Examples of oxymorons from fiction
Oxymoron (another spelling “Oxymoron”) comes from an ancient Greek phrase, which can be translated into Russian as “witty nonsense.” This name is in itself an oxymoron. It can be assumed that it was precisely the example that gave name to the whole phenomenon.
Probably the first oxymorons were the result of inattention or poor knowledge of the language and, accordingly, were stylistic errors. But then this phenomenon was picked up by the writers and quickly turned into an artistic device. Its essence is to combine together incompatible concepts, actions or signs. This is done in order to attract attention, to emphasize certain qualities of the person depicted, to create a surprise effect, etc. Often, an oxymoron is used to create a comic or satirical atmosphere. Examples from fiction eloquently prove how great the expressive potential of this stylistic device is.
Correct word stress
Before continuing to study this phenomenon, it is necessary to clarify an important point. If you use this term in oral speech, how do you put emphasis on the word?
Unfortunately, the majority of our compatriots do not know this and therefore make a speech mistake. In the word "oxymoron" stress falls on the second syllable, that is, the letter "u". That is how it should be pronounced in Russian, regardless of the number and case.
It is noteworthy that in English and German the word oxymoron is double stressed. The peculiarities of the use of oxymorons in the literature of different nations will be discussed later in the article.
Use as an expression
If you carefully read the various examples, the oxymoron appears as an expression of an internal contradiction, which the author does not try to hide, but rather emphasizes. For example, take the lines from the poem "Tsarskoye Selo statue", written by A. Akhmatova:
Look, she is fun to be sad,
So smartly naked.
Here you can notice not even one, but two examples of the artistic technique we are considering: “fun to be sad” and “smartly nude”.The purpose of the author is to try to look into the depth of things and see them from an unusual side.
This stylistic device can be seen in the work of a huge number of authors - both poets and prose writers. For this reason, it is not possible to distinguish literary genres or styles in which oxymoron is most commonly used.
Russian literature is replete with similar combinations of words. Especially effectively they look in the titles of works, for example:
- “Optimistic tragedy” (V. Vishnevsky);
- “Hot Snow” (Y. Bondarev);
- "Running on the waves" (A. Green);
- "Living Corpse" (L. Tolstoy);
- "Dead Souls" (N. Gogol);
- “Tomorrow was war” (B. Vasiliev);
- “The End of Eternity” (A. Azimov).
Examples from the literature containing an oxymoron are distinguished by the uniqueness of the image being created and immediately attract reader's attention. This technique is widely used in poetry.
No less popular is the oxymoron and in prose. As an illustration, here’s a quote from the famous novel by G. Orwell “1984”: “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is power. ” Here, each part of the slogan of an anti-utopian state is a combination of incompatible things, which allows the writer to reveal his idea in the most accurate and memorable way.Also, a well-known Latin proverb: “If you want peace, prepare for war” can serve as an example of such an artistic device.
In all the above literary quotations it is possible to trace the similarity, namely the author’s intention to combine opposing concepts. This is an oxymoron.
Examples in Russian
Usually, we don’t even think when we hear or pronounce the phrases themselves that are typical oxymorons. "Burning cold", "living dead", "honest thief", "silent scream", "ringing silence", "ordinary miracle", "smart nonsense", "speaking silence", "cold fire", "new tradition" - These are all typical examples. Oxymoron can make you think, open new facets of a phenomenon, laugh.
If you write the text and want to use this stylistic device in it, then be careful. Oxymorons should not be too much, otherwise they will lose their artistic value and will look like speech errors. If you use incompatible concepts in oral speech, you also should not get carried away: make sure that listeners correctly perceive your thought.
In foreign languages
The oxymoron in English is no less popular.Examples of this phenomenon can be found in poetry and in prose. The quotation from J. Orwell, already cited in this article, is only a drop in the ocean. Other illustrations include the following:
It was an open secret. - "It was not a secret" (literally: "It was a well-known secret").
Lightless light - "dark light".
Good Bad Boys are good bad boys.
A young middle-aged woman - "middle-aged young woman".
Love-hate - "hated love".
Bloody good - "damn good."
Peace force - "peaceful force".
Alone together - "loneliness together" (literally "alone together").
Only choice is the "only choice".
As in the Russian language, oxymorons are widely used in English-language titles. Look, for example, at the familiar names of Hollywood movies: Back to Future - “Back to the Future”, True Lies - “True Lies” and the like.
Oxymoron can be found in German (angstgeruch - "the smell of fear", der fremde freund - "alien friend") and in many others. Such a vivid means of artistic expression is used in the speech of many nations.
Oxymorons in everyday life
It's amazing how often we pronounce phrases containing oxymorons, but we don’t even guess about it. Here are some examples, an oxymoron in which almost no one notices:
All these expressions are so firmly in everyday use that we do not even think about how contradictory they are in their meaning. The study of oxymorons can push to take a different look at familiar words, expressions and the language as a whole.
Instead of an afterword
However, it is worth noting that not all combinations of opposing words can illustrate the phenomenon described in this article as its examples. Oxymoron is primarily a deliberate combination of conflicting images. For this reason, stable expressions (“white crow”, “bottomless barrel”) and stylistic combinations (“sweet tears”, “poisonous honey”) are referred to by a researcher as a phenomenon called a cut-cutter, not an oxymoron. However, the similarity between the two stylistic methods is quite strong.
In addition, an oxymoron is compared by many researchers with a paradox. Indeed, there is much in common between these phenomena.
Paradox, oxymoron, cathresis - these phenomena can be used as artistic techniques and demonstrate new, unusual, original aspects of our reality.