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Paradox vs. Juxtaposition: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Published on November 19, 2023
A paradox is a statement that contradicts itself, while juxtaposition is the placement of two things side by side for contrast.

Key Differences

A paradox, by definition, is an assertion that seemingly defies logic. It presents an idea that, at face value, appears to be contradictory, yet upon further inspection might hold an underlying truth. Juxtaposition, in contrast, doesn't involve inherent contradiction. Instead, it is about placing two elements, be it ideas, characters, or images, next to one another to highlight their contrasting qualities.
Delving deeper into paradox, one discovers that it's a powerful literary and rhetorical device. Writers often employ paradox to provoke thought and highlight complex truths in a concise manner. Juxtaposition, on the other hand, can be visual, thematic, or narrative. It serves to make qualities of each juxtaposed element more vivid by virtue of their comparison or contrast.
Understanding the nuance of paradox requires discerning the deeper meaning or truth behind the apparent contradiction. It challenges the reader or listener to think beyond the surface. Juxtaposition, however, is more straightforward in its intent. By placing two disparate elements side by side, it immediately allows for a comparison, making the differences or similarities starkly evident.
In poetry and prose, paradoxes are employed to offer fresh perspectives or unexpected insights about life, humanity, or situations. A statement like "less is more" exemplifies a paradoxical insight. Juxtaposition finds its use in many artistic mediums, from literature to visual arts. By setting dark against light, or silence against sound, artists utilize juxtaposition to create emphasis, evoke emotions, or convey deep contrasts.

Comparison Chart


A self-contradictory statement.
Placing two things side by side for contrast.

Primary Use

To reveal an underlying truth.
To emphasize contrast or similarities.


Inherently contradictory.
Relationally comparative.

Function in Literature

Provokes thought; offers insight.
Highlights contrasts or similarities.


Requires deeper understanding.
Direct and immediately evident.

Paradox and Juxtaposition Definitions


A statement that contradicts itself but reveals a truth.
Less is more is a common paradox.


The placement of two things side by side for comparison or contrast.
The juxtaposition of dark and light creates dramatic visuals.


A situation where conflicting elements exist simultaneously.
A rich man who is poor captures the paradox of values.


A literary device used to develop characters, setting, or mood.
The author's juxtaposition of urban and rural scenes was evocative.


A self-refuting statement or proposition.
This statement is false is a well-known paradox.


Setting opposing elements together to highlight their differences.
The story used the juxtaposition of youth and age.


An assertion seemingly opposing common sense, yet might be true.
The only constant is change is a paradoxical observation.


The act of placing things next to each other.
The juxtaposition of these two paintings highlights their unique styles.


A person or thing having contradictory qualities.
He was a paradox, both kind and cruel.


Positioning disparate elements to make a point.
Through the juxtaposition of comedy and tragedy, the play was deeply moving.


A statement that seems to contradict itself but may nonetheless be true
The paradox that standing is more tiring than walking.


The act or an instance of juxtaposing or the state of being juxtaposed.


A person, thing, or situation that exhibits inexplicable or contradictory aspects
"The silence of midnight, to speak truly, though apparently a paradox, rung in my ears" (Mary Shelley).


The nearness of objects with little or no delimiter.


How is juxtaposition used in literature?

Juxtaposition places two elements side by side to emphasize their contrasting qualities.

Is juxtaposition always about contrast?

Mostly, but it can also emphasize similarities.

Why are paradoxes used in literature?

To provoke thought, offer fresh insights, and highlight complex truths concisely.

Can a paradox be true?

Yes, while a paradox seems contradictory, it often holds a deeper truth.

What is a paradox?

A paradox is a seemingly contradictory statement that may reveal an underlying truth.

Can juxtaposition be subtle?

Yes, sometimes it's employed subtly to evoke nuanced emotions or insights.

Are paradoxes confusing?

They can be initially, but they're meant to challenge and inspire deeper thinking.

Is juxtaposition only about physical placement?

No, it can also be thematic or conceptual.

What's an example of a paradox?

"Less is more" is a classic example.

Is every contradictory statement a paradox?

No, only those that hold an underlying truth or insight.

Can visuals employ juxtaposition?

Yes, artists use juxtaposition to contrast colors, shapes, or themes.

How does juxtaposition enhance storytelling?

It can heighten drama, create tension, or highlight character differences.

Does juxtaposition only occur in literature?

No, it's used in various arts, from visual to musical compositions.

Can a story element be both a paradox and a juxtaposition?

It's possible, especially if it's contrasting in nature and holds a deeper meaning.

Do paradoxes always have to be resolved?

No, sometimes they're left open to provoke thought.

How can I identify juxtaposition?

Look for side-by-side placement of contrasting or comparable elements.

Which is more direct, paradox or juxtaposition?

Juxtaposition is more direct and immediately evident.

Why might a writer use juxtaposition?

To emphasize differences, create tension, or establish mood.

What's the purpose of a paradox?

To present a deeper truth or unexpected perspective.

Are paradox and oxymoron the same?

No, an oxymoron is a two-word paradox, while a paradox can be longer and more complex.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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