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Tips on writing a solid comparative essay when my two novels don't have enough similarities?


Apologies, but I do not know where else in the forum to post this query (redirect me if I'm wrong or not allowed, please). I am not looking for help with an essay YET, I would just really like to ask a question about comparative essays.

EDIT: this should probably be in the essay section, I apologise.

Basically our school is making us choose two novels from a decently long list they gave us. We have to make our own topic question.

I am worried however, that my two novels may not be similar enough to offer a solid comparison. I'm wondering, is there anywhere I can ask for someone who may have read these novels and can offer some analysis?

Or, has anyone else had trouble finding similarities when they've done a comparative essay? Any tips?

I do not have enough time to re-choose my books because that would involve taking long hours to read them, unfortunately. I'm already behind.

Thank you so much!

Hello Jendeukie!!

The essence of comparative essay does not involve in only the similarities, but also includes the dissimilarities as well.

You can start your essay with what you've read ( If the essay is in first person narrative ). Briefly describe what the novels are all about, hidden messages and more importantly, what you understood from each of them. Your understanding of the novel is the key to completing this essay. Even if the novels are about two entirely different subjects, you can talk about the characters involved, the author's use of language and so on

After describing your understanding of the essay, proceed to what makes you think they're similar and what makes them different.
End the essay with how the novels have impacted you.

These are just some tips. What you want to write is totally upto you!!
We might be of more help if you specify what the novels are.

Good Luck with your assignment! :)
@DoctorWho

Thank you!
The two novels are 'All the Light You Cannot See' and 'And the Mountains Echoed.' If you could give me an opinion on the similarities between the two, it would be amazing. I don't know haha, I didn't try before because it's just so specific for someone to have read both (they are popular though, I know).

As a matter of a fact, I know right now from research that they both do share themes like interconnectedness and family. However, upon reading analysis of those themes, they are presented very differently. I dunno. I want some solid similarities that are simply similarities. Haha.

Anyway, thank you again! I'll need it.
Feb 9, 2017   #4
In a comparative essay, even the way the similarities are presented become part of the discussion. These are solid similarities that you can discuss because it offers two different presentations of the same topics. You already have an idea as to what shared themes they have. Basically, you have the foundation for your essay already. What you have to do now is look for particular chapters or quotes from the books that you can quote in your essay so that you can delve deeper into a comparison of the two. You can even look at the writing styles of the writers, comparing whom you believe to have the more effective writing style based upon the way their work affected your outlook or opinion of the books. It is relatively easy to write a comparison essay even if you have not read the books thoroughly. An internet search is all that is required for you to get an accurate feel of the similarities and differences in the book and even, get related quotes for your paper. Just remember, these are references and you still have to write an original opinion based upon your research results.
@Holt
Thank you!
Well, admittedly there are similar themes. And okay, presentation can be part of the discussion. Cool. But I can't help but feel it is still inadequate. For example, one theme is very dominant in one novel, the other is more of a background, as other themes/issues take the forefront.

I think I might be able to pull through, but it just makes me feel a little bad because I feel like other novels could offer even more solid similarities. I don't know, I'm just paranoid. I'm worried the teacher will say I should've chosen two better novels?

I have to work really hard to make sure she doesn't, for sure!

I don't think I am allowed to compare writing styles.
Look, here is an example of the exact kind of essay I need to write (I wrote this last year). I'll take some extracts from it.

Analyse the way personal conflicts generate provocative insights regarding the external world.

When personal values stand in conflict with public attitudes and beliefs, provocative insights concerning the external world are invoked. Harper Lee's seminal novel, To Kill a Mockingbird (1960), demonstrates this concept through the moral development of a young protagonist named Scout. Similar conflicts are recognised through Marjane Satrapi's graphic memoir Persepolis (2000), which depicts how Marji's progressive beliefs collide with the conservative ideals of the Islamic Revolution. Through the common use of a bildungsroman framework, both Lee and Satrapi portray how their protagonists experience personal realisations and insights regarding the true nature of their respective contexts. Their personal ideology conflicting with the discriminative nature of societal conduct towards marginalised groups, and the conformity regarding the role of women, ultimately leads to a broader understanding of inherent limitations within their patriarchal worlds.

I want a similarity like this -
Furthermore, both texts explore the influences of gender conformity. Mockingbird demonstrates this principle through Scout, whose ideals stand in direct antithesis with her surrounding social conventions of femininity. This is evident through how Scout's characteristics as a tomboy are forcefully mitigated by her aunt: "Aunt Alexandra's vision of my deportment involved playing with small stoves, tea sets..." The representation of her aunt as the 'southern belle' archetype of a woman being a wife and a social butterfly highlights the pressure put on Scout to overcome her lack of femininity and conform to societal expectations. Lee's utilisation of feminine metaphors, "I felt the starched walls of a pink cotton penitentiary closing in on me," emphasises when Scout starts realising that girlhood is a prison that keeps her captive, as Aunt Alexandra is stripping her of her right to dress and behave as she pleases. In addition, the joking tone Atticus uses to explain the lack of women in the Alabama jury: "I doubt we'd ever get a complete case tried - the ladies'd be interrupting to ask questions" serves to magnify the indignation of Scout, as she does not agree with being seen as a fickle creature who is only able to gossip. The conflict of ideals that Scout experiences serves to generate challenging insights into the views of gender and femininity within her public world.

Persepolis also expresses the perception of gender bias through Marji, who faces the intolerance of the Iranian government. In a similar fashion to Mockingbird, both protagonists experience the conflict of their ideals, and gender conventions. A prevalent motif is expressed through the introduction of the obligatory veil, portraying Iran's attempts to exert power over women through a loss of their individuality and ability. Marji is established as a strong character who does not wish to conform to this: "I wanted to be an educated, liberated woman... if the pursuit of knowledge meant getting cancer, so be it." However, when her mother is caught without the veil, the employment of shockingly crass and offensive words: "They said women like me should be pushed up against a wall and fucked and then thrown in the garbage," forces Marji to start considering the ramifications of any rebellious actions. As Marji continues to argue with teachers at her school, her mother warns her of punishments: "a guardian of the revolution marries her and takes her virginity before executing her," and Marji fully realises to the extent that women in her society are treated as property and objects, as opposed to her hopes of becoming an educated and liberated woman. Like Scout, through conflicting ideals, Marji is presented with challenging insights on how the veil reflects upon her surrounding society, in particular regard to gender bias.

I'm not sure if I can pull off an essay like that (again).
Feb 10, 2017   #6
The very least thing that you can do is try. Provided that both the novels you chose to use for your comparative essay are part of the required reading list or suggested novels for the assignment, the teacher should not have a problem with the books that you chose to write about in the essay. Right now, you are worried over nothing. Stop worrying and start writing. That is the only way you can tell if you can replicate your previous writing or not. Let me ask you something, are you worried about this essay because you got an A in your previous work? If that is so, then don't worry, you probably have the innate talent to write killer essays. If you did not get an A and just want to bring your grades up, I suggest you write the essay then come back here with it (in a new thread) so we can help you better the content and writing style. The bottom line is that you have to start writing the essay in order to get over your nerves. You can do this. I for one will be here to help you get the essay to the point where you can be satisfied with your work. Don't worry for now. Just start writing.
@Holt
I didn't really explain clearly but this essay is actually very huge, we've been given a whole term + the holidays to complete it. We have to make our own question, and we're going to be interviewed on aspects of it such as the thesis statement.

So unfortunately, I do have to worry over everything. They will be marking it so seriously. I understand that I must try at least, though. Thank you so much for being so reassuring!

And well, yes, that is another reason to worry. I actually got an A+. Of course the essay was far from perfect, but I was pretty proud of my 14 y/o self. Now that we are seniors this year, I really can't do worse, especially on a huge essay like this.

Thank you so much again! I will stop whinging now. I can't actually start writing because we still need to be given instructions on what kind of question to base our essay on, but I will keep thinking of what I can do.

I will most definitely make a thread for the essay, so until next time then! Thank you!


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