"How to Write a Literary Comparison Essay"
How to Write a Literary Comparison Essay The Nature of Comparison Comparison is a basic procedure of explanation and analysis. A comparison presents two or more objects and describes and analyzes their similarities and differences. Comparison usually makes us see the items under discussion more clearly and in a new light. When writing a literary comparison, you will answer the question So What? In other words you will not only explain the similarities and differences between the two (or more) works (or plots or characters or other elements of fiction you have chosen to discuss) but also explain the significance of your comparison. A comparison intends to inform readers of something they haven't thought of before. Therefore, for a comparison to be illuminating, the things compared must either: • Appear different but have significant similarities o Star Wars and Return of the Jedi o Roy Neary (the Richard Dreyfuss character) in Close Encounters and Elliott in E.T. • Appear similar but have significant differences o Classic Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation o Babylon 5 and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine You must have a purpose for your comparison. In other words, the reader of the comparison should not have to ask SO WHAT? at the end of your essay. Grounds for Comparison A comparison is controlled by the ground of the comparison; i.e. the basis for comparing the items. The basis, or ground, must be significant; it must fulfill a purpose. In a comparison of two literary works, some common grounds of comparison are • plot • theme • character background • symbolism • character actions • genre • character motivations • ideology/philosophy • setting • imagery You will develop your discussion of each ground of your comparison by describing and interpreting the attributes of that ground. Organization of comparison There are two primary patterns of organization used in comparison essays Block Method Alternating Method • also called Summary approach; • Also called element by element or also called One Side at a Time point by point. • Focus is on items being compared. • Focus is on the grounds and attributes of comparison. The writer presents one work, describes all of its relevant grounds and attributes, and Works being compared are discussed in then does the same with the second item, terms of the grounds and attributes of using the same grounds for comparison. comparison Advantage--guarantees that each object Advantage--easy to grasp specific points will have a unified discussion. of comparison Disadvantage--points of comparison, Disadvantage--might be harder to pull because so widely separated in the essay, together details and form a distinct may be less clear to the reader. impression of what each object is like. Thesis Statement Remember that comparison and contrast is an organizational and analytical structure that supports your ideas but you still need a thesis. Thesis statement 1) Names the items to be compared 2) Indicates the purpose of the comparison 3) Names the grounds for comparison Sample Thesis Statements Unacceptable Acceptable I am going to compare the similarities A close examination of the way that Roy Neary, the and differences between the films protagonist of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Elliott, the protagonist of E.T., the Extraterrestrial, and E.T., the Extraterrestrial. react to their encounters with aliens demonstrates that director Steven Spielberg uses both films to tell similar stories about the difficulties of growing up. Sample Thesis and Outline with Explanations Thesis: In the general outlines of its plot, in the characterization of the protagonist, and in the development of the alien creatures, George R.R. Martin's award-winning short story "Sandkings" can be read as an ironic tribute to Theodore Sturgeon's classic short story "Microcosmic God." • bold for the works being compared • underlined text for the grounds for comparison • italicized text for the purpose of the comparison Outline I. Introduction A. Create Interest Analysis: B. Thesis Statement II. Plot The alternating method for comparison is used. A. "Microcosmic God" B. "Sandkings" A parallel structure is used by always writing III. Protagonist about the older story first. A. Background 1. Kidder The conclusion would: 2. Kress B. Lifestyle • tie together both sides of the comparison 1. Kidder and contrast 2. Kress • restate the major impression left by the C. Personality 1. Kidder discussion 2. Kress • convince the reader that the author D. Motivation/Purpose fulfilled their purpose 1. Kidder • lets the reader know the author has 2. Kress finished their essay IV. Aliens A. Origins 1. Neoterics 2. Sandkings B. Mindset 1. Neoterics 2. Sandkings C. Abilities 1. Neoterics 2. Sandkings V. Outcomes A. Treatment of Aliens 1. Kidder 2. Kress B. Treatment of Protagonist 1. Neoterics 2. Sandkings VI. Conclusion (demonstrating the nature of the tribute and the reason why it is ironic.)