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Examples of Paradox

Paradox Examples With Explanations for Easy Understanding

Reading examples of paradox in the English language is the best way to understand them. This article will give you such examples, along with explanations to make them easy to follow.
Sujata Iyer
Last Updated: Mar 8, 2018
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Every person who is passionate about the English language, knows very well the importance and the plain brilliance of coming up with some fabulous paradoxes. Be it in grammar and composition, in literature, or in poetry, no one can deny that the works seem more riveting, and at times more amusing, simply because of the presence of paradoxes in them. But sometimes, it can be really ambiguous to first identify a paradox, and second, to figure out what it means. In this Penlighten article, we have some simple examples which we hope will help you drive away the confusion.
PARADOX: A paradox is a statement which at first glance, appears to be false, but on further reading, it seems to contain an element of truth.
Confused? Let's try again, this time, with an example.

If you wish to preserve your secret, wrap it up in frankness." ~ Alexander Smith

The first time you read the sentence given above, you'll probably pass it off as a joke of some sort because secrets are meant to be hidden, by the very meaning of the word. But on reading it again, you'll realize, that it does make sense. How often have we seen that things hidden in plain sight are the least likely to be spotted easily. Once we know that something is a secret, it is human nature to think that it must be concealed in a place where no one can find it. We never look at the most obvious place because we believe that it cannot be 'hidden' there. The sentence given above means exactly that, thus making it one of the good literary examples of paradox.
Paradoxes have made poetry a lot more colorful than they would have been. Here are some examples to justify it.
  • Men work together whether they work together or apart. ~ Robert Frost, The Tuft of Flowers
  • The silence of midnight, to speak truly, though apparently a paradox, rung in my ears . ~ Mary Shelley, The Last Man
  • I dwell in a house that vanished many a summer ago. ~ Robert Frost, Ghost House
  • What more miraculous thing may be told,
    That fire, which all things melts, should harden ice,
    And ice, which is congeal'd with senseless cold,
    Should kindle fire by wonderful device?
    ~ Edmund Spencer
  • The howling ship of the wind,
    Its gathering rage,
    Like some dark ancestral spectre.
    Fearful and reassuring.
    ~ Grace Nichols
Songs too, make use of paradoxes in order to sensationalize them and to make them seem more lyrical. Here are some examples used in lyrics of songs.
  • It rained all night the day I left, the weather it was dry
    The sun so hot, I froze to death
    ~ Oh Susanna, Stephen Foster
  • I close my eyes so I can see...
    I burn a fire to stay cool...
    Shut the door so I can leave
    ~ Shut the Door, Fugazi
  • Last night I saw upon the stair
    A little man who wasn't there
    He wasn't there again today
    Oh, how I wish he'd go away...
    ~ The Little Man Who Wasn't There~ Glenn Miller
  • Equality, I spoke the word
    As if a wedding vow
    Ahh, but I was so much older then
    I'm younger than that now
    ~ My Back Pages, Bob Dylan
  • I'm sad but I'm laughing
    I'm brave but I'm chickenshit
    I'm sick but I'm pretty baby
    ~ Hand in my Pocket, Alanis Morissette
Literature has been using paradoxes since the earliest times. It is with paradoxes that literature has been woven into the glorious texts that we behold as classics today. Let us see some of them below.
  • I must be cruel to be kind. ~ William Shakespeare (Hamlet)
  • What a pity that youth must be wasted on the young. ~ George Bernard Shaw
  • Careless she is with artful care, Affecting to seem unaffected. ~ Congreve
  • All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others. ~ George Orwell (Animal Farm)
  • An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered. ~ G. K. Chesterton

Now that you've seen so many examples of paradoxes in poetry, literature, and songs, we hope the concept is much clearer than it was. As homework, you can try to spot as many as you can in your daily life. It'll be the most interesting homework ever.