Today’s topic is one of my favorites! I can’t even tell you how much I love talking about this. I know I sound like a complete nerd, but this is no sarcasm. Juxtaposition has an enormous impact on how we subliminally perceive characters. Defined as “ an act or instance of placing close together or side by side, especially for comparison or contrast,  the state of being close together or side by side,” (Dictionary.com) juxtaposition allows us to more deeply understand main characters and their situations. This is most accurately explained by example. Literarydevices.com provides some excellent instances of juxtaposition that we hear almost every day:
- “All’s fair in love and war.”
- “Better late than never.”
- “Beggars can’t be choosers.”
- “When it rains, it pours.”
- “When the cat’s away the mice will play.”
Each of these phrases set two things that are completely different in nature and construction side by side to show contrast.
Juxtaposition vs. Foil
This may sound reminiscent of the foil characters we described in our previous character element, but a foil is a character created specifically to contrast with the main character. While juxtaposition sets up a contrast also, there is a difference between the two writing techniques. Simply put, foil refers to a characterization situation specifically while juxtaposition covers various types of contrast.
Examples of Juxtaposition in Literature and Film
Here is a list of both obvious and unobvious instances of juxtaposition found in well-known literary works.
|Common Examples of Juxtaposition|
|Much Ado About Nothing – Shakespeare||Character||Beatrice – energetic, sharp-minded and cynical
Hero – quiet-tempered, respectful and calm
|The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald||Idea||Gatsby – wealthy and aware of the way the world works
Carraway – poor and naïve
|The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins||Situation||The Seam – poverty stricken, underdeveloped and dangerous to live in
The Capitol – rich, overfed, over-supplied and over indulgent
|The Maze Runner – James Dashner||Situation||The Glade – Green, food, water, generally safe (with the exception of the Grievers)
The Scorch – dry, sandy, dangerous with little food and water
|Beauty and The Beast||Characteristics||Beauty – external (and internal) beauty
The Beast – internal beauty
As you can see from these examples, juxtaposition enhances the way we view each character and situation in a novel or other written piece. Contrasting interesting ideas, situations and characters not only improves the way we view the subject but how we understand them.
Consider Katniss and Peeta in Suzanne Collin’s book The Hunger Games (can you tell I’m a fan yet? 🙂 ). The two characters are completely different in personality and outlook. Katniss is guarded, cynical and untrusting. Conversely, Peeta is quiet, stable, compassionate and reasonably trusting. He is not weak by any definition, only more emotionally available due to his love for Katniss and the desire to keep her safe.
I have not read the Divergent series yet, but it’s clear from the movies that there is a clear difference in the way the average citizens operate and the way divergent individuals do. Dauntless also views the world differently from Candor or Erudite. I’m not very educated on the series, so please excuse any misunderstandings.
Juxtaposition is a literary technique used to increase understanding of an idea, situation or character. Most of us hear some instance of juxtaposition going through everyday life. For instance, the phrase “all’s fair in love and war” pops up occasionally in conversation. There are also many colloquial sayings displaying the technique. Not every geographical region would say, “Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill,” but it is a very good example of contrasting ideas being utilized to describe a situation.
I hope that you have enjoyed learning about how authors employ juxtaposition to enhance our understanding of characters and situations. This contrast is evident in life as well. There are real, unrefined images depicting the true beauty of the human body in all its flaws and wonderful imperfections, and there are airbrushed images forcing an often times unobtainable standard on youth.
A little off topic, but speaking about beauty, this verse really hits home:
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:14)
God made us all in His image, and we are fearfully and wonderfully made. We should do the best we can to take care of our bodies and remember that they are nothing to be ashamed of! Rather, they are an awesome representation of the love God has for us by allowing us to live and experience this life! 🙂 Especially this beautiful fall weather, am I right? 🙂
Conversely, there are individuals incredibly focused on their career and those incredibly focused on their family. Each has unique ideas and goals. Each is very different and yet guides our understanding of the other. The juxtaposition of life is an amazing motivator to live authentically. Everyone has differences, but our lack of uniformity helps us further understand each other.
Author Steve Maraboli once said, “Live authentically. Why would you continue to compromise something that’s beautiful to create something that is fake?”
That’s an absolutely wonderful quote. Perhaps the best thing I’ve read about truth is this-
“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)
I believe this refers to the truth of Jesus Christ, which is the greatest truth of all. You’re truly free when you know you’re truly secure, and that’s the best way to live authentically!
So stay true to who you are and be vigilant of life’s constant juxtapositions. They’re really quite interesting!
All the best,
The Bible (NIV)
Literary Devices. “Juxtaposition.” LiteraryDevices.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Sept. 2016.
Maraboli, Steve. Quotes.net. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Sept. 2016.Reference.com. “What Are Some Examples of Juxtaposition in “The Great Gatsby?”” Reference.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Sept. 2016.
Sawyer, Sarah. “Beauty and the Beast: Themes (Part Two of Four).” Sarahsawyer.com. N.p., 6 Sept. 2010. Web. 30 Sept. 2016.
SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on Much Ado About Nothing.” SparkNotes.com. SparkNotes LLC. 2002. Web. 13 Sept. 2016