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Juxtaposition Examples, Art, and Literary Definition

What Does it Mean to Juxtapose?

One of my favorite literary devices — life as well as books and art — is Juxtaposition. Juxtaposing is when very different things are put close together or side by side, so the viewer or reader gets a shock or smile when they notice the contrast. Ready for some juxtaposition examples that explore juxtaposition in artwork as well as literature?

You’re in luck, because in addition to being an English teacher, I’m also an artist! Here’s a cartoon example with two very different moods juxtaposed:

Juxtaposition sentences and examples in cartoon art: different moods
Two different moods juxtaposed.

Viewing the drawing, you may have grinned from the juxtaposed contrast of the sharp, spiky hair and attitude on the left with the smooth and serene expression on the right. Juxtaposition is useful in creative drawings and art to make differences stand out. In the example above, the left fellow’s fury POPS off the screen because he’s so much madder than the lady.

Synonyms for Juxtaposition

The easiest juxtaposition synonym is contrast, but other options for words that mean roughly the same thing include: closeness, proximity, or adjacency — but not of those quite correctly sum of the meaning of having two contrasting things next to each other.

Juxtaposition in Art

Color, lines, and subject matter can all be juxtaposed to great effect in the art world. (One of drawing’s benefits is you can make anything ANY color or shape.) Want an example of juxtaposition in artwork, in the form of color contrast? In the illustration below, the super light eyes are sharply juxtaposed with the dark makeup and hair, making them jump off the page!

Juxtaposition example cartoon art: Colors
The light green eyes juxtaposed with her dark hair make this picture POP!

Try Juxtaposition Photography

If you’re into photography, experiment with juxtaposing hues, lines, textures, and subject matter to boost excitement and flair. For example, when I pose for photos for my travel blog, I make sure to pick dress colors that sharply juxtapose with the background to make both my outfit and the destination pop off the screen. (Ex: A red dress in front of a green forest.)

Juxtaposition as a Literary Device

Though sometimes it’s easier to see and define juxtaposition visually, it’s all over literature and text. (I’m an English teacher. You knew the school reference would happen!)

To find juxtaposition in a book or short story, look for the contrast — and what that contrast helps make stand out. Sometimes juxtaposition happens between the actions of two characters, or between the context and situation or person. (Speaking of “between” — make sure to check out the “liminal space” lesson after this one!)

One example (which also is relevant for real life) would be if two people have very different punishments for the same action. Juxtaposing those contrasting outcomes is vitally important because it can highlight prejudice or unjust systems that need to be changed.

Another example can be in juxtaposing the moods of different parts of a book or movie. For example, one chapter might be extremely suspenseful and scary, while the next one is funny and calm. Mood juxtapositions like this keep the reader interested and refreshed, because it’s not just the same vibe over and over.

Juxtaposition sentences and example cartoon art: different heights
Tall and short, juxtaposed.

Juxtaposition Examples in TV, Movies, and Life

Though juxtaposition is a literary term, it’s sure relevant to TV, movies, and real life! (Same with foreshadowing and all three types of irony.) One example is with height — a realm ripe for visual contrast. Height juxtaposition is often used for comic effect in movies or TV, for example, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel filming 5-foot-tall Susie Meyerson arguing with the towering six-foot-tall Sophie Lennon.

The actor Danny DeVito is also frequently used for visual height juxtaposition jokes. Juxtaposed height jokes are also daily features of my own life as a muscular six foot tall woman, as onlookers delight in pointing out the size contrast between me and my friends!

VIDEO: Juxtaposition Definition and Examples

See my drawing process for this juxtaposition art.

(Note: I run several websites, so I made that juxtaposition video for a related article on my other site, Around the World “L” but it’s relevant, so I figured I’d share it here, too!)

Juxtaposition Examples, in Sum

So what about you? Have you seen great juxtaposition examples in literature, TV, or life? Are you noticing juxtaposition in artwork more now? What things do YOU enjoy juxtaposing? Do share!


Monday 22nd of June 2020

I love the whole concept of it. I am sure many people love to use it for their projects.

Lillie Marshall

Tuesday 23rd of June 2020

Thanks, Dobre!

Dave M.

Saturday 20th of June 2020

Such a clever way to show vs. tell – I'm sure students and teachers alike will find this post so helpful!

Lillie Marshall

Saturday 20th of June 2020

Thank you! That's the plan! And I'm hoping teachers will use the "Request" feature to ask for specific vocab words and concepts illustrated that would be of help:


Wednesday 17th of June 2020

I love your drawings! Such a great explanation of this concept!

Lillie Marshall

Wednesday 17th of June 2020

Merci! Many more to come. Curious to hear requests from teachers, parents, and students about which concepts and vocab words they most want next.


Tuesday 16th of June 2020

Love your idea of using juxtaposition of color to make a travel photo pop!

Lillie Marshall

Tuesday 16th of June 2020

Yes! Just yesterday I used color juxtaposition for an Instagram photo by making sure the there was a bright pink rose in the frame to POP against the green background!

Rhonda Albom

Tuesday 16th of June 2020

I have used this technique when taking photos. It leads to interesting composition.

Lillie Marshall

Tuesday 16th of June 2020