Life/Death Juxtaposition

As two very different concepts, life and death are very stark contrasts in fiction. When a writer wants to form an immediately obvious contrast between two characters, places, or events, it can be particularly visually jarring to associate one with life and one with death—perhaps utilizing Light is or is Not Good or Dark is or is Not Evil. The contrast may also draw on rejuvenation and disease, lively youth and chronically ill elders, or an orphanage and a graveyard.

Characters juxtaposed in this way may be any combination of Villain Protagonist and Hero Antagonist or the Big Good and the Big Bad or whatnot.

Virtually any Elemental Power can be construed to being related to either life or death (e.g. fire creating life-sustaining heat or death-inducing burns), but this trope applies to those life/death contrasts that are strongly associated with "life" and "death."

If life and death are personified as absolutes and come into conflict, then that's Yin-Yang Clash. Also, if the juxtaposition comes in the form of characters dying while other characters are born, then that's Birth/Death Juxtaposition.

Compare and contrast Fire/Water Juxtaposition, when one of those elements has a creation motif and the other a destruction motif; Lightning/Fire Juxtaposition, when the same happens between lightning and fire; Elemental Rivalry, when "Life" and "Death" are treated as elements in a work, and Birth/Death Juxtaposition, which is when the act of being born is juxtaposed with the act of dying. Compare Interplay of Sex and Violence.


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    Comic Books 
  • In Marvel Comics, the death figure is opposed by another Cosmic Entity named Infinity. Both are meant as a balance for each other.
  • In Green Lantern: Wrath of the First Lantern as Sinestro retrieves his yellow ring, Hal Jordan, in the Land of the Dead with the Black Lantern ring, leaps from a cliff in order to die so that he may wield the Black Lantern ring and escape. The panels welcoming them to their cores are even side by side.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • Ralph Bakshi's Wizards has twin sons born to the queen of the fairies. The narrator describes them as being diametric opposites. One baby is Avatar, a attractive baby and Friend to All Living Things who grows up looking kind of like one of Tolkien's dwarves. The other is Blackwolf, a repulsive living corpse of a baby who grows up to be a dour zombie-like wizard with an affinity for Nazi propaganda. Avatar lives in the verdant lands among the fairies and elves, while Blackwolf lives in a nuclear wasteland called Scortch among the wretched and shambling mutants.
  • The Balance Between Good and Evil in Epic is between that of the life-bringing, nature-loving forces of the forest and the decay-and-darkness-loving forces of rot.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Norse Mythology: The goddesses Hel and Idunna. Hel is a goddess of Death and is strongly associated with disease. Idunna is a goddess of rejuvenation and is best known as the orchardist of the apples that rejuvenate the god/desses in Asgard. Hel is said to have her own apple orchard, which means that both of these goddesses have their own apple orchards.

  • A Song of Ice and Fire has the myths of R'hllor—a deity of fire, light, and life—and his nemesis the Great Other—a deity of darkness, cold, and death.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones
    • R'hllor and the Great Other have a fire-and-ice and life-and-death dichotomy.
    • Right as Sansa's direwolf, Lady, is killed, the scene immediately cuts to her brother Bran waking up from his coma. Their family has a wolf theme, meaning that one wolf dies as another wakes from a death-like slumber.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the Dungeons & Dragons cosmology and those derived from it (e.g. Pathfinder), the positive energy plane is the origin of all life and provides energy for magical healing and resurrection while the negative energy plane is the origin of The Undead and its energy weakens or outright destroys all living matter.

    Video Games 
  • Pokémon has two legendaries representing life and death respectively, the Fairy-type Xerneas, the mascot of Pokémon X, and the Dark/Flying-type Yveltal, the mascot of Y. Xerneas is capable of granting everlasting life, while Yveltal absorbs the life force of every living creature in its immediate vicinity upon dying before reverting to its cocoon form.

    Web Original 
  • In the second season of Within the Wires, Claudia Atieno's fictional painting "Still Life with Orchid" is meant to communicate the cyclical nature of existence by juxtaposing life and death. Specifically, the painting depicts a living orchid with dead leaves and some oranges with subtly rotting undersides.