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What is Juxtaposition?

Juxtaposition is when two (sometimes completely opposite) words are placed near one another, creating a comparison/contrast effect. 

Juxtaposition, uh, Jurassic Park: "Objects in mirror are closer than they appear."

 

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…” Your English teacher would be impressed if you automatically recognized this opening line of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. But if you really wanted to impress your English teacher, instead of just complaining that it has loads of opposites and doesn’t make sense, you’d be able to tell them that this line is chock full of juxtaposition. This literary device pops up when two (sometimes completely opposite) words are placed near one another, creating a comparison/contrast effect. Juxtaposition works because by putting two contrasting ideas next to each other, it helps to bring about the importance and specific qualities of each one. This is a tactic especially used a bunch in books and film when the good and evil characters are placed next to one another. Think Voldemort and Harry Potter always duelling. Since they represent opposite ideals, using juxtaposition and putting them in the same venue highlights their differences. Basically, juxtaposition is a big supporter of the phrase “opposites attract.”

 

See if you can find the comparisons and contrasts in these poems:

Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night

BY DYLAN THOMAS

 

Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,

Because their words had forked no lightning they

Do not go gentle into that good night.

 

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright

Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,

And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,

Do not go gentle into that good night.

 

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight

Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 

And you, my father, there on the sad height,

Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 

Tiger Drinking at Forest Pool

BY RUTH PADEL

Water, moonlight, danger, dream.

Bronze urn, angled on a tree root: one

Slash of light, then gone. A red moon

Seen through clouds, or almost seen.

 

Treasure found but lost, flirting between

The worlds of lost and found. An unjust law

Repealed, a wish come true, a lifelong

Sadness healed. Haven, in the mind,

 

To anyone hurt by littleness. A prayer

For the moment, saved; treachery forgiven.

Flame of the crackle-glaze tangle, amber

Reflected in grey milk-jade. An old song

Remembered, long debt paid.

A painting on silk, which may fade.

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