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juxtaposition when to use?

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Juxtaposition is a literary device that implies comparison or contrast. Writers create juxtaposition by placing two entities side by side to create dramatic or ironic contrast. Juxtaposition is a form of implied comparison in that there is no overt comparison or inference on the part of the writer. This allows the reader to discern how the paired entities are similar or different. The effect of this literary device is a more profound understanding of contrast and creating a sense of fate or inevitability in the comparison.

For example, in the movie adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, filmmakers effectively juxtapose black and white film with bright technicolor to showcase the differences between Kansas and Oz. Though Oz is bright, colorful, and whimsical compared to the harsh gray of Kansas, Dorothy realizes that her home in Kansas is where she belongs and is happy. The juxtaposition of such contrasting places highlights the inevitable decision that Dorothy must make about returning to home and reality.

Writers use juxtaposition for rhetorical effect by placing two entities side by side in order to highlight their differences. These divergent elements can include people, ideas, things, places, behaviors, and characteristics. Here are some common examples of entities that are juxtaposed for artistic effect:

Many novels and stories are well-known due to their juxtaposition of ideas, settings, characters, and themes. Here are some famous examples of juxtaposition in familiar novels and stories:

It can be difficult to distinguish between juxtaposition and foil as literary devices. In fact, foil is a form of juxtaposition. Both of these devices are based o n implied comparisons created by the writer. However, foil is limited to the juxtaposition of characters.

As a literary device, foil specifically refers to contrasts between characters within the same narrative. A writer uses the juxtaposition of two characters as foils in order to emphasize their disparate qualities or character traits. For example, in John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, Cal and Aron are brothers and foils for each other. Their characters are juxtaposed to showcase the differences in their natures, as Cal is dark and secretive while Aron is delicate and beloved.

Juxtaposition, as a literary device, is not limited to characters. With juxtaposition, any entities such as ideas, places, and things, can be placed side by side to invite comparison and create an ironic effect.

Writers can achieve a great deal when they juxtapose two elements. By putting two entities side by side, writers invite the reader to compare and contrast, considering the relationship between the elements with closer scrutiny. Juxtaposition can have the effect of absurdity or humor, or create a link between elements and images that appear unrelated until they are paired.

Writers can also reveal truths about a character through contrasting their traits with another, to achieve a foil. Juxtaposition can demonstrate that one idea or element is better when compared to another, and often readers gain a greater understanding of nuances of traits or concepts through juxtaposition.

It’s important for writers to understand that there must be a sense of logic and intention in juxtaposing two entities within a narrative or poem. As a literary technique, juxtaposition is more than simply putting one entity beside another and inviting the reader to make a comparison between them. There must be meaning in the juxtaposition so that some aspect of the literary work becomes more significant to a reader.

Although it seems that juxtaposition and antithesis are two similar terms, they are poles apart in meanings and sense. An antithesis is a specific term, whereas a juxtaposition is a general device. Antithesis puts two ideas or concepts that often contradict each other. Contrary to the antithesis, juxtaposed concepts or ideas or things are dissimilar and do not necessarily contradict each other. Even the name suggests that juxtaposition means putting side by side while antithesis means putting against each other.

The difference between juxtaposition and oxymoron is mostly obscure. A juxtaposition is placing dissimilar ideas or objects or things together for the sake of contrast and comparison. However, an oxymoron shows the placing of two contradictory ideas, depicting a single and strong sense of the words which, though, seems opposite yet is strongly associated with the other word in showing true meanings. For example, a pretty ugly boy is an oxymoron as it is just a phrase. However, if it is twisted to become a juxtaposition it would be; a pretty boy has come across and an ugly boy has passed along.

Juxtaposition, or the technique of comparison and contrast, appears in all forms of artistic expression. In literature, juxtaposition is an effective literary device in that readers gain greater meaning through measuring the tension of similarities and differences between two paired elements.

Here are some examples of juxtaposition in literature and how this literary device adds to the value of literary works:

In Reed’s poem, the poet juxtaposes the stages of breaking down and naming parts of a military rifle with naming parts of springtime. In this stanza, the safety-catch of a gun and its release is juxtaposed with fragile blossoms. This juxtaposition allows the reader to consider any similarities and contrasts between releasing a weapon’s safety-catch and fragile blossoms. The differences are obvious, so Reed may appear to have created an incongruous juxtaposition. However, there is a logic to the implied comparison in that releasing the safety-catch on a gun allows bullets to fly from it, just as blossoms might be released and fly from a tree.

The juxtaposition of the parts of a weapon and parts of springtime creates a dramatic effect of tension between death and destruction and rebirth and renewal. By simply pairing these two entities side by side in the poem, Reed allows the reader to compare and contrast man-made technology meant to end life and nature’s capability of restoring and beginning life.

In this chapter of Tan’s novel, a daughter is trying to understand her mother’s actions towards her as a child while simultaneously coming to terms with her mother’s absence in death. The mother and daughter juxtaposition creates a foil for the narrative in many ways, particularly in that the daughter considers herself to be American and the mother considers herself Chinese. In addition, the juxtaposition of the daughter’s older, more experienced self and the memory of her childhood self encourages the reader to consider more fully how time can change someone’s perspective and understanding of people and memories.

In this passage, the daughter opens the piano book to find two musical pieces juxtaposed. As she plays each piece, the daughter explores the similarities and differences between them. This implicitly invites the reader to compare and contrast these pieces, although not musically. Instead, through the juxtaposition of the song titles, their musical descriptions, and the daughter’s reactions to playing them, the reader is able to compare and contrast the daughter’s relationship with her mother and the mother’s relationship with the daughter. This is significant in allowing the reader to explore meaning and understanding in the story, just as the daughter’s character attempts to do as well.

In his allegorical tale of the Russian Revolution and the nation’s transformation from a czarist regime to a communist state, Orwell juxtaposes many elements and themes to showcase the significance and meaning of historical events and political theory. In this passage, the animals witness the juxtaposition of the pigs and men at the end of the story.

Rather than resulting in stark contrast, the juxtaposition of the pigs and men instead brings about an inability among the “outside” animals to distinguish between them. This has a dramatic effect in terms of the narrative since the pigs were the original leaders of the revolution on the farm and intended, at the beginning of the literary work, to differentiate themselves as much as possible from the men they believed to be their oppressors.

In addition to the ironic effect of this juxtaposition of pigs and men, the “creatures outside” are juxtaposed with the pigs and men inside. This additional layer of juxtaposition is effective to use the literary device because it invites the reader not to compare and contrast the men with the pigs, but instead to compare and contrast the men and pigs (oppressors) with the outside animals (the oppressed). By utilizing juxtaposition, Orwell effectively demonstrates the link between power and its consequences, for those who possess it and those who don’t.

Although there are several other examples, this not-so-well-known example shows that two ideas black and fair have been juxtaposed in these lines. They have just been put side by side to compare two different ideas which are contradictory but do not contradict. They just accentuate the contrast.

These lines from The Jungle show that Sinclair has put two ideas tiring and sitting side by side but he does not mean to state them for the sake of contradiction. They are just showing a contrast.

These lines from the essay of Jonathan Swift show how Swift has put two different ideas or things the orphan children and innocent babes side by side to compare and contrast two opposing ideas.

Some of the words that are closer in meanings to juxtaposition are comparison, contrast, proximity, colligation, closeness, contiguity, or nearness.

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Debra Brodin
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Answer # 2 #

Juxtaposition (pronounced juhk-stuh-puh--zish--uh-n) is the placement of two or more things side by side, often in order to bring out their differences. Imagine a man walking a well-groomed dog on a pink leash on one hand and a rough Rottweiler on a spiked collar on the other hand. The juxtaposition could be shocking, humorous, or just plain strange. Regardless, this literary term calls attention to two distinctly different things by placing them right beside one another, or juxtaposing them.

For example:

All’s fair in love and war

In this familiar adage, love and war, two opposite concepts, are placed beside one another. The juxtaposition of love and war serves to show that despite how different the two are, both are characterized by a lack of rules or guidelines.

Juxtaposition can occur in literature between characters, settings, events, ideas, or actions in order to encourage the reader to compare and contrast the entities.

Finally, notice how this example describes a butler’s life:

A butler spends his days in a beautiful mansion dressed in a tuxedo, but returns home to a closet-sized apartment in a rundown part of town.

Example 1 juxtaposes two settings: a wealthy person’s mansion and a poor butler’s apartment. Such juxtaposition serves to highlight just how different the butler’s quality of living is from his employer’s.

Consider this examples of a juxtaposition in attitude:

A waitress is remarkably rude and impatient with a doting couple. She is extremely kind, though, to a quiet man who is eating alone with a book.

Here, the juxtaposition is of the waitress’s attitude towards certain customers. Her rudeness to a couple followed by kindness to a single man implies that she is jealous of the couple and empathetic to the single man, as she herself is either single or unhappy in a relationship. Because such different attitudes are in close proximity, the meaning behind them is magnified.

Juxtaposition is an important literary term in that it highlights contrasts between two things but also invites comparisons. This device can be used to fully illustrate a character in a novel, complicate a poem’s subjects, or convince an audience to feel a certain way about the subjects.

For example, consider the waitress if her actions had not been juxtaposed. Simply shown being rude to a couple, she would be viewed as bitter and impatient. When her attitude is juxtaposed with her kindness towards a single man, though, her character is more well-rounded and understandable.

Juxtaposition can be used to consider universal ideas such as love and war. On the other hand, juxtaposition is often used in comedy as two largely different things placed in the same place can result in funny and strange situations.

Juxtaposition is an important device in literature as it encourages the reader to make comparisons otherwise ignored or unapparent. It can serve to highlight certain characteristics of subjects, to make different subjects more alike, or to challenge the typical perspective on a subject.

For a short and simple example of juxtaposition, read Joseph Bruchac’s poem “Prints”:

In this poem, Bruchac juxtaposes two points of view. First, he invites the reader to consider looking at oneself and how difficult it is to recognize oneself by certain details and characteristics. Then, he remarks on how much better a stranger is at recognizing these details in you. With this juxtaposition, Bruchac challenges the common notion that we know ourselves well with the argument that strangers may see us more truly or clearly than we see ourselves.

Juxtaposition is useful in pop culture as it complicates compositions, mixes up songs, and shapes characters’ development. As is true for literature, juxtaposition can be used for both serious and comedic means.

For an example of comedic juxtaposition, watch the trailer for Pixar’s animated film Up:

Carl Fredricksen is old, curt, and jaded. Russell is young, full of energy, and naïve. Russell wants to connect, whereas Fredricksen wants to be left alone. The juxtaposition of these two characters is funny, a cause of conflict in the movie, and ultimately, a reason for Fredricksen to lighten up and open his heart to the youngster.

For another example of juxtaposition, consider the French versus English narration in this Nike ad:

The French narrator speaks quickly and frequently, whereas the English narrator speaks rarely, simply, and with an unexcited voice. The juxtaposition of the two narrations serves to add a comedic touch to this already absurd ad.

For an example of juxtaposition in music, listen to Icelandic band Sigur Rós’s song “I Gaer”:

The most dramatic point of juxtaposition occurs at 55 seconds. The song begins with a light, mysterious mixture of xylophone-like instruments which are then abruptly interrupted by dramatic, powerful and roaring heavy-metal guitars and noise. The juxtaposition strikes listeners, interrupting the calm with a storm of sound.

A foil is a character who has qualities that are opposite or contrasting to another character in a creative piece. Foils are used to highlight the uniquely different characteristics in one another. If foils sound like juxtaposition, it is because they are a specific type of juxtaposition. Just as squares may be considered rectangles but rectangles may not be considered squares, all foils are juxtapositions, but not all juxtapositions are foils. A juxtaposition may be between characters in the form of a foil, but it may also be between places, things, or ideas. Here are a few examples of foils versus juxtapositions:

Foils:

God and Satan

Juxtaposition:

Heaven and hell

In this classic example, God and Satan symbolize good and bad, and exhibit purely opposite characters. Heaven and hell, symbolic of paradise versus suffering, are equally opposite but are settings rather than characters. For this reason, they would be considered a juxtaposition rather than foils.

Foils:

Harry Potter and Voldemort

Juxtaposition:

Hogwarts and the outside world

In this example from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Harry and Voldemort may be considered foils as they are opposites competing for good versus bad in the wizard world. Hogwarts, where Harry goes to school, is juxtaposed to the outside world as it is a place of open magic and strangeness versus the outside world which is void of magic and ordinary.

As is shown in the above examples, foils are a type of juxtaposition. They apply specifically to characters who highlight differences in other characters.

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Xan Geis
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Answer # 3 #

When is juxtaposition used? By putting two separate concepts or objects next to each other, you create a contrast that shows the difference or similarity between them. This can help strengthen an argument, create an emotional response, or otherwise add meaning.

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Ostendorf ucrnu Shamoon
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Answer # 4 #

Juxtaposition is a literary technique that places two distinctly dissimilar things side by side to bring out their differences.

Read on to learn the definition of juxtaposition and to see some of the most powerful examples of juxtaposition in literature.

Whether you write essays or novels, you can make your writing more powerful by using the literary technique of juxtaposition.

Juxtaposition means placing two unrelated things next to each other to highlight their differences.

This technique is a subtle way to encourage the reader to compare and contrast two or more elements in a story: characters, settings, events, moods, and more.

Juxtaposition is usually used to accomplish one or more of the following things:

Let’s explore each of these goals in detail.

Sometimes, juxtaposition can be funny or absurd.

We often see rom-coms where opposites attract. The social butterfly falls for the recluse. The goody-two-shoes falls for the rule-breaker.

You can use this type of stark contrast to add an element of humor to your writing.

By bringing two dissimilar things together, you can show the reader how those two elements interact with one another.

Maybe the two unrelated ideas clash and create fertile ground for conflict. Or maybe they complement each other, each making up for what the other lacks.

One common example of juxtaposition in literary settings is the rural-urban divide.

Showing a character travel from the city to the countryside, or vice versa, helps us understand how each one complements the other.

Sometimes, juxtaposition can help the reader see a single thing in a more complex way.

Showing two sides of a single character is a common way to add complexity to their personality.

For example, you might create a grumpy character who frightens all the kids in his neighborhood, but who is also exceptionally kind to the stray cat he feeds every morning.

Those two contrasting traits help the reader to see him as a three-dimensional character.

Juxtaposition can also be used to impart a lesson about one thing being better than another.

Many fables famously utilize this type of juxtaposition. Aesop’s fable of the tortoise and the hare is a juxtaposition of a lazy animal with a hardworking one.

This contrast teaches children that “slow and steady wins the race.”

This type of juxtaposition is also common in action and adventure stories.

By showing good and evil side-by-side, the author makes the good guys look like the right side to root for, even when they do morally grey things in the name of their cause.

Juxtaposition refers to any type of contrast created between different things when placed side by side.

Because this is such a broad concept, there are many other literary terms that refer to specific types of juxtaposition.

Three common terms are oxymoron, character foils, and antithesis.

When two contradictory words are used side by side, it’s a specific type of juxtaposition called an oxymoron.

For example, when Juliet says “Parting is such sweet sorrow,” the word “sweet” is juxtaposed with the word “sorrow” to show the complexity of her love—it makes her happy and sad at the same time.

The term character foil refers to juxtaposition used between two characters whose personalities or backgrounds are starkly dissimilar.

This technique helps make each character come alive for the reader.

For example, Cinderella’s kindness is made more obvious by the fact that her stepsisters are selfish and cruel.

Antithesis refers to the juxtaposition of two complete opposites. This is the most overt form of juxtaposition, because it relies on pairings we're all familiar with.

Here are some common examples of antithetical pairings that are often used in literature:

Let’s take a look at some examples of how some successful authors have used juxtaposition in their novels.

In this opening paragraph, Charles Dickens shows the inequality in society before the French Revolution by contrasting the way different people experience the time period.

For some people, it’s the age of light, while for others, it’s the age of darkness.

This passage is perhaps the most famous example of juxtaposition in literature. The entire novel is full of pairs and doubles, even the title itself.

When including juxtaposition in your writing, it can be hard to think of interesting synonyms and antonyms. This is where ProWritingAid’s Word Explorer can help.

When you input a word, the tool can not only help you find synonyms, but also help you overcome your writer’s block. It does this by providing examples 14 ways to look at the word, including providing examples from popular literature.

This paragraph introduces Lennie and George, the two protagonists of the story. It’s clear right away that they’re complete opposites.

Physically, this passage shows that one of these men is small and sharp, while the other is large and shapeless.

John Steinbeck will continue to juxtapose their personalities throughout the story: Lennie is innocent, while George is jaded.

This passage describes Katniss eating a lavish meal in the Capitol after having spent most of her life starving in District 12. Collins uses juxtaposition to show how much inequality there is in Panem.

Aside from the differences in what people eat, she also shows stark differences in how they dress, speak, and entertain themselves.

This passage in The Joy Luck Club is a fantastic example of juxtaposition.

The two musical pieces the daughter plays feel very different from each other, until she realizes they’re two halves of the same song.

In some ways, the juxtaposition between these two songs represents the juxtaposition of the relationship between the mother and daughter in this book.

It’s a subtle way to create a deeper understanding of how each woman views the other.

In this final example, Laini Taylor contrasts two characters, a protagonist named Lazlo Strange and an antagonist named Thyon Nero.

We already know that Thyron Nero is a golden boy who has everything he could ever need, and that Lazlo Strange is a poor orphan who has nothing but honor.

When we see them side-by-side, however, this becomes even clearer, and sets up their relationship for the story to come.

Using juxtaposition in your writing can help create contrast that engages your readers and makes them think.

What are some examples of juxtaposition you’ve seen in your favorite books? Let us know in the comments.

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Rasheed Mundal
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Answer # 5 #

By David Biespiel, Oregon State University Poet-in-Residence

The beautiful and the grotesque. Belief in the existence of God, and doubting the existence of God. Bigotry and tolerance. The wilderness and your backyard vegetable garden. Dark, light. Despair, hope. These are examples of contrasts. Examples of contradictions. Divergences. Opposites even.

In literature, one way that writers and readers find pleasure, is when things are juxtaposed.

Juxtaposition doesn't mean exactly that this thing and that thing are opposites however. The etymology of juxtaposition, from Middle English, from Latin and French, essentially means to position object X near object Y. Juxta: that’s Latin for “next to.” And pose…as in, to place. To pace next to. To juxtapose. The thing is, the connection has to do with proximity and immediacy.

Again, not opposed, but juxtaposed. Not opposite, but near to, next to.

In other words, to notice when things are in juxtaposition is to notice things side by side, with the outcome being that specific qualities are contrasted.

Look at this painting by Mark Rothko:

Check out the juxtaposition between the blue and the orange. But also, the light blue and the dark blue. The orange at that tint of red under the blue. Or the hint of yellow under the orange. Or look at this next one, by Renee Magritte.

The giant leaf and the small sphere…what looks to be a planet...aren’t in opposition. They’re in juxtaposition. And, are those little the people at the bottom? The scale of everything is off, and those pieces are in juxtaposition too. The effect of juxtaposition is that we notice comparisons...in scale, or in value, in concepts, or situations, or in literary form. Which is to say, juxtaposition, because it dramatizes one experience (the leaf tree in the Magritte painting) by placing it side by side with another experience (like the white sphere), is a special kind of metaphor.

In literature, juxtaposition can be as simple as a turn of phrase. Like: All’s fair in love and war. Or: You're making a mountain out of a molehill. I’m sure you remember hearing some of that famous opening of Charles Dickens’ novel, A Tale of Two Cities? "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…"

Those examples are pretty obvious. Let’s go to the next level. What about something more complex? In Natasha Trethewey’s poem, “Myth,” a poem about the loss of a mother, she writes a 12 line poem in three stanzas. And then: she juxtaposes all that by flipping it around. Line 12 becomes line 1, line 11 becomes line 2, and so on. Check this out:

I was asleep while you were dying.

It’s as if you slipped through some rift, a hollow

I make between my slumber and my waking,

the Erebus I keep you in, still trying

not to let go. You’ll be dead again tomorrow,

but in dreams you live. So I try taking

you back into morning. Sleep-heavy, turning,

my eyes open, I find you do not follow.

Again and again, this constant forsaking.

*

Again and again, this constant forsaking:

my eyes open, I find you do not follow.

You back into morning, sleep-heavy, turning.

But in dreams you live. So I try taking,

not to let go. You’ll be dead again tomorrow.

The Erebus I keep you in—still, trying—

I make between my slumber and my waking.

It’s as if you slipped through some rift, a hollow.

I was asleep while you were dying.

Something about the formal juxtaposition of the two sections brings our attention to the recurrence of the poet's grief. Just look at the last line of the first section, on the left at the bottom, and the first line of the second section, on the right, at the top.

“Again and again, this constant forsaking….[then repeated] Again and again, this constant forsaking.” That’s so painful, the repetition. The energy of abandonment, renunciation, relinquishment. But the cool things, in the first instance, it’s the mother forsaking the daughter. And in the second instance, it’s the daughter feeling that she’s forsaking the mother. The two difficult emotions are placed in juxtaposition—even using the same words.

That’s juxtaposition. You just look at one thing that’s been placed, or posed, or juxtaposed, side by side, next to another thing. And experience how they become allies of meanings.

Further Resources for Teachers:

Many Imagist poems including Ezra Pound's two-line poem "In a Station of the Metro" offer opportunities for students to practice identifying and analyzing juxtaposition:

The apparition of these faces in the crowd:

Petals on a wet, black bough.

Writing prompt #1: What is the effect of juxtaposing the images in line 1 and line 2?  How does this juxtaposition also occur in the poetic meter of the two lines? What themes or ideas are juxtaposed?

Writing prompt #2: How might the same questions be applied to Ezra Pound's "L'Art" poem:

Green arsenic smeared on an egg-white cloth, Crushed strawberries! Come, let us feast our eyes.

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Ekkehart Talkington
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