Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Exciting World of Juxtaposition

I think juxtaposition is not just a luxury, it is essential.

I love juxtaposition. I love a million things going on at once. Perhaps that is why I have three children and a crazy husband, a house and a job and.... is it any wonder I collapse at the end of every day? I love it.

I'm reading a book right now, The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton, that is full of juxtaposition. Every chapter so far is a different time period, place, person's point of view... it's wonderful. The plot is moving along, slow like, but at the same time it feels fast, because I'm getting snippets of it from so many different places.

I love juxtaposition because it's not straight forward. It's not "he went from point A to point B." It's, "as he was going to point A, something else was happening over here which will most likely affect how he gets to point B, but you aren't sure how quite yet."

It really throws a wrench into things. But then, isn't that how life is? It's not straight forward. It's not one sided. It's not point A to point B. There are so many factors, people, choices, events... everything affects our lives and makes it all the more worthwhile.

There are several methods of juxtaposition: themes, characters, situations, etc.

I think the most used juxtaposition technique is character driven, as it is fairly simple to do and seems to capture readers the best. Think of the most popular shows and books... anything about several people who are all different, and how their lives are going. We compare and contrast as the story goes along. But somehow they are all intertwining with each other. The plot comes together as all of the characters come together, and magically things are worked out.

A situation juxtaposition would be more like a war, where separate battles are taking place. So many things are going on at once, and if this works, and that works, and so on, then the good guys will have a chance at winning. It seems that everything is hanging in the balance, until finally all of the situations work out, usually at the same time. I'm actually editing a manuscript right now that has just had two groups of men separate in order to surround a castle for battle. As I read, I get to see the switch between each group, and it is getting more exciting as each gets closer to battle. I wonder, how will the two groups turn out? How are they different? How are they the same? How do they depend on each other? It creates a whole new dynamic.

As essential as I believe juxtaposition to be, it can be difficult for some to incorporate. It is like telling several stories at once.

I think probably the most classic example of juxtaposition can be found in The Lord of the Rings. It uses all of it... we follow several characters, some of which get separated and so we switch around finding out what happens to them, but there are also battles going on, and everything hinges on everything else. On top of that, the theme of good vs. evil is obvious, but there is also the theme of life as a journey. In addition, there are personal struggles that I think become excellent themes, and they play out all at once. But that's ok, because the juxtaposition of several things at once can be an exciting adventure.

Sam: This is it. 
Frodo: This is what? 
Sam: If I take one more step, it'll be the farthest away from home I've ever been. 
Frodo: Come on, Sam. Remember what Bilbo used to say: "It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to."

1 comment:

  1. This is good stuff. Second time I've read it this year - apparently I don't retain information for as long as I'd like to! :)