English 1301 - Composition & Grammar
Assignment #5: Compare & Contrast

Reading Assignment
  • The Longman Writer, Ch. 15, "Comparison-Contrast", pp. 346-381
  • Literature: an Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing, Ch. 7, "Symbol", pp. 229-259
  • Hawthorne, Nathaniel. "Young Goodman Brown" (Text on the Web)
  • Irving, Washington. "The Devil and Tom Walker" (Text on the Web)

  • Writing Assignment
    Write an essay in which you compare and contrast the following works from the assigned reading:
  • "Young Goodman Brown"
  • "The Devil and Tom Walker"
    After carefully reading the works several times, write an essay in which you compare and contrast the selections according to the authors' use of the literary devices discussed in chapter 7 of Literature.  Your purpose for comparing/contrasting the stories is to determine which one provides the best examples of symbolism.  In other words, if you had to teach a class on symbolism and how it is used in literature, which of these stories would provide the best examples.  How are the stories alike in the authors' use of symbolism?  How are they different?  How do the authors incorporate symbolism in the stories?  What about the authors' styles?  Are they similar?  Why or why not?  Be sure to see the examples in The Longman Writer and Literature, and the notes below for more information pertaining to this assignment.

  • A comparison shows how things are alike.  A contrast shows how they differ from one another.  If you were comparing and contrasting two or more brands of chicken soup, where would you begin?  You would probably look at the sizes of the cans and their prices in order to determine relative value, but that is not all.  Taste and consistency would probably also be factors you would consider.  Ingredients, calories, levels of saturated fat, vitamins, etc. may all be compared, but why?  What would be the purpose of this effort?  Probably it would be to determine which can to purchase.  You certainly don't hang out at the grocery store just to compare foods.  I don't know about you, but I have better things to do with my time than comparing and contrasting just for the sake of comparing and contrasting.  Some conclusion should be reached in order to justify the effort devoted to the process.

    On the most basic level, we compare and contrast (in writing) in order to clarify and explain.  If you were to record the compare/contrast soup exercise above in the form of an essay, you would be clarifying the similarities and differences between the various soups, and perhaps also explaining why you selected one over the others.  Your compare/contrast essay would illustrate how and why you reached your decision; providing your audience with not only your selection, but also with the factors you considered in reaching your selection.

    Whether you bought the chunky soup, the soup with funny shaped noodles, or the least expensive soup, your compare/contrast exercise ended with a choice of one soup over the others.  That does not necessarily mean that the soup you chose is the best in every respect.  You chose the soup that was the most appealing to you based on certain factors or points of comparison and their relative priority.  For instance, if you were rich, price would not likely be a factor of high priority.  You would probably be more interested in taste, quality, or nutritional value.  If you were very poor however, price may be the only factor in your decision, or at least the most important factor.  Therefore, the first step in comparing and contrasting is to determine which factors you will be examining and their relative importance or priority.

    In this assignment you are being asked to compare and contrast two literary selections.  Your purpose is to determine (and illustrate through compare/contrast) which selection would be better to use as an example when learning about symbolism, so the authors' clear use of symbolism is the number one factor to examine.  You should also consider each author's writing style (diction, etc.) and any other factors you feel are important (no more than three total).

    Don't forget that there is a purpose behind your writing.  Be sure that you provide adequate examples from the text to support your thesis statement.  However, if the subsequent examples from the story do not clearly illustrate your thesis statement, you have wasted your time. Similarly, if you fail to discuss your examples, they may be too vague for your audience to understand. Make sure that you explain your assertion and the significance of each of your examples.

    This essay should be a minimum of 500 words in length. It must include an introductory paragraph with a thesis statement, fully developed body paragraphs with transitions, and a concluding paragraph that neatly wraps up your essay. Write your rough draft and proofread carefully! Look for more than just mechanical and grammar errors. As you read, ask yourself; "have I said what I intended to say?". When you feel that you have, type your final draft.

    See pages 526 - 530 in The Little, Brown Handbook, Brief Version for information on proper MLA formatting and the heading for your essay.