Paradox is a statement or proposition that, despite sound (or apparently sound) reasoning from acceptable premises, leads to a conclusion that seems senseless, logically unacceptable, or self-contradictory.
This is the definition I offer my students when we begin the satirical analysis paper—aka my favorite assignment to teach. And here are some of my favorite examples to help:
-“I can resist anything but temptation.” Oscar Wilde
-The more you try to impress others, the less they’ll be impressed.
-“It’s weird not to be weird.” John Lennon
-You must be cruel to be kind.
-It was the beginning of the end.
-“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
-“What a pity that youth must be wasted on the young.” – George Bernard Shaw
These are all used for situational or rhetorical effect to reconcile a hidden or unexpected truth with the reader. We also often refer to them as dichotomies, where a sharp contrast is required to create drama, cause conflict, or add depth to a character or situation. Think:
-There can be no pleasure without pain.
-You can only hate someone you’ve once loved.
More complexly, let’s look at Mr. Darcy, whom I love to compare my character Gene to. Mr. Darcy holds several opposing characteristics: he’s arrogant but bashful, tactless but generous, proud but broken.
Okay, that last one may not exactly be opposing, but they’re close enough for my tastes, as that’s something inherently infused in Gene’s personality. He’s so highly strung because he’s sensitive, and he’s had to learn to hide it in order to protect himself.
Another paradox presents itself in most of my stories, especially the longer ones, and more honed in on Ria’s story in the BLOOD PHOENIX saga, and that’s:
Good people must accept that, sometimes, they will have to do bad things to bad people to protect the ones they love.
For her entire story arc, Ria fights to be what she deems as a good guy, struggles to keep her humanity because she doesn’t want to become like any of those corrupt women in charge. But she slowly learns that she must act like them to defeat them and is willing to sacrifice her humanity to keep other, innocent people safe.
But so long as she continues to struggle with the decisions she makes and whether or not she’s done the right thing, she’ll stay on camped across that good line.
You may be asking yourself, how is this satire? Well, it’s subtle. Paradox and dichotomies help us focus on our satirical intent and gives us new ways to exaggerate or understand or otherwise highlight our main message and its parts.
What paradoxes are you a fan of? Let me know in the comments below.