Guide to Writing a Literature Compare/Contrast Essay
Purpose: Use this resource to walk through steps that will help you in creating your own compare/contrast essay for ENG125.
What is a compare/contrast essay?
A compare/contrast essay on literature enlightens the audience about the basic similarities and differences found in two pieces of literature. A student can compare two works by the same author or compare two authors’ techniques, ideas, characters, plot happenings, settings, theme or tone.
Step 1: Choosing Two Pieces of Literature
Writers choose stories, poems or drama based upon how much they enjoy it and upon how much they want to write about it. A writer may also relate strongly to a piece of literature and choose to write about its theme of race, gender or class.
The following groups of questions help writers think about the two pieces of literature. Students do not need to address these questions directly; instead, the questions can direct the writer to help develop to a well-focused essay.
What are the important or noteworthy features of each work? Is it the use of characters, setting, plot, or some other literary feature? Make a chart of the pieces of each work that stand out above the rest. Are there any connections between the two works on the chart?
What topics do the works have in common? Topic is the general heading such as “attitudes of society about women”, “the use of political power”, “race is represented in the text”, or “class struggle between different groups of characters.”
How are the authors different in their thoughts on these common topics? How are they similar?
What literary devices do the authors use and how do they use them?
What details, including setting, characterization and/or plot incidents, highlight the thesis? Be specific about passages that you will use. Can you find parallel passages from both works?
What will be gained by comparing and contrasting these two works? What will you help the reader see about both the works? Be specific here. List your answers.
What works better in one work over the other? Why do you think that this is so? What are some representative passages that show this?