Definition of Juxtaposition
Combining my research: Juxtaposition is a literary technique in which the writer places two story elements side-by-side for the reader to compare and contrast. Elements can be characters, places, concepts, events, actions, or objects. The elements are related but distinct. The comparison can show irony, humor, or sadness.
Common Examples of Juxtaposition
- All’s fair in love and war.
- Making a mountain out of a molehill.
- You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
Examples of Possible Comparisons
- Good and evil
- Despair and hope
- Spring and fall
- Poverty and prosperity
Examples of Juxtaposition in the Elements
Purpose: Highlight our protagonist’s failures.
Introduce into the story the protagonist’s successful brother, best friend, or colleague.
Purpose: Shape a character’s beliefs about prosperity.
The character is invited to an estate with lovely gardens, opulent buildings, and stone statues. On the way home, he gets lost and ends up in a shantytown. Show how he reacts to each place.
Purpose: Show despair in the strong and joy in the weak.
A self-centered, successful prizefighter suddenly becomes a lost child at the deathbed of his frail grandmother. His grandmother, who raised him, pats his hand and praises God that she’ll soon be with the Lord, whole and joyous.
Purpose: Contrast in third world countries suffering during war and peace.
A soldier runs through a village fighting the enemy, his Uzi rat-tat-tatting. In the next scene inside a hut of a nearby village, a nurse missionary ministers to a woman sick with malaria. The sick woman’s two young sons sit cross-legged on the dirt floor, playing a game with stones.
Purpose: Differentiate between leaders and followers.
At a women’s military boot camp, women are sent on a long run. The women complain. They can’t go any farther. This isn’t training; it’s torture. A woman, a peer among them, jabs a finger at a telephone post ahead and yells, “Come on. You can make it to that post. It’s not that far.” The women stagger on to the post. The same woman points to the next post and shouts the same thing.
Purpose: Show man’s penchant for rebellion that hurts only man.
On the grass beneath a billboard depicting a man dying due to smoking cigarettes is an accumulation of cigarette butts.
Juxtaposition can support important story comparisons. Click to tweet.
How have you used juxtaposition in your stories?