Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Antonym Power

Life is a game of balances. Work, play, Walk, sleep. Stimulant, narcotic.
My snug skin, my cosy mind, the gentle hum of me.
(Yates, Christopher J. Black Chalk. New York: Picador, 2013. Kindle Ed.)

Christopher Yates uses antonyms powerfully in the passage above from his 2013 novel, Black Chalk. He juxtaposes work against its opposite, play. Walk parries sleep, and stimulant contrasts with narcotic.

Six words--six antonyms--sum up the human experience. Work, walk, and stimulant are the energy of each day whereas play, sleep, and narcotic are its lethargy.

Six more words sum up a human, snug inside the largest organ of the body, cosy within the confines of its most powerful organ, each working in tandem to keep the machine of me humming. The external organ, skin, and internal organ, mind [brain], function as antonyms, too. On the other hand, their modifiers--snug and cosy--are synonyms conveying warmth and comfort, conditions in which a human may thrive or, as Yates writes, gently hum like a well-oiled, carefully and cautiously maintained machine.

Yates’ deliberate word choices render this passage as poetry and elevate it to one of the most memorable in his novel, Black Chalk.

Light and shadow are the antonyms of Nature.
They compel us, they draw us onward, they arrest our thoughts.
Photo courtesy of Al Griffin whose work can be viewed on
Fine Art America, SmugMug, and Al Griffin Photography.

Reading Challenge:

 Read Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates.

Writing Challenge:

Transform a passage from your journals or first drafts into a more memorable passage by choosing antonyms to emphasize ideas and hammer words home.

Connye Griffin is My Writing and Editing Coach