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Juxtaposition: Definition, How It Works & Examples In Writing

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Juxtaposition is a figure of speech that uses two opposite ideas or images side by side for rhetorical effect.

Juxtaposition is also known as juxtaposed, as in “the juxtaposition of two images.”

It comes from the Latin words juxta (near) and ponere (to put).

Juxtaposition is often used to create irony or tension but can also work for other effects.

What Is a Juxtaposition?

A juxtaposition is a figure of speech in which two things are seen or placed side by side, usually for comparison or contrast.

You can use juxtaposition in your writing for rhetorical effect.

You might do this because the things have something in common or are complete opposites.

Juxtaposition can make your writing more exciting and help you make a point.

You can use juxtaposition in writing to show contrast, make a comparison, or set up a conflict.

Also Known As

  • Comparison
  • Adjacency
  • Contiguity
  • Apposition
  • Appropinquity

Why Is a Juxtaposition Used?

Because it creates contrast or emphasizes certain similarities, you can use juxtaposition to create a conflict between two characters or ideas.

The most common reason is to create irony or tension.

For example, if you say something contradicting your body language, that creates tension.

If you have a sorrowful story followed by a funny joke, juxtaposing those two ideas creates irony.

Other reasons to use juxtapositions include:

  • Showing contrast
  • Highlighting similarities and differences
  • Emphasizing some aspects of a sentence or paragraph
  • Creating ambiguity

Types of Juxtapositions

There are three main types of juxtaposition: antithesis, foil, and oxymoron.

  • Antithesis: A type of juxtaposition that involves placing two contrasting ideas next to each other. For example, you could say, “give me liberty or give me death” to contrast liberty and death.
  • Foils:Characters who contrast to highlight each other’s traits. For example, in Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet, Romeo is a foil for Juliet’s impulsive nature.
  • Oxymorons: A type of juxtaposition that involves placing two contradictory words next to each other. For example, “jumbo shrimp” is an oxymoron because shrimp are small and jumbo means large.

How Do You Identify a Juxtaposition?

You can usually identify a juxtaposition by looking for two things placed side by side, contrasting, or having some relationship.

How Do You Use a Juxtaposition in a Sentence?

When using juxtaposition in a sentence, you will want to place the two items next to each other in parallel.

For example, you could say, “love is an ideal thing; marriage is a real thing” to contrast love and marriage.

You could also say, “that cake was awfully good,” contrasting awful and good.

Write down a thing you want to contrast.

Then, juxtapose it against something very different.

What Is the Most Popular Example of a Juxtaposition?

One of the most famous examples of juxtaposition is from Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet.

In the play, Romeo is a foil for Juliet’s impulsive nature, which means that he contrasts with her to highlight her impulsiveness.

For example, when Juliet wants to get married immediately, Romeo says, “It is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden; / Too like the lightning, which doth cease to be / Ere one can say ‘It lightens.'”

By saying this, Romeo shows that he is more level-headed than Juliet and can think through things before making a decision, which highlights Juliet’s impulsiveness compared to Romeo’s level-headedness.

Other Famous Examples of Juxtapositions

Here are a few examples of famous uses of juxtaposition.

Famous Example 1

Charles Dickens: “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.”

Famous Example 2

John F. Kennedy: “Ask not what your country can do for you.

Ask what you can do for your country.”

Famous Example 3

Leo Tolstoy: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its way.”

Other Modern Examples of Juxtapositions

You can find juxtaposition in everyday speech and writing these days.

Here are some examples:

Examples of Juxtapositions for Kids

Here are some examples of juxtapositions for with kids:

  • “The big dog barked at the small kitten.” – In this sentence, the big dog contrasts with the tiny kitten, highlighting the size difference between the two animals.
  • “I was so tired; I could sleep for days.” – In this sentence, the speaker juxtaposes their tiredness with how long they could sleep, highlighting their exhaustion by showing they could sleep for a long time.
  • “I love the cold weather, but I hate snow.” – In this sentence, the speaker juxtaposes their love for cold weather with their hate for snow, highlighting the contrast between the two things.

Examples of Juxtapositions in Literature

Many writers use juxtaposition in their works of literature.

For example, William Shakespeare often used antithesis in his plays.

In Romeo and Juliet, he wrote, “But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? / It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.”

In this quote, Shakespeare uses juxtaposition to contrast the light from the east (where the sun rises) with Juliet (who is like the sun).

Examples of Juxtapositions in Language

Juxtaposition occurs in everyday language.

For example, you might say, “I’m so hungry, I could eat a horse.”

In this sentence, you are juxtaposing your hunger with the amount of food you can eat, highlighting how hungry you are by showing you can eat a lot of food.

Notable Writers Who Used Juxtapositions

Many notable writers have used juxtaposition in their works:

1. William Shakespeare

Known for writing Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, and a number of other famous works, Shakespeare uses juxtaposition to add depth to his characters.

It helps the reader understand the relationships developing in his plays.

2. Charles Dickens

Known for writing A Tale of Two Cities and A Christmas Carol, Dickens uses juxtaposition to explain the French Revolution.

The extremes between rich and poor and luxury and squalor work to provide context for the setting.

3. J.D. Salinger

J.D. Salinger is known for writing Catcher in the Rye and The Laughing Man.

In Catcher in the Rye, Holden offers his feelings about children next to his feelings about actors.

One description is honest, and one is dishonest.

Salinger also uses Holden to juxtapose childhood and adulthood.

4. F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald was the writer of The Great Gatsby and Tender is the Night. Fitzgerald used juxtaposition in The Great Gatsby via Tom Buchanan’s relationships with women.

His wife Daisy is thin, and his mistress Myrtle is “thickish.” Daisy lives in a mansion, while Myrtle lives above a gas station.

5. John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck is known for writing The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden.

In The Grapes of Wrath, juxtaposition is to bring sequential chapters together.

One chapter discusses used car salesmen, and the next shows the Joads preparing to leave in the used car they just purchased.

One chapter discusses rain just starting to come down, and the next shows flooding threatening the characters.

6. George Orwell

George Orwell is famous for writing 1984 and Animal Farm.

The juxtaposition in 1984 reflects the theme of truth versus lies.

The Ministry of Love tortures Winston, showing the contrast between love and pain, and The Ministry of Peace is constantly waging war.

What Is the Opposite of a Juxtaposition?

The opposite of a juxtaposition is separation or remoteness.

Juxtaposition vs. Antithesis

Juxtaposition is often confused with antithesis.

However, there is a crucial difference between the two literary devices.

Juxtaposition is when you place two things side by side to highlight the contrast between them.

Antithesis is when you place two things side by side to highlight their similarity.

For example, you could say, “I’m not happy; I’m ecstatic,” to compare happiness and unhappiness.

Other Related Literary Devices to Know

Here are a few literary devices you should also know how to use in conjunction with juxtaposition.

1. Hyperbole

Hyperbole is a type of exaggeration used for emphasis or effect.

It often occurs in everyday language.

For example, you might say, “I’m so hungry, I could eat a horse.”

In this sentence, you are exaggerating your hunger to show how hungry you are.

2. Parallelism

Parallelism is when things are placed side by side and are similar.

For example, you could say, “He likes to run, hike, and bike.”

But, conversely, if you say, “He likes to run and hike, and biking is another form of exercise he enjoys,” it is not parallelism.

3. Aphorism

An aphorism is a short, wise saying often used to teach a lesson.

For instance, the adage “a stitch in time saves nine” is an aphorism that teaches the importance of being proactive.

“Give him enough rope, and he’ll hang himself” is another example.

4. Fiction

Fiction is a story not based on actual events.

It can be in the form of a novel, short story, or play.

5. Anthropomorphism

Anthropomorphismis when human characteristics combine with nonhuman things, such as animals or objects.

For example, in the children’s book The Cat in the Hat, the cat can talk and walk on two legs.

Writing Tools to Help You Out

Many writing tools can save time and money while you work on your latest project.

These software programs can help with everything from coming up with ideas to editing and proofreading your work.

Prices vary, but many programs offer free trials, so you can try them before you buy.

Writing Helpers

These tools are examples of software to help you write:

  • Scrivener: Scrivener is a writing program to help you get your ideas down quickly and easily. It offers features like a virtual corkboard for brainstorming and an easy-to-use interface. Scrivener also has a built-in research tool so you can find information without leaving the program. Tips for writing are also available via the Help menu.
  • Atticus: Atticus is a tool to help you plan and write novels. It offers a step-by-step guide to plotting and writing your story and tools to help with character development and worldbuilding. Atticus also includes a name generator to find the perfect names for your characters.

AI Writing Software

These tools are examples of software driven by GPT-3:

  • Jasper.ai: Jasper is a tool that writes any type of content after you provide prompts. It uses GPT-3 to generate articles, blog posts, and even marketing copy. You can also use Jasper to generate ideas for topics to write about and outlines.
  • Frase: Frase leverages AI to write SEO content quickly. This software autocompletes sentences and paragraphs, and you can create custom templates and turn outlines into drafts.

Grammar Checkers

Here are a couple of tools that help check grammar mistakes.

  • Grammarly: This grammar checker can help you identify and correct errors in your writing, including clear suggestions on how to write a blog post. You can set shared guidelines so everyone on a team adheres to the same standards.
  • Hemingway Editor: Hemingway is a proofreading tool that helps correct hard-to-read passages, passive voice, and unnecessary words. Issues are color-coded, so you know what problems you’re dealing with.

Content Creators

Here are a few tools that are the most helpful for content creators.

  • SEMrush: The SEMrush SEO content template analyzes different types of writing and offers suggestions based on what is ranking highest in search engine results. You can also use this tool to research keywords and find related things to write about.
  • Izitext: Izitext is a speech-to-text transcribing software. You can use this tool to transcribe interviews, notes, and outlines. You can also use it to create captions for videos or podcasts.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions about writing juxtaposition:

Is day and night a juxtaposition?

Yes, day and night can be considered a juxtaposition.

The day is typically associated with light, while the night is associated with darkness.

You can use this contrast to emphasize the differences between the two things.

How do you write a juxtaposition?

When writing a juxtaposition, you’ll want to place two contrasting things side by side.

This process will help to highlight the differences between them.

For example, you could say, “The sky is blue, and the grass is green.”

Wrapping Up

Juxtaposition is a literary device used to contrast two things.

It is often used in everyday language and by many notable writers.

If you want to use juxtaposition in your writing, there is no one correct way to do it.

You can place two things side by side to contrast them.

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