Comparison and Contrast Essay

Begin your paper with a clear statement of thesis, and the rest should be easy. What do you hope to demonstrate in your paper? A simple formula for the thesis will suffice. For example, “In this paper I plan to compare and contrast Franz Kafka’s “A Hunger Artist” and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” on the basis of the theme of the artist’s alienation from a fickle public.” Or, “I plan to compare and contrast Franz Kafka’s “A Hunger Artist” and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” on the bases of plot, setting, and theme in order to demonstrate the artist’s essential alienation from a fickle public.” You may fine-tune your thesis later.

To write a comparison and contrast essay, first decide what the similarities or differences are by writing them down in a list. Which are more significant, the similarities or the differences? If the differences far outweigh the similarities then you may want to reconsider the stories you have chosen for your essay. Finally, in organizing your essay, choose one of the strategies described below, whichever best fits your thesis.

Plan A: Use Plan A if you want to discuss each literary work (or subject) in turn. After your introduction, discuss the first work according to a number of points (such as a series of the literary elements or a series of points suggested by only one element such as theme or character) in a sequence of points and then go on in the second half of the essay to say everything about the second work, comparing each item in the second with the same item in the first. For example, you might wish to demonstrate that two works may be compared on the basis of several literary elements, such as plot, setting, and theme. Or you may decide to base your comparison on an in- depth look at only one of the elements; for example, you might examine two characters from two stories in relation to a number of similar traits, such as background, character, and personality. This format is known as the block or subject-by-subject method.


Plan B: Plan B is the inverse of Plan A. Use Plan B if you want to discuss two literary works in terms of a series of points. After your introduction, in the first body paragraph (or sequence of paragraphs) discuss one point of comparison in terms of BOTH works or characters, and then move on to discuss the second point in the next paragraph or section in terms of both, then the third, and so forth, until you’re done. This method is known as the alternating or point-by-point method.

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