Guide to the Compare/Contrast Literary Essay

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ELA B30: Lost and Lord of the Flies

Guide to the Compare/Contrast Literary Essay

A literary essay is an organized collection of your ideas about literary texts. There are five different approaches to a literary essay such as: literary argument, compare and contrast, describing an aspect of a literary work, discovering and describing a pattern in a series of an author’s work or exploring an author’s life and how it connects to their literary writing.

This literary essay compares two works of human behavior and social experiences, The Lord of the Flies, and Lost. You will write a literary essay in which you identify themes common to both works of literature. Theme is the idea about the human experience that is revealed in the story. In your essay, provide a thorough explanation of the theme(s) you chose. Support your ideas by using references to the literary elements and literary devices.

  • Introduce the theme(s) you have chosen that you will use to discuss the two.

  • Identify the two works and authors

  • Avoid plot summary. Instead use specific reference to literary elements (i.e., theme, characterization, setting, point of view) to develop the analysis.

  • Organize your ideas (AB, AB, or A and then B) (Alternating or Point-by-Point Style)

Below are some examples of literature, the topics of those novels and themes that relate to the story. Think about the topic and theme of the two works and begin to plan an outline.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Topic: Loyalty Topic: Young Love

Theme: Friendship requires sacrifice Theme: Young love can lead to extreme

Loyalty can lead to destruction. Action.

Compare and Contrast

(Alternating Method - Point-by-Point)

  1. Introduction

    1. Attention Grabber or Hook

    2. Thesis

    3. Names of the Works and authors to be discussed

    4. Preview of Points (Points #1-3)

  1. Body

    1. Subject A – Point #1

Supporting Detail


    1. Subject B – Point #1

Supporting Detail


    1. Subject A – Point #2

Supporting Detail


    1. Subject B – Point #2

Supporting Detail


    1. Subject A – Point #1

Supporting Detail


    1. Subject B – Point #1

Supporting Detail


  1. Conclusion

    1. Summary of Main Points

    2. Restatement of Thesis

Compare and Contrast

(Block Method)

  1. Introduction

    1. Attention Grabber or Hook

    2. Thesis

    3. State which works are being compared and why

  1. Body

    1. Present all Information about A

      1. Point #1 (plus support)

      2. Point #2 (plus support)

      3. Point #3 (plus support)

    1. Present all Information about B

      1. Point #1 (plus support)

      2. Point #2 (plus support)

      3. Point #3 (plus support)

All subtopics need to be discussed in the same order in both parts, each subtopic discussed in A must be discussed in B, and B subtopics should reconnect back to A.

  1. Conclusion

    1. Summary of Main Points

    2. Restatement of Thesis

Guidelines for Works Cited Page

  • single space/double between each separate entry

  • alphabetical order

  • indent all lines after the first line

  • do not number the entries

  • place a period at the end of each entry

  • if there is no author, begin with title

Helpful Hint(s)

  • Before beginning organize your thoughts in an outline or reverse outline. A reverse outline is when you write a rough draft, note the topics and reorganize and strengthen the essay.

  • Write an interesting opening paragraph with a clearly defined thesis statement.

  • Put quotes into your work.

  • Write coherent paragraphs that are headed by topics sentences.

  • Craft a thoughtful and inspiring conclusion.

  • When writing a literary essay or analysis, remember to use plot sparingly.

  • Find your voice. Communicate clearly and persuasively. Avoid doubtful language such as: maybe, somewhat, and perchance. Be strong with your thesis and make strong points of conviction.

  • Use compare and contrast transition phrases to help with the literary essay style.

Compare and Contrast

(Transitional Words)

Key words commonly used to express comparison include:

  • like

  • same

  • similar

  • both

  • the same as

  • most important

  • similarly

  • as well as

  • have in common

Key words commonly used to express contrast include:

  • although

  • however

  • differ

  • unlike

  • even though

  • whereas

  • contrary to

  • the reverse

  • instead

Name: ________________________________








Needs Revision


Critical Lens

Efficiently organizes assertions and analysis around a central idea; uses convincing evidence to support the analysis; develops essay coherently and persuasively.

Organizes assertions and analysis around a central idea; uses relevant evidence to support the analysis; develops essay coherently.

Has central controlling ideas; uses relevant evidence throughout the essay; analyzes rather than summarizes.

Summarizes or uses faulty analysis; lacks controlling ideas; little or no evidence used.


Makes insightful connections between two literary works and other issues: historical setting, genre, or contemporary concerns.

Makes appropriate connections between two literary works and other issues: historical setting, genre, or contemporary concerns.

Makes appropriate connection between two literary works.

Makes inappropriate

Connection between texts.

Literary Technique

Demonstrates sophisticated understanding of complex literary techniques (i.e., irony and allusion).

Demonstrates an understanding of a variety of literary techniques (i.e., point of view and metaphor).

Demonstrates understanding of basic literary techniques (i.e., theme and character development).

Demonstrates little or no connection between texts.


Uses confident writing style: evidence of distinctive student voice.

Writing is clear and focuses; evidence of student voice emerging.

Writing communicates ideas clearly.

Writing lacks clarity.

Conventions (Grammar & Mechanics)

Mechanical and grammar errors are rare or non-existent; follows conventions of quotations and citations.

Few conventional errors; follows accept conventions of quotations and citations.

Some mechanical errors but communication is not impaired; demonstrates knowledge of accepted conventions of quotations and citations.

Communication is impaired because of errors; little or no use of conventions of quotations and citation.

Coherency & Organization

Communicates clear message in appropriate, sophisticated and original manner.
Present complex, accurate substantive information in an organized way.

Communicates clear message in appropriate and original way.
Present substantive accurate information and ideas in organized way.

Communicates clear message in appropriate way to audience.
Present some substantive, accurate information and ideas in an organized way.

Message nor clear or appropriate to audience.
Does not present accurate or substantive information or ideas not organized.


Ella Berven


Mrs. Awesome

April 21st, 2014
Shades of Being Human

Alice Walker and Maya Angelou are two contemporary African-American writers.  Although almost a generation apart in age, both women display a remarkable similarity in their lives.  Each has written about her experiences growing up in the rural South; Ms. Walker through her essays and Ms. Angelou in her autobiographies.  Though they share similar backgrounds, each has a unique style which gives to us, the readers, the gift of their exquisite humanity, with all of its frailties and strengths, joys and sorrows.

Tragedy strikes both of these women at the age of eight.  Ms. Walker loses her sight in one eye.  Ms. Angelou is raped.  Each describes the incident as part of a larger work.  Ms. Walker relates her experience in the body of an essay published in her book, In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens.  Ms. Angelou tells her story as a chapter in her autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.  Although both write about their traumatic experience, the way each depicts the incident is distinct and seems to be told for very different purposes.

Alice Walker reports the facts to the reader with short sentences written in the present tense.  She chooses words which elicit a forceful emotional response from her audience.  For example, in telling how her brothers were given BB guns and she was not, Ms. Walker writes, "Because I am a girl, I do not get a gun.  Instantly, I am relegated to the position of Indian" (pg.27). The word "relegated" causes the reader to be irate and indignant. Another illustration of Ms. Walker's use of dynamic words can be found in her description of the encounter with her parents following the accident.  She speaks of being "confronted" by her parents.  "Confronted" is a combative word.  When people are confronted by others, they want to launch an attack.  Her style and choice of words make the reader aware that she is alone and fearful.  She is left to fight her battles by herself.

Maya Angelou narrates her account in a conversational tone.  She uses the past tense which tells her audience "it's over" for her.  Her words are free from severity.  They encourage the reader to see hope in the midst of sadness.  Instead of trying to elicit a particular emotional response, Angelou invites her audience to share in her thoughts and feelings.  For instance, having given an account of the rape, she writes, "I thought I had died--I woke up in a white-walled world, and it had to be heaven" (pg.123). The reader feels a connection with her pain, yet realizes redemption lies close at hand.  Whereas, Walker tells how she is confronted by her parents, Angelou explains, “she [mother] picked me up in her arms and the terror abated for a while” (pg.132).  There is no impression of combativeness.  There is only tenderness and care.  Once again, she invites the reader in.  Walker wants the reader to feel for her; Angelou wants her audience to feel with her.  They achieve their objectives by directing the reader's attention to specific emotions.

The emotional focus of Alice Walker's story is rage, red-hot and isolating. The reader becomes livid, not only at the thought of her devastating injury and her family's apparent disassociation, but also at Ms. Walker herself.  It appears that she never let go of it.  Instead, she seems to embrace her anger.

On the other hand, Ms. Angelou's anger is subtle and short-lived.  Though incensed by what happens to her, she quietly insists to leave it behind.  In contrast, she concentrates less on her anger and more on the warmth and support of her family.

It would be impossible not to address the ways in which both women refer to the intense physical pain each of them suffer as little girls.  Ms. Walker gives little description of her anguish, but the reader clearly feels it.  When she writes, ". . . I feel an incredible blow in my right eye . . ." and, "my eye stings and I cover it with my hand,” an immediate response is to quickly cover one’s eyes; the reader’s body reacts to her pain (pg.54).

Ms. Angelou's description produces another effect.  She writes, "Then there was the pain.  A breaking and entering when even the senses are torn apart" (pg.57). Instead of a physical reaction, one has a wrenching of the heart.  Ms. Walker focuses the audience’s attention on the injury to her body, while Ms. Angelou focuses on her emotional scars.

The most powerful emotional response throughout both stories is one of incredible sorrow.  The reader feels the tremendous weight that sadness and despair can fold around a heart, not only for a child's trauma, but also for the devastating repercussions that tragedy can produce--loss of dignity, self-esteem, and childhood itself.  One wants to comfort them both.  However, by the end of Ms. Walker's account of the incident, the reader not only wants to comfort her, but shield her as well.  Her wounds are still open.  At the end of her narrative, she writes, "Now when I stare at people--a favourite pastime up to now--they will stare back.  Not at the 'cute' little girl, but at her scar.  For six years, I do not stare at anyone, because I do not raise my head” (pg.303).  The audience wants to intervene and help her.

Although in Ms. Angelou's story one yearns to comfort the child; it is obvious that the adult Maya Angelou does not need protection.  She ends her account with these words:

I would have liked to stay in the hospital the rest of my life.  Mother brought flowers and candy.  Grandmother came with fruit and my uncles clumped around and around my bed, snorting like wild horses.  When they were able to sneak Bailey in, he read to me for hours (pg. 352)

Her family loved her all the way through her trauma, and she moves from despair to hope with their help.

Alice Walker and Maya Angelou are both extremely courageous writers.  From each, the reader receives a rare and poignant gift.  As her book suggests, Alice Walker challenges individuals to search for resolution in the face of loneliness and despair.  Maya Angelou, who "knows why the caged bird sings," reminds people that loneliness and despair never have the last word.  She gently points to a window of hope.  Both women bless society with shades of being human.

Work(s) Cited

Angelou, Maya. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Random House, 1969.

Walker, Alice. In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 2003.

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