Compare And Contrast Literary Essay Examples

Sample compare-contrast essay outline

Here is a sample outline for an essay comparing and contrasting Achilles’ and Odysseus’ attitudes toward war. This example is excerpted from the Excellence in Literature Handbook for Writers, which contains much more information on this topic and many others. Although this sample mentions only one paragraph per topic sentence, you may have more than one paragraph supporting each main point.

Subject: Homer’s Poems
Focus 1: Achilles and Odysseus from the Iliad and the Odyssey
Focus 2: A comparison between the two heroes’ attitudes to war

Thesis: Odysseus in the Odyssey and Achilles in the Iliad are both frequently tested by hostile forces and combat. However, they differ in their characteristic range of responses to critical situations. A study of these two men in this regard reveals some really significant differences about the worldview in the two poems.

Topic Sentence (TS) 1: At first glance, Achilles and Odysseus share many things in common. (Paragraph goes on to discuss the similarities between the two men.)

TS 2: However, they differ completely in their attitude to the war and the warrior code. (Paragraph goes on to discuss the differences in their attitudes.)

TS 3: From these differences in attitude arise the different ways Odysseus and Achilles respond to physical danger, one of the most remarkable differences in this comparison. (Paragraph goes on to argue cause and effect.)

TS 4Given the above, it is not surprising that Achilles and Odysseus differ considerably in the way they treat other people who face dangers with them. (Paragraph leads toward a conclusion by describing  the consequences of their attitudes.)

Notice that in the sample outline, the argument begins by establishing that the two things being compared are sufficiently similar to bear the comparison. That is often an important point. You should not launch a comparison without indicating why you think these two items belong together in a comparison. For instance, if you set up a comparison in which you compared, say, Peter Rabbit and Odysseus, the reader might genuinely wonder about what these things have in common that enables the comparison between them to make any argumentative sense.

If needed, you may review how to write a comparison or contrast essay in the previous post.

This article was adapted from the Excellence in Literature Handbook for Writers, which is available from Everyday Education, LLC (Janice Campbell’s site).

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Langston Hughes: Comparison and Contrasting Essay

by Feross Aboukhadijeh

Langston Hughes was a central figure in the Harlem Renaissance, the flowering of African-American literature and artistic forms in Manhattan during the 1920s. Not only did his writing promote African-American culture, but it sought to bring attention to the plight of the African-Americans suffering injustice and repression. His poems "I, Too" and "Theme for English B" both advanced his political views of equal civil rights and treatment under the law for African-Americans. Both poems use first-person voices; however the "I" is different for each poem, in order to fulfill Hughes' purpose for the poem.

In Hughes' poem "I, Too," the speaker is not an individual as the word "I" implies. In fact, the "I" represents the entirety of African-Americans living in the United States. That Hughes writes "I am the darker brother" instead of "we are the darker brothers" is no accident (2). The connotation of the word "I" as opposed to "we" is that of a lone individual, defenseless and outnumbered. The speaker says "They send me to eat in the kitchen," reinforcing the one-versus-all mentality that Hughes is trying to convey in this poem (3). "We" and "they," give a stronger, more united connotation than "I" does. In this poem, "I" is used to connote weakness, and isolation. As used in this poem, the first-person voice highlights the weakness of the African-American people. However, this is not the only way that Hughes uses "I" in his poetry.

On the other hand, Hughes' poem "Theme for English B," uses the first-person voice for an entirely different effect. In this poem, the "I" is an individual student. The poem is written like a narrative: "I am twenty-two, colored, born in Winston-Salem" (7). Unlike the first poem, "I" is used here to connote strength and singularity. The speaker, an African-American student given an English writing assignment, engages his teacher in an intelligent, even pointed dialog. Hughes artistically makes use of the first-person point of view to enhance the effect of the story. By using words like "I" and "them", "me" and "you," the speaker is able to point out the differences between himself and his teacher. One passage in particular stands out for its incessant juxtaposition of the words "you" and "me":

You are white—

yet a part of me, as I am a part of you.

That's American.

Sometimes perhaps you don't want to be a part of me.

Nor do I often want to be a part of you.

But we are, that's true!

As I learn from you,

I guess you learn from me— (31-38).

Not only does this highlight the differences between the speaker and teacher, but it puts the speaker in a commanding position. The fact that an African-American individual is writing something controversial, and making critical remarks of his teacher—and in such an eloquent way—is a sign of strength and source of pride.

Although these poems both make use of first-person voices, they each make use of voice to different ends. Nonetheless, both poems draw attention to the plight of the African-American people, albeit in different manners. Both poems cry out for civil rights and equality in a time where African-Americans were treated neither civilly nor equally.

Aboukhadijeh, Feross. "Sample Compare and Contrast Essay - "Langston Hughes"" StudyNotes.org. Study Notes, LLC., 17 Nov. 2012. Web. 10 Mar. 2018. <https://www.apstudynotes.org/english/sample-essays/compare-contrast-langston-hughes/>.

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