First, the statement must contain an apparent contradiction. Think in opposites. Second, there must be some sort of conclusion or truth that the reader discovers after some consideration. The first rule of fight club is you do not talk about fight club.” This famous line is from Chuck Palahniuk’s…
Sweet sadness- it is a paradox with two contradictory words.
Similar terms to paradox
There are many great literary devices that rely on opposition to create an effect on the reader. Some closely related terms are:
Antithesis: Using two things that are opposites but do not contradict one another.
“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” —Neil Armstrong
This is an antithetical statement—and a very poetic one at that. Armstrong uses juxtaposition (small step / giant leap and man / mankind) but does not use any apparent contradictions.
Irony: Irony is a situation or statement that turns a reader’s expectation on its head. It is, in other words, exactly what you don’t predict will happen. Of course, in real life, humans are full of contradictory and unpredictable behavior. So a scene that involves irony is both unpredictable and closer to real life, which would make it predictable. Is that a paradox?
Oxymoron: Oxymorons are similar to paradoxes because they also play with contradictions. However, the contradictions in paradoxes vs. those in oxymorons happen on different scales. An oxymoron is a contradiction between two words, while a paradox is a contradiction between sentences, phrases, or even entire books. In other words, think of an oxymoron as a contradiction of terms and a paradox as a contradiction of ideas.