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Juxtaposition in Poetry, Rap and Literature

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Check out the lyrics and more.Listen to Flocabulary’s Figurative Language song. You’ll learn all about juxtaposition, metaphor and more.

Looking to learn more about juxtaposition in poetry? Look no further! Today we’ll unpack juxtaposition: how to define it, why it’s used, and some examples of where to spot it.


Definition: Two unlike ideas are placed side by side.

Why Writers Use It: By placing two words or ideas next to one another, we can highlight the differences between them. Juxtaposition can be used on a small scale (like between words or images) or on a large scale (like between two characters or story lines). The effect can be funny or dramatic, depending on how it is used. A huge lion cowering with fear at the sight of a tiny mouse is a silly image. A grandmother holding a newborn baby might be a very powerful image, juxtaposing birth and old age.

Young & Old

Juxtaposition Examples in Hip-Hop

“Yeah, yeah, I’ma up at Brooklyn, now I’m down in Tribeca
Right next to De Niro, but I’ll be hood forever”
– Jay-Z, “Empire State of Mind”

“Rough in the ghetto, but in jail he’s Jello”
– Kool G. Rap, “Road to the Riches”

“My eyes remain closed cause my highs are lows
I’m feeling the blows of rain cause my pain is cold
Now who am I, a man or a pawn in life?
Living day to day, I pray am I wrong or right”
– Cise Star, “High 2 Lows”

Juxtaposition in Shakespeare and Literature

“Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.”
– Shakespeare, Sonnet 116

“Merry and tragical? Tedious and brief?
That is hot ice, and wondrous strange snow!
How shall we find the concord of this discord?”
– Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act V, Scene i

For further Midsummer frolicking, watch one of our newest Shakespeare videos: “Lullaby.”

Check out the lyrics and more.
Some Days by Billy Collins

Some days I put the people in their places at the table,
bend their legs at the knees,
if they come with that feature,
and fix them into the tiny wooden chairs.

All afternoon they face one another,
the man in the brown suit,
the woman in the blue dress,
perfectly motionless, perfectly behaved.

But other days, I am the one
who is lifted up by the ribs,
then lowered into the dining room of a dollhouse
to sit with the others at the long table.

Very funny,
but how would you like it
if you never knew from one day to the next
if you were going to spend it

striding around like a vivid god,
your shoulders in the clouds,
or sitting down there amidst the wallpaper,
staring straight ahead with your little plastic face?

Check Out the Previous Literary Terms in the Series

Extended Metaphor

Share your best examples of juxtaposition in the comments!