Juxtaposition VS Paradox (Key Differences & Examples)

Juxtaposition and paradox represent two important literary devices that writers utilize to convey meaning through contrasting concepts.

What is Juxtaposition?

Juxtaposition refers to placing two contrasting ideas, characters, objects or settings side-by-side to highlight their differences. By positioning the two elements next to each other, writers underscore key contrasts between them for rhetorical effect. Readers notice the innate inconsistencies.

Common types of juxtaposition involve contradictory ideas, opposing imagery, discordant symbols and differences in characters or time frames.

What is Paradox?

A paradox refers to a statement or situation that appears to be contradictory or opposed to common sense, but that may contain an underlying truth. The contrast or contradiction highlights peculiarity or provokes deeper analysis.

In literature, paradoxes manifest through characters, imagery, plot events and statements that reveal counterintuitive insights. Writers use paradoxes to emphasize life’s many contradictions and subtleties.

Examples of Juxtaposition

  1. A luxurious mansion located right next to a homeless encampment
  2. A wedding ceremony held in a funeral home
  3. Lyrics to a cheerful pop song that describe a dysfunctional relationship
  4. An ad showing impoverished children alongside images of flashy jewelry
  5. A political candidate giving a speech about family values while going through a scandalous divorce
  6. A stretch Hummer driving down a narrow alley in a slum area
  7. A plus-sized model featured wearing designer clothing in a high fashion magazine
  8. A church preaching fire and brimstone theology inside a beautiful historic cathedral
  9. A graveyard located beside an amusement park

Examples of Paradox

  1. “Less is more” – Having fewer possessions can enrich your life.
  2. “The more you know, the more you realize how much you don’t know” – Knowledge reveals greater ignorance
  3. “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get” – Rushing slows your progress.
  4. “To lead, you must first learn to follow” – Good leadership requires being a good follower first.
  5. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” – A period can exhibit opposites simultaneously.
  6. “The longer I live, the more my future death seems to be present” – Longevity makes you sense mortality nearer.
  7. “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” – Apparent defeat precedes coming victory
  8. “The wise man knows that he knows nothing” – The path to wisdom is recognizing personal ignorance

Juxtaposition vs paradox

This table shows the key differences between juxtaposition and paradox.

Contrasts differences between two elements by placing them side-by-sideContains seeming contradictions that reveal hidden truths
Emphasizes ironies and inconsistenciesSurfaces through contrasting or counterintuitive ideas
Evokes deeper reflection on comparative qualitiesChallenges assumptions and provokes analysis of subtleties
A five-star restaurant attached to a gas station off a highway
“What soberness conceals, drunkenness reveals” – Inhibitions vanish with inebriation
Juxtaposition vs paradox

Examples of Juxtaposition in literature


“Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte

In the novel, light and darkness are juxtaposed when Catherine says:

“My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary.”

Brontë juxtaposes Catherine’s intense passion for Heathcliff against the imagery of dark, unyielding rock formations. This contrasts the opaque, almost hidden nature of her attachment with the solid permanence of subterranean rock.


“The Importance of Being Earnest” by Oscar Wilde

Lady Bracknell declare the ironic line:

“To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune… to lose both looks like carelessness.”

Wilde’s parody of hollow Victorian social platitudes through this absurd, paradoxical statement underscores the work’s comedic tone.


“Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare

In the novel, light and dark imagery is juxtaposed when Romeo describes his love for Juliet using metaphor:

“Juliet is the sun…a fair sun, And the only sun I ever saw.”

He positions Juliet’s radiance and beauty against the blackness of night, fusing contrasting symbols of light and dark. This creatively underscores the depths of his affection by comparing her favorably to the sun itself.

Examples of Paradox in literature


“A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…”

This lengthy opening sentence sets up the central paradox that defines the age of the French Revolution portrayed in Dickens’ novel – it was a period of simultaneous extremes and contradictions. The best and worst of times coincided. Societal wisdom and foolishness, belief and incredulity, light and darkness, hope and despair all collided in the same volatile era.

The writer extensively juxtaposes these opposites using parallel phrasing. Dickens vividly captures the paradoxical tensions of the Revolution. It was an event that promised both liberation and terror. It elicits both idealism and cynicism, which creates ruptures between old and new.

This paradox highlights why the French Revolution was such a complex threshold event in history. There was nobility and atrocity in its impulses. This paradox plunges the reader right into the contradictions that will provide the backdrop to the story of social upheaval and personal sacrifice.


“Song of Myself” by Walt Whitman

“I celebrate myself, and sing myself, And what I assume you shall assume, For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you. I loafe and invite my soul, I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.
Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)”

In this renowned poem, the writer embodies the paradoxes of the self. He revels in the contradictions of the human spirit – we can celebrate the individual while also transcending self; we are separate atoms but share a common whole; we can embrace opposing facets within one identity.

The author conveys how the human soul overflows simple labels or single truths. The poem becomes an anthem to the paradoxical complexities of personhood. Whitman suggests individuality does not preclude universality or diversity preclude integrity. He models reconciliation of apparent opposites within.


“1984” by George Orwell

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of Victory Mansions, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him.”

In the opening lines of his dystopian masterpiece, the writer uses paradox to unsettle the reader and hint at the world gone awry depicted ahead. The pleasant “bright cold day in April” is ominously juxtaposed next to the clocks unnaturally “striking thirteen” – deviating from the normal twelve hours.

This paradox of the familiar natural world alongside a strange irregular distortion establishes the central tension right away. The pleasant April day image clashes with the gritty dust entering as Winston does. This paradox captures how daily life under totalitarianism takes on surreal and contradictory qualities, warping perceptions of truth. The author uses paradox to hint that stability will be upended by the state’s overreach, which creates a chilling world where “ignorance is strength” and “war is peace”. The foundations of rationality begin crumbling from the start.

Importance of Juxtaposition

Juxtaposition allows writers to highlight ironies and inconsistencies by positioning elements together. The key functions of juxtaposition include:

  • Emphasizing differences creatively
  • Forcing deeper reflection on comparative qualities
  • Engaging reader interest through unexpected combinations

Importance of Paradox

Paradoxes reveal deeper truths by surface contradictions. The main functions of paradox include:

  • Challenging ingrained assumptions
  • Highlighting life’s subtleties and complexities
  • Provoking analysis of seeming absurdities that contain insight


To conclude, juxtaposition contrasts two entities by placing them side-by-side. On the other hand, paradoxes fuse contradictory notions to reveal hidden meanings. These two literary techniques allow writers to explore life’s many subtleties and inconsistencies using opposites – whether emphasizing comparative nuances or unpacking counterintuitive perplexities.

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