Ever heard of a certain person who’s ‘pretty ugly’? Or perhaps someone who is an ‘eccentric genius’? Ski along the various juxtaposition examples in the following article to know what I’m talkin’ about…
Before I lay out some juxtaposition examples, wouldn’t you want to know what a juxtaposition is? Well, it is a literary device which is employed to bring out the similarities and differences between two situations, thoughts, characters or emotions by placing them together. The characteristic of one makes those of the other prominent without the author having to separately sketch out the nuances of both separately.
The word juxtaposition means placing two things close to each other in a side-by-side manner. Such placement of two objects, in literary terms, brings out the characteristic features and individuality of each in contrast to the other by way of comparison.
For instance, if you place a black scarf beside a white one, the difference would be instantly evident even if you don’t point out the differences verbally or descriptively. Instances of juxtaposition in literature and popular media usually employ this device to mark the contrasting differences of two characters, emotions, situations or thoughts with regards to a common background.
Literature and popular media are resplendent with examples of juxtaposition. Right from Shakespeare to Michael Moore, we’ve come across many instances of brilliant juxtaposition examples, most of the time without even realizing it! Don’t believe me? Well, go through Act 2, Scene 1 of Romeo and Juliet and check out the different takes on love by Mercutio and Romeo respectively.
Coming to Michael Moore, note one of the most brilliant yet subtle examples of juxtaposition when he plays the song What a Wonderful World in the background while a war scene is rolling on the fore.
Continuing on this note, let’s take a look at some examples to better understand this concept. After all, a demo is the best way to understand a subject and is often more effective than a descriptive account.
What are Some Examples of a Juxtaposition?
Since it is a literary device we are talking about, I would like to begin with an example of juxtaposition in literature. Let’s take a detailed look at the above mentioned example in Romeo and Juliet. Here’s how differently Mercutio and Romeo understand the emotion of love. While the former associates it with carnal impulses and sensual gratification, the latter’s thoughts are, should we say, more pure.
|Nay, I’ll conjure too.
Romeo! humours! madman! passion! lover!
Appear thou in the likeness of a sigh;
Speak but one rhyme, and I am satisfied!
Cry but ‘Ay me!’ pronounce but ‘love’ and ‘dove’;
Speak to my gossip Venus one fair word,
One nickname for her purblind son and heir,
Young Adam Cupid, he that shot so trim
When King Cophetua lov’d the beggar maid!
He heareth not, he stirreth not, be moveth not;
The ape is dead, and I must conjure him.
I conjure thee by Rosaline’s bright eyes.
By her high forehead and her scarlet lip,
By her fine foot, straight leg, and quivering thigh,
And the demesnes that there adjacent lie,
That in thy likeness thou appear to us!……
……This cannot anger him. ‘Twould anger him
To raise a spirit in his mistress’ circle
Of some strange nature, letting it there stand
Till she had laid it and conjur’d it down.
That were some spite; my invocation
Is fair and honest: in his mistress’ name,
I conjure only but to raise up him.
|(The legendary balcony scene)
He laughs at the scars of love when he’s never felt love’s pain.
Quiet! what light breaks through that window?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun rising!
Arise, fair sun, and kill the jealous moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief,
That you, her maid, are far more beautiful than she is.
Don’t be her maid, since she is so jealous.
Her chaste, white gown is only sick and green,
And only fools wear it. Take it off and throw it away.
It is my lady; O, it is my love!
O, I wish she knew that she was my love!
She speaks, but she says nothing. what does that mean?
Her eye seems to be talking. I will answer it.
I am too bold, she’s not speaking to me.
Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven,
Having some business, do beg her eyes
To twinkle in their sockets till the stars return.
What if her eyes were there, they in her head?
The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars,
As daylight shames a lamp; her eyes in heaven
Would stream so brightly through the skies
That birds would sing and think it was morning.
See how she leans her cheek upon her hand!
O I wish I were a glove on that hand
So that I might touch that cheek!
From this example, you can clearly deduce how differently each character perceives the phenomenon of love. Therefore, without specifically putting down the respective nature of each of the two characters, Shakespeare delivered a stroke of genius by artful use of juxtaposition. The fact that the placement of both these dialogs have been made in close succession in the same act and scene implies that the audience should judge their respective emotional depth or shallowness by contrasting each with the other.
The following juxtaposition example has been taken from H.L. Mencken’s collection of his own choice writing works, A Mencken Chrestomathy. In this collection, the Sage of Baltimore puts forth (in Diligence):
Watchmen at lonely railroad crossings in Iowa, hoping that they’ll be able to get off to hear the United Brethren evangelist preach. . . . Ticket-sellers in the subway, breathing sweat in its gaseous form. . . . Farmers plowing sterile fields behind sad meditative horses, both suffering from the bites of insects. . . . Grocery-clerks trying to make assignations with soapy servant girls. . . . Women confined for the ninth or tenth time, wondering helplessly what it is all about. . . .”.
In this example, one can very well make out the condition of the various characters and creatures mentioned herein by the way they have been compared to and contrasted with other characters, creatures and objects. I hope that you must have got a decent grasp on the concept of juxtaposition after going through these examples. One of the most common forms of juxtaposition is oxymoron. Also, for drawing a comparison between the parameters of two or more adjacently mentioned subjects, the generous and almost ubiquitous use of conjunctions such as but and and is a common ploy.