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Spiritual Antithesis / Literature

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  • Aesir: Cross Wars definitely plays as this to Kid Icarus: Uprising. For starters, ACW uses Norse Mythology, while KIU uses Greek Mythology.
    • Azrael and Pit. The Protagonist with a sharp tongue. Also an angel. Azrael is a Mellow Fellow, while Pit is a Keet. Azrael is Weak, but Skilled, relying on high speed and intelligence, while Pit is Unskilled, but Strong, generally not caring for strategy and overpowering his opponents. Azrael can fly on his own and Pit can't. Azrael is the King of Snark, while Pit is Sarcasm-Blind. I Azrael is an Iron Woobie from the start of the book (but this is only revealed 4 parts in.), while Pit becomes an Iron Woobie during the events of his game.
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    • Azazel and Dark Pit. Shadow Archetype and Anti-Hero. Azazel is Hot-Blooded, while Dark Pit is The Stoic. Azazel starts out on the side of good, while Dark Pit had to perform a Heel–Face Turn. Azazel had a mostly original design, Dark Pit is a Palette Swap of Pit. Azazel is a Small Name, Big Ego, while Dark Pit, despite also having a big ego, acts much more competent. It's worth noting that next to Azazel, Pittoo looks like he's self-deprecating.
    • Freya and Palutena. Kind, trollish helper goddess to the hero. Palutena is The High Queen, Freya is relatively low ranking. Palutena looks like an adult, Freya looks fifteen and biologically is. Palutena is mature and calm, Freya is a childish Genki Girl.
    • Freya is also an antithesis to Viridi, the hot-tempered, Older Than They Look goddess with implied feelings for The Hero. Freya is kind and supportive of the protagonist, while Viridi is a violent Shana Clone. Freya is one of the least snarky characters in the story (at least, before the Retcon, while Viridi is one of the most.
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  • Robin Hood was intended to be this to King Arthur. Compared to the latter appearing in 6th century A.D. and representing the aristocracy in post-Roman Britain, the former would be created around eight centuries later to serve as a contrast to King Arthur, namely by stealing from a corrupt aristocracy and giving to the impoverished peasantry in 11th century Anglo-Norman England.
  • Lord of the Flies is this towards the children's book Coral Island. Coral Island has young boys living on an island after their ship's catastrophe and working together to fight "the savages". Golding, having an issue with racist undertones and savagery being presented as an outside threat and not something that lies in human nature, wrote a book in which young British boys end up abandoning their civilized ways and trying to kill each other. Oddly enough, another writer, Robert A. Heinlein, took issue with that portrayal and wrote Tunnel in the Sky, which served as an opposite to Lord of the Flies: Boys end up on an alien world and work together for their survival. Some try to go the same way as characters from Golding's book, but end up quickly killed. Mira Lobe's Insu-Pu is another spiritual opposite to Lord of the Flies.
  • John le Carré's George Smiley spy novels (of which The Spy Who Came In from the Cold is the most famous) are known for being the complete antithesis of Ian Fleming's James Bond novels, which were still being written when Le Carré began his career. Le Carré intentionally avoided glamorizing espionage with his portrayal of the Cold War, and his novels frequently examined the perils of government bureaucracy and the moral ambiguity of the fight against communism. Unlike Bond, Smiley rarely acted as a field agent or physically confronted his foes, instead relying on his intellect to unravel mysteries and beat Britain's enemies.
  • Frank Herbert wrote Dune partly in response to Isaac Asimov's Foundation Series. He found the elitism in the latter grating, and questioned the assumptions about science, human behavior, and how the control of history by scientific prophets is seen as a good thing. So he took the same premise and elements—the decay of a galactic Vestigial Empire, a Secret Circle of Secrets seeking to shape the future, an extremely powerful psychic acting as an Outside-Context Problem to The Plan—and restated it in a way that draws on different assumptions and suggests radically different conclusions. Notably, the psychic is now the hero instead of the antagonist, although this is also Deconstructed.
    • "History [in the Foundation books] … is manipulated for larger ends and for the greater good as determined by a scientific aristocracy. It is assumed, then, that the scientist-shamans know best which course humankind should take… While surprises may appear in these stories (e.g., the Mule mutant), it is assumed that no surprise will be too great or too unexpected to overcome the firm grasp of science upon human destiny. This is essentially the assumption that science can produce a surprise-free future for humankind."
    — Frank Herbert, quoted in his biography by Timothy O’Reilly.
  • Harry Potter and Ender's Game. They're two of the defining young adult sci-fi/fantasy series of the Millennial generation, and they have nearly identical premises—but they ultimately bring their premises to vastly different conclusions, and they lie on completely opposite ends of the Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism. In both, a bullied Child Prodigy with an unhappy home life receives an offer to leave home and enroll in a special school hidden from the rest of the world, where he learns that he is destined to come to the world's rescue in the latest chapter of an decades-old struggle against a malevolent evil (a Dark Lord in one, an Alien Invasion in the other), leading to a years-long Trauma Conga Line while he prepares for an inevitable Final Battle while bonding with a loyal group of True Companions; there's also an ongoing series of highly contested school games ("football on flying broomsticks" in one, zero-gravity laser tag in the other) that everyone takes really seriously, and the story repeatedly points out how much it can suck to be the Chosen One. The difference? One ends with an upbeat Earn Your Happy Ending where evil is vanquished through The Power of Friendship and the True Companions remain inseparable for life, with the protagonist revered as a hero. The other has far more of a Bittersweet Ending, where we learn that the whole conflict was based on a cultural misunderstanding, the protagonist is remembered as a monster who destroyed an entire alien race, and he ultimately leaves his friends and family behind to wander the universe in search of a way to atone for his crimes. Politically, one is also far more idealistic, ending with the heroes forming a La Résistance against their corrupt government, and ultimately reforming it through unabashed determination. The other ends with the heroes unwittingly causing the rise of a corrupt government, with one of the most unsympathetic characters attempting to become a benevolent dictator.
  • Chinua Achebe found Heart of Darkness to be racist and historically dubious. He was tired that it was used as a reference point by many readers and academics when discussing Africa. One of the reasons he cited for writing Things Fall Apart was to show that native Africans from traditional societies were intelligent and highly complex individuals and to show that Africa is not a dark place meant for European decadence but a place where people lived lives just like anywhere else.
  • His Dark Materials is explicitly intended as an atheist answer to the Christian allegory of The Chronicles of Narnia.
    • In a similar vein, but earlier, Fred Hoyle's novel, Ossian's Ride was an answer to That Hideous Strength.
  • Steven Erikson has stated that the impetus to fictionalize his and his friends' home brewed Tabletop RPG campaign as the Malazan Book of the Fallen came from having a very visceral reaction to opening the first Forgotten Realms boxed set, in essence saying "This is not what fantasy is supposed to be."
    • The entire series is an antithesis to Robin Hood. The rangers' weapons and tactics are very similar to that of Robin's Merry Men, but they fight for the government, and often against insurgents.
  • John Sladek's satirical Roderick series features a robot who views a corrupt world through innocent eyes. Sladek then turned the idea on its head in the novel Tik-Tok: the world is just as corrupt, so its robot Anti-Hero decides to exploit it by being even more corrupt.
  • Starship Troopers gets this treatment a lot, especially in the 1970s and 80s, with works like Haldeman's The Forever War and Steakley's Armor being the two most blatant. Even Drake's Hammer's Slammers could probably be listed.
  • Friedrich Nietzsche wrote Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None as an opposite philosophical story to the New Testament.
  • When the Windman Comes is an antithesis to Bridge to Terabithia. In both cases a boy from a down-to-Earth family meets a girl with very wild and colourful imagination, who draws the boy into her world. Yet in BTT imagination is a liberating force, opening new horizons for the boy, and the girl is helping the boy to develop it , whereas in WWC, imagination is a destructive force, making the girl's life increasingly difficult and miserable (and even unnecessary dangerous), and it falls to the boy to help her and her mother to "get real".
  • According to Word of God, the Red Room series began as this to Charles Stross The Laundry Files. More specifically, The Jennifer Morgue. After an entire book about glamorous superspies fighting monsters being made fun of, C.T. Phipps wrote a book about glamorous superspies fighting monsters and played it dead straight. The hero even has a preference for redheads and a nerdy pair of lesbian tech support compared to Bob Howard's wife and nerdy gay men tech support. The author has also stated himself to be a Laundry Files fan, though.
  • Robert E. Howard's two Barbarian Heroes, Kull and Conan are this to each other. Both are Blood Knights who face a number of serpentine adversaries, and become kings by their own hands in nations not their own. Kull is older, introspective, melancholic, and completely uninterested in the pleasures of the flesh. Conan, while hardly The Brute, has no time for philosophy, is joyous, and knows the company of many young women in his stories. Becomes Early Installment Weirdness, as Conan started off as a line-for-line Expy of Kull.
  • Conan himself has an antithesis in Elric of Melniboné, envisioned as such by his creator, Michael Moorcock. Conan is a mighty barbaric warrior, shunning magic and hating sorcerers, growing from humble origins and rising into the king of the greatest empire of his time; Elric by contrast is a sick and frail sorcerer-king, ruler of the most corrupt and decadent civilization of his own world, then proceeds to lose everything and dies alone and unmourned.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin was partially a response to The Lord of the Rings and its imitators. Word of God said he was always more interested in how Aragorn would win the peace after the War of the Ring (which is barely skimmed over in the epilogue) than how he won the war. He also wanted to know if fantasy could work if it had a more socially accurate examination of feudalism based on actual medieval history. Martin also said that it was also a response to Historical Fiction noting that he was tired of the Foregone Conclusion nature of the genre, and wanted to use fantasy as a genre to explore history via various events and historical figures having their Serial Numbers Filed Off.
  • Richard K. Morgan intends A Land Fit for Heroes to be this to The Lord of the Rings.
  • The Black Company by Glen Cook is this for High Fantasy genre - if one assumes that typical works of High Fantasy are propaganda of the winners, then this is closer to how those events really looked like.
  • Vox Day wrote his novel A Throne of Bones (the start of his The Arts of Dark and Light series) as a "literary rebuke" to popular fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire.
  • Stephen R. Donaldson is most famous for writing Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, a High Fantasy story about a man from Earth who is forcibly transported into another world and spends most of his time refusing to believe that anything he sees is real. An indication that he might be right is that the story is described mainly in cerebral terms, with things and people often coming across more as the personification of ideas than as real things. Donaldson later wrote Mordant's Need, a Low Fantasy story about a woman from Earth who accepts an invitation to go to another world, where she is told (and almost convinced) that she and her own world has no reality of its own but is purely the creation of Mordant's magic. The story is told in very naturalistic, sensual terms, with much emphasis on physical sensation and practical constraints, and characters are generally messy, flawed and very human.
  • Lavie Tidhar's novel The Violent Century is a Spiritual Antithesis to Über, whether consciously or not. Both are very dark horror-tinged Alternate History stories that deconstruct neo-Golden Age "World War II would have been really cool with superpowered people" comics. However, Über has Nazi Germany developing supersoldiers in 1945 and coming Back from the Brink, launching a whole new escalation of horror, while in The Violent Century all the great powers already have superpeople at the start of the war due to a Mass Super-Empowering Event, and the horror for the reader comes in how little history is actually changed, demonstrating how powerless even superheroes and villains are compared to the real-world horrors.
  • Matilda for Carrie. Both stories feature school girls as their protagonists who come from abusive homes and eventually develop telekinetic powers that they eventually use to punish people. Carrie White is a loner who gets bullied relentlessly and eventually breaks after being tormented too much — using her powers to get revenge on all her classmates, and eventually her entire town. Matilda Wormwood meanwhile is an Iron Woobie who tries to make the best of her situation, similarly to how Carrie does at first. But in this case, Matilda uses her powers to punish her tormentors in ways that get rid of them forever and prevent them from hurting other people (non-fatally of course, since this is a children's book). Both stories feature a Cool Teacher who stands up for the girl. Carrie's Miss Desjardin makes things worse for her - as punishing the bullies pisses off the Alpha Bitch so much she organises a prank that ends up starting Carrie's rampage. Matilda's Miss Honey eventually adopts Matilda to free her from her rotten parents, and they live happily ever after.
  • Frances Hodgson Burnett wrote two books that became these to each other, featuring contrasting protagonists and situations; The Secret Garden's Mary Lennox and A Little Princess's Sara Crewe. Both girls end up orphaned and have to move from India to England. Both spend their story angsting over a missing parent — Mary for her mother and Sara for her father. Sara grew up with a father who doted on her and is kind and gracious to everyone, with a quality that compels all to attend to her. Mary grew up with nothing but neglect and indifference from her parents, and ends up as a dysfunctional sour girl who no one likes. Sara's optimism is put to the test as she struggles without someone to care for her, while Mary's cynicism is tested by learning to let others care for her. Both stories invert the depictions and contrast of India and England. Sara's India was a magical place, and she uses her own imagination and belief in 'the magic' to cope with her dreary life in England. Mary's India was uncomfortably hot and lonely, and in her story she discovers magic and beauty in England.
  • The Unexplored Summon://Blood-Sign is this to several other series by Kazuma Kamachi. The protagonist Kyousuke tries to save others regardless of the personal cost, like Touma, Shinobu, Beatrice and Satori. However, Kyousuke is a One-Man Army capable of beating most opponents with only his own skills, whereas most of Kamachi's protagonists need to rely on others. Similarly, while the other protagonists generally grew up in normal and loving families, Kyousuke's family only appeared normal - his father saw him as no more than a tool and carefully controlled his life to teach him his unusual skills. The main antagonists are also different. Most of Kamachi's other antagonists are Well-Intentioned Extremists with impersonal goals (like saving the world) who spend most of their time scheming from behind the scenes. The White Queen is active right from the beginning and has the entirely personal goal of making Kyousuke love her again.
  • While in the level of dark themes presented one is Spiritual Successor to another, Jack London's White Fang, a story of a wolf slowly becoming domesticated, is the opposite of his earlier work, The Call of the Wild - a story of a dog slowly becoming feral.
  • James Joyce's Ulysses is widely known for being a loose parody/retelling of Homer's The Odyssey, but it's also largely an antithesis of it. Much of the book's subtle humor comes from Joyce essentially zigging everywhere Homer zagged. The Odyssey is a story about the Ancient World that unfolds over the course of an entire decade, while Ulysses is a story about the Modern World that unfolds over the course of a single day. The Odyssey is about heroic feats, while Ulysses is about the minutiae of everyday life. The Odyssey takes place in the aftermath of the momentous events of the Trojan War, while Ulysses takes place in the early 1900s—just before the momentous events of World War I. Where Telemachus is The Dutiful Son who honors and respects his father and strives to live up to his example, Stephen Dedalus is a melancholy artist who rebels against his father and tries to escape his influence. Where Odysseus is a larger-than-life hero who's determined to get back home to his family, Leopold Bloom is a Ridiculously Average Guy who spends his day wandering the streets and avoiding going home to his family. Where Penelope is a chaste and innocent woman who stays faithful to her husband no matter what, Molly Bloom is a sassy and insatiably curious woman who casually sleeps around.
  • George Orwell's 1984, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, and Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 are arguably the most famous and influential dystopian novels ever written — and all three have been noted as being utter antitheses of one another in the nature of their broken societies and the real-world influences behind them.
    • Nineteen Eighty-Four's Oceania is a world where the regime stamps its boot on the faces of the underclass, controlling them through state surveillance, endless war against foreign countries, and omnipresent propaganda that makes them question what is even real.note  First published in 1949 in the UK, it reflected both the freshly-exposed horrors of Nazi Germany and the emerging division of the world into two hostile power blocs, both of which were at least somewhat dystopian (the East being outwardly totalitarian and the West risking falling down the same rabbit hole) in the eyes of the democratic socialist Orwell.
    • Brave New World's World State, on the other hand, doesn't need to take such measures to crush dissent, instead having bred such ideas out of the populace through a mix of eugenics, Government Drug Enforcement, and Bread and Circuses, all while having long ago conquered the world. First published in 1931 in the UK, it reflected early 20th century concerns over the rapid advance of science and industry, from the assembly line to biology, and how those advances might reshape human society and sweep aside all those who tried to resist.
    • Finally, Fahrenheit 451 envisions a future America where mass media has dumbed down the populace and caused them to decide that books were not only unnecessary, but actively harmful to society due to the dangerous ideas they spread. Published in 1953 in the United States, Bradbury was writing chiefly about censorship coming not through top-down state power, but from the ground up through public moralism and a culture of Anti-Intellectualism fed by the emerging mass culture of the postwar years, all while most people are too glued to the empty pablum coming from their television screens to care.
    • In short, Oceania maintains control through fear, the World State maintains control through pleasure, and Fahrenheit 451's America maintains control through apathy.
  • Huxley later wrote his own antithesis to Brave New World, the Spiritual Successor Island (1962). Whereas Brave New World was his envisioned dystopian society, Island was his envisioned utopia, with multiple elements of life on the island of Pala serving as direct counterpoints to elements of the World State.
  • Whether by coincidence or by intention, the Bailey School Kids books are essentially Scooby-Doo in reverse. They're both about four mismatched friends tangling with monsters—but instead of being about ordinary people posing as monsters, they're about monsters posing as ordinary people. Additionally: while every episode of Scooby-Doo famously ends with the kids unmasking the monster, most of the Bailey School Kids books end far more inconclusively, nearly always leaving leaving it ambiguous whether the monster was really a monster. And while nearly all of the "monsters" in Scooby-Doo are unscrupulous criminals, most of the Bailey School monsters turn out to be perfectly nice and harmless, and they usually have mundane jobs and hobbies.
  • The Clansman: A Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan by Thomas Dixon Jr. was intended to be this to Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, with Dixon having described his book as a sequel. Both were novels about plantation slavery in the Southern United States that inflamed public opinion, especially after they were turned into stage plays and, in the case of The Clansman, a feature film adaptation in The Birth of a Nation (1915). Uncle Tom's Cabin, however, was Stowe's condemnation of the horrors and barbarism of slavery, dehumanizing everybody involved with it and grotesquely undermining traditional values of faith and family, while The Clansman, by contrast, was about what Dixon saw as the horrors and barbarism of the end of slavery, shredding the fabric of Southern society and plunging it into chaos. In particular, the main slave characters in each are a study in contrasts: while Stowe presented Uncle Tom as a noble hero and a symbol of why slavery was incompatible with Christian morality, Dixon presented Gus in The Clansman as a violent rapist who never should have been freed and is given a righteous punishment by The Klan.
  • Roger Zelazny's Creatures of Light and Darkness is the antithesis of his previous novel Lord of Light. The latter is a science fiction novel that reads like a fantasy novel — aliens are exclusively referred to as "demons", and the "brainwave transfer" technology is presented as indistinguishable from reincarnation, yet the "gods" are still regular humans abusing Clarke's Third Law to present themselves as holy. The former, meanwhile, feels like a science fiction story, including all the trouble involved in keeping a spaceship working, yet the characters in the crew really are gods, and their journey is eventually revealed to be supernatural.
  • Ernest Cline's Ready Player One can be read as this to Carlton Mellick III's Cybernetrix, in that both are stories about virtual worlds that have a basis of sorts in '80s nostalgia but sit on opposing ends of the Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism with regards to such. Mellick's novel is set in a world where The '80s never ended, culturally speaking, and society has grown creatively stagnant as a result, with '80s film franchises still getting sequels despite having long since been run into the ground. The titular virtual world at the center of the story is where people go to escape the stodginess of mainstream culture. In Cline's novel, on the other hand, the OASIS is itself rooted in '80s nostalgia, and serves as a place where people can escape the bleak prospects of the real world by traveling back to a more idealized past.
  • The second part of Gulliver's Travels is this to the first part. Lilliput is a land of tiny militant people who go to war for the silliest reasons, while Brobdingnag is a country of giants who are much more peaceful and enlightened.
  • Astrid Lindgrens Pippi Longstocking can be viewed as an antithesis to Alice in Wonderland. Both stories have little girls as protagonists who on occasion argue with themselves (Alice telling herself off, Pippi telling herself to go to bed), contains humorous version of nursery rhymes and old song lyrics (in fact, Ur-Pippi, Astrids first draft, contained a lot more of these than the final book) and a lot of wordplay. Alice has "uglification", Pippi has "multikipperation". The major difference is that Alice is a normal girl interacting and clashing with eccentric characters in a fantasy-world while Pippi is an eccentric girl with fantastical powers interacting, and clashing, with the mundane, everyday world of the little town she's moved to.
  • Nos4a2 examines the disturbing implications of The Polar Express, and plays it for pure horror.
  • Naomi Alderman’s The Power is this to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid's Tale — incidentally, with Atwood's full blessing. Both are feminist dystopian novels about gender roles being taken to their Logical Extreme, but explore this concept from two completely different directions. The Handmaid’s Tale takes place in a No Woman's Land where women are treated as chattel and breeding stock, presented as the logical conclusion of the aims of the contemporary Christian Right, and one that is implied to eventually collapse under the weight of its contradictions. The Power, meanwhile, is a deconstructed Feminist Fantasy where, thanks to a biological mutation, women now wield greater physical power than men — but without an accompanying change in gender roles and stereotypes, women simply recreate the worst excesses of the patriarchy with themselves on top. What’s more, this state of affairs is made even stronger by the collapse of civilization and a reversion to a barbaric Stone Age world where brute physical strength determined who ruled, because that is how human society used to operate and what informs our socially-determined gender roles to this day.
  • Nathanael West's two most famous novels, The Day of the Locust and Miss Lonelyhearts, are considered opposite sides of the same coin: Locust takes place in sunny Los Angeles, with its spacious villas, wealthy retirees and movie moguls, artificial excessive decor that looks kitschy, and contrast with nature. Lonelyhearts takes place in crowded New York, in cheap apartments and bland-looking offices, with letter writers who are subjected to terrible disgraces. Yet, they're both critiques of the search for fame and wealth — Locust focuses on the emptiness of a life of luxury, and Lonelyhearts on the despair of trying to achieve it.