Juxtaposition Vs Oxymoron (Key differences & Examples)

Definition of Juxtaposition

Juxtaposition means placing two contrasting concepts, characters, objects or settings side-by-side to highlight their differences. The writers by positioning dissimilar elements next to one another, can heighten drama, reveal irony, emphasize complexity and intensify meaning. For example, a luxurious mansion located beside a homeless encampment creates a striking contrast. The two images juxtaposed reveal social inequality.

Definition of Oxymoron

An oxymoron combines two normally contradictory terms into one phrase for rhetorical effect. This surprises readers by revealing paradoxical connections between ideas presumed to be opposites. For example, the phrase “deafening silence” combines loudness and quiet, which emphasizes how the absence of expected sound can feel unusually loud.

Juxtaposition vs. oxymoron

The key differences between juxtaposition and oxymoron are as under:

JuxtapositionOxymoron
Two contrasting elements placed side-by-sideOne phrase joining seemingly incompatible words
Heightens differencesBlends/links opposites
For comparing/revealing irony/highlighting contrastFor surprising/revealing paradoxes
E.g. Mansion beside slumE.g. Deafening silence

Read also: Juxtaposition VS Paradox

Juxtaposition Examples in literature

Example#1

In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare juxtaposes light and darkness when Romeo says:

“It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night, As a rich jewel in an Ethiope’s ear.”

In the excerpt, the author creatively contrasts two very different images – Juliet’s beauty and the darkness of night. He is juxtaposing these two unlike things to compare Juliet to a shining jewel against black skin. Specifically, Romeo first says Juliet’s beauty stands out at night, like she “hangs upon the cheek of night.” This paints a picture of her face brightly glowing in the middle of the dark. The next part compares her to a precious, glittering earring on the ear of an Ethiope. This was Shakespeare’s term for someone with dark skin.

Example#2

“Mrs. Dalloway” by Virginia Woolf

“In people’s eyes, in the swing, tramp, and trudge; in the bellow and the uproar; the carriages, motor cars, omnibuses, vans, sandwich men shuffling and swinging; brass bands; barrel organs; in the triumph and the jingle and the strange high singing of some aeroplane overhead was what she loved; life; London; this moment of June.”

In the excerpt, the author uses juxtaposition to contrast the chaotic sights and sounds of London with Clarissa Dalloway’s deep love for the vibrancy of the city. Woolf places side by side the noisy, hectic sensory details of London, like the “swing, tramp, and trudge” of people walking or the “bellow and uproar” of vehicles in motion. She lists not only carriages but also the modern intrusions of “motor cars, omnibuses, vans.” Other city sounds pile up with the “shuffling and swinging” bands, organs, and aeroplanes.

This dynamic, almost dizzying depiction of London’s restlessness and activity gets sharply juxtaposed next to the phrase “what she loved.” After all the bustling images of people and machines, we suddenly understand that Mrs. Dalloway deeply loves the vigorous, lively metropolis in all its disordered chaos.

The contrast emphasizes the degree of Clarissa’s affection by positioning the objects of her love, the sights and sounds of London, next to her emotional devotion for them. It also suggests a parity through juxtaposition – the great city and the personal joy it sparks within Clarissa possess equal vitality and meaning. The line “This moment of June” then grounds all the sensory details into a present, temporary burst of urban beauty.

Example#3

“Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck

“Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don’t belong no place…”

What Steinbeck does here is set up a contrast. On one side, there are guys like George and Lennie – ranch workers who drift from job to job with no roots or family connections. On the other side is the idea of belonging, having folks you’re close with. It emphasizes what the migrant worker existence lacks. Steinbeck really hammers home how solitary and uncared for these men on the fringes are. There’s an emptiness inside the guys that work the ranches, a hole that comes from not having people to confide in or a place to call home. The author conveys this by slamming their transience and friendlessness right up against the notion of family, friends that “give a damn about us.”

Example#4

“The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe

“Never before that night had I felt the extent of my own powers—of my sagacity. I could scarcely contain my feelings of triumph.”

The literary juxtaposition reveals the inner confusion and instability of the killer’s state of mind. The reason and manic passion are fused together in the same sentence. This signals that there is something very distorted in how the narrator thinks and feels about the act of murdering an innocent old man.

Related post: Juxtaposition Examples In Disney Movies

Oxymoron Examples in literature

Example#1

“Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare

“O brawling love, O loving hate…”

This combines contradictory concepts of “loving hate” to convey Romeo’s inner conflicts in his affair [citation:4].

Example#2

“A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens

“Along the Paris streets, the death-carts rumble, hollow and harsh. Six tumbrils carry the day’s wine to La Guillotine. All the devouring and insatiate Monsters imagined since imagination could record itself, are fused in the one realisation, Guillotine.”

Here, the writer uses oxymoron to convey the terrifying atmosphere in revolutionary France, where the spilling of blood has become horrifyingly routine. He oxymoronically links pleasant imagery with death. The author creates an ominous and unsettling tone, which highlights injustices committed in the name of high ideals.

Example#3

“And that which should accompany old age, As honour, love, obedience, troops of friends, I must not look to have…”

The excerpt contains an oxymoron – “that which should accompany old age”. Normally, the qualities like honor, love, obedience and friends are expected to come with old age. However, the second part clarifies that Lear feels he cannot expect to have any of those. So the sharp contrast between “that which should accompany old age” and the bitter reality that Lear must “not look to have” those qualities creates a poignant oxymoron. This figure of speech emphasizes how terribly Lear has been failed by those closest to him in his elderly vulnerability.

See also: What is Juxtaposition? Different Examples in Literature

What is the difference between Juxtaposition Vs Oxymoron
What is the difference between Juxtaposition Vs Oxymoron

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