Juxtaposition in Literature

A Clear-cut Explanation of the Juxtaposition Usage in Literature

Juxtaposition in literature makes for a very interesting concept. The following analysis explains the details of what this theory involves.
Penlighten Staff
Last Updated: Aug 14, 2018
Juxtaposition is a literary device that is used as an important tool in Literature to bring a dramatic effect to certain situations and thereby make more of a mark for the work of art in its entirety. But what does juxtaposition mean?
Juxtaposition is the placement of two concepts, characters, things, events, ideas, phrases, settings, or words side by side in order to draw a contrast, create suspense, bring about a rhetorical effect, comparison, or act as a tool for character development.
Though this definition clearly states what juxtaposition means, it is quite understandable if the concept has not made much sense. It is a difficult concept to grasp and requires a careful study of some of the examples of juxtaposition in literature. Look what is juxtaposition and how it is used in literature.
What is Juxtaposition?
To understand this literary device better, take an example in simple life.
Consider a situation from any generic film. A very poor woman gives birth to twins and dies immediately after. The sons get separated at birth. While one son finds himself adopted into a wealthy factory owner's house, the other is a street child who turns into a petty thief.
The film story traces their journey through life. At a crucial moment, the son who is a petty thief corners the other son in a dark alley and mugs him. This a juxtaposition is drawn here, which shows the contrast that both sons, born of the same mother and identical to look at, are yet so much different in their motives, lifestyles, and characters.
Thus the literary device of juxtaposition is used to draw a contrast between the two, but it is still connected somewhere and it is possible to place them side by side to draw a contrast.
There are varied examples that one can go into to explain the concept of juxtaposition, like Christina Aguilera's video 'Beautiful' which shows an anorexic girl or Louis Armstrong's song 'What a Wonderful World' which has images of violence and war running throughout the length of the video.
contrast
Juxtaposition therefore creates contrasting emotions, but they are connected at some level and therefore we are able to see them while placed together.
Examples of Juxtaposition
John Milton's 'Paradise Lost' is a work that is based on the juxtaposition. From this, a contrast has been drawn between the two main characters, Satan and God. The qualities of each are placed side by side and they each play off the emotions of the other such that the goodness of one is highlighted due to the bad qualities of the other and vice versa.
In William Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet', Romeo is compared to the character of Tybalt. Or when in 'Hamlet', Prince Hamlet addressed Yorick's skull and compares concepts of life and death at the same time.
W. H. Auden's poem 'Miss Gee' uses the tune of 'St. John's Infirmary' to portray its wordings. These wordings focus on death, cancer, and sexual repression, and therefore there is a contrast between the rhythm and the words.
Similarly, the play 'All's Well that Ends Well' has elements of both, comedy and tragedy and therefore draws a fit juxtaposition example for study.
Juxtaposition in literature makes for a very interesting medium to bring about action in the work of art in the English language. It makes the audience think, and thereby creates a more dramatic impact. Which is why many literary figures depend on this medium to bring effect to their work.