Say I have two absolutely lovely roses in two separate vases on a table. You may wonder why I didn’t just stick them together and make one lovely display in a single container. Well, it could be because by juxtaposing them, or sitting them side-by-side, I wanted you to look at ways in which the two roses are different, despite their common beauty.
This is also why many dog show judges have their dogs stand next to each other in the ring, and then pull them into smaller groups for inspection, as opposed to just letting each have his chance in the spotlight and being done with it. It’s best, when studying things, to look not only at the individual, but in comparison to other similar things.
We do this in literature, too. Comparisons and contrasts are just as essential in fiction as in prose, or dog shows, or even flower arrangements.
Take Hamlet, the play and the character. Without Laertes, who feels things deeply and acts without thinking, we can’t properly understand Hamlet, who obsesses over things and then refuses to confront them directly. It’s useful for the reader to include juxtaposition of elements, character traits, settings and dialogue in our writing. It makes for an interesting and more well-rounded plot… and provides us with a wonderful vocabulary word that begins with ‘J”.