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What is a comparative essay?
A comparative essay asks that you compare at least two (possibly more) items. These items will differ depending on the assignment. You might be asked to compare
- positions on an issue (e.g., responses to midwifery in Canada and the United States)
- theories (e.g., capitalism and communism)
- figures (e.g., GDP in the United States and Britain)
- texts (e.g., Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Macbeth)
- events (e.g., the Great Depression and the global financial crisis of 2008–9)
Although the assignment may say “compare,” the assumption is that you will consider both the similarities and differences; in other words, you will compare and contrast.
Make sure you know the basis for comparison
The assignment sheet may say exactly what you need to compare, or it may ask you to come up with a basis for comparison yourself.
- Provided by the essay question: The essay question may ask that you consider the figure of the gentleman in Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations and Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. The basis for comparison will be the figure of the gentleman.
- Developed by you: The question may simply ask that you compare the two novels. If so, you will need to develop a basis for comparison, that is, a theme, concern, or device common to both works from which you can draw similarities and differences.
Develop a list of similarities and differences
Once you know your basis for comparison, think critically about the similarities and differences between the items you are comparing, and compile a list of them.
For example, you might decide that in Great Expectations, being a true gentleman is not a matter of manners or position but morality, whereas in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, being a true gentleman is not about luxury and self-indulgence but hard work and productivity.
The list you have generated is not yet your outline for the essay, but it should provide you with enough similarities and differences to construct an initial plan.
Develop a thesis based on the relative weight of similarities and differences
Once you have listed similarities and differences, decide whether the similarities on the whole outweigh the differences or vice versa. Create a thesis statement that reflects their relative weights. A more complex thesis will usually include both similarities and differences. Here are examples of the two main cases:
Differences outweigh similarities:
While Callaghan’s “All the Years of Her Life” and Mistry’s “Of White Hairs and Cricket” both follow the conventions of the coming-of-age narrative, Callaghan’s story adheres more closely to these conventions by allowing its central protagonist to mature. In Mistry’s story, by contrast, no real growth occurs.
Similarities outweigh differences:
Although Darwin and Lamarck came to different conclusions about whether acquired traits can be inherited, they shared the key distinction of recognizing that species evolve over time.
Come up with a structure for your essay
Alternating method: Point-by-point pattern
In the alternating method, you find related points common to your central subjects A and B, and alternate between A and B on the basis of these points (ABABAB …). For instance, a comparative essay on the French and Russian revolutions might examine how both revolutions either encouraged or thwarted innovation in terms of new technology, military strategy, and the administrative system.
A Paragraph 1 in body new technology and the French Revolution B Paragraph 2 in body new technology and the Russian Revolution A Paragraph 3 in body military strategy and the French Revolution B Paragraph 4 in body military strategy and the Russian Revolution A Paragraph 5 in body administrative system and the French Revolution B Paragraph 6 in body administrative system and the Russian Revolution
Note that the French and Russian revolutions (A and B) may be dissimilar rather than similar in the way they affected innovation in any of the three areas of technology, military strategy, and administration. To use the alternating method, you just need to have something noteworthy to say about both A and B in each area. Finally, you may certainly include more than three pairs of alternating points: allow the subject matter to determine the number of points you choose to develop in the body of your essay.
When do I use the alternating method?
Professors often like the alternating system because it generally does a better job of highlighting similarities and differences by juxtaposing your points about A and B. It also tends to produce a more tightly integrated and analytical paper. Consider the alternating method if you are able to identify clearly related points between A and B. Otherwise, if you attempt to impose the alternating method, you will probably find it counterproductive.
Block method: Subject-by-subject pattern
In the block method (AB), you discuss all of A, then all of B. For example, a comparative essay using the block method on the French and Russian revolutions would address the French Revolution in the first half of the essay and the Russian Revolution in the second half. If you choose the block method, however, do not simply append two disconnected essays to an introductory thesis. The B block, or second half of your essay, should refer to the A block, or first half, and make clear points of comparison whenever comparisons are relevant. (“Unlike A, B . . .” or “Like A, B . . .”) This technique will allow for a higher level of critical engagement, continuity, and cohesion.
A Paragraphs 1–3 in body How the French Revolution encouraged or thwarted innovation B Paragraphs 4–6 in body How the Russian Revolution encouraged or thwarted innovation
When do I use the block method?
The block method is particularly useful in the following cases:
- You are unable to find points about A and B that are closely related to each other.
- Your ideas about B build upon or extend your ideas about A.
- You are comparing three or more subjects as opposed to the traditional two.
Written by Vikki Visvis and Jerry Plotnick, University College Writing Centre
Star Wars Trilogy Theatrical Edition
In the film industry, movies are rated so that parents are given advance knowledge and an idea of the nature of the film’s content. It helps them decided whether the movie is appropriate for their young children. Some parents are very sensitive to what their children are watching, which is why movie ratings are necessary. These ratings can be seen in the movie advertisements. Submission of films to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is voluntary; with or without ratings, filmmakers can still promote their films.
There are a lot of factors that can affect a film’s rating, such as the language used, sexual or nudity content, or violence. These factors are the things the board considers when choosing what rating a particular film should be assigned. There are five ratings in total. The first one is “General Audiences,” which means the film is suitable for all ages. “Parental Guidance” is for films that have some material that may be unsuitable for younger children, but it is up to the parents to decide whether they will allow their children to watch the film. “PG-13” films are movies that are beyond the boundaries of the “PG” rating, but are still not in the “Restricted” category. “Restricted” rated movies contain adult material that parents may not want their children to see. “NC-17” is a rating that prohibits children under 17 to watch the film. Some films are not submitted to the MPAA for review and, therefore, are classified as “Not Rated” –having been categorized does not suggest anything about a movie’s content. The mentioned ratings or categories classify the movies that we see in theater – the theatrical version of films.
The Descent – Unrated Version
Some people confuse “Not Rated” movies with “Unrated” ones. These are two different categories. As mentioned above, “Not Rated” films are the ones that were not submitted to the MPAA for ratings. Films that the filmmakers have completed are submitted to the MPAA to undergo reviews and receive a rating before they can be shown in the theaters. Sometimes, these movies are rated “NC-17.” In such circumstances, some filmmakers will make certain changes to the film so that the MPAA will rate their film differently – some scenes may be altered or even deleted. This is done so that even younger potential viewers can see the film. This gives the filmmakers more opportunities to market their movie, thus selling more tickets. After the films are shown in theaters, the deleted and edited scenes are put back into the movie. This version of the film is now what we call the “Unrated” version, sometimes referred to as the “Director’s Cut.” This edition of the movie is often sold as DVDs.
To sum up, a movie’s “Unrated” version has content in it that could not be seen in theaters – essentially, it is an uncensored version of the film. On the other hand, the censored edition is the one we call the theatrical version.
1.A theatrical version is the exact film submitted to and rated by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), then shown in theaters. “Unrated” versions contain deleted scenes that might have earned them a stricter rating if submitted to the MPAA.
2.The theatrical version is for the general public, while the “Unrated” version is for older and more mature viewers.
3.Theatrical versions are the censored versions; the “Unrated” version or “Director’s Cut” is the uncensored one.
4.The theatrical version has less sensitive scenes as compared to an “Unrated” version.
Celine. "Difference Between Theatrical and Unrated Versions." DifferenceBetween.net. May 22, 2017 < http://www.differencebetween.net/miscellaneous/difference-between-theatrical-and-unrated-versions/ >.