to really pack a punch.

Paradox Examples in Literature

In George Orwell’s Animal Farm , paradox is seen in one of the golden rules of the farm’s new society. In this instance, the statement does not make sense because of the direct and obvious contradiction of the ideas. However, upon closer inspection, it is apparent that this is a society that does not treat everyone as equals and never intended to, giving certain individuals the right to more power and influence.

In the play Hamlet by William Shakespeare , a paradox comes to be when Hamlet decides to kill Claudius in order to avenge his father’s death. However, he realizes that in order for him to do this and be an honorable son, he will break his mother’s heart because she is married to Claudius. At the same time, he cannot bear the thought of his mother being married to his father’s killer and he believes that killing Claudius will also free his mother. Hamlet remarks:

Recap: What is Paradox in Literature?

Paradox involves the expression of contradictory ideas which challenge what is already known or expected to be true. Paradox can be considered to be a statement that is both true and untrue at the same time, depending on how you look at it.

Literary Devices

Literary devices, terms, and elements, var cid='2639408223';var pid='ca-pub-3251641771602819';var slotid='div-gpt-ad-literarydevices_com-box-2-0';var ffid=1;var als=1001%1000;var container=document.getelementbyid(slotid);'100%';var ins=document.createelement('ins');'-asloaded';ins.classname='adsbygoogle ezasloaded';ins.dataset.adclient=pid;ins.dataset.adchannel=cid;if(ffid==2){ins.dataset.fullwidthresponsive='true';}'block';'px';'100%';'px';container.appendchild(ins);(adsbygoogle=window.adsbygoogle||[]).push({});window.ezostpixeladd(slotid,'stat_source_id',44);window.ezostpixeladd(slotid,'adsensetype',1);var lo=new mutationobserver(window.ezaslevent);lo.observe(document.getelementbyid(slotid+'-asloaded'),{attributes:true}); paradox, definition of paradox, common examples of paradox, significance of paradox in literature, examples of paradox in literature.

Before anyone crosses this bridge, he must first state on oath where he is going and for what purpose. If he swears truly, he may be allowed to pass; but if he tells a lie, he shall suffer death by hanging on the gallows there displayed, without any hope of mercy…Now it happened that they once put a man on his oath, and he swore that he was going to die on the gallows there—and that was all. After due deliberation the judges pronounced as follows: “If we let this man pass freely he will have sworn a false oath and, according to the law, he must die; but he swore that he was going to die on the gallows, and if we hang him that will be the truth, so by the same law he should go free.” if(typeof ez_ad_units!='undefined'){ez_ad_units.push([[336,280],'literarydevices_com-medrectangle-4','ezslot_6',340,'0','0'])};__ez_fad_position('div-gpt-ad-literarydevices_com-medrectangle-4-0');
JULIET: My only love sprung from my only hate! Too early seen unknown, and known too late! Prodigious birth of love it is to me, That I must love a loathèd enemy.
CECILY: To be natural is such a very difficult pose to keep up.

Oscar Wilde incorporated many paradox examples in his works especially for comedic effect. In this example from his play The Importance of Being Earnest , the character Cecily complains about the difficulty of keeping up the “pose” of naturalness. Of course, posing is antithetical to being natural. However, the inner truth of this statement is that being natural is sometimes a state that we have to pretend at in that it doesn’t always come easily.

There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.
In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality was tacitly denied by their philosophy.

( 1984 by George Orwell)

Test Your Knowledge of Paradox

I. What is a Paradox?

A paradox is a statement that contradicts itself, or that must be both true and untrue at the same time. Paradoxes are quirks in logic that demonstrate how our thinking sometimes goes haywire, even when we use perfectly logical reasoning to get there.

But a key part of paradoxes is that they at least sound reasonable. They’re not obvious nonsense, and it’s only upon consideration that we realize their self-defeating logic.

For example:

This statement is a lie.

This is the most famous of all logical paradoxes, because it’s so simple. These five simple words are self-contradictory: if the statement is true, then it’s a lie, which means it’s not true. But if it’s not true, then it’s a lie, which makes it true. Yikes!

In literary analysis, “paradox” can sometimes have a looser meaning: a person or situation that contains contradictions. For example, a character who is both charming and rude might be referred to as a “paradox” even though in the strict logical sense , there’s nothing self-contradictory about a single person combining disparate personality traits.

We’ll distinguish these two definitions by calling the strict definition “ logical paradox ,” and the loose definition “ literary paradox .”

II. Examples of Paradox

Nobody goes to Murphy’s Bar anymore — it’s too crowded .

If the bar is crowded, then lots of people are going. But if so many people are going, it makes no sense to say “nobody goes” there anymore. (It’s possible, though , that this paradox can be escaped by suggesting that by “nobody” the speaker just means “none of our friends.”)

A time traveler goes back in time and murders his own great-grandfather.

Time-travel paradoxes are very common in popular culture. In this classic example, the time traveler murders his own great-grandfather, meaning that the time traveler cannot exist. But if he does not exist, then there’s no one to kill the great-grandfather, and thus he must exist. Logical paradoxes of this sort are one of the many reasons why time travel is such a difficult proposition for science.

III. The Importance of Paradox

Logical paradoxes have been used for centuries to demonstrate the fallibility of human logic. although logic is a valuable tool, it sometimes breaks down, as in the example of “this statement is a lie.” Philosophers and mystics often use paradoxes to prove that human beings have to approach their world using intuition as well as logic. The literary paradox, on the other hand, may help “art imitate life.” The world around us is full of contradictions, especially when it comes to people’s behavior and personality. So when a character combines disparate elements, it seems very lifelike and three-dimensional. Most people are paradoxes in one way or another, so a main character who wasn’t somehow paradoxical could seem stilted or dull! Such paradoxes can also lend mystery to a story, which helps to make it more compelling.

IV. Examples of Paradox in Literature

Example 1: literary paradox.

I must be cruel only to be kind (Hamlet III.IV.181)

This is a nice literary paradox, but not a logical one. Cruel and kind are apparent contradictions, but of course it’s perfectly logical to say that one must be cruel (in some minor way) in order to be kind (in some other, more important way). There’s no logical contradiction, and therefore no logical paradox. The character Hamlet, however, combines disparate attributes of kindness and cruelty, so his personality is loosely paradoxical.

Example 2: Logical Paradox

A Chinese folk tale tells of a blacksmith who created the best armor and weapons in the world. He once created a spear that could pierce any object. He then created a shield that could deflect any attack. When a young boy asked him what would happen if he tried to pierce the shield with the spear, the blacksmith realized he could not answer. Because of this story, the Chinese character for “paradox” is a spear next to a shield.

Example 3: Logical Paradox

Zeno’s paradox, one of the oldest paradoxes that we know of, states:

A man approaches a wall 10 feet away. To get there, he must first go half the distance (5 feet), then half the remaining distance (2.5 feet), half the remaining distance (1.25 feet) and so on. Therefore in order to reach the wall he must complete an infinite number of actions , which is impossible , before he can reach the wall. Therefore it is impossible to reach the wall.

Of course, we know from experience that it’s quite easy to walk twenty feet and touch a wall — but the logic shows this to be impossible!

Although this was considered a difficult paradox by the ancient Greeks, most philosophers today believe that it can be escaped because the “infinite number of actions” theory is invalid. (In other words, the underlined portion is not a logically valid step, and therefore there is no genuine logical paradox, but rather a simple logical error .)

V. Examples of  Paradox  in Pop Culture

Example 1: logical paradox.

In an episode of Futurama , Fry (one of the main characters) travels back in time to the 1940s, where he comes face-to-face with his own grandfather, Enos. He knows that if he kills him, it will create a logical paradox that may destroy the universe, but Fry’s clumsy efforts to protect Enos from harm put the pair in greater and greater danger. Finally Fry accidentally causes Enos to be destroyed by a nuclear test. (This logical paradox is resolved, however, because it turns out that Enos was not actually Fry’s grandfather to begin with.)

Example 2: Literary Paradox

In the television show House , the main character is a rude, narcissistic, and abrasive man who constantly alienates those around him. However, he is a brilliant doctor and deeply committed to saving his patients’ lives. Thus, he combines a gruff, mean exterior with a deep sense of compassion and morality.

Example 3:  Literary Paradox:

I close my eyes so I can see (Fugazi, Shut the Door )

In the lyrics to Fugazi’s song Shut the Door , there’s an apparent contradiction between closing eyes and seeing. However, this is merely a literary paradox (or an oxymoron, since it employs a double entendre). Clearly, the word “see” isn’t being used literally in this case, but rather figuratively – closing one’s eyes to the outside world allows one to “see” internal truths.

VI. Related terms

(Terms: self-fulfilling prophecy, dilemma, irony,  oxymoron and juxtaposition)

Because time-travel paradoxes are so common in popular culture, we often confuse them with self-fulfilling prophecies . The basic difference is which direction you’re traveling. Because  the future does not have logical consequences (it’s considered “open”), only traveling back in time can produce a paradox . However, traveling or looking forward in time can produce a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy :

A scientist peers into the future and sees a terrible apocalypse. When he returns, he tries to warn humanity, but everyone laughs at him and in his anger he turns on them with his machines, thus causing the very destruction that he witnessed in the future.

No part of this story contradicts or makes itself impossible, so it’s not a paradox.

Time Travel Paradox :

A time traveler from 2025 builds a time machine in order to assassinate Hitler and prevent the second world war. He succeeds, meaning that the war never happened and he (in 2025) would have had no reason to build the time machine in the first place, meaning Hitler was never assassinated.

In this story, the logical consequences of the character’s actions imply that those actions could never have happened. There’s a contradiction, and therefore a paradox.

Some people mistake dilemmas for paradoxes, but they’re actually quite different. A dilemma is a difficult choice , whereas a paradox is a violation of logic itself. In a dilemma, we may have conflicting needs or desires, but those desires are logically compatible, so there’s no logical paradox. Moreover, the dilemma involves two possible situations, not one actual situation, so there’s no literary paradox either.

For example, say a single dad wants to provide for his kids with a better job, but in order to do that he needs to go back to school, which will take him away from his kids. Should he spend more time with them? Or go back to school, get a better job, and give them a better life? It’s a difficult choice – a dilemma. But there is neither a logical paradox nor a literary paradox in this situation.

Irony (or, to be precise, situational irony ) is an event or circumstance that violates our expectations. However, it is not a violation of logic, so it is not a logical paradox. This is a common mistake!

For example, it would be ironic if an ethics professor was stealing money from her students. (Because we have an expectation that a professor of ethics will be an expert on doing what’s right, and therefore won’t be a thief.) But that situation would not exactly be paradoxical, since a person’s position teaching ethics doesn’t logically imply that he or she must be a good person.

However, the professor could be seen as a literary paradox , since her personality combines two disparate elements: expertise in ethics, and an inability to behave ethically.

An oxymoron is an apparent paradox that can be escaped through puns or double entendre . For example, “jumbo shrimp” is an oxymoron. It would be a paradox if shrimp necessarily meant “something small.” But shrimp can also mean a specific animal, and thus the apparent paradox is just an illusion. Similarly, the phrase “a poor man of great wealth” appears to be a paradox, but the contradiction disappears once we realize that the “wealth” is not money, but spiritual, moral, or intellectual fulfillment.

When an author places two or more disparate elements next to one another, this is referred to as juxtaposition , but it can also fall under the broad definition of literary paradox. For example, one of the most famous images of juxtaposition shows a group of anti-war protesters surrounded by soldiers who are pointing rifles at them, with one man out of the crowd placing flowers in the barrel of each gun. The image juxtaposes violence against the gentle harmlessness of flowers. This combination of disparate elements could also be seen as a literary paradox.

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What is a Paradox? Definition, Examples of Paradox as a Literary Term

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Paradox definition: A paradox is a statement that presents a situation that sounds self-contradictory.

What is a Paradox?

What does paradox mean? A paradox is written as a logical statement. However, elements of the statement seem or are self-contradictory, making the proposition unlikely.

A paradox presents a situation. A paradox is generally a sentence or multiple sentences in length.

Example of Paradox:

What is a paradox in literature

This is a paradox because, as a situation , these two events are contradictory. It seems unlikely for animals to be more equal than others when they are all equal.

Paradox vs. Oxymoron: What’s the Difference?

A paradox is a term that presents a situation where two events seem unlikely to coexist.

Example of a paradox meaning

To separate the two, consider that a paradox is an event or a situation and an oxymoron is a figure of speech.

Example of Oxymoron:

By definition, the word “shrimp” refers to something very small. To describe a shrimp as “jumbo” seems contradictory. How can something so small be called “jumbo?” This is an oxymoron.

The Purpose of a Paradox

Paradox in a sentence

Orwell’s example from above does just that. Because something is “off” about the statement, the reader must consider it longer before proceeding.

Often, this is a way to present an interesting concept or idea or to make a statement without stating an opinion outright.

Because of the contradictory nature of a paradox, it should be used only when a writer has a particular point or comment to make. Furthermore, a paradox causes the audience to stop and think; therefore, it should only be used when it directly connects to the purpose.

Examples of Paradox in Literature

Define paradoxical definition

In the text, the Party’s motto is this: “War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength.”

To any “outsider” these propositions are unlikely and therefore paradoxes. However, to a character in 1984 , this is accepted as truth.

Orwell skillfully uses paradoxes to show the dominance of the Party to reinforce his dystopia.

Examples of Paradox in General Use

Here are a few examples taken from various newspapers of paradox being used in a general setting, not necessarily as a literary term.

Examples of a paradox in poetry

There’s no player in golf who is more of a paradox than Dustin Johnson. Johnson carries an air of indifference about him in his body language. He appears unflappable, his psyche impenetrable. He avoids introspection like golfers avoid out-of-bounds stakes and water hazards. The last thing you’re going to see Johnson do — regardless of how deep the latest flesh wound is in his star-crossed career — is open a vein and allow his emotions to bleed out in public. – New York Post

It’s perhaps the game’s ultimate modern paradox: Why do we so often hear fans lobbying to see more attention paid to the sort of team-first, right-way-to-play, wildly successful organization that the Spurs have built, but then pay so little attention themselves when given the choice? – ABC News

Summary: What is the Meaning of Paradox?

Define paradox in literature: the definition of paradox in literature is a statement that seems to contradict itself but may nonetheless be true .

In summary, a paradox is:

A paradox is used in literature when a writer brings together contrasting and contradictory elements that reveal a deeper truth.

This may be a piece of unexpected information, or something that would otherwise have remained hidden had not the paradox asserted itself. A paradox is usually something that seems impossible but isn’t once the reader spends more time digging into what the writer has presented. This literary device is employed when the writer wants the reader to try looking at a situation from a new perceptive. This should help them see events, people, objects, or ideas in a different and even revelatory way.  

Explore Paradox

Paradox literary definition and examples

Definition of Paradox  

A paradox is something that seems impossible and contradictory at first but upon closer analysis makes sense. It can even provide readers with needed information to understand a story of a real-life situation. When an author creates a paradox on purpose, they’re trying to engage the reader on a deeper level. They do not present the information the reader needs on the surface. Instead, the reader is asked to dig deeper and try to uncover something more meaningful in the present contradiction or seeming impossibility. While paradoxes might seem complicated at first, they are actually quite common. Below, readers can find a few often-used examples of paradoxes.  

Common Examples of Paradoxes  

Examples of Paradoxes in Literature  

Animal farm by george orwell  .

In this famous satirical novel , Orwell presents the story of a farm on which the animals rebel and take over their lives from their human overlords. At first, the revolution seems like a step in the right direction, with all animals now entitled to freedom. But, Orwell took this narrative in a familiar direction, mimicking the events of the Russian Revolution. Before long, the pigs who saw themselves as superior to the working animals took over. They made rules and controlled all the other farm animals through fear. One of those rules is:  

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.  

Here, Orwell presents readers with a paradox. At first, it seems impossible. If all “animals are equal,” then one can’t be “more equal.” What becomes clear on further analysis is that the pigs don’t really believe all animals are equal. They’re willing to say it in order to make the other creatures feel heard, but they are going to maintain their rule.  

Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare  

In this famous history play , Shakespeare tells the story of Julius Caesar’s murder by Brutus and the repercussions of that act . The play focuses primarily on the latter, his conspiracy, and what kind of leader Caesar was. The following lines are from Act II Scene 2 and provide readers with an example of a paradox:  

Cowards die many times before their deaths. The valiant never taste of death but once. Of all the wonders that I yet have heard, It seems to me most strange that men should fear, Seeing that death, a necessary end, Will come when it will come.

Here, Caesar asserts that cowards die many times before ether deaths, and it’s only the brave who experience death once. Here, he’s comparing cowardice and dishonor to death, something that the brave and valiant won’t ever face. Instead, the latter will meet their death head-on and only once. It seems impossible at first, but when one digs into the quote, Caesar is making a powerful statement about bravery and fear.  

Explore William Shakespeare’s poetry .  

Tuft of Flowers by Robert Frost  

In this thoughtful poem, Robert Frost explores loneliness and togetherness. His speaker comes to the conclusion that no matter how alone he might feel in one moment, he never truly is. He’s always connected to other people through the things around him. Consider these lines:  

But glad with him, I worked as with his aid, And weary, sought at noon with him the shade; […] ‘Men work together,’ I told him from the heart, ‘Whether they work together or apart.’

Men, Frost says, are “together” whether they “work together or apart.” He comes to this revelation while mowing and considering the history of the objects around him and the feeling of a kindred spirit. The paradox of working “together “ and “apart” is quickly resolved when readers spend time considering what Frost is trying to say. It’s a paradox itself that is at once inspiring and uplifting. If one believes it, then they need not ever feel alone again.  

Read Robert Frost’s poems .  

Why Do Writers Use Paradoxes?  

Writers use paradoxes in order to make their readers think more deeply about a situation. The previous examples show that while paradoxes might seem daunting at first when once one spends some time with them, they make sense and can be quite fulfilling. They’re a clever way of depicting a different kind of situation. When used well, such as in Julius Caesar, readers should find them compelling and creative. They can elevate one’s writing to another level.  

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Paradox in English Grammar

Definition and examples.

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A paradox is a  figure of speech in which a statement appears to contradict itself. This type of statement can be described as paradoxical. A compressed paradox comprised of just a few words is called an oxymoron . This term comes from the Greek paradoxa , meaning "incredible, contrary to opinion or expectation."

According to the Encyclopedia of Rhetoric , paradoxes are "mostly used for expressing astonishment or disbelief at something unusual or unexpected" in everyday communication (Sloane 2001).

Examples of Paradoxes

A paradox can have positive or negative connotations , can be used in writing or speech, and can be used individually or within a set of paradoxes—these are flexible devices. To get a better understanding of what a paradox is and how it may be used, read these quotes and examples.

The Paradox of Catch-22

By definition, a catch-22 is a paradoxical and difficult dilemma comprised of two or more contradictory circumstances, thus rendering the situation inescapable. In his famed novel Catch-22 , author Joseph Heller expands on this. "There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that concern for one's own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind.

Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to," (Heller 1961).

Love's Paradox

Many complicated but fundamental aspects of life could be deemed paradoxical before there was even a term for such a phenomenon—love is one of these. Martin Bergmann, playing Professor Levy, talks about this in the film Crimes and Misdemeanors . "You will notice that what we are aiming at when we fall in love is a very strange paradox .

The paradox consists of the fact that, when we fall in love, we are seeking to re-find all or some of the people to whom we were attached as children. On the other hand, we ask our beloved to correct all of the wrongs that these early parents or siblings inflicted upon us. So that love contains in it the contradiction: the attempt to return to the past and the attempt to undo the past," (Bergmann, Crimes and Misdemeanors ).

The Evolution of Paradox

Over the years, the meaning of paradox has somewhat changed. This excerpt from A Dictionary of Literary Terms tells how. "Originally a paradox was merely a view which contradicted accepted opinion. By round about the middle of the 16th c. the word had acquired the commonly accepted meaning it now has: an apparently self-contradictory (even absurd) statement which, on closer inspection, is found to contain a truth reconciling the conflicting opposites. ... Some critical theory goes so far as to suggest that the language of poetry is the language of paradox," (Cuddon 1991).

Paradox as an Argumentative Strategy

As Kathy Eden points out, not only are paradoxes useful as literary devices, but also as rhetorical devices. "Useful as instruments of instruction because of the wonder or surprise they engender, paradoxes also work to undermine the arguments of one's opponents. Among the ways to accomplish this, Aristotle ( Rhetoric 2.23.16) recommends in his manual for the rhetorician exposing the disjunction between an opponent's public and private views on such topics as justice—a recommendation that Aristotle would have seen put into practice in the debates between Socrates and his various opponents in the Republic, " (Eden 2004).

Kahlil Gibran's Paradoxes

Paradoxes lend a certain surreal quality to writing, so writers with this vision in mind for their words are fond of the device. However, excessive use of paradoxes can make writing murky and confusing. Author of The Prophet Kahlil Gibran employed so many thinly-veiled paradoxes in his book that his work was called vague by writer for The New Yorker Joan Acocella. "At times [in The Prophet by Khalil Gibran], Almustafa’s vagueness is such that you can’t figure out what he means.

If you look closely, though, you will see that much of the time he is saying something specific; namely, that everything is everything else. Freedom is slavery; waking is dreaming; belief is doubt; joy is pain; death is life. So, whatever you’re doing, you needn’t worry, because you’re also doing the opposite. Such paradoxes ... now became his favorite literary device. They appeal not only by their seeming correction of conventional wisdom but also by their hypnotic power, their negation of rational processes," (Acocella 2008).

Humor in Paradoxes

As S.J. Perelman proves in his book Acres and Pains , paradoxical situations can be just as amusing as they are frustrating. "I dare say that one of the strangest contradictions to beset contradiction fanciers recently was the situation confronting anybody who was seeking shelter in New York City.

Not only were hotel rooms scarcer than the heath hen—after all, you could pick up an occasional heath hen before Christmas if you didn't mind going into the black market for it—but the reason for their scarcity was that most of them were occupied by people who had flocked to the National Hotel Exposition to discuss the scarcity of hotel rooms. Sounds paradoxical , doesn't it? I mean, if there aren't any other paradoxes around," (Perelman 1947).

definition literature paradox

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What is a Paradox? Definition, Types, and Examples

definition literature paradox

by Fija Callaghan

Updated Feb 23, 2023

Literature is full of paradoxes—so is life. Sometimes, paradoxes make a funny kind of sense and encourage us to think about things in a new way. Sometimes, they don’t make any sense at all. That’s a bit paradoxical in itself, isn’t it?

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what the word paradox means, why it’s helpful to be aware of them in your writing, how they compare to similar literary devices, and some examples of paradox to show you how it looks.

What is a paradox?

So what is a paradox? Let’s start with an easy paradox definition: In literary terms, a paradox is a self-contradictory statement or portrayal of two conflicting ideas. It’s something that cannot or should not make logical sense.

The word “paradox” comes from the Greek word paradoxos , which means “to think beyond,” or “contrary to belief.” Paradoxes encourage us to think beyond our everyday understanding of language.

Paradox literary definition: A paradox is a self-contradictory statement that highlights two conflicting ideas.

The most famous example of a paradox is the statement, “This statement is a lie.” It’s a paradox because it defies logical construction: if it’s true, then it has to be a lie. But if it’s a lie, it can’t be a lie after all. If you spend too long thinking about it you might get a headache.

“This statement is a lie” is an example of a logical paradox . We’ll look at the two types of paradoxes next.

Logical paradox vs. literary paradox

Logical paradoxes and literary paradoxes are both self-contradictory ideas that appear to defy basic logic. The difference is that while logical paradoxes cannot function, like the example we looked at above, literary paradoxes only appear to be illogical at first glance—really, they convey a deeper meaning.

An example of a literary paradox is the saying “You have to spend money to make money.” What the huh? How does spending your hard-earned cash make you richer? This idea sounds pretty suspect.

What it actually means is that making money often takes an initial investment. If you think about publishing a book, you (or your publisher) need to pay some money up front for things like printing, cover design, and marketing before you end up seeing any profit. But if you don’t do those things, you don’t make any profit from your book at all.

Thus: you have to spend some money up front to make money in the long run. The saying uses a paradox to communicate an inherent truth in an imaginative way.

By contrast, a logical paradox doesn’t have any truth to it—it just doesn’t work.

Paradoxes can be more than a play on words; they can also represent larger ideas. For instance, someone who’s cruel at times and compassionate at others might be called a “paradox” because their behaviour seems to defy logic. We’ll look at one of the most famous examples of story-level paradox next.

What is the “Grandfather Paradox”?

The grandfather paradox is a popular trope in science fiction film and literature that explores a variation of the temporal paradox, or displaced logic of time. It represents a logical paradox that occurs if a time traveller journeys back in time and accidentally (or not) kills their grandfather in their youth.

If the traveller’s grandfather never grew up to have a child, then the time traveller would never have been born and couldn’t have gone back in time to kill their grandfather in the first place. But if they didn’t kill their grandfather, they wouldn’t have prevented their own inception. It’s a logical cycle without beginning or end.

A famous example of this type of story happens in the film Back to the Future , in which the protagonist accidentally prevents his parents’ marriage. Such paradoxes also arise in the TV series The Umbrella Academy .

Several quantum theorists, including Stephen Hawking, have examined ways in which you could beat this paradox in practice. For instance, the theory of multiple parallel timelines, or time as a finite construction—ie., you could never kill your grandfather, no matter how hard you tried, because it already hadn’t happened.

Another example might be if someone went back in time to prevent something from happening—for example, a great war. If they succeed, they’ll have no reason to go back in time and prevent it from happening in the first place.

While we probably won’t all be jaunting through time anytime soon, this is a good thing to keep in mind when crafting science fiction or fantasy stories. Do your stories contain logical paradox plot holes, such as time travel? If your plot doesn’t make sense within the world you’ve created, your readers will notice.

(Image: two text boxes) A logical paradox is a statement or concept that defies earthly logic; A literary paradox is a statement that reveals a deeper meaning.

Examples of paradox in everyday speech

Some of our most familiar sayings are paradoxes. This is because they’re catchy and they have a way of making us think. Here are some famous paradox examples that we hear in everyday conversation around us all the time.

Youth is wasted on the young.

Less is more.

The only constant is change.

You have to spend money to make money.

The only rule is there are no rules.

I can resist anything except temptation.

It’s hard making elegance look easy.

The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.

If you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.

Examples of paradox in literature and film

Let’s look at a few ways writers have used paradoxes effectively in their stories.

Animal Farm, by George Orwell

In Orwell’s political allegory, the tyrannical pigs decide that “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” This is an example of a logical paradox; by nature, one thing can’t be “more equal” than another.

The author uses this strange paradox as a literary device to communicate the fact that something’s not quite right on the farm.

The Importance of Being Earnest , by Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde was known for making good use of paradoxes in his writing and in his life. In his play The Importance of Being Earnest , a fashionable lady says, “To be natural is such a very difficult pose to keep up.”

This is a literary paradox—it appears contradictory, but really it’s saying that it takes a lot of effort to appear effortless.

Catch-22 , by Joseph Heller

In Heller’s novel, a character claims to be a crazy person in order to get out of fighting the war—since mentally ill people aren’t allowed to enlist. However, his desire to abstain from the battle proves he’s of rational mind, meaning he can’t claim insanity after all.

This apparent paradox has become so famous that logical paradoxes are sometimes called “Catch-22s.”

Wicked , by Gregory Maguire via Stephen Schwartz

In the stage musical based on a novel of the same name, the romantic lead projects a facade that he wants others to see. When questioned about his facetious charm, he protests, “I happen to be genuinely self-absorbed and deeply shallow.”

Is this a logical paradox or a literary paradox? While someone can genuinely be these things, it’s unlikely that they’d be self-aware enough to recognise it—making it a logical contradiction.

Hamlet , by William Shakespeare

Shakespeare has had an immeasurable influence on the English language, and his play Hamlet has given us one of our most famous paradoxical statements. Hamlet says, “I must be cruel only to be kind”—meaning that his evil deed is for the greater good.

Can one be cruel and kind at the same time? Unfortunately, it’s common to think so—but this can encourage people to make some selfish choices.

Paradox and other literary devices

As a narrative technique that utilises contrast, paradox can seem quite similar to other literary devices that use juxtaposition in a similar way. Let’s explore the difference between paradox and other devices that use apparent contradictions or two opposing ideas for effect.

Paradox vs. oxymoron

Paradox and oxymoron are both rhetorical literary devices that communicate seemingly contrasting ideas. The difference is that while paradox uses phrases or concepts that are in conflict, an oxymoron uses just one or two words. Therefore, a paradox is a thematic idea while an oxymoron is a conflicting phrase.

Examples of oxymorons include “open secret,” “controlled chaos,” or “virtual reality.”

Unlike a paradox, an oxymoron is only two words that seem like they should be illogical.

You can learn more about this literary device, and how to use it in your writing, in our dedicated lesson here .

Paradox vs. irony

Paradox and irony both deal in inversions of expectation. There are three types of irony in literature, and the one most often confused with paradox is situational irony. The difference is that while paradoxes are statements that communicate two ideas that appear contradictory, irony expresses two ideas that are contrary to expectation.

An example of irony might be if a professional marriage counsellor goes through a divorce. It’s not a paradox, because there’s nothing impossible or illogical about it—it’s just unexpected.

You can read all about the different types of irony in literature here .

Paradox vs. logical fallacy

Paradoxes and logical fallacies both deal with ideas that seem counterintuitive. Sometimes, logical paradox and logical fallacy can overlap. But while literary paradoxes always convey a deeper truth behind the words, logical fallacies hide the truth by presenting arguments based on bias or deflection rather than deductive reasoning.

An example of a logical fallacy might be, “She wouldn’t make a good leader because she comes from a background of white privilege” (rather than, “she might find certain aspects of leadership challenging because she has no lived experience as a person of minority identity”). Or, “Girls are smarter than boys because Sara beat her brother at chess” (rather than, “ This girl is smarter than that boy, or maybe just got lucky one time”).

Logical fallacies are common in politics and social media, because they support flawed arguments in a convincing way.

Paradox vs. antithesis

While paradox puts two contrasting ideas together that are seemingly incompatible, antithesis puts two contrasting ideas together that can nonetheless exist at the same time, highlighting their differences. A classic example of antithetical statements occurs at the beginning of Charles Dickens’ novel A Tale of Two Cities :

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness…

In his story, he presents the idea that all these things are true at the same time.

Another example would be the famous phrase “a small step for a man, but a giant step for mankind.” Here, the two polarities are put next to each other to communicate a bigger idea.

Paradox is one of the most popular rhetorical devices in literature, popular culture, and everyday life.

Contradictory emotions or ideas can reveal surprising truths

Paradox in literature is often misunderstood. Sometimes, they seem to work against common sense; other times, they feel surprisingly relatable. Logical paradoxes can trip up your story if you’re not careful, but they can also be used in characterisation and to communicate insightful, inherent truths.

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definition literature paradox

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A paradox is a seemingly absurd or contradictory statement or proposition that, when investigated, may prove to be well-founded or true. Let's try and break down what a paradox means.

Paradox meaning

A paradox is a statement that seems illogical and contradicts itself. So at first glance, the statement seems not to be true. Once it is pondered a little longer, a paradox can often be found to contain some form of truth.

This might still feel very confusing, and that's okay. Paradoxes are very confusing figures of speech. Let's have a look at some examples.

Paradox examples

We will first have a look at a few common examples of paradoxes. These are all contradictory statements, so let's check them out!

This statement is a lie.

This is a very famous paradox as it seems so simple. But the more you think about it the more complicated it gets. Let me explain:

Once you've got your head around how this works, and how it cannot be both true and a lie at the same time, you can start to understand other paradoxes.

If I know one thing, it's that I know nothing.

Another tricky one! You can probably figure this one out, but it's still self-contradictory and doesn't make logical sense.

When you first read this it might seem like it makes sense, and it's only when we consider it a little bit that it becomes more complicated.

Nobody visited Murphy's bar, as it was too crowded.

At first glance this makes sense, you wouldn't want to go somewhere that's always crowded but the wording makes this a paradox.

This one is a good real-world example of a paradox. I'm sure there have been places you know that are always crowded and you avoid them for those reasons. If lots of people start avoiding a place because it's crowded then it will become empty.

Paradox Less is more text StudySmarter

Logical paradox vs. literary paradox

The examples of paradoxes that we have been looking at are all very straightforward - in the sense that they follow strict rules. These are called logical paradoxes. Another paradox type to consider is the literary paradox.

Logical paradox

A logical paradox follows the strict definition of a paradox. They have a few characteristics: they contain a contradictory statement. This statement is always illogical and self-contradictory (eg this statement is a lie).

Literary paradox

You may come across some of these in your studies. They have a looser definition and don't have strict characteristics like logical paradoxes do. In Literature 'paradox' can refer to a person with contradictory characteristics or to an action that is contradictory. This doesn't always have to be self-contradictory (like logical paradoxes), it can be contradictory but still be something that is possible.

Paradox in a sentence - examples in literature

Now we can consider some paradoxes in Literature. Don't be confused between literary paradoxes and paradoxes in Literature - paradoxes found in Literature can be both logical paradoxes and literary paradoxes.

I must be cruel only to be kind (William Shakespeare, Hamlet, 1609)

This is a literary paradox as it is a contradiction that is possible and is not wholly self-contradictory. There are some instances in which you need to be 'cruel' in one way to be 'kind' in another way. It is also possible to be both cruel and kind at the same time but they are still contradictory.

I'm nobody! Who are you? / Are you - Nobody - too? (Emily Dickinson, ' I'm nobody! Who are you?', 1891)

This is an example of a logical paradox as it is self-contradictory. The speaker cannot logically be 'nobody' as they are somebody; They are also speaking to someone, whom they call 'nobody' (again this person must be somebody). This is quite a confusing paradox but is a good example of a logical paradox.

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others (George Orwell, Animal Farm , 1944)

This is another example of a logical paradox in literature as it is completely self-contradictory. If all the animals were equal (as the first part of the statement suggests) then there cannot be some animals that receive different treatment and become 'more equal' (like the second part of the statement suggests).

How to spot a paradox

We've now learned about what a paradox is, the different types of paradox, and had a look at some examples - but how do you spot one?

Once you've come across a phrase that seems self-contradictory you can then decide if it is a paradox. There are other language devices that are similar to a paradox so we have to consider those before deciding whether something is a paradox.

An oxymoron is a type of language device that puts two words with opposite meanings next to each other. For example, 'deafening silence' is a commonly used oxymoron. Oxymorons do make sense and aren't self-contradictory but they bring a different meaning when the two opposite words are placed together.

Irony (more specifically situational irony) can be confused with paradox as it is a (sometimes confusing) language technique that defies our expectations.

Two friends own the same dress and are going to a party together. They promise not to wear the same dress. On the night of the party, they both end up wearing the dress thinking that the other promised she wouldn't.

This is situational irony because it defies our expectations without being illogical. The difference is that situational irony is an event or circumstance that defies our expectations rather than actually being illogical.


Juxtaposition can be confused with paradox as it is a broader term referring to ideas or themes that contradict each other. This is similar to the looser meaning of a literary paradox.

You have to be careful when considering whether a quote is a literary paradox or whether it is just an example of juxtaposition. If you're not sure, stick with the assumption that it is juxtaposition as this is a more general term.

Sometimes paradoxes can be confused with a dilemma. Although a dilemma isn't a language device, it is still worth mentioning. The difference between a paradox and a dilemma is easy to learn - a dilemma is a very difficult decision but not contradictory in itself.

Paradox - key takeaways

A paradox is a statement that is self-contradictory and illogical but that can contain some truth.

Logical paradoxes follow the strict rules of paradox whereas literary paradoxes have a looser definition.

Paradoxes can sometimes be confused with oxymorons, irony, juxtaposition, and dilemma.

Literary paradoxes are quite difficult to distinguish from juxtaposition - so be careful when trying to define a phrase using this term.

Frequently Asked Questions about Paradox

--> what is a paradox.

A paradox is a logically self-contradictory statement that, once you think about it for a little while, can still hold some truth.

--> What does paradox mean?

Paradox means a seemingly absurd or contradictory statement which when investigated may prove to be well-founded or true.

--> What is an example of a paradox?

One of the most famous examples of a paradox is 'this statement is a lie.'

Final Paradox Quiz

What is the definition of a paradox?

Show answer

A statement that contradicts itself

Show question

What are the two types of paradoxes?

Logical and literary

Is the following a paradox or an oxymoron?

What is a paradox a type of?

​ A figure of speech

Is this a paradox: I close my eyes so I can see?

What is the difference between situational irony and paradox?

Situational irony is an event or circumstance that defies our expectations but isn’t necessarily illogical or self-contradictory.

What real-life example of a paradox has this article explored?

No one goes to a bar, because it is too crowded.

What play by Shakespeare contains the paradox "I must be cruel only to be kind" ?

Why is a dilemma sometimes confused with paradox?

Because it is a difficult decision that can be tricky to decide on, and which can sometimes be confused with an illogical paradox.

How can you spot a paradox in a text?

When you first read over a paradox, it will seem confusing. Before identifying it as a paradox, make sure you check it isn’t a similar language device.

Which of the following is not a type of language device?

What is the difference between logical and literary paradoxes?

Logical paradox follows the strict rules of paradox, literary paradox has a looser definition.

Why are paradoxes quite often confusing?

Because they are illogical and can be very tricky to understand.

Why are paradoxes considered absurd and self-contradictory?

Because one part of the paradox often makes the other part false (and vice versa).

True or false?

The literary paradox is a term referring to paradoxes found in literature.

Paradoxes are always false.

A paradox is a statement that seems ________.

A dilemma is not self-contradictory.

At first glance, a paradoxical statement seems to be...

Paradoxes are only found in literature.

Which type of paradox is always illogical and self-contradictory?

Is the following statement an example of a paradox?

As I said before, I never repeat myself.

I am going to start thinking positive, but I know it won't work.

Literary paradoxes only refer to actions, not people.

Juxtaposition is a broader term referring to ideas or themes that contradict each other.

of the users don't pass the Paradox quiz! Will you pass the quiz?

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What is a Paradox? (Definition and Examples)

What is Paradox in Literature, Film, and TV? (Definition and Examples)

It's time to break down logical paradoxes in film and television.  

Have you ever sat down to watch the ending of Back to the Future and wonder how Marty’s parents and his siblings became cool and successful while Marty stayed relatively the same?

The simple explanation is that George and Lorrain got it on at the same time as they did in the alternate timeline, and Marty lived his life in much of the same manner as possible.

This fun little brain experiment is known as a paradox . They have been a part of human thinking for thousands of years, and they are still not always well understood. This is even more true when it comes to paradoxes in literature and film. 

We have seen it used as an excuse to avenge his father, like Mary does, as well as to travel around only to be kind or even cruel only. There are literary paradoxes in situational irony , they appear in time travel movies, and lots of these situations that surround us.  

Today, we're going to go over this rhetorical device. We'll learn the definition, look at examples in literature, film, and television, and even spend some time trying to solve this big questions ourselves. 

Whether you want to understand what it is exactly or write the next great brain-twisting film paradox, we are here to help you get started. 

What is a Paradox in Literature, Film, and TV? (Definition and Examples) 

Table of Contents

What Is a Paradox (Definition)?

Whether it is a brain-teaser, a personal observation, a visual, sound, or seemingly unsolvable problem within our world, there are some things that the human mind can’t understand even through sound logic. These encounters are paradoxes. 

They are seemingly absurd self-contradictory statements or propositions that, when investigated or explained, may prove to be well-founded or true. Think of it as a contradiction, except this contradiction can manifest in a few ways. 

A paradoxical statement may seem to follow sound reasoning but is nonsensical upon further reflection. The statement could also sound contradictory, but it reveals a deeper truth the longer you pull it apart. Then, some paradoxes just defy all logic and reasoning, but can’t be proven true or false. 

Think of it as the multiverse: there are infinite amounts of ways that a problem can solve itself. The neverending string of sequences can alter realities slightly or completely without having a true origin or solution. It is a question—“What if?” 

Examples of Paradoxes in Everyday Life

One paradoxical statement that will never be answered is if humans have free will or live in a state of predetermination, also known as theological fatalism. You can argue and justify whichever side you choose, but there is significant evidence that both sides are true and false at the same time. In the end, there is no right answer except for the one you believe in. 

A simple one is whether the chicken or the egg came first . The "chicken or egg" paradox was first proposed by philosophers in Ancient Greece to describe the problem of determining cause and effect.

This simple question drove people mad as they tried to logically explain why the egg or the chicken came first, causing a team of physicists to test out the contradiction only to find that the chicken and the egg can both come first.  

Here is a shortlist of common paradoxical statements that you can think about the next time you’re bored:

How to Identify a Paradox

By now, you may have noticed that paradoxes are everywhere throughout the culture. You can find them in films, philosophy discussions, everyday speech and sayings, stories, and pop songs which often contain paradoxical lyrics as a way of expressing conflict and contradictory emotions. 

One of the most simple examples is "the liar’s paradox."

Video is no longer available: 

In the liar's paradox, we have the statement: “This sentence is false.” It is among the most famous because it sums up the nature of it so effortlessly. If the statement is true, then the sentence is false; thereby, making the statement true. It's a neverending circle that could rot the mind, so it is best not to get caught up in what is true and what is false. 

Paradoxes vs. Irony 

While browsing the internet for examples of paradoxes in songs, I stumbled across someone who believed that Alanis Morissette’s song, “Ironic,” was full of paradoxes and ironically enough not about irony. I looked at the lyrics, and there is nothing but irony in that song.

Let’s clear up the confusion by defining what separates irony from paradoxes . 

Irony is when an action or speech is the complete opposite of what something is expected to do or mean. There is a mismatch from a situation's intended meaning. Irony’s job is to create empathy or humor—like getting a free ride when you’ve already paid, or a fire station that is on fire. 

A paradox is a statement that contradicts its actual meaning and contains little bits of truth. It is not a mismatch situation, but rather a circle of explanations and thoughts that never end. 

While these contradictions must be contained within a single statement or a single idea, irony can be a single statement or more to explain its point. With a paradox, less is more. 

Paradoxes vs. Oxymorons 

A paradox is more closely related to an oxymoron since both of them seem to be contraindications but true. 

Like I’ve mentioned before, paradoxes are statements or situations. Oxymorons are simply two contradictory words. Some examples are bittersweet, deafening silence, jumbo shrimp, and the walking dead. 

Oxymorons are a figure of speech that juxtaposes concepts with opposing meanings of a word or phrase. They can be used to illustrate an idea or reveal a paradox. 

How to Write a Paradox

As a literary device, paradoxes can set up a situation, idea, or concept that appears on the surface to be contradictory or impossible. However, the conflict is resolved due to the discovery of an underlying level of reason or logic through thought, understanding, or reflection. The paradox creates interest and a need for resolution.

Writers need to construct a paradox that has a meaning that isn’t lost for the audience. A paradox is dependent upon two elements: first, a statement or situation which initially appears contradictory, then, the statement or situation that appears contradictory must be logical. Think of it is contrary to expectation. 

First, there must be an established conflict. By creating tension and potential suspense for a character who finds themselves going against the law as a means of preserving the law, they can generate interest for the audience in terms of anticipating the resolution of the conflict. 

You can also use humor to show the paradoxical nature of a tense or difficult situation that the character finds themselves in. These moments of contrasting moods or feelings can show the inconsistencies of human nature, and how humans are innately contradictory beings.  Check out how  Scary Movie 3 and 4   use paradoxes to add humor to otherwise tension-filled moments: 

Writing a story surrounding the idea of a paradox can also force your audience to think about their own answer to the paradox that the character is facing. Not only does this make your main character interesting and relatable, but makes the audience engage with the story on a deeper level. 

Paradox in Literature 

Paradoxes are great ways to test the limits of understanding and can lead to unexpected understandings. Oscar Wilde was particularly noted for his use of paradoxes.

In The Picture of Dorian Grey , Wilde wrote, “Well, the way of paradoxes is the way of truth. To test reality we must see it on the tightrope. When the verities become acrobats, we can judge them.” Authors have used paradoxes in their works for many centuries to explore situational complications and the extent of human judgment. 

Examples of paradoxes can be found in epic Greek poems like The Odyssey, written in the 8th century by Homer. The epic creates a paradox for the hero Odysseus who tricked the cyclops that captured Odysseus and his men. 

While captured, Odysseus, using his sharp intellect, gets the cyclops drunk and tells the cyclops that his name is Nobody.

Later, he pokes out the cyclops's eye and the cyclops begins to scream to the neighbors, “Nobody is killing me.” The neighbors don’t come to the cyclops's aid because Nobody is hurting him when, in reality, someone is hurting him. 

definition literature paradox

A more recent example of a paradox is the “catch-22” from the novel of the same name by Joseph Heller. Catch-22 follows the attempt of Yossarian, an American bomber stationed in Italy during World War II, to get out of a dangerous bombing mission by claiming to be mentally unstable. 

The paradox is that asking out of mission is seen as a sane act because only a sane person can perceive the danger. A mentally unstable person could never request the eyes of the superiors. Yossarian is pronounced sane and is made to fly in the mission.

The Philosophy Tube defines the title like this: "A catch-22 is a paradoxical situation from which there is no escape because of contradictory logical rules."

This paradox has become one of the most famous examples in literature, and the term has entered our daily speech as shorthand for a paradox. 

Another example of paradox in literature can be found in what I think is the most frustrating novel in existence, Animal Farm by George Orwell. In the novel, “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others,” a principle of the society of animals Orwell uses as an allegory of human society under the reign of communism. 

Animal Farm ’s paradox is meant to illuminate the hypocrisy inherent in ruling systems that claim egalitarianism while erecting unjust hierarchies. Both Heller and Orwell created paradoxes to show the absurdity of war and oppression. 

Paradox in Films

Science fiction films love to use paradoxes, especially when the story revolves around time travel. 

The best sci-fi films often use time travel as a way to dramatize temporal paradoxes and ask what could happen if we could alter reality as we know it. Although these films dramatize paradoxes, here are a few examples of films that use paradoxes to control the film’s narrative: 

Movies that use paradoxes typically use three types of "consistency paradox"—the grandfather, the casual loop, or the paradox of choice. Let's break down each of those paradoxes one example at a time. 

The Grandfather Paradox

Imagine a character traveling back in time to kill their grandfather as a young child. Why would the main character do this? Well, the possibilities are endless. The grandfather could have been a dictator or the inventor of some horrible social media site. 

Whatever the reason for the time travel is, the grandfather died. The problem then is if the grandfather was never alive, then one of the time-traveler’s parents was never born and the time-traveler was never born either to kill their grandfather. So, is it possible that the time traveler could kill their grandfather? Check out this video from Riddle  to see one of the many ways to solve this paradox:

Maybe your character doesn’t want to kill their grandfather, but interacting with them will cause a shift in the timeline. Back to the Future is a perfect example of the grandfather paradox when Marty (Michael J. Fox) bumps into his parents, altering the trajectory of their relationship and Marty’s existence. 

Another famous example of the grandfather paradox can be found in The Terminator . Kyle is sent to protect Sarah Conner but ends up impregnating her with John. The question is, how did Kyle become John’s father if John is the one who sent him back in time? 

The Causal Loop

The causal loop—or the bootstrap paradox—happens when objects or information are never really created. Instead, their existence starts when it is created in the future, and ends by going to the past to become itself.  An event causes another event, which is one of the causes of the first-mentioned event. 

The HBO series Watchmen follows Angela Abar (Regina King) as she tries to prevent an event from happening in her present-day but accidentally causes the events to happen because of information she gave Dr. Manhattan (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) who tells her grandfather that said information in the past. 

It’s complicated, but it is like a clock. All the pieces move together to make the entire story function. 

The Paradox of Choice 

There are also sci-fi films that don’t require any time-traveling like   Mr. Nobody. Both of these films tackle theological fatalism, putting the idea forth that, as 9-year-old Nemo from Mr. Nobody puts it, “You have to make the right choice. As long as you don’t choose, everything remains possible.” 

The endless amount of choices we have when faced with a problem can overload us, setting up unrealistically high expectations, and making us blame ourselves for any failures when we could have no choice of free will in the end.

Think of it like you're at the store trying to buy coffee. There are endless amounts of brands, flavors, grinds, and expiration dates to choose from, and you spend time carefully deciding which choice will be the best one for you. This ability to choose sends the mind into a state of paralysis, making it harder for you to make a choice. 

Why You Should Use Paradoxes

Paradoxes can demonstrate the fallibility of human logic. While logic is a valuable tool, it sometimes breaks down and shows us the faults within our minds. 

The world around us is full of contradictions, especially when it comes to people’s behavior and personality. When characters are created with contradicting natures, it makes them more well-rounded and believable to the audience. Most people are in one way or another, so the main character who isn’t paradoxical could seem manufactured or unrelatable. 

Paradoxes can also create a layer of mystery to a story which makes the work more compelling to an audience. Sci-fi loves using them because they force the characters and audience to think about what it means to be human. If we had the technology to travel back in time, then would we go back if that meant risking not existing? But if we didn’t exist, how could we go back in time? 

The question of "What if?" is neverending and can lead you down many different roads of curiosity. As filmmakers, we are entitled to always ask questions and never stop being curious.        

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  1. Paradox

    Definition of Paradox A paradox is a statement that appears at first to be contradictory, but upon reflection then makes sense. This literary device is commonly used to engage a reader to discover an underlying logic in a seemingly self-contradictory statement or phrase.

  2. Paradox Definition & Meaning

    paradox noun par· a· dox ˈper-ə-ˌdäks ˈpa-rə- Synonyms of paradox 1 : one (such as a person, situation, or action) having seemingly contradictory qualities or phases 2 a : a statement that is seemingly contradictory or opposed to common sense and yet is perhaps true b : a self-contradictory statement that at first seems true c

  3. Paradox

    paradox, apparently self-contradictory statement, the underlying meaning of which is revealed only by careful scrutiny. The purpose of a paradox is to arrest attention and provoke fresh thought. The statement "Less is more" is an example.

  4. Paradox

    A paradox is a figure of speech that seems to contradict itself, but which, upon further examination, contains some kernel of truth or reason. Oscar Wilde's famous declaration that "Life is much too important to be taken seriously" is a paradox.

  5. Paradox in Literature: Definition & Examples

    Paradox Definition From Middle French via the Latin paradoxum, meaning "a seemingly absurd yet true statement," paradox (PAIR-uh-docks) is a figure of speech that seems to contradicts itself but, upon deeper probing, contains some universal insight. One could say it's a statement so incorrect that it becomes intensely true.

  6. Paradox Definition & Meaning

    The definition of Paradox is a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth. See additional meanings and similar words.

  7. Paradox (literature)

    In literature, the paradox is an anomalous juxtaposition of incongruous ideas for the sake of striking exposition or unexpected insight. It functions as a method of literary composition and analysis that involves examining apparently contradictory statements and drawing conclusions either to reconcile them or to explain their presence. [1]

  8. Paradox in Literature: Examples

    A paradox is an idea or statement that seems wrong or impossible, but actually makes sense once given deeper thought and analysis. Paradoxes In Literature In literature, a paradox is a...

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    Paradoxes are often used in literature as a poignant device. A literary paradox is a statement that appears to contradict itself, but upon further rumination, either reveals a deeper meaning or actually makes sense. Literary paradoxes are often used to illustrate something profound.

  10. What is a Paradox in Literature? Definition, Examples of Literary

    Paradox is the expression of an idea that is contrary to expectations or existing beliefs. Paradoxes create deep and significant value for certain ideas which are not always immediately apparent but once revealed, provides great insight in to a particular character, subject, or idea. What is Paradox?

  11. Paradox Examples and Definition

    Definition of Paradox When used as a literary device, a paradox is the juxtaposition of a set of seemingly contradictory concepts that reveal a hidden and/or unexpected truth. The paradox may be hard or even impossible to believe, yet usually the contradiction can be reconciled if the reader thinks about the juxtaposition more deeply.

  12. Paradox: Definition and Examples

    A paradox is a statement that contradicts itself, or that must be both true and untrue at the same time. Paradoxes are quirks in logic that demonstrate how our thinking sometimes goes haywire, even when we use perfectly logical reasoning to get there. But a key part of paradoxes is that they at least sound reasonable.

  13. What is a Paradox? Definition, Examples of Paradox as a Literary Term

    Define paradox in literature: the definition of paradox in literature is a statement that seems to contradict itself but may nonetheless be true. In summary, a paradox is: a situation that presents events which seem unlikely to coexist used to cause pause and refection in the audience used sparingly in writing and only to connect to purpose


    paradox definition: 1. a situation or statement that seems impossible or is difficult to understand because it contains…. Learn more.

  15. Paradox

    A paradox is used in literature when a writer brings together contrasting and contradictory elements that reveal a deeper truth. This may be a piece of unexpected information, or something that would otherwise have remained hidden had not the paradox asserted itself.

  16. Definition and Examples of Paradox in English Grammar

    A paradox is a figure of speech in which a statement appears to contradict itself. This type of statement can be described as paradoxical. A compressed paradox comprised of just a few words is called an oxymoron. This term comes from the Greek paradoxa, meaning "incredible, contrary to opinion or expectation."


    paradox meaning: 1. a situation or statement that seems impossible or is difficult to understand because it contains…. Learn more.

  18. What is a Paradox? Definition, Types, and Examples

    Let's start with an easy paradox definition: In literary terms, a paradox is a self-contradictory statement or portrayal of two conflicting ideas. It's something that cannot or should not make logical sense. The word "paradox" comes from the Greek word paradoxos, which means "to think beyond," or "contrary to belief."

  19. Paradox in Literature: Definition & Examples

    Paradox. a statement or idea that seems to contradict itself and is often confusing; they are used in literature to show the complexity of life. Non-literary Example. jumbo shrimp. Shakespeare ...

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    Written by MasterClass Last updated: Sep 30, 2021 • 3 min read This sentence is a lie. This self-referential statement is an example of a paradox—a contradiction that questions logic. In literature, paradoxes can elicit humor, illustrate themes, and provoke readers to think critically.

  21. Paradox (English Language): Definition & Examples

    Paradox - key takeaways. A paradox is a statement that is self-contradictory and illogical but that can contain some truth. There are two types of paradox: logical paradox and literary paradox. Logical paradoxes follow the strict rules of paradox whereas literary paradoxes have a looser definition.

  22. What is a Paradox? (Definition and Examples)

    A paradox is a statement that contradicts its actual meaning and contains little bits of truth. It is not a mismatch situation, but rather a circle of explanations and thoughts that never end. While these contradictions must be contained within a single statement or a single idea, irony can be a single statement or more to explain its point.