What is Dichotomy? Definition, Examples of Dichotomy in Literature

Dichotomy definition: Dichotomy is defined as the dividing of something into two parts.

What is Dichotomy in Literature?

In literature, dichotomy is when something is divided into two parts. These two parts could be equal, contradictory, or two opposing forces. Oftentimes, writers include dichotomy to create conflict.

Example of Dichotomy

In J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, a dichotomy example can be seen in through the fight between good and evil forces. Witches and wizards have divided amongst their world based on the forces, and it creates the conflict that the hero of the series must overcome

The Function of Dichotomy

The purpose of using dichotomy in a literary work is often to create conflict between opposing forces. These forces could be external or internal that the characters are attempting to overcome.

Modern Examples of Dichotomy

In the Disney movie Pocahontas, a dichotomy is present. The Europeans believe they represent the civilized part of humanity whereas the Native Americans represent the savage aspect.

Another popular use of dichotomy can be seen when directors include the angel on one shoulder and devil on the other technique. This seen in The Emperor’s New Groove when Krunk is attempting to make a decision where is trying to be compelled by the angel and devil that rest on his shoulders.

Examples of Dichotomy in Literature

In William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, a dichotomy is created with the two households, Capulets and Montagues. Unlike the above contradictory examples, this dichotomy is one of two equal parts. The families are both “alike in dignity”; however, they have been at odds with each other for so long that the root of the conflict is no longer known. By creating the dichotomy with two equal parts, it highlights the trivialness of their continued conflict that results in countless deaths.

In the young adult novel Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, a dichotomy is created through good and evil forces. The peculiar children are in conflict with the Wights who are attempting to rid the world of peculiars and their caretakers. This dichotomy is important because it creates the conflict that is the premise for the novels in the series.


Define dichotomy in literature: Dichotomy is the dividing of something into two parts. Oftentimes, writers use dichotomy in order to create conflict in their stories.

Final Example:

In Star Wars: Episode IV, the dichotomy of good led by Luke Skywalker versus the evil Imperial Force led by Darth Vader serves as the central source of conflict.