Comparative Essay

Barbara P

How to Write a Comparative Essay – A Complete Guide

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Published on: Jan 28, 2020

Last updated on: Nov 21, 2023

Comparative Essay

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Comparative essay is a common assignment for school and college students. Many students are not aware of the complexities of crafting a strong comparative essay. 

If you too are struggling with this, don't worry!

In this blog, you will get a complete writing guide for comparative essay writing. From structuring formats to creative topics, this guide has it all.

So, keep reading!

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What is a Comparative Essay?

A comparative essay is a type of essay in which an essay writer compares at least two or more items. The author compares two subjects with the same relation in terms of similarities and differences depending on the assignment.

The main purpose of the comparative essay is to:

  • Highlight the similarities and differences in a systematic manner.
  • Provide great clarity of the subject to the readers.
  • Analyze two things and describe their advantages and drawbacks.

A comparative essay is also known as compare and contrast essay or a comparison essay. It analyzes two subjects by either comparing them, contrasting them, or both. The Venn diagram is the best tool for writing a paper about the comparison between two subjects.  

Moreover, a comparative analysis essay discusses the similarities and differences of themes, items, events, views, places, concepts, etc. For example, you can compare two different novels (e.g., The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Red Badge of Courage).

However, a comparative essay is not limited to specific topics. It covers almost every topic or subject with some relation.

Comparative Essay Structure

A good comparative essay is based on how well you structure your essay. It helps the reader to understand your essay better. 

The structure is more important than what you write. This is because it is necessary to organize your essay so that the reader can easily go through the comparisons made in an essay.

The following are the two main methods in which you can organize your comparative essay.

Point-by-Point Method 

The point-by-point or alternating method provides a detailed overview of the items that you are comparing. In this method, organize items in terms of similarities and differences.

This method makes the writing phase easy for the writer to handle two completely different essay subjects. It is highly recommended where some depth and detail are required.

Below given is the structure of the point-by-point method. 

Block Method 

The block method is the easiest as compared to the point-by-point method. In this method, you divide the information in terms of parameters. It means that the first paragraph compares the first subject and all their items, then the second one compares the second, and so on.

However, make sure that you write the subject in the same order. This method is best for lengthy essays and complicated subjects.

Here is the structure of the block method. 

Therefore, keep these methods in mind and choose the one according to the chosen subject.

Mixed Paragraphs Method

In this method, one paragraph explains one aspect of the subject. As a writer, you will handle one point at a time and one by one. This method is quite beneficial as it allows you to give equal weightage to each subject and help the readers identify the point of comparison easily.

How to Start a Comparative Essay?

Here, we have gathered some steps that you should follow to start a well-written comparative essay.  

Choose a Topic

The foremost step in writing a comparative essay is to choose a suitable topic.

Choose a topic or theme that is interesting to write about and appeals to the reader. 

An interesting essay topic motivates the reader to know about the subject. Also, try to avoid complicated topics for your comparative essay. 

Develop a List of Similarities and Differences 

Create a list of similarities and differences between two subjects that you want to include in the essay. Moreover, this list helps you decide the basis of your comparison by constructing your initial plan. 

Evaluate the list and establish your argument and thesis statement .

Establish the Basis for Comparison 

The basis for comparison is the ground for you to compare the subjects. In most cases, it is assigned to you, so check your assignment or prompt.

Furthermore, the main goal of the comparison essay is to inform the reader of something interesting. It means that your subject must be unique to make your argument interesting.  

Do the Research 

In this step, you have to gather information for your subject. If your comparative essay is about social issues, historical events, or science-related topics, you must do in-depth research.    

However, make sure that you gather data from credible sources and cite them properly in the essay.

Create an Outline

An essay outline serves as a roadmap for your essay, organizing key elements into a structured format.

With your topic, list of comparisons, basis for comparison, and research in hand, the next step is to create a comprehensive outline. 

Here is a standard comparative essay outline:

How to Write a Comparative Essay?

Now that you have the basic information organized in an outline, you can get started on the writing process. 

Here are the essential parts of a comparative essay: 

Comparative Essay Introduction 

Start off by grabbing your reader's attention in the introduction . Use something catchy, like a quote, question, or interesting fact about your subjects. 

Then, give a quick background so your reader knows what's going on. 

The most important part is your thesis statement, where you state the main argument , the basis for comparison, and why the comparison is significant.

This is what a typical thesis statement for a comparative essay looks like:

Comparative Essay Body Paragraphs 

The body paragraphs are where you really get into the details of your subjects. Each paragraph should focus on one thing you're comparing.

Start by talking about the first point of comparison. Then, go on to the next points. Make sure to talk about two to three differences to give a good picture.

After that, switch gears and talk about the things they have in common. Just like you discussed three differences, try to cover three similarities. 

This way, your essay stays balanced and fair. This approach helps your reader understand both the ways your subjects are different and the ways they are similar. Keep it simple and clear for a strong essay.

Comparative Essay Conclusion

In your conclusion , bring together the key insights from your analysis to create a strong and impactful closing.

Consider the broader context or implications of the subjects' differences and similarities. What do these insights reveal about the broader themes or ideas you're exploring?

Discuss the broader implications of these findings and restate your thesis. Avoid introducing new information and end with a thought-provoking statement that leaves a lasting impression.

Below is the detailed comparative essay template format for you to understand better.

Comparative Essay Format

Comparative Essay Examples

Have a look at these comparative essay examples pdf to get an idea of the perfect essay.

Comparative Essay on Summer and Winter

Comparative Essay on Books vs. Movies

Comparative Essay Sample

Comparative Essay Thesis Example

Comparative Essay on Football vs Cricket

Comparative Essay on Pet and Wild Animals

Comparative Essay Topics

Comparative essay topics are not very difficult or complex. Check this list of essay topics and pick the one that you want to write about.

  • How do education and employment compare?
  • Living in a big city or staying in a village.
  • The school principal or college dean.
  • New Year vs. Christmas celebration.
  • Dried Fruit vs. Fresh. Which is better?
  • Similarities between philosophy and religion.
  • British colonization and Spanish colonization.
  • Nuclear power for peace or war?
  • Bacteria or viruses.
  • Fast food vs. homemade food.

Tips for Writing A Good Comparative Essay

Writing a compelling comparative essay requires thoughtful consideration and strategic planning. Here are some valuable tips to enhance the quality of your comparative essay:

  • Clearly define what you're comparing, like themes or characters.
  • Plan your essay structure using methods like point-by-point or block paragraphs.
  • Craft an introduction that introduces subjects and states your purpose.
  • Ensure an equal discussion of both similarities and differences.
  • Use linking words for seamless transitions between paragraphs.
  • Gather credible information for depth and authenticity.
  • Use clear and simple language, avoiding unnecessary jargon.
  • Dedicate each paragraph to a specific point of comparison.
  • Summarize key points, restate the thesis, and emphasize significance.
  • Thoroughly check for clarity, coherence, and correct any errors.

Transition Words For Comparative Essays

Transition words are crucial for guiding your reader through the comparative analysis. They help establish connections between ideas and ensure a smooth flow in your essay. 

Here are some transition words and phrases to improve the flow of your comparative essay:

Transition Words for Similarities

  • Correspondingly
  • In the same vein
  • In like manner
  • In a similar fashion
  • In tandem with

Transition Words for Differences

  • On the contrary
  • In contrast
  • Nevertheless
  • In spite of
  • Notwithstanding
  • On the flip side
  • In contradistinction

Check out this blog listing more transition words that you can use to enhance your essay’s coherence!

In conclusion, now that you have the important steps and helpful tips to write a good comparative essay, you can start working on your own essay. 

However, if you find it tough to begin, you can always hire our professional essay writing service . 

Our skilled writers can handle any type of essay or assignment you need. So, don't wait—place your order now and make your academic journey easier!

Frequently Asked Question

How long is a comparative essay.

A comparative essay is 4-5 pages long, but it depends on your chosen idea and topic.

How do you end a comparative essay?

Here are some tips that will help you to end the comparative essay.

  • Restate the thesis statement
  • Wrap up the entire essay
  • Highlight the main points

Barbara P (Literature, Marketing)

Dr. Barbara is a highly experienced writer and author who holds a Ph.D. degree in public health from an Ivy League school. She has worked in the medical field for many years, conducting extensive research on various health topics. Her writing has been featured in several top-tier publications.

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The Comparative Essay

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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:

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.
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

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 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.
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  • Comparative Analysis

What It Is and Why It's Useful

Comparative analysis asks writers to make an argument about the relationship between two or more texts. Beyond that, there's a lot of variation, but three overarching kinds of comparative analysis stand out:

  • Coordinate (A ↔ B): In this kind of analysis, two (or more) texts are being read against each other in terms of a shared element, e.g., a memoir and a novel, both by Jesmyn Ward; two sets of data for the same experiment; a few op-ed responses to the same event; two YA books written in Chicago in the 2000s; a film adaption of a play; etc. 
  • Subordinate (A  → B) or (B → A ): Using a theoretical text (as a "lens") to explain a case study or work of art (e.g., how Anthony Jack's The Privileged Poor can help explain divergent experiences among students at elite four-year private colleges who are coming from similar socio-economic backgrounds) or using a work of art or case study (i.e., as a "test" of) a theory's usefulness or limitations (e.g., using coverage of recent incidents of gun violence or legislation un the U.S. to confirm or question the currency of Carol Anderson's The Second ).
  • Hybrid [A  → (B ↔ C)] or [(B ↔ C) → A] , i.e., using coordinate and subordinate analysis together. For example, using Jack to compare or contrast the experiences of students at elite four-year institutions with students at state universities and/or community colleges; or looking at gun culture in other countries and/or other timeframes to contextualize or generalize Anderson's main points about the role of the Second Amendment in U.S. history.

"In the wild," these three kinds of comparative analysis represent increasingly complex—and scholarly—modes of comparison. Students can of course compare two poems in terms of imagery or two data sets in terms of methods, but in each case the analysis will eventually be richer if the students have had a chance to encounter other people's ideas about how imagery or methods work. At that point, we're getting into a hybrid kind of reading (or even into research essays), especially if we start introducing different approaches to imagery or methods that are themselves being compared along with a couple (or few) poems or data sets.

Why It's Useful

In the context of a particular course, each kind of comparative analysis has its place and can be a useful step up from single-source analysis. Intellectually, comparative analysis helps overcome the "n of 1" problem that can face single-source analysis. That is, a writer drawing broad conclusions about the influence of the Iranian New Wave based on one film is relying entirely—and almost certainly too much—on that film to support those findings. In the context of even just one more film, though, the analysis is suddenly more likely to arrive at one of the best features of any comparative approach: both films will be more richly experienced than they would have been in isolation, and the themes or questions in terms of which they're being explored (here the general question of the influence of the Iranian New Wave) will arrive at conclusions that are less at-risk of oversimplification.

For scholars working in comparative fields or through comparative approaches, these features of comparative analysis animate their work. To borrow from a stock example in Western epistemology, our concept of "green" isn't based on a single encounter with something we intuit or are told is "green." Not at all. Our concept of "green" is derived from a complex set of experiences of what others say is green or what's labeled green or what seems to be something that's neither blue nor yellow but kind of both, etc. Comparative analysis essays offer us the chance to engage with that process—even if only enough to help us see where a more in-depth exploration with a higher and/or more diverse "n" might lead—and in that sense, from the standpoint of the subject matter students are exploring through writing as well the complexity of the genre of writing they're using to explore it—comparative analysis forms a bridge of sorts between single-source analysis and research essays.

Typical learning objectives for single-sources essays: formulate analytical questions and an arguable thesis, establish stakes of an argument, summarize sources accurately, choose evidence effectively, analyze evidence effectively, define key terms, organize argument logically, acknowledge and respond to counterargument, cite sources properly, and present ideas in clear prose.

Common types of comparative analysis essays and related types: two works in the same genre, two works from the same period (but in different places or in different cultures), a work adapted into a different genre or medium, two theories treating the same topic; a theory and a case study or other object, etc.

How to Teach It: Framing + Practice

Framing multi-source writing assignments (comparative analysis, research essays, multi-modal projects) is likely to overlap a great deal with "Why It's Useful" (see above), because the range of reasons why we might use these kinds of writing in academic or non-academic settings is itself the reason why they so often appear later in courses. In many courses, they're the best vehicles for exploring the complex questions that arise once we've been introduced to the course's main themes, core content, leading protagonists, and central debates.

For comparative analysis in particular, it's helpful to frame assignment's process and how it will help students successfully navigate the challenges and pitfalls presented by the genre. Ideally, this will mean students have time to identify what each text seems to be doing, take note of apparent points of connection between different texts, and start to imagine how those points of connection (or the absence thereof)

  • complicates or upends their own expectations or assumptions about the texts
  • complicates or refutes the expectations or assumptions about the texts presented by a scholar
  • confirms and/or nuances expectations and assumptions they themselves hold or scholars have presented
  • presents entirely unforeseen ways of understanding the texts

—and all with implications for the texts themselves or for the axes along which the comparative analysis took place. If students know that this is where their ideas will be heading, they'll be ready to develop those ideas and engage with the challenges that comparative analysis presents in terms of structure (See "Tips" and "Common Pitfalls" below for more on these elements of framing).

Like single-source analyses, comparative essays have several moving parts, and giving students practice here means adapting the sample sequence laid out at the " Formative Writing Assignments " page. Three areas that have already been mentioned above are worth noting:

  • Gathering evidence : Depending on what your assignment is asking students to compare (or in terms of what), students will benefit greatly from structured opportunities to create inventories or data sets of the motifs, examples, trajectories, etc., shared (or not shared) by the texts they'll be comparing. See the sample exercises below for a basic example of what this might look like.
  • Why it Matters: Moving beyond "x is like y but also different" or even "x is more like y than we might think at first" is what moves an essay from being "compare/contrast" to being a comparative analysis . It's also a move that can be hard to make and that will often evolve over the course of an assignment. A great way to get feedback from students about where they're at on this front? Ask them to start considering early on why their argument "matters" to different kinds of imagined audiences (while they're just gathering evidence) and again as they develop their thesis and again as they're drafting their essays. ( Cover letters , for example, are a great place to ask writers to imagine how a reader might be affected by reading an their argument.)
  • Structure: Having two texts on stage at the same time can suddenly feel a lot more complicated for any writer who's used to having just one at a time. Giving students a sense of what the most common patterns (AAA / BBB, ABABAB, etc.) are likely to be can help them imagine, even if provisionally, how their argument might unfold over a series of pages. See "Tips" and "Common Pitfalls" below for more information on this front.

Sample Exercises and Links to Other Resources

  • Common Pitfalls
  • Advice on Timing
  • Try to keep students from thinking of a proposed thesis as a commitment. Instead, help them see it as more of a hypothesis that has emerged out of readings and discussion and analytical questions and that they'll now test through an experiment, namely, writing their essay. When students see writing as part of the process of inquiry—rather than just the result—and when that process is committed to acknowledging and adapting itself to evidence, it makes writing assignments more scientific, more ethical, and more authentic. 
  • Have students create an inventory of touch points between the two texts early in the process.
  • Ask students to make the case—early on and at points throughout the process—for the significance of the claim they're making about the relationship between the texts they're comparing.
  • For coordinate kinds of comparative analysis, a common pitfall is tied to thesis and evidence. Basically, it's a thesis that tells the reader that there are "similarities and differences" between two texts, without telling the reader why it matters that these two texts have or don't have these particular features in common. This kind of thesis is stuck at the level of description or positivism, and it's not uncommon when a writer is grappling with the complexity that can in fact accompany the "taking inventory" stage of comparative analysis. The solution is to make the "taking inventory" stage part of the process of the assignment. When this stage comes before students have formulated a thesis, that formulation is then able to emerge out of a comparative data set, rather than the data set emerging in terms of their thesis (which can lead to confirmation bias, or frequency illusion, or—just for the sake of streamlining the process of gathering evidence—cherry picking). 
  • For subordinate kinds of comparative analysis , a common pitfall is tied to how much weight is given to each source. Having students apply a theory (in a "lens" essay) or weigh the pros and cons of a theory against case studies (in a "test a theory") essay can be a great way to help them explore the assumptions, implications, and real-world usefulness of theoretical approaches. The pitfall of these approaches is that they can quickly lead to the same biases we saw here above. Making sure that students know they should engage with counterevidence and counterargument, and that "lens" / "test a theory" approaches often balance each other out in any real-world application of theory is a good way to get out in front of this pitfall.
  • For any kind of comparative analysis, a common pitfall is structure. Every comparative analysis asks writers to move back and forth between texts, and that can pose a number of challenges, including: what pattern the back and forth should follow and how to use transitions and other signposting to make sure readers can follow the overarching argument as the back and forth is taking place. Here's some advice from an experienced writing instructor to students about how to think about these considerations:

a quick note on STRUCTURE

     Most of us have encountered the question of whether to adopt what we might term the “A→A→A→B→B→B” structure or the “A→B→A→B→A→B” structure.  Do we make all of our points about text A before moving on to text B?  Or do we go back and forth between A and B as the essay proceeds?  As always, the answers to our questions about structure depend on our goals in the essay as a whole.  In a “similarities in spite of differences” essay, for instance, readers will need to encounter the differences between A and B before we offer them the similarities (A d →B d →A s →B s ).  If, rather than subordinating differences to similarities you are subordinating text A to text B (using A as a point of comparison that reveals B’s originality, say), you may be well served by the “A→A→A→B→B→B” structure.  

     Ultimately, you need to ask yourself how many “A→B” moves you have in you.  Is each one identical?  If so, you may wish to make the transition from A to B only once (“A→A→A→B→B→B”), because if each “A→B” move is identical, the “A→B→A→B→A→B” structure will appear to involve nothing more than directionless oscillation and repetition.  If each is increasingly complex, however—if each AB pair yields a new and progressively more complex idea about your subject—you may be well served by the “A→B→A→B→A→B” structure, because in this case it will be visible to readers as a progressively developing argument.

As we discussed in "Advice on Timing" at the page on single-source analysis, that timeline itself roughly follows the "Sample Sequence of Formative Assignments for a 'Typical' Essay" outlined under " Formative Writing Assignments, " and it spans about 5–6 steps or 2–4 weeks. 

Comparative analysis assignments have a lot of the same DNA as single-source essays, but they potentially bring more reading into play and ask students to engage in more complicated acts of analysis and synthesis during the drafting stages. With that in mind, closer to 4 weeks is probably a good baseline for many single-source analysis assignments. For sections that meet once per week, the timeline will either probably need to expand—ideally—a little past the 4-week side of things, or some of the steps will need to be combined or done asynchronously.

What It Can Build Up To

Comparative analyses can build up to other kinds of writing in a number of ways. For example:

  • They can build toward other kinds of comparative analysis, e.g., student can be asked to choose an additional source to complicate their conclusions from a previous analysis, or they can be asked to revisit an analysis using a different axis of comparison, such as race instead of class. (These approaches are akin to moving from a coordinate or subordinate analysis to more of a hybrid approach.)
  • They can scaffold up to research essays, which in many instances are an extension of a "hybrid comparative analysis."
  • Like single-source analysis, in a course where students will take a "deep dive" into a source or topic for their capstone, they can allow students to "try on" a theoretical approach or genre or time period to see if it's indeed something they want to research more fully.
  • DIY Guides for Analytical Writing Assignments

For Teaching Fellows & Teaching Assistants

  • Types of Assignments
  • Unpacking the Elements of Writing Prompts
  • Formative Writing Assignments
  • Single-Source Analysis
  • Research Essays
  • Multi-Modal or Creative Projects
  • Giving Feedback to Students

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How to Write a Comparative Essay

Last Updated: May 19, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Christopher Taylor, PhD . Christopher Taylor is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at Austin Community College in Texas. He received his PhD in English Literature and Medieval Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2014. There are 8 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 1,680,241 times.

Perhaps you have been assigned a comparative essay in class, or need to write a comprehensive comparative report for work. In order to write a stellar comparative essay, you have to start off by picking two subjects that have enough similarities and differences to be compared in a meaningful way, such as two sports teams or two systems of government. Once you have that, then you have to find at least two or three points of comparison and use research, facts, and well-organized paragraphs to impress and captivate your readers. Writing the comparative essay is an important skill that you will use many times throughout your scholastic career.

Comparative Essay Outline and Example

comparative essay conclusion structure

How to Develop the Essay Content

Step 1 Analyze the question or essay prompt carefully.

  • Many comparative essay assignments will signal their purpose by using words such as "compare," "contrast," "similarities," and "differences" in the language of the prompt.
  • Also see whether there are any limits placed on your topic.

Step 2 Understand the type of comparison essay you are being asked to write.

  • The assignment will generally ask guiding questions if you are expected to incorporate comparison as part of a larger assignment. For example: "Choose a particular idea or theme, such as love, beauty, death, or time, and consider how two different Renaissance poets approach this idea." This sentence asks you to compare two poets, but it also asks how the poets approach the point of comparison. In other words, you will need to make an evaluative or analytical argument about those approaches.
  • If you're unclear on what the essay prompt is asking you to do, talk with your instructor. It's much better to clarify questions up front than discover you've written the entire essay incorrectly.

Step 3 List similarities and differences between the items you are comparing.

  • The best place to start is to write a list of things that the items you are comparing have in common as well as differences between them. [3] X Research source

Step 4 Evaluate your list to find your argument.

  • You may want to develop a system such as highlighting different types of similarities in different colors, or use different colours if you are using an electronic device.
  • For example, if you are comparing two novels, you may want to highlight similarities in characters in pink, settings in blue, and themes or messages in green.

Step 5 Establish the basis for your comparison.

  • The basis for your comparison may be assigned to you. Be sure to check your assignment or prompt.
  • A basis for comparison may have to do with a theme, characteristics, or details about two different things. [7] X Research source
  • A basis for comparison may also be known as the “grounds” for comparison or a frame of reference.
  • Keep in mind that comparing 2 things that are too similar makes it hard to write an effective paper. The goal of a comparison paper is to draw interesting parallels and help the reader realize something interesting about our world. This means your subjects must be different enough to make your argument interesting.

Step 6 Research your subjects of comparison.

  • Research may not be required or appropriate for your particular assignment. If your comparative essay is not meant to include research, you should avoid including it.
  • A comparative essay about historical events, social issues, or science-related topics are more likely to require research, while a comparison of two works of literature are less likely to require research.
  • Be sure to cite any research data properly according to the discipline in which you are writing (eg, MLA, APA, or Chicago format).

Step 7 Develop a thesis statement.

  • Your thesis needs to make a claim about your subjects that you will then defend in your essay. It's good for this claim to be a bit controversial or up for interpretation, as this allows you to build a good argument.

How to Organize the Content

Step 1 Outline your comparison.

  • Use a traditional outline form if you would like to, but even a simple list of bulleted points in the order that you plan to present them would help.
  • You can also write down your main points on sticky notes (or type them, print them, and then cut them out) so that you can arrange and rearrange them before deciding on a final order.

Step 2 Use a mixed paragraphs method.

  • The advantages of this structure are that it continually keeps the comparison in the mind of the reader and forces you, the writer, to pay equal attention to each side of the argument.
  • This method is especially recommended for lengthy essays or complicated subjects where both the writer and reader can easily become lost. For Example: Paragraph 1: Engine power of vehicle X / Engine power of vehicle Y Paragraph 2: Stylishness of vehicle X / Stylishness of vehicle Y Paragraph 3: Safety rating of vehicle X / Safety rating of vehicle Y

Step 3 Alternate the subjects in each paragraph.

  • The advantages of this structure are that it allows you to discuss points in greater detail and makes it less jarring to tackle two topics that radically different.
  • This method is especially recommended for essays where some depth and detail are required. For example: Paragraph 1: Engine power of vehicle X Paragraph 2: Engine power of vehicle Y Paragraph 3: Stylishness of vehicle X Paragraph 4: Stylishness of vehicle Y Paragraph 5: Safety rating of vehicle X Paragraph 6: Safety rating of vehicle Y

Step 4 Cover one subject at a time thoroughly.

  • This method is by far the most dangerous, as your comparison can become both one-sided and difficult for the reader to follow.
  • This method is only recommended for short essays with simplistic subjects that the reader can easily remember as (s)he goes along. For example: Paragraph 1: Engine power of vehicle X Paragraph 2: Stylishness of vehicle X Paragraph 3: Safety rating of vehicle X Paragraph 4: Engine power of vehicle Y Paragraph 5: Stylishness of vehicle Y Paragraph 6: Safety rating of vehicle Y

How to Write the Essay

Step 1 Write your essay out of order.

  • Body paragraphs first . Work through all that information you've been compiling and see what kind of story it tells you. Only when you've worked with your data will you know what the larger point of the paper is.
  • Conclusion second . Now that you've done all the heavy lifting, the point of your essay should be fresh in your mind. Strike while the iron’s hot. Start your conclusion with a restatement of your thesis.
  • Intro last . Open your introduction with a "hook" to grab the reader's attention. Since you've already written your essay, choose a hook that reflects what you will talk about, whether it's a quote, statistic, factoid, rhetorical question, or anecdote. Then, write 1-2 sentences about your topic, narrowing down to your thesis statement, which completes your introduction.

Step 2 Write the body paragraphs.

  • Organize your paragraphs using one of the approaches listed in the "Organizing the Content" part below. Once you have defined your points of comparison, choose the structure for the body paragraphs (where your comparisons go) that makes the most sense for your data. To work out all the organizational kinks, it’s recommended that you write an outline as a placeholder.
  • Be very careful not to address different aspects of each subject. Comparing the color of one thing to the size of another does nothing to help the reader understand how they stack up. [15] X Research source

Step 3 Write the conclusion...

  • Be aware that your various comparisons won’t necessarily lend themselves to an obvious conclusion, especially because people value things differently. If necessary, make the parameters of your argument more specific. (Ex. “Though X is more stylish and powerful, Y’s top safety ratings make it a more appropriate family vehicle .”)
  • When you have two radically different topics, it sometimes helps to point out one similarity they have before concluding. (i.e. "Although X and Y don't seem to have anything in common, in actuality, they both ....”)

Step 4 Write the introduction...

  • Even the best writers know editing is important to produce a good piece. Your essay will not be your best effort unless you revise it.
  • If possible, find a friend to look over the essay, as he or she may find problems that you missed.
  • It sometimes helps to increase or decrease the font size while editing to change the visual layout of the paper. Looking at the same thing for too long makes your brain fill in what it expects instead of what it sees, leaving you more likely to overlook errors.

Expert Q&A

Christopher Taylor, PhD

  • The title and introduction really catch the reader's attention and make them read the essay. Make sure you know how to write a catchy essay title . Thanks Helpful 6 Not Helpful 1
  • Quotes should be used sparingly and must thoroughly complement the point they are being used to exemplify/justify. Thanks Helpful 5 Not Helpful 2
  • The key principle to remember in a comparative paragraph or essay is that you must clarify precisely what you are comparing and keep that comparison alive throughout the essay. Thanks Helpful 3 Not Helpful 2

comparative essay conclusion structure

  • Avoid vague language such as "people," "stuff," "things," etc. Thanks Helpful 4 Not Helpful 0
  • Avoid, at all costs, the conclusion that the two subjects are "similar, yet different." This commonly found conclusion weakens any comparative essay, because it essentially says nothing about the comparison. Most things are "similar, yet different" in some way. Thanks Helpful 4 Not Helpful 0
  • Some believe that an "unbalanced" comparison - that is, when the essay focuses predominantly on one of the two issues, and gives less importance to the other - is weaker, and that writers should strive for 50/50 treatment of the texts or issues being examined. Others, however, value emphasis in the essay that reflects the particular demands of the essay's purpose or thesis. One text may simply provide context, or historical/artistic/political reference for the main text, and therefore need not occupy half of the essay's discussion or analysis. A "weak" essay in this context would strive to treat unequal texts equally, rather than strive to appropriately apportion space to the relevant text. Thanks Helpful 3 Not Helpful 0
  • Beware of the "Frying Pan Conclusion" in which you simply recount everything that was said in the main body of the essay. While your conclusion should include a simple summary of your argument, it should also emphatically state the point in a new and convincing way, one which the reader will remember clearly. If you can see a way forward from a problem or dilemma, include that as well. Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 1

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About This Article

Christopher Taylor, PhD

To write a comparative essay, start by writing an introduction that introduces the 2 subjects you'll be comparing. You should also include your thesis statement in the introduction, which should state what you've concluded based on your comparisons. Next, write the body of your essay so that each paragraph focuses on one point of comparison between your subjects. Finally, write a conclusion that summarizes your main points and draws a larger conclusion about the two things you compared. To learn how to do research for your essay, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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Writing a comparative essay

Writing a comparative essay

This week, Insight writer and English teacher Melanie Flower outlines steps you can take to write your best comparative essay.

The comparative essay is still a relatively new element of VCE English, only becoming part of the Study Design in 2016. However, while the Area of Study is new, your essay should still have a clear and largely familiar structure, with an introduction, body and conclusion. Last year every topic in Section B of the VCE English examination included the word ‘compare’, and it is essential to note that the comparison of texts is the central requirement for this response, even if the word does not explicitly appear in the topic.

The comparative essay can be tackled in a variety of ways, and it is worth experimenting with different approaches throughout the semester to find the one that suits your strengths.

Read the topic carefully

Make sure that you understand exactly what the topic is asking you to do. The topic might invite a broad thematic comparison, which requires a thoughtful understanding of the ways a particular theme is explored in both texts. Other topics focus on an aspect of the texts’ construction, such as characterisation or setting, and require you to show an understanding of the texts’ form and genre.

You could also encounter a topic that contains one or two quotes. This type of topic necessitates a very thorough knowledge of your texts, as you need to recognise the context of each quote, identify the key ideas being addressed in each, and understand how these ideas are explored in both texts.

Give roughly equal weight to each text

Each text pairing has been carefully chosen to offer points of comparison, in terms of both similarities and differences. While you may have a preference for one text over the other, it is essential that you do not allow this to limit the scope of your discussion. One easy way to make sure that you are addressing both texts equally is to balance every point, example or quote from one text with an equivalent from the other. This can be done in the planning stages, giving you a wealth of material to use in your essay.

Choose your preferred structure

The broad structure of a comparative essay is already very familiar to you, and consists of an introduction, several body paragraphs and a conclusion. The introduction should include a clear contention that alerts the reader to your response to the topic, as well as the main ideas your essay will explore. It must contain references to both texts. Similarly, your conclusion should summarise the points you have made and leave the reader with a clear understanding of your position on the topic. These elements are common to all analytical text response essays. The difference in a comparative response is in the way the body paragraphs are structured and organised. You essentially have two basic options for the body: the block approach or the woven approach.

  • The block approach:  This approach involves devoting a paragraph or two to each text, examining the ways each of them address the ideas raised by the topic. The final body paragraphs pull this material together and discuss the similarities and differences between the texts’ approach to the central ideas explored in the essay. This structure appears straightforward, but it can be challenging to maintain a strong connection between the texts when discussing them in isolation. A careful use of linking words is essential to ensure that the essay is cohesive and the comparison of texts remains at the fore.
  • The woven approach:  Using a more sophisticated structure, the woven essay draws evidence from both texts within each body paragraph. Topic sentences focus on an aspect of the ideas raised by the topic rather than on individual texts or characters, leaving you free to explore material from both sources in the paragraph. It can be challenging to move between two texts, although with practice, this will become easier. One useful strategy is to begin your discussion of a particular idea with a sentence addressing text 1. Then start the next sentence with a linking word or phrase that leads to a statement about text 2’s perspective on the same idea. A third sentence links both texts, adding an overall position statement. This approach allows you to move smoothly between the texts while also engaging in deep analysis of their ideas.

Focus on differences as well as similarities

We tend to be very alert to similarities between texts, which are usually relatively simple to identify; however, often the most interesting discussion will devolve from a consideration of the differences. These provide an opportunity to explore contrasting situations and points of view, thus demonstrating your engagement with both the texts and the ideas they present.

Use linking words and phrases

When moving the discussion between texts, regardless of the overall essay structure you have chosen, use appropriate linking words and phrases to maintain fluency and cohesion. These links help your reader to understand the connection between the ideas you are discussing, whether they are similarities or contrasts.

Phrases that you can use to discuss similarities include:

similarly, likewise, in the same way, also, along similar lines, in the same fashion .

Phrases useful for indicating contrast include:

in contrast, on the other hand, unlike (text 1), regardless, however, conversely, on the contrary, nevertheless .

Used purposefully, these words and phrases help guide your reader through your discussion, ensuring that they understand the relationship between the texts and the ideas explored in your response.

Explore a range of elements

To add depth to your response, consider a variety of textual elements in your discussion. While the topic may prompt you to focus on character or theme, your response will have more depth if you are able to draw other aspects of the texts into your discussion. You could note the impact of the narrative voice, reflect on how structure shapes a reader’s responses, consider the influence of genre on the texts’ construction, or acknowledge differences in style or authorial purpose. All of these elements provide you with opportunities to consider the texts as constructs, leading to a more complex and sophisticated analysis.


The comparative essay is a challenging, but ultimately satisfying, opportunity to explore intertextual connections. By considering the different perspectives offered by carefully paired texts, you can enrich your understanding of both texts and draw new meanings from them. Ultimately, the best way to find an essay style that works for you is to experiment. Try a few different approaches, note the feedback you receive from your teacher, and use this to finetune your approach. Remember that examiners are not looking for a single, standard essay format. They are interested in your ideas and your genuine responses to the texts, and whichever structure best allows you to present these is the most appropriate structure for you.

Need help with your comparative essays? Insight has two Insight Sample Essays for each List 2 text comparison for English. Each high-level essay features annotations with assessor comments identifying the elements of the essay that work and areas for improvement, as well as tips on how to approach the essay topic and appropriate strategies for analysis.

Insight Sample Essays are produced by Insight Publications, an independent Australian educational publisher.

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How to write a comparative essay

A step-by-step guide with instructions, outlines, and samples

Writing a great comparative essay means highlighting the similarities and differences between two things in a systematic manner. Start by choosing the parameters (items) to compare, write an outline, and fill in the details for each section. Make sure to have an introduction and conclusion.

The comparative essay is one form of document that you will probably be expected to write at some point over the course of your college career. The purpose of this article is to provide you with a thorough overview of the comparative essay. Specific things that will be addressed include:

Purpose of the comparative essay

Explanation of comparative models, how to analyze subjects, elements of a good comparative essay, how to write a great comparative essay.

  • Samples/examples
  • Best practices and advice
  • Additional information

By the end of this article, you should feel more confident about your own knowledge of what a comparative essay is and the best ways to go about writing one (if you haven't decided to buy a comparative essay from Ultius ).

How to write a comparative essay

The fundamental purpose of a comparative essay is to elaborate the similarities and differences between two things in a systematic manner.

An effective comparative essay will leave the reader with much greater clarity about the natures and properties of the things that have been compared.

This could potentially serve as a basis for making a decision in favor of one or the other thing.

A comparative essay is different from, for example, an argumentative essay in that the comparative essay does not make a case for either of the two things under comparison. Rather, the point is to simply set up the comparison so that the reader will have as much information about the two things as possible.

Why are comparative essays important?

The comparative essay is an important form of document because when you have to make a decision or choose a side in an argument, you will want to know as much as possible about the two options under consideration—and a good comparative essay on the subject can bring out both the similarities and the differences between the options, thereby clarifying the stakes at play.

For example, a comparative essay could address the similarities and differences between any of the following pairs:

  • The Republican Party and the Democratic Party
  • Christianity and Marxism
  • The Big Bang and creationism
  • The Light or Dark side of the Force from Star Wars
  • The revolutionary and the reformist perspectives on social change

By developing a comparative essay on any of these pairs, you can not only understand each item of under comparison is a more thorough way, you can also get closer to figuring out which item you prefer.

For example, a solid comparative essay on revolution vs. reformism could not only help you understand what each of these items entails, it can also help you figure out whether you would rather be a revolutionary or a reformist. Likewise, if you only have time to binge watch one show, then a comparative essay could help you figure out whether you would prefer to go with Game of Thrones or Westworld .

When writing a comparative essay, there are several models you can use in order to ensure that you set up your comparison as effectively as possible.

Venn diagram

The Venn diagram is a classic, and surely, you're familiar with it. This is the model of two overlapping circles, where each circle belongs to one item of comparison: features shared by both items (similarities) go in the overlapping middle zone, whereas features that are not shared go in the outer areas. For example, here is a Venn diagram that compares humans against gorillas.

Venn diagram comparing humans and gorillas.

When using the Venn diagram model, it is important to note that the differences must be symmetrical. In other words, every difference you list on one side of the comparison must be matched by a difference on the other side.

For example, if you were comparing Apple and Amazon, then for the parameter of "founder," you can list "Steve Jobs" in one circle and "Jeff Bezos" in the other. But it wouldn't make sense if you just listed one or the other: you must list something for each of the items of comparisons under the selected parameter of comparison.

In the Venn diagram above, the first parameter is "language," so for humans it is listed that we have a capacity of language, whereas for gorillas it is listed that they do not.

You don't need to worry about this kind of symmetry when it comes to the similarities, since you will list the same thing for both items of comparison (which means you only have to list it once, in the overlapping zone). In the example, above, the fact that both humans and gorillas are mammals is thus listed just once in the middle.

The dialectical method

The dialectical method is important within the discipline of philosophy, and it has been used to great effect by thinkers such as Socrates and Hegel and Kierkegaard.

This involves holding two ideas or items in tension with each other, to better clarify not only the ideas themselves but also the dynamic relationship that exist between the ideas. The first idea is called the thesis , and the second idea is called the antithesis .

For example, Romanticism could be dialectically compared against the Enlightenment that came before it, because Romanticism was in some ways a rejection of the previous worldview.

Need help?  Essay writing services from Ultius can help you produce a great sample compare and contrast essay.

So, by setting up a comparison between Romanticism and the Enlightenment, it becomes possible to see both the continuities (or similarities) between the one and the other, as well as the contradictions (or differences) between them.

Berlin, Isaiah. The Roots of Romanticism . Princeton: Princeton U P, 2013. Print.

From the table above, it is clear that we are able to understand both Romanticism and the Enlightenment better if we set them up in terms of dialectical contrast.

Clearly, they are different in some important ways (logic vs. passion, for example), but we can also see that they are in continuity with each other (both happened in Western Europe and responded to previous developments). This comparison also leads one to wonder about whether it would be possible to make a synthesis that takes the best from both the thesis and the antithesis

A good comparative essay can lead one to ask such questions and pursue such lines of inquiry.

To analyze your subjects for a comparative essay, you need to identify clear parameters, or axes, in terms of which your two selected items can be compared. For example, in the table above, Romanticism and the Enlightenment were compared along the axis of " epistemology ". But that axis won't be relevant to all subjects.

Your job when preparing to write a comparative essay is to identify the specific axes that are relevant for the items that you are comparing. Why is the comparison interesting, and what insights are you trying produce? The answers to those questions will determine how you decide to frame your comparison.

For example, we could compare the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) against the Democratic Party in terms of the axis of membership. This would reveal that the DSA has far fewer registered members than does the Democratic Party.

We could also compare them on the axis of healthcare policy, where it may be found that the DSA and the Democratic Party agree about the importance of universal coverage. When we look at the axis of economics, though, we may find that the DSA is much more radical in its proposals than the Democratic Party.

The problem of identifying relevance

In principle, any one thing in the world could be compared with any other thing in the world. For example, you could compare your shoe with the moon, and conclude that one similarity is that they both exist within the Milky Way galaxy.

But this would be a meaningless point (even if it may make for some interesting poetry). It is important for you to figure out what exactly you are trying to determine through your comparative essay. What is your purpose for writing it?

This will help you choose two items where setting up a dialectical contrast between them will produce actual insight, and it will also help you to choose the proper parameters by which to compare those items.

For example, suppose that you are running a business, and there are two expansion options open in front of you. It would be logical for you to compare and contrast these options, since this will help ensure that you are making your decision with as much knowledge and insight as possible.

Business associates meeting around a laptop.

Likewise, one parameter that you are sure to consider is: which option will make your business the most money? If you pick parameters that are meaningless, then you will obtain no real insight that can help you make the important decision.

Using a rubric

Once you have identified both the two items of comparison and the axes along which they will be compared, you can proceed to analyze the items by applying the axes in the form of a table or rubric.

This is what has been done, for example, in the tables that have been developed above in this article. In the left-most column, list the parameters you have selected in order to compare your items. Then, in the top-most row, list the items.

Then go ahead and list the relevant details for each parameter for each of the two items. This will produce a table where you can see how each item measures up against the other for each parameter.

The important thing is to be systematic when you are making your comparison: it should not seem random or arbitrary. Thus, it is important to carefully select both the items and the parameters for comparison, and then to proceed to address each item/parameter combo in turn.

There are several elements that are a part of any good comparative essay.

Effective selection of items

A strong comparative essay has well-chosen items for comparison, with the comparison producing actual insights of value through the juxtaposition of the two items. If the items appear to be chosen for no apparent reason, or if the comparison does not in fact produce insight, then the comparative essay would be quite weak (or at any rate pointless).

The comparative essay is not meant to make an argument in favor of one thing or another, but it is meant to produce knowledge and insight about the two things under comparison. In order to compare and contrast items in an effective way, the two items must be different enough from each other, but they should also not be so different that it just feels absurd to even compare them at all.

Effective selection of parameters of comparison

A good comparative essay not only includes well-selected items of comparison, it also includes well-selected parameters of comparison. Between any two selected items, you could theoretically make an endless number of comparisons.

But a good comparative essay identifies parameters of comparative in terms of salience , or the reasons why anyone would be interested in the comparison in the first place. This can be difficult, because in principle, any comparison could be interesting, depending on the audience of the comparative essay and the intended purpose of the essay.

Twelve sided die displaying the zodiac

For example, one could use the parameter of zodiac sign to compare Romantic artists against Enlightenment artists.

This could be very interesting to people who are very serious about the zodiac, but it would probably seem ridiculous to just about everyone else.

But if you were writing for an audience of zodiac fanatics, then this comparison could actually be a success.

So, there is no parameter of comparison that is "inherently" bad. Rather, the point is to find parameters that highlight specific salient aspects of the selected items.

For example, when comparing Romanticism against the Enlightenment, core values would be a solid parameter of comparison, because that will surely help produce insights about how worldviews changed from the one paradigm to another.

Strong organizational structure

If you want your comparative essay to be a success, then it absolutely must have strong organizational structure . This is because an effective comparison must be easy for your reader to follow. It can't just jump all over the place at random, which not only be confusing but could also result in the reader forgetting what the point of the comparison was in the first place.

In general, there are two ways in which you can organize your comparative essay. In the first format, each of the parameters would be considered in the section for similarities and the section for differences.

In the first format the comparative essay is organized in terms of similarities and differences, whereas in the second format the essay is organized in terms of parameters of comparison.

One version of the comparative essay compares the similarities and differences between subjects

In the second format, both similarities and differences would be considered within each of the parameter sections.

The second version of the comparative essay compares the parameters of both the similarities and differences

Both these are formats are good, and a strong comparative essay could be built around either one.

The important thing is to have a clear system and to not make your comparisons random.

There needs to be an organizational structure that your reader can easily follow.

There are steps you can follow in order to ensure that your comparative essay has all the elements that will be required in order to make it great.

Ask yourself about your intention

If you have selected two items for your comparative essay, then you should start by asking yourself why you selected those two items. What is it about the two items that made you think it would be a good idea to compare them? (Or if you were assigned the two items, then why do you think those items were selected by your professor?)

The point here is that the items selected for a comparative essay are non-random. They are selected because that specific comparison should be able to yield interesting insights (unlike research papers ).

For example, if you are writing a comparative essay on the dogs vs. cats, then are you writing this from the perspective of evolutionary biology? Or are you perhaps writing it in order to inform potential pet owners who are debating whether they want a dog or a cat?

The purpose of your essay will determine what parameters you will select in order to compare your two items. This means that you should have an intended audience in mind, and you should also have specific questions you would like to know more about.

In short, in order to develop effective parameters for your comparative essay, you have to ask yourself why you are writing it and who would be interested in the insights produced by the essay. This can help ensure you select both appropriate items and appropriate parameters for comparison.

Develop a structural outline

It is very important that you do not just jump into your comparative essay and start writing it without a plan. That is a recipe for disaster, and the comparisons will almost certainly turn out random and confusing. Rather, you should begin with a solid outline .

A good outline will do three main things:

  • 1. Identify the selected items of comparison in the introduction/thesis
  • 2. Utilize one of the two organizational formats described above
  • 3. Provide a roadmap for how you intend to systematically follow through on the comparison

For example, here is how an outline could look for a comparative essay on Romanticism vs. the Enlightenment.

Sample outline of a comparative essay about Romanticism and the Enlightenment

In this sample outline, the format that is used dedicates a paragraph to each of three parameters of comparison, and both similarities and differences are addressed for each of those parameters.

This is the kind of logical flow that you will need to have in order for your comparative essay to turn out great.

Write in a systematic way

A comparative essay is not a place to get too creative with your writing, whether in terms of organization or in terms of style.

Rather, you should focus on simply carrying out your comparison, point-by-point and in a way that is easy for your reader to follow. This can get a little tedious, so if that is a problem for you, then you should make sure that you set aside enough time to work on your comparative essay little by little.

For example, if your essay has three parameters, then you could write a section on the first parameter today, the second parameter tomorrow, and the third parameter the next day.

The important thing is for you to ensure that you consider each of your two selected items in terms of each of your selected parameters. This needs to be done in a smooth and logical manner, such that your reader knows where you are in the comparison. There should be no jumping around, and there should be no departure from the basic format or structure.

Example comparative (compare/contrast) essay

Best practices/tips.

We have now arrived at the end of this guide, and you should have a much better idea of what makes a comparative essay successful and how you can go about writing one. It may be helpful to now summarize some of the main points that have been addressed here.

Let's address five main points.

1. Ensure that you select appropriate items for comparison

The two items that will be compared in your comparative essay should be carefully selected. The items should have some shared features and be in the same "class" of items, but they should also have substantial differences to which you are trying to call attention. If the items are too similar, then there would be no point in the comparison, but if they are too different, that can also make the comparison meaningless.

2. Select effective parameters of comparison

Your comparative essay shouldn't compare anything and everything between your two items; rather, the parameters should be specifically selected to highlight specific, salient similarities and differences. In order to determine what parameters would be effective, you have to ask yourself why you are writing your comparative essay and what sort of insights you intend to produce about the items being compared.

3. Use tools and models in an effective way

The Venn diagram is one tool that can be very helpful in conceptualizing your comparative essay, especially if you are a more visual kind of learner. Tables, rubrics, and outlines will also work to help ensure that you are developing a strong backbone of logic and systematic reasoning for your comparative essay. These and other tools may even help you reconsider your initial choices of items and parameters, if you realize that significant insights are not being produced.

4. Choose an organizational format, and stick with it

There are two main ways in which to structure an effective comparative essay, which have been described above. You can dedicate one section to similarities and one section to differences; or, you can dedicate a section to each of the parameters of comparison. This second option is usually more effective, especially if you are new to comparative essays. But either way, it is crucial that you stick to your chosen format and do not jump around and confuse the reader.

5. Seek assistance if you need it

If you are still uncertain about how to write a successful comparative essay, then Ultius is here to help. Our writer help section has many tools like this one available on various types of essays; we have a huge writer help section that contains all sorts of information on pretty much any writing-related questions you may have; and we also have elite professional writers who can produce a sample comparative essay for you on any subject of your choosing. We are here for you, and if you have any further questions about how to write a comparative essay, then you should feel free to reach out.

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  • How to conclude an essay | Interactive example

How to Conclude an Essay | Interactive Example

Published on January 24, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on July 23, 2023.

The conclusion is the final paragraph of your essay . A strong conclusion aims to:

  • Tie together the essay’s main points
  • Show why your argument matters
  • Leave the reader with a strong impression

Your conclusion should give a sense of closure and completion to your argument, but also show what new questions or possibilities it has opened up.

This conclusion is taken from our annotated essay example , which discusses the history of the Braille system. Hover over each part to see why it’s effective.

Braille paved the way for dramatic cultural changes in the way blind people were treated and the opportunities available to them. Louis Braille’s innovation was to reimagine existing reading systems from a blind perspective, and the success of this invention required sighted teachers to adapt to their students’ reality instead of the other way around. In this sense, Braille helped drive broader social changes in the status of blindness. New accessibility tools provide practical advantages to those who need them, but they can also change the perspectives and attitudes of those who do not.

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Table of contents

Step 1: return to your thesis, step 2: review your main points, step 3: show why it matters, what shouldn’t go in the conclusion, more examples of essay conclusions, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about writing an essay conclusion.

To begin your conclusion, signal that the essay is coming to an end by returning to your overall argument.

Don’t just repeat your thesis statement —instead, try to rephrase your argument in a way that shows how it has been developed since the introduction.

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Next, remind the reader of the main points that you used to support your argument.

Avoid simply summarizing each paragraph or repeating each point in order; try to bring your points together in a way that makes the connections between them clear. The conclusion is your final chance to show how all the paragraphs of your essay add up to a coherent whole.

To wrap up your conclusion, zoom out to a broader view of the topic and consider the implications of your argument. For example:

  • Does it contribute a new understanding of your topic?
  • Does it raise new questions for future study?
  • Does it lead to practical suggestions or predictions?
  • Can it be applied to different contexts?
  • Can it be connected to a broader debate or theme?

Whatever your essay is about, the conclusion should aim to emphasize the significance of your argument, whether that’s within your academic subject or in the wider world.

Try to end with a strong, decisive sentence, leaving the reader with a lingering sense of interest in your topic.

The easiest way to improve your conclusion is to eliminate these common mistakes.

Don’t include new evidence

Any evidence or analysis that is essential to supporting your thesis statement should appear in the main body of the essay.

The conclusion might include minor pieces of new information—for example, a sentence or two discussing broader implications, or a quotation that nicely summarizes your central point. But it shouldn’t introduce any major new sources or ideas that need further explanation to understand.

Don’t use “concluding phrases”

Avoid using obvious stock phrases to tell the reader what you’re doing:

  • “In conclusion…”
  • “To sum up…”

These phrases aren’t forbidden, but they can make your writing sound weak. By returning to your main argument, it will quickly become clear that you are concluding the essay—you shouldn’t have to spell it out.

Don’t undermine your argument

Avoid using apologetic phrases that sound uncertain or confused:

  • “This is just one approach among many.”
  • “There are good arguments on both sides of this issue.”
  • “There is no clear answer to this problem.”

Even if your essay has explored different points of view, your own position should be clear. There may be many possible approaches to the topic, but you want to leave the reader convinced that yours is the best one!

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See an example

comparative essay conclusion structure

  • Argumentative
  • Literary analysis

This conclusion is taken from an argumentative essay about the internet’s impact on education. It acknowledges the opposing arguments while taking a clear, decisive position.

The internet has had a major positive impact on the world of education; occasional pitfalls aside, its value is evident in numerous applications. The future of teaching lies in the possibilities the internet opens up for communication, research, and interactivity. As the popularity of distance learning shows, students value the flexibility and accessibility offered by digital education, and educators should fully embrace these advantages. The internet’s dangers, real and imaginary, have been documented exhaustively by skeptics, but the internet is here to stay; it is time to focus seriously on its potential for good.

This conclusion is taken from a short expository essay that explains the invention of the printing press and its effects on European society. It focuses on giving a clear, concise overview of what was covered in the essay.

The invention of the printing press was important not only in terms of its immediate cultural and economic effects, but also in terms of its major impact on politics and religion across Europe. In the century following the invention of the printing press, the relatively stationary intellectual atmosphere of the Middle Ages gave way to the social upheavals of the Reformation and the Renaissance. A single technological innovation had contributed to the total reshaping of the continent.

This conclusion is taken from a literary analysis essay about Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein . It summarizes what the essay’s analysis achieved and emphasizes its originality.

By tracing the depiction of Frankenstein through the novel’s three volumes, I have demonstrated how the narrative structure shifts our perception of the character. While the Frankenstein of the first volume is depicted as having innocent intentions, the second and third volumes—first in the creature’s accusatory voice, and then in his own voice—increasingly undermine him, causing him to appear alternately ridiculous and vindictive. Far from the one-dimensional villain he is often taken to be, the character of Frankenstein is compelling because of the dynamic narrative frame in which he is placed. In this frame, Frankenstein’s narrative self-presentation responds to the images of him we see from others’ perspectives. This conclusion sheds new light on the novel, foregrounding Shelley’s unique layering of narrative perspectives and its importance for the depiction of character.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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Your essay’s conclusion should contain:

  • A rephrased version of your overall thesis
  • A brief review of the key points you made in the main body
  • An indication of why your argument matters

The conclusion may also reflect on the broader implications of your argument, showing how your ideas could applied to other contexts or debates.

For a stronger conclusion paragraph, avoid including:

  • Important evidence or analysis that wasn’t mentioned in the main body
  • Generic concluding phrases (e.g. “In conclusion…”)
  • Weak statements that undermine your argument (e.g. “There are good points on both sides of this issue.”)

Your conclusion should leave the reader with a strong, decisive impression of your work.

The conclusion paragraph of an essay is usually shorter than the introduction . As a rule, it shouldn’t take up more than 10–15% of the text.

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How To Structure A Comparative Essay (VCE English Tips)

What is a comparative essay.

The comparative essay, in only its second year of being on the VCE English syllabus, is a cause for confusion for many students and teachers alike. Read on for one simple way to structure a comparative essay.

Comparative essay structure

How to write an introduction for a comparative essay.

This can be structured in much the same way as a text response essay. Here, the only difference is that you will need to introduce both texts. Do not forget to make use of comparative language, which is an element of the VCAA criteria, which requires that students discuss "meaningful connections , similarities or differences between the texts”. Your introduction must address your overall contention, specific to the prompt, which should be an idea or concept running through your essay.

How to write a body paragraph for a comparative essay

Aim for around two to four body paragraphs, which should be developed using breadth and a wide scope of ideas. A good way to construct these paragraphs is to base each around a premise or main idea, and you will explore both texts through the lens of this premise.

You can choose either to compare both texts throughout the paragraph, or to go into depth in one text and then transition into exploring the other. No matter which method you choose, make you mention to which extent the two texts are similar or different (it's not enough to say "they are different" or "they are similar").

Relate the end of your body paragraph back to the overall contention, bringing both texts explicitly into focus.

How to write a conclusion for a comparative essay

Like the intro, this can be very similar to a text response conclusion! Make sure to be clear and concise, and sum up your main points from your body paragraphs. Aim to end with a strong, clear point of analysis, shining new meaning on both texts.

Comparative Essay Writing Tips

  • Create an Outline: Develop a well-organised outline to keep your essay focused and ensure a logical flow of arguments. This framework serves as a roadmap, guiding you from one point to the next. Always connect your arguments back to your thesis statement for coherence.
  • Reference Throughout the Process: Avoid last-minute referencing by incorporating it into your writing process. Cite sources as you go to maintain accuracy and credibility. This practice helps in seamlessly integrating evidence to support your comparisons.
  • Highlight Differences and Similarities: Emphasise both differences and similarities between the subjects you're comparing. Provide a clear analysis of how they relate, diverge, or intersect. This enhances the depth of your comparison and adds richness to your essay.
  • Utilise Concrete Examples: Enhance the persuasiveness of your writing by using specific examples. Illustrate your points with concrete instances that support your comparisons. This not only reinforces your arguments but also adds clarity to your overall narrative.
  • Incorporate Comparative Vocabulary: make sure your essay contains appropriate terminology and comparative words, such as: "On the contrary," "Although," "Furthermore," "Similar to," "Unlike," "In the same way," "Likewise," "Compared to," "In contrast," "Yet," and "On the one hand...on the other hand."
  • Collaborate for Improvement: Seek input from others, whether through an English tutor or a study group. Collaborating with peers can provide valuable insights and help refine your work. Different perspectives contribute to a more comprehensive and polished essay.
  • Prioritise Drafting: Aim to draft your essay as early as possible. Getting your initial thoughts on paper makes the editing process more manageable. Remember, a first draft is easier to edit than starting with a blank page
  • Proofread and Edit: Finally, proofread and edit your essay. Pay attention to grammar, spelling, and overall clarity. A well-polished essay enhances the overall impact of your comparative analysis.

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Comparative essay structure

UPDATE – September 2014.

Again and again it’s been pointed out at marking conferences and in marking schemes that YOU MUST RESPOND TO THE QUESTION. Stock learned off answers are not being rewarded – and rightfully so! Using what you know to offer your opinion is what counts – agree, disagree, partially agree, partially disagree – it’s doesn’t matter as long as your essay is directly responding to the Q asked throughout and is doing so in a comparative way.

Here’s an extract from the Chief Examiner’s Report

“ examiners were pleased when they saw candidates trust in their own personal response and demonstrate a willingness to challenge the ‘fixed meaning’ of texts. The best answers managed to remain grounded, both in the question asked and in the texts ”.

Examiners complained that students had pre-prepared answers which they refused to adapt to the question asked. Don’t get confused here: in the comparative section you have to have done a lot of preparation prior to the exam. The similarities and differences are unlikely to simply occur to you on the day under exam conditions and the structure of comparing and contrasting, weaving the texts together using linking phrases and illustrating points using key moments is not something you can just DO with no practice. It’s a skill you have to learn. But you MUST be willing to change, adapt, and select from what you know to engage fully with the question asked.

This compliment, followed by a warning, was included in the 2013 report:

“ Many examiners reported genuine engagement with the terms of the questions, combined with a fluid comparative approach. As in previous years, examiners also noted that a significant minority of candidates were hampered by a rigid and formulaic approach “.

At the 2011 marking conference, a huge emphasis was placed on students engaging with the question – and the point was made that all too often they DON’T. You may have a general structure in your head but if this structure doesn’t suit the question that comes up DON’T just doggedly write what you’re prepared anyway. Use what you know to answer the Q. The basic structure will remain (text 1 key moment, link, text 2 km, link, text 3 km, general observation) – it’s not rocket science. But you must prove (if you want a grade above 70% in comparative) that you can engage with the question throughout your answer (not justthrow it in @ beginning and end) and conclude by showing how your essay engaged with the question asked. So the moral of the story is, if you puke up a pre-prepared answer & completely ignore the question, don’t be surprised when you then do badly!

Anyway, you still want to know what the basic comparative structure IS but remember you do not know what you will write until you see the question. Even then, your brain should be on fire non-stop as you write your answer. This is not about ‘remembering’ stuff – this is about knowing it so well, that it’s all there in your brain and you just have to shuffle it about so that it makes sense as a response to whatever question is asked.

Sorry, I don’t intend to scare you – but nor do I want to you be under some illusion that you just write one essay for each comparative mode during the year and that will do. IT WON’T…


Right, here goes…

The quality of your links is REALLY SUPREMELY important. This section of the course is called ‘comparative studies’ for a reason. The more detailed a link is the more marks you’ll get for it. Thus just using the words ‘similarly’ or ‘by contrast’ isn’t really enough. Link individual characters from different texts, establish the ways they or their circumstances are similar but also point out subtle differences. You can extend this comparison throughout your paragraph/section if necessary (in fact this is a good idea) – but don’t simply repeat yourself.

Here’s some general advice on how you might structure your comparative essay, but I repeat, adapt, adapt adapt to the question asked .


Theme or Issue : Address the Q, introduce your theme, then your texts – genre, name, author and mention the central character who you will focus on in your discussion of this theme.

General Vision & Viewpoint : Address the Q, introduce the idea of GV&V (briefly), then your texts – genre, name, author and mention the major emotions you associate with each.

Cultural Context: Address the Q, introduce the idea of cultural context (briefly), then your texts – genre, name, author, plus where and when they are set. You may want to mention the aspects of cultural context you intend to discuss.

Literary Genre: Address the Q, briefly introduce what literary genre means, then introduce your texts – genre, name, author. Outline the aspects of literary genre you will discuss (depends on the Q asked).

Look at the following examples. Imagine the Q is “Exploring a theme or issue can add to our enjoyment of a text”

“I found it fascinating to explore the central theme of plagiarism in my comparative texts. In the novel ‘Old School ‘ (OS) by Tobias Wolff I was intrigued by the narrator’s self delusion after he entered a competition with a short story he had not written. By contrast, I found the film ‘Generous’ (GEN) directed by Frank Faulkner quite disturbing. It explores a young girl’s obsession with becoming famous as she ‘borrows’ outrageous online articles to make her blog more popular. Finally I found the play “IMHO” by Judy Price hilarious. It looks at how we all ‘copy’ ideas from others and pass them off as our own at dinner parties. Thus exploring this theme greatly added to my enjoyment of each text”.

Now look at how this changes for a different mode. Imagine the Q is “The general vision & viewpoint of a text often offers the reader both joy & despair”

“ All of my comparative texts took me on a rollercoaster ride through the highs and lows experienced by the central characters . In the novel “Old School” (OS) by Tobias Wolff I experienced the narrator’s joy at the visit of Robert Frost, and his despair when his cheating was uncovered. Similarly, the film “Generous” (GEN) directed by Frank Faulkner begins in elation for Emily as her blog goes viral but ends in complete mental and physical collapse. By contrast, the lighthearted play “IMOH” by Judy Price offers a hilarious look at the falseness of modern dinner parties and the only despair the audience feels is lamenting the complete lack of self-awareness of the central characters. Thus the vision & viewpoint of each text offered me a  wide and varied range of emotions  from joy to depair”.

Now look at how this changes again: Imagine the Q is: “Characters are often in conflict with the world or culture they inhabit”

“ The novel ‘Old School’ (OS) written by Tobias Wolff is set in an elite American boarding school in the 1960’s and the unnamed narrator certainly comes into conflict with his world. This text explores cultural issues such as social class, ethnic identity and authority figures. Similar issues are explored in the film “Generous” (GEN) directed by Frank Faulkner and set in modern day London as Emily comes into conflict with her parents, peers and teachers. My third text the play “IMOH” by Judy Price set in Celtic Tiger Ireland also looks at the conflicts which occur as a result of people’s social snobbery and their desire to escape their cultural identity and heritage. In this text the major authority figure is Susan, the host of the dinner party, who desperately tries to keep her guests in line. Thus I absolutely agree that these three texts made me more aware of the ways in which people can come into conflict with the world or culture they inhabit”.

Finally look at this literary genre question : “The creation of memorable characters is part of the art of good story-telling” .

The unnamed narrator in Tobias Wolff’s novel ‘Old School’ (OS) is a fascinating and memorable character because he is struggling to come to terms with his own flaws. Similarly, the film ‘Generous’ (GEN) directed by Frank Faulkner has a central character Emily who we emphathise with despite her many flaws. Finally, the play ‘IMHO’ by Judy Price with its emsemble cast creates many memorable characters but for the purposes of this essay I will focus on the dinner party host Susan. These characters live on in our memories because of the writer’s choice of narrative point of view, because of the vivid imagery we associate with them and because the climax of the action revolves around their character.

NEXT you need to think about structuring the essay itself. The most important thing to decide in advance is what aspect you wish to compare for each page/section but this may need to change to adapt to the Q.

For theme or issue you might plan it out like this but at all times focus on answering the Q:

  • How is this theme introduced? How does this theme affect the central character/characters?
  • How is this theme developed? Do the central characters embrace or fight against it? How?
  • Do other characters influence how this theme unfolds?
  • How does the text end & what are our final impressions of this theme as a result?

Asking the same question of each text allows you to come up with the all important links (similarities & differences).

For general vision & viewpoint you might plan as follows but at all times focus on answering the Q:

  • What view is offered of humanity (are the main characters likable or deplorable?)
  • What view is offered of society (is this society largely benign or does it negatively impact on the characters)
  • How does the text end & what vision are we left with (positive or negative) as a result?

Alternatively you could just take a beginning, middle, end approach but you must at all times focus on whether the vision/feelings/atmosphere is positive or negative and how this impacts on the reader/viewers experience.

For literary genre you must focus on the aspects mentioned in the question – possibly some of these:

  • Genre – diff between novel/play/film
  • Narrator / point of view
  • Characterisation
  • Chronology – flashback / flashforward
  • Climax / twist

For cultural context you must decide which of the following issues are most prominent in all three texts – try to find links before you decide. At all times focus on answering the Q asked

  • Social class / social status
  • Wealth / poverty
  • Job opportunities / emigration
  • Authority figures
  • Sex / Marriage (attitudes towards)
  • Gender roles
  • Stereotypes / Ethnic identity

You may find some overlap between 2 of these – for example social class often influences a person’s wealth or poverty; religion often effects attitudes towards sex and marriage; marriage can often be a financial necessity for those with limited job opportunities (mostly women, so this overlaps with gender roles). Choose your sections carefully so you don’t end up repeating yourself.

You might plan as follows for the example given above but everything depends on the texts & the question.

  • Social status
  • Ethnic identity
  • How does the text end? Do the main characters escape or remain constrained by their cultural context?

Once you’ve decided what sections to include your structure for each goes a little something like this:

STATEMENT – ALL 3 TEXTS e.g. All of the central characters are deeply aware of their social class and wish to ‘climb the ladder’ as it were in the hope that they will achieve recognition, the envy of their peers and ultimately a better life.

STATEMENT – TEXT 1 e.g. In OS, the narrator hides his background (he comes from a broken home) from his wealthier peers.

KEY MOMENT TEXT 1 e.g. This is evident when he discusses how, at school, your social class was defined not just by your clothes but also by how you spent your summers – in his case “working as a dishwasher in the kitchen crew at a YMCA camp” a fact which he vows never to reveal to his classmates.

LINKING PHRASE & STATEMENT TEXT 2 e.g. Similarly, in GEN, Emily comes from a broken home, but it is her family’s absolute impoverishment which she keeps hidden from her classmates. Like the narrator in OS, she fears their pity but unlike him she is already dealing with the harsh reality of being a social outcast at school.

KEY MOMENT TEXT 2 e.g. During one key moment she describes leaning down to tie her shoes, all the while talking, only to look up and find her friends have walked off and are now laughing at her for talking to thin air. Thus her desire to escape the limitations of her background is more urgent than in OS.

LINKING PHRASE & STATEMENT TEXT 3 e.g. By contrast, in IMHO, Jane, Lucy, Joel, Zach & Max all come from upper middle class backgrounds. Their social status is more secure than the narrator in OS or Emily in GEN, yet they are all obsessed with creating the impression that they have links to the aristocracy – or in Zach’s case, royalty.

KEY MOMENT TEXT 3 e.g. Several key moments spring to mind, the funniest of which is when Lucy boasts about the diamond necklace she’s wearing being a family heirloom bequeathed by her Aunt Tess, only to have one of the so-called diamonds fall into her soup. Joel the jeweller then delights in pointing out the evident ‘fake’ in the room (the woman AND the diamond).

STATEMENT ALL 3 & PERSONAL RESPONSE TO QUESTION ASKED e.g. Thus I found it fascinating, tragic and at times hilarious to see how all of these characters were so deeply affected by their obsession with their social status and to observe the conflicts – both internal & external – which resulted.

This all sounds very technical but if you break it down as follows it’s not so complicated (easy for me to say!)






Now look at how the paragraph/section flows when you put it all together.

All of the central characters are deeply aware of their social class and wish to ‘climb the ladder’ as it were in the hope that they will achieve recognition, the envy of their peers and ultimately a better life. In OS, the narrator hides his background (he comes from a broken home) from his wealthier peers. This is evident when he discusses how, at school, your social class was defined not just by your clothes but also by how you spent your summers – in his case “working as a dishwasher in the kitchen crew at a YMCA camp” a fact which he vows never to reveal to his classmates. Similarly, in GEN, Emily comes from a broken home, but it is her family’s absolute impoverishment which she keeps hidden from her classmates. Like the narrator in OS, she fears their pity but unlike him she is already dealing with the harsh reality of being a social outcast at school. During one key moment she describes leaning down to tie her shoes at her locker, all the while talking, only to look up and find her friends have walked off and are now laughing at her for talking to thin air. Thus her desire to escape the stigma of her background is more urgent than in OS. By contrast, in IMHO, Jane, Lucy, Joel, Zach & Max all come from upper middle class backgrounds. Their social status is more secure than for narrator in OS or Emily in GEN, yet they are all obsessed with creating the impression that they have links to the aristocracy – or in Zach’s case, royalty. S everal key moments spring to mind, the funniest of which is when Lucy boasts about the diamond necklace she’s wearing being a family heirloom bequeathed by her Aunt Tess, only to have one of the so-called diamonds fall into her soup. Joel the jeweller then delights in pointing out the evident ‘fakes’ in the room (the woman AND the diamond). Thus I found it fascinating, tragic and at times hilarious to see how all of these characters were so deeply affected by their obsession with their social status and to observe the conflicts – both internal & external – which resulted.

This paragraph only establishes that the characters want to hide or improve their social class. You could now look at some of their attempts to improve their social status.

If a paragraph gets too long, break it into two. The linking phrase will make it clear that you’re still talking about the same issue.

For the 30 / 40 marls question just take all of your statements & key moments for Text 1 and put them together, all the while answering the question and offering personal response. This is your 30 marks part.

Then take all of your statements & links for texts 2 & 3 and put them together, all the while answering the question and offering personal response. This is your 40 marks part. You will refer back, in passing, to Text 1 but only when establishing your links.

Also, I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: the more detailed a link is the more marks you’ll get for it. Thus just using the words ‘similarly’ or ‘by contrast’ isn’t really enough. Link individual characters from different texts, establish the ways they or their circumstances are similar but also point out subtle differences.

This structure applies no matter what the mode – theme or issue / general vision or viewpoint / cultural context / literary genre.

P.S. If you’re wondering why you’ve never heard of the film Generous or the play IMHO, I can explain. I made them up.

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Comparative Essays: Exploring Similarities and Differences

Comparative Essays: Exploring Similarities and Differences

When it comes to writing essays, having a plan is essential. Comparative essays, which focus on comparing and contrasting two or more things, can be organized and outlines using a basic template. By using this method, students can easily develop their ideas and ensure that their essays are well-structured and easy to follow.

The first step in writing a comparative essay is to pick a topic. This could be anything from comparing two political theories to contrasting the architecture of two different cities. Once the topic has been chosen, it’s important to brainstorm ideas and gather relevant information on both subjects.

In order to ensure a well-structured essay, it’s important to pay heed to the order in which the points are presented. It’s always a good idea to start with the most important factors and work your way down to the less significant ones. By following this method, the reader will be able to follow the discussion more easily and understand the main points being made.

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Purpose and structure of comparative essays.

An introductory paragraph serves as the opening of a comparative essay, which should clearly state the purpose and scope of the discussion. It is essential for the writer to provide an engaging intro that will grab the reader’s attention and paint a clear picture of what to expect in the rest of the essay.

In the body paragraphs, the writer will compare and contrast the chosen subjects, discussing the factors that make them similar or different. The writer can choose to follow a block or point-by-point method when comparing the subjects. The block method involves discussing all the points related to one subject before moving on to the other, while the point-by-point method involves alternating between discussing points about each subject.

When writing comparative essays, it is always important to have an appropriate structure in place. This makes it easier for the reader to follow the discussion and helps the writer stay organized. An outline, created before writing the actual essay, can serve as a guide and help the writer identify the most essential points to include.

Comparative essays can be used to compare various types of subjects, such as paintings, poems, articles, or even academic discussions. For example, a student may choose to compare the neoclassical paintings of Thomas Cole and the gothic-inspired works of Thomas Moran. In this case, the writer can discuss how each artist’s style and choice of subject matter differ, as well as the common themes that they explore.

Structure of a Comparative Essay

The body paragraphs contain the main content of the essay. Each paragraph focuses on one point of comparison or contrast, followed by supporting evidence and examples. The paragraphs should be organized logically and flow smoothly from one to another.

A table or chart can be helpful in visually presenting the comparisons and contrasts between the subjects. This can make it easier for the reader to understand the information and can serve as a visual aid for the writer while organizing their thoughts.

Overall, the purpose and structure of comparative essays are essential elements in building a well-written and well-organized paper. By following the appropriate structure and using methods such as outlines and visual aids, the writer can effectively compare and contrast different subjects, providing a valuable analysis for the reader.

Key Elements of Comparative Essays

  • Choosing the subjects: The first step in writing a comparative essay is to select the subjects that will be compared. These can be anything from paintings, architecture, or even political themes.
  • Brainstorming similarities and differences: Once the subjects are chosen, it is important to brainstorm and make a list of the similarities and differences between them. This will help in creating an organized outline for the essay.
  • Choosing appropriate methods of comparison: There are several methods that can be used to compare and contrast subjects. One method is the point-by-point comparison, where each point of similarity or difference is discussed. Another method is the Venn diagram, which visually represents the overlapping areas of similarity and the distinct areas of difference.

Comparative essays can be challenging, but by following these steps and using an appropriate template, they can also be rewarding. It is important to heed the advice of Professor Wilson in his famous quote: “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” In the case of comparative essays, understanding the similarities and differences between subjects can provide valuable insights and a deeper understanding of the topic at hand.

Writing Techniques for Comparative Essays

1. focus on the comparative aspect, 2. organize your essay.

There are two common methods of organizing a comparative essay: the block method and the point-by-point method. The block method involves writing about one subject in the first few paragraphs and then covering the other subject in the following paragraphs. The point-by-point method, on the other hand, discusses one point of comparison at a time, alternating between the subjects.

3. Create a Comparative Diagram

To better visualize the comparisons, you can create a comparative diagram. This can be a simple table or a Venn diagram that helps you organize your thoughts and identify the key similarities and differences between the subjects.

4. Use Clear and Concise Paragraphs

Each paragraph should focus on one specific aspect or point of comparison. Start with a topic sentence that introduces the main idea of the paragraph, provide examples or evidence, and end with a concluding statement that summarizes the main point.

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For example, if you are comparing American gothic architecture and European gothic architecture, you could have a paragraph discussing the similarities in their use of pointed arches and a separate paragraph discussing the differences in their decorative styles.

5. Provide Explanations and Context

When making comparisons, it’s important to provide explanations and context to help the reader understand the significance of the similarities and differences you are discussing. This can include historical, cultural, or political factors that influenced the subjects.

For instance, when comparing the health care systems in the United States and Canada, you could explain how the different political systems in both countries impact their approaches to healthcare.

6. Pay Attention to the Thesis Statement

Your thesis statement should clearly state the main point of your essay and provide a roadmap for the reader. Make sure it reflects the comparative nature of your essay and outlines the key similarities and differences you will be discussing.

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7. Use Examples and Evidence

Support your comparisons with examples and evidence from reliable sources. This could include quotes, statistics, or specific examples from the subjects being compared. Including concrete evidence strengthens your argument and provides a solid basis for your analysis.

8. Seek Feedback and Revise

After completing your essay, seek feedback from your instructor, peers, or a writing tutor. They can provide valuable insights and suggestions for improvement. Revise your essay based on the feedback received and make sure your points are well-explained and supported.

Remember, writing a comparative essay requires careful organization, clear explanations, and supporting evidence. By following these techniques, you will be ready to create a strong comparative essay that effectively explores the similarities and differences between your chosen subjects.

Examples of Comparative Essay Topics

  • Neoclassical Art vs. Romantic Art: Compare and contrast the similarities and differences in artistic styles between these two periods. Consider aspects such as subject matter, composition, and visual elements.
  • Comparison of Two Short Stories: Analyze and compare two short stories of your choice. Discuss the similarities and differences in their themes, characters, and writing styles.
  • Comparing Academic Writing and Creative Writing: Explore the differences between academic writing and creative writing. Discuss their respective structures, tone, and intended audiences.
  • Comparing the Opening Scenes of Two Films: Choose two films and compare their opening scenes. Consider how the directors use visual and auditory elements to engage the viewers and set the tone for the rest of the film.

So, whether you’re comparing works of art, literature, or film, or exploring the differences between academic and creative writing, using examples and the proper structure will make your comparative essay more compelling and effective.

Customer Feedback on Comparative Essay Services

According to Wilson, the service was very helpful in creating an initial structure for his essay. He mentioned that the service provided clear explanations of the similarities and differences between the two subjects he was comparing: American gothic paintings. This allowed him to focus on organizing his thoughts and creating a thesis statement that would guide his writing.

Another customer, Laura, found the comparative essay service to be a great resource for students who struggle with writing good opening paragraphs. The service provided examples of strong opening statements and gave tips on how to make them more attention-grabbing.

Overall, customers praised the comparative essay service for its ability to provide clear explanations and helpful examples. They appreciated the ready-to-use templates and the step-by-step guide that allowed them to easily switch between discussing similarities and differences. The service also provided prompts to help students consider different aspects of the subjects they were comparing.

What is a comparative essay?

A comparative essay is a type of academic writing that explores the similarities and differences between two or more subjects. It involves comparing and contrasting the subjects in terms of their characteristics, qualities, or aspects.

How do I choose the subjects for a comparative essay?

When selecting subjects for a comparative essay, it is important to choose subjects that have enough similarities and differences to provide meaningful insights. You can choose subjects from the same category, such as two different novels or two different historical events, or you can choose subjects from different categories that share a common theme, such as comparing a book and a movie that both address the theme of love.

What is the structure of a comparative essay?

A comparative essay typically follows a similar structure to other essays, including an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. In the introduction, you will introduce the subjects and provide some background information. The body paragraphs will focus on specific points of comparison and contrast, with each paragraph dedicated to a different aspect. The conclusion will summarize the main points and provide a final analysis or evaluation.

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Updated 14/07/2022

  • What Is a Comparative?
  • What Are You Expected To Cover? (Comparative Criteria)
  • School Assessed Coursework (SAC), Exams and Allocated Marks
  • How To Prepare for Your Comparative SAC and Exam
  • How To Write a Comparative Essay

1. What Is a Comparative?

Comparative is also known as 'Reading and Comparing', 'Comparative Essay' and less frequently, 'Compare and Contrast'. For our purposes, we'll just stick to 'Comparative'.

As its name may indicate, a Comparative is when you analyse and write on two texts, comparing their similarities and differences. In VCE, there are 8 pairs of texts Year 12s can choose from (or more accurately, your school chooses for you!). The most popular combination of texts include novels and films, however, plays also make it onto the list.

When you start doing Comparative at school, you will move through your texts just as you have for Text Response (except...instead of one text it's actually two) - from watching the film and/or reading the novel, participating in class discussions about similar and different themes and ideas, and finally, submitting one single essay based on the two texts. So yep, if you've only just gotten your head around Text Response, VCAA likes to throw a spanner in the works to keep you on your toes!

But, don't worry. The good news is all of your Text Response learning is applicable to VCE’s Comparative, and it's really not as hard as it might first appear. Here's a video I created introducing Comparative ( I've time-stamped it to start at 0:55 - when the Comparative section starts - thank me later! ).

‍ 2. What Are You Expected To Cover? (Comparative Criteria)

What are teachers and examiners expecting to see in your essays? Below are the VCE criteria for Comparative essays (sourced from the VCAA English examination page ).

Note: Some schools may express the following points differently, however, they should all boil down to the same points - what is necessary in a Comparative essay.

a) Knowledge and understanding of both texts, and the ideas and issues they present

Society, history and culture all shape and influence us in our beliefs and opinions. Authors use much of what they’ve obtained from the world around them and employ this knowledge to their writing. Understanding their values embodied in texts can help us, as readers, identify and appreciate theme and character representations.

For example: Misogyny is widespread in both Photograph 51 and The Penelopiad , and both writers explore the ways in which females deal with such an environment. Photograph 51 is set in the 1950s when women begun to enter the workforce, whereas The Penelopiad is set in Ancient Greece, a period when women were less likely to speak out against discrimination.

b) Discussion of meaningful connections, similarities or differences between the texts, in response to the topic;

More about this later in 4. How To Prepare for Your Comparative SAC and Exam, Step 2: Understand both your texts - as a pair (below) .

c) Use of textual evidence to support the comparative analysis

While you should absolutely know how to embed quotes in your essay like a boss , you want to have other types of evidence in your Comparative essay. You must discuss how the author uses the form that he/she is writing in to develop their discussion. This encompasses a huge breadth of things from metaphors to structure to language.

For example: "The personification of Achilles as ‘wolf, a violator of every law of men and gods', illustrates his descent from human to animal..." or "Malouf’s constant use of the present voice and the chapter divisions allow the metaphor of time to demonstrate the futility and omnipresence of war..."

To learn more about metalanguage, read our What Is Metalanguage? post.

d) Control and effectiveness of language use, as appropriate to the task.

When examiners read essays, they are expected to get through about 12-15 essays in an hour! This results in approximately 5 minutes to read, get their head around, and grade your essay - not much time at all! It is so vital that you don’t give the examiner an opportunity to take away marks because they have to reread certain parts of your essay due to poor expression and grammar.

3. School Assessed Coursework (SAC), Exams and Allocated Marks

Comparative is the first Area of Study (AoS 1) in Unit 2 (Year 11) and Unit 4 (Year 12) - meaning that majority of students will tackle the Comparative SAC in Term 3. The number of allocated marks are:

  • Unit 2 – dependant on school
  • Unit 4 – 60 marks (whopper!)

The time allocated to your SAC is school-based. Schools often use one or more periods combined, depending on how long each of your periods last. Teachers can ask you to write anywhere from 900 to 1200 words for your essay (keep in mind that it’s about quality, not quantity!)

In your exam, you get a whopping total of 3 hours to write 3 essays ( Text Response , Comparative, and Language Analysis ). The general guide is 60 minutes on Comparative, however, it is up to you exactly how much time you decide to dedicate to this section of the exam. Your Comparative essay will be graded out of 10 by two different examiners. Your two unique marks from these examiners will be combined, with 20 as the highest possible mark.

comparative essay conclusion structure

4. How To Prepare for Your Comparative SAC and Exam

Preparation is a vital component in how you perform in your SACs and exam so it’s always a good idea to find out what is your best way to approach assessments. This is just to get you thinking about the different study methods you can try before a SAC. Here are my top strategies (ones I actually used in VCE) for Comparative preparation that can be done any time of year (including holidays - see How To Recharge Your Motivation Over the School Holidays for more tips):

Step 1: Understand each text - individually

This doesn’t mean reading/watching your texts a specific amount of times (though twice is usually a recommended minimum), but rather, coming to an understanding of your texts. Besides knowing important sections, quotes, themes and characters (which are still important and which you should definitely know), here are some other matters which are also necessary to consider:

  • Why has it been chosen by VCAA (out of literally millions of other books)?
  • Why are you reading it (especially if it’s an old text, and how it’s still important throughout the ages)?
  • Why did the author write it?
  • What kind of social commentary exists within the text (especially on specific issues and themes)?

These kinds of questions are important because quite often in this area of study, you’ll be defending and interpreting your own ideas alongside the author’s. When you find a solid interpretation of the text as a whole, then no essay topic will really throw you off - because you’ll know already what you think about it. Moreover, because you’re comparing two texts in this section, understanding a text and being specific (e.g. 'both texts argue that equality is important' vs. 'while both texts A and B agree with the notion of equality, A focuses on ____ whereas B highlights  ____') will help your writing improve in sophistication and depth.

If you need any more tips on how to learn your texts in-depth, Susan's (English study score 50) Steps for Success in Text Study guide provides a clear pathway for how to approach your texts and is a must read for VCE English students!

And, if you're studying texts you hate (ugh!), you'll also want to check out Lavinia's guide which teaches you how to do well even when you hate your texts .

Step 2: Understand both your texts - as a pair

Avoid simply drawing connections between the texts which are immediately obvious. When writing a Comparative, the key strategy that'll help you stand out from the crowd is the CONVERGENT and DIVERGENT strategy . I discuss this in more detail below, under 'eBooks'.

We'll use George Orwell's Animal Farm and Shakespeare's Macbeth as an example ( don't worry if you haven't studied either of these texts, it's just to prove a point ). The most obvious connection simply from reading the plot is that both Napoleon and Macbeth are powerful leaders. However, you want to start asking yourself more questions to develop an insightful comparison between the two men:

For example: In Macbeth and Animal Farm a common theme is power

Q: How do they achieve power?

A: In Animal Farm , Napoleon is sly about his intentions and slowly secures his power with clever manipulation and propaganda. However , Shakespeare’s Macbeth adopts very different methods as he uses violence and abuse to secure his power.

Q: How do they maintain power?

A: Both Napoleon and Macbeth are tyrants who go to great length to protect their power. They believe in killing or chasing away anyone who undermines their power.

Q: What is the effect of power on the two characters?

A: While Macbeth concentrates on Macbeth’s growing guilty conscience and his gradual deterioration to insanity, Animal Farm offers no insight into Napoleon’s stream of consciousness. Instead, George Orwell focuses on the pain and suffering of the animals under Napoleon’s reign. This highlights Shakespeare’s desire to focus on the inner conflict of a man, whereas Orwell depicted the repercussions of a totalitarian regime on those under its ruling.

Check out our comparative scene analysis of The Longest Memory & The 7 Stages of Grieving for another example of understanding texts as a pair!

Step 3: Know your comparative words

Having a list of comparative words will help you understand your texts as a pair, and helps make your life easier when you start writing your essays. Here's a list we've compiled below:


  • Additionally
  • At the same time
  • Correspondingly
  • Furthermore
  • In addition
  • In parallel


  • Compared to
  • Despite that
  • Even though
  • In contrast
  • Nevertheless
  • On the contrary
  • On the other hand
  • Nonetheless

Feel free to download the PDF version of this list for your own studies as well!

Step 4: Understand the construction of your texts

Besides comparing ideas and themes, and having an understanding of what the text says, it’s also imperative that you understand HOW the texts say it. This type of analysis focuses on metalanguage (also known as literary devices or literary techniques). When you get technical with this and focus on metalanguage, it brings out more depth in your writing.

You could start asking yourself:

  • What kind of description is used?
  • What kind of sentences are used?
  • Are they long and winding or rather short and bare?
  • Are they dripping with adjectives or snappy?
  • What is the structure of the text?
  • Does one begin with a prologue/end with an epilogue?
  • Is the text continuous or divided e.g. through letters or days or parts?
  • Does the text end at a climax or end with a true finality?
  • What reoccurs throughout the text? (specific lines, symbols or images)

These kinds of understanding are important as they are evidentiary material for your arguments. What you say and believe the authors have said, as well as how you believe the texts differ, may rely heavily on these techniques. You'd then translate this analysis to develop your arguments further in your essay. For example:

His depiction of Chapel serves as a subversion of the conventional type of slave; he is 'half a slave, half the master' and belongs to 'another way of life'. His defiance and rebellion against the dictations of society is exemplified through his speech, which consists of rhythmic and poetic couplets, filled with flowery language; which ultimately challenges the idea of illiterate slaves.

Step 5: Read and watch Lisa's Study Guides' resources

Doing this study all by yourself can be rather daunting, so we've got your back. We specialise in supporting VCE English students by creating helpful videos, study guides and ebooks. Here are some just to get your started:

YouTube Videos

We create general study advice videos like this:

We also create Comparative pair-specific videos:

If you prefer learning through videos, check out our entire YouTube channel (and don't forget to subscribe for regular new videos!).

Study Guides

Our awesome team of English high-achievers have written up study guides based on popular VCE texts. Here's a compilation of all the ones we've covered so far including current and older text pairs:

Bombshells and The Penelopiad

I Am Malala and Pride

Reckoning and The Namesake

Reckoning and The Namesake (Quote Analysis)

Ransom and Invictus

Ransom and The Queen

Stasiland and 1984

Stasiland and Never Let Me Go

Stasiland and Never Let Me Go (yes this is a different guide to the one above!)

The Crucible and The Dressmaker

The Crucible and The Dressmaker (Understanding Context)

The Crucible and Year of Wonders

The Hate Race and Charlie's Country

The Longest Memory and Black Diggers

The Longest Memory and The 7 Stages of Grieving

The Penelopiad and Photograph 51

Tracks and Charlie's Country

Tracks and Into the Wild

Tip: You can download and save the study guides for your own study use! How good is that?

comparative essay conclusion structure

And if that isn't enough, I'd highly recommend my How To Write A Killer Comparative ebook. What's often the most difficult part of Comparative is finding the right examples and evidence to ensure that you're standing out against hundreds of other students studying VCE.

Unlike Text Response where there are over 30 texts for schools to choose from, Comparative only has 8 pairs of texts. This means that the likelihood of other students studying the same texts as you is much higher. And what does that mean?

It means that your competition is going to be even tougher. It's likely the character or quote you plan to use will also be used by other students. So, this means that there needs to be a way for you to differentiate yourself. Enter my golden CONVERGENT and DIVERGENT strategy .

This strategy can be used for any example you wish to use, but by approaching your example with the CONVERGENT and DIVERGENT mindset, you'll immediately be able to establish a unique perspective that should earn you some bonus marks.

If you've ever had a teacher tell you that you needed to ‘elaborate’, ‘go into more detail’, or ‘more analysis’ needed in your essays - this strategy will help eliminate all those criticisms. It will also show your teacher how you are comfortable writing an in-depth analysis using fewer examples, rather than trying to overload your essay with as many examples as possible because you barely have anything to say about each one.

To learn more about the CONVERGENT and DIVERGENT strategy, get a free preview of this study guide on the Shop page or at the bottom of this blog.

Step 6: Brainstorm and write plans

Once you've done some preliminary revision, it's time to write plans! Plans will help ensure you stick to your essay topic, and have a clear outline of what your essay will cover. This clarity is crucial to success in a Comparative essay.

Doing plans is also an extremely time-efficient way to approach SACs. Rather than slaving away hours upon hours over writing essays, writing plans will save you the burnout and get you feeling confident faster.

I've also curated essay topic breakdown videos based on specific VCE texts. In these videos, I explore keywords, ideas and how I'd plan an essay with corresponding examples/evidence.

Step 7: Get your hands on essay topics

Often, teachers will provide you with a list of prompts to practice before your SAC. Some teachers can be kind enough to nudge you in the direction of a particular prompt that may be on the SAC. If your teacher hasn’t distributed any, don’t be afraid to ask.

We have a number of free essay topics curated by our team at LSG, check some of them out:

I Am Malala and Made In Dagenham Prompts

Ransom and Invictus Prompts

Stasiland and Never Let Me Go Prompts

The Crucible and Year Of Wonders Prompts

The Penelopiad and Photograph 51 Prompts

Psst...see these fully annotated sample essays where we show you exactly how we analysed the prompt, brainstormed our ideas and created a plan for our essay:

Comparing Photograph 51 and The Penelopiad: Essay Topic Breakdown

Ransom and The Queen: Comparative Essay Topic Breakdown

The Longest Memory and Black Diggers - A Comparative Essay Breakdown

‍ Step 8: Write essays

Yes, sad but it’s a fact. Writers only get better by actually writing . Even if you just tackle a couple of essays then at least you will have started to develop a thinking process that will help you to set out arguments logically, utilise important quotes and time yourself against the clock. It will help you write faster as well – something that is a major problem for many students. With that said, let's get into how to write a Comparative next.

‍ 5. How To Write a Comparative Essay

Comparative essay structure.

Here are a couple of resources to get your Comparative essay structure sorted. Firstly a video (time-stamped at 1:38) :

Secondly, jump over to Sarah's (English study score 47) Compare the Pair: A Guide to Structuring a Reading and Comparing Essay post where she delves into two different types of Comparative essay structures.

Comparative Essay Example


In an introduction, you're expected to have the following:

  • Context (or background)
  • Both authors' (or director's) names
  • Both text titles
  • Main arguments

Here's an example from Mida (English study score 43), in her post The Longest Memory and Black Diggers - A Comparative Essay Breakdown :

The hopes and dreams of oppressed individuals can be fulfilled to a certain extent. This degree of fulfilment, however, can ultimately become restricted by the entrenched beliefs and dictations of society; and thus, this process of fulfilment is presented to be difficult and rare to achieve. In Fred D’Aguiar’s novella, The Longest Memory , the hopes and dreams for equality and racial acceptance is revealed to coerce oppressed individuals to subvert social norms, all in an attempt to gain liberty and fairness. Similarly, Tom Wright’s play, Black Diggers , explores the collective yearning of oppressed Indigenous Australians who seek to gain a sense of belonging and recognition in society. Both D’Aguiar and Wright expose how the obstacles of social inequality, deep-rooted prejudice and beliefs can essentially restrict the fulfilment of such desires and dreams.

Try to keep your introduction to the point. There's no need to prolong an introduction just to make a set number of sentences. It's always better to be concise and succinct, and move into your main body paragraphs where the juicy contents of your essay resides.

Body Paragraph

Most of you will be familiar with TEEL learnt in Text Response. TEEL can stand for:

  • Topic sentence
  • Linking sentence

If your teacher or school teaches you something slightly different that's okay too. At the end of the day, the foundations are the same.

In Comparative, you can still use TEEL, except that you'll be making comparisons between the two texts throughout your paragraph.

The below example adopts the 'Alternate' Comparative essay structure where the first part of the body paragraph focuses on Text 1 ( The Longest Memory ) and the second half of the body paragraph focuses on Text 2 ( Black Diggers ).

The ambitions of the oppressed are achieved to a certain extent. However, they are not maintained and thus become restricted due to the beliefs and conventions entrenched in society. D’Aguiar asserts that a sense of liberation can indeed be achieved in the unjust system of slavery, and this is demonstrated through his characterisation of Chapel. His depiction of Chapel serves as a subversion of the conventional type of slave; he is 'half a slave, half the master' and belongs to 'another way of life'. His defiance and rebellion against the dictations of society is exemplified through his speech, which consists of rhythmic and poetic couplets, filled with flowery language; which ultimately challenges the idea of illiterate slaves. D’Aguiar also associates the allusion of the 'two star-crossed lovers' in regards to the relationship between Lydia and Chapel; who were 'forbidden' to 'read together'. Despite this, the two characters take on a form of illicit, linguistic, sexual intercourse with each other, as they 'touch each other’s bodies in the dark' and 'memorise [their] lines throughout'. Here, D’Aguiar illustrates their close intimacy as a form of rebellion against the Eurocentric society, who believed such interrelation between blacks and whites was 'heinous' and 'wicked'. The individualistic nature of Chapel is also paralleled in Black Diggers , where Wright’s portrayal of Bertie expresses the yearning for a sense of belonging. Just like Chapel, Bertie desires free will, and he decides to 'fight for the country'. This aspiration of his however, is restrained by both his Mum and Grandad; who in a similar manner as Whitechapel, represent the voice of reality and reason. Wright employs the metaphor of the Narrandera Show to depict the marginalisation and exclusion of Aboriginal people, as they will never be 'allowed through the wire', or essentially, ever be accepted in Australia. This notion of exclusion is further reinforced through Bertie’s gradual loss of voice and mentality throughout Wright’s short vignettes, as he soon becomes desensitised and is 'unable to speak'. Here, Wright seems to suggest that the silenced voices of the Indigenous soldiers depict the eternal suffering they experienced; from both the horrors of war, but also the continual marginalisation and lack of recognition they faced back home. Consequently, D’Aguiar and Wright highlight how the ambitions of young individuals are limited by the truths and history of reality, and are essentially rarely achieved.

Conclusions should be short and sweet. Summarise your main points while comparing the two texts (just as you have throughout your entire essay).

D’Aguiar and Wright both illustrate oppressed individuals fighting against the beliefs and conventions of society; in order to gain their freedom and achieve their hopes and dreams. However, both reveal the harsh truths of reality that ultimately inhibit and restrict the capacity of people’s ambitions. D’Aguiar and Wright compel their readers to try and grasp an understanding of the past of slaves and Aboriginal soldiers, in order to seek remembrance and closure of this fundamental truth. They both convey the need for memories and the past to never be forgotten; and instead remembered and recognised in history.

For further detail from Sarah (English study score 45), read her advice on 5 Tips For A Mic-Drop Worthy Essay Conclusion .

If you're looking for more A+ Comparative essay examples, then you can also get your hands on any of our LSG study guide ebooks. Each study guide has 5 comparative essays, all fully annotated so you can see into the mind of a high achiever. These comparative essay examples also adopt different essay structures (block, alternating, and integrated) so you can see all three in action.

Ransom & The Queen

The Crucible & The Dressmaker

The 7 Stages of Grieving & The Longest Memory

I Am Malala & Pride

Photograph 51 & My Brilliant Career

‍ This blog guide is fantastic to get you started - there are certain strategies you can implement to ensure your Comparative essay wows your examiner and gives you an A-grade ranking. These strategies have been adopted by high-achievers in the past few years and have resulted in student achieving study scores of 45+. Make sure you don't miss out on these strategies by accessing a free sample of our How To Write A Killer Comparative ebook. In the meantime, good luck!

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comparative essay conclusion structure

Unsure how to study for your Comparative SAC or exam?

  • Learn LSG's unique CONVERGENT and DIVERGENT strategy which has helped hundreds of students achieve A+ in their assessments
  • Includes sample A+ essays with EVERY essay annotated and broken down on HOW and WHY students achieved A+ so you reach your goals quicker
  • Different types of essay structures broken down so you understand what to do and what not to do with confidence
  • Learn how to stand out from other students with unique points of comparison

comparative essay conclusion structure

Updated 30/12/2020

  • What Are Quotes?
  • Why Use Quotes?
  • What You Want To Quote
  • How Much You Want To Quote
  • How That Quote Will Fit into Your Essay
  • There Are Also Other Ways of Using Quotation Marks
  • Questions You Must Ask Yourself When Weaving Quotes into Sentences
  • How To Find Good Quotes

1. What Are Quotes?

Quotations, better known by their abbreviation ‘quotes’, are a form of evidence used in VCE essays. Using quotations in essays helps to demonstrate your knowledge of the text, and provides solid evidence for your arguments. The discussion on quotations in this study guide can be applied to all three areas of study in the VCAA English course which have been explained in detail in our Ultimate Guide s to VCE Text Response , Comparative and  Language Analysis .

A quotation is the repetition of a group of words taken from a text by someone other than the original author. The punctuation mark used to indicate a repetition of another author’s work is presented through quotation marks. These quotation marks are illustrated by inverted commas, either single inverted commas (‘ ’) or double inverted commas (“ ”). There is no general rule in Australia regarding which type of inverted comma you must use for quotations. Single inverted commas are preferred in Australia as they follow the British standard. The American standard involves styling quotations with the double inverted comma. You can choose either style, just be consistent in your essays.

2. Why Use Quotes?

The usage of quotations in essays demonstrates:

  • Your knowledge of the text
  • Credibility of your argument
  • An interesting and thoughtful essay
  • The strength of your writing skills.

However, quotations must be used correctly, otherwise you risk (and these frequent mistakes will be discussed in detail later):

  • Irrelevant quotations
  • Overcrowding or overloading of quotations
  • Broken sentences

How You Integrate a Quote into an Essay Depends on Three Factors:

  • What you want to quote
  • How much you want to quote
  • How that quote will fit into your essay.

3. What You Want To Quote

As you discuss ideas in a paragraph, quotes should be added to develop these ideas further. A quote should add insight into your argument; therefore, it is imperative that the quote you choose relates intrinsically to your discussion. This is dependent on which aspect of the text you are discussing, for example:

  • Description of theme or character
  • Description of event or setting
  • Description of a symbol or other literary technique

Never quote just for the sake of quoting. Quotations can be irrelevant  if a student merely adds in quotes as ‘sentence fillers’. Throwing in quotations just to make your essay appear more sophisticated will only be more damaging if the quotation does not adequately reinforce or expand on your contention. Conversely, an essay with no quotations will not achieve many marks either.

4. How Much You Want To Quote

A quotation should never tell the story for you. Quotations are a ‘support’ system, much like a back up for your ideas and arguments. Thus, you must be selective in how much you want to quote. Generally speaking, the absolute minimum is three quotes per paragraph but you should not  overload  your paragraphs either. Overcrowding your essay with too many quotations will lead to failure to develop your ideas, as well as your work appearing too convoluted for your assessor. Remember that the essay is  your  piece of work and should consist mainly of your own ideas and thoughts.

Single Word Quotations

The word ‘evaporates’, used to characterise money and happiness intends to instill the idea that happiness as a result of money is only temporary. (VCAA ‘Can Money Buy Happiness’ Language Analysis)

Single worded quotations can often leave the largest impression on the assessor. This is because you are able to demonstrate that you can focus on one word and develop an entire idea around it.

Phrase Quotations

Sunil Badami ‘still found it hard to tie my Indian appearance to my Australian feeling', showing that for Sunil, his culture was not Indian, but Australian due to his upbringing. ( Sticks and Stones and Such-like, Sunil Badami in Growing Up Asian in Australia )

A phrase quotation is the most common quotation length you will use in essays.

Long Quotations

The multitudes of deaths surrounding Anna began to take its toll on her, burdening her with guilt as ‘sometimes, if I walked the main street of the village in the evening, I felt the press of their ghosts. I realised then that I had begun to step small and carry myself all hunched, keeping my arms at my sides and my elbows tucked, as if to leave room for them.’ ( Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks )

Long quotations comprise of more than one sentence – avoid using them as evidence. Your assessor will not mark you highly if the bulk of your paragraphs consists of long quotations. You should aim to keep your quotations to less than 2 lines on an A4 writing page. If you have a long quotation you wish to use, be selective. Choose only the important phrases or key words, and remove the remaining sentence by replacing it with an ellipsis (…).

Here is the same example again, with the student using ellipsis:

The multitudes of deaths surrounding Anna began to take its toll on her, burdening her with guilt as she felt ‘the press of their ghosts…[and] begun to step small and carry myself all hunched…as if to leave room for them.’ ( Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks)

In this case, we have deleted: ‘sometimes, if I walked the main street of the village in the evening’ and ‘I realised then that I had’ by using an ellipsis – a part of the quotation that is not missed because it does not represent the essence of the student’s argument. You would have noticed that a square bracket ([  ]) was used. This will be discussed in detail under  Blending Quotes.

5. How That Quote Will Fit into Your Essay

You must never take the original author’s words and use them in your essay  without  inserting them in quotation marks. Failure to do so leads to ‘plagiarism’ or cheating. Plagiarism occurs when you take someone else’s work and pass it off as your own. You must make sure that you use quotation marks whenever you use evidence from your text.

The following is plagiarism:

Even a single flicker of the eyes could be mistaken for the essential crime that contained all other crimes in itself – thought crime.  (1984, George Orwell)

Using quotation marks however, avoids plagiarism:

Even ‘a single flicker of the eyes’ could be mistaken for ‘the essential crime that contained all other crimes in itself – thought crime.’  (1984, George Orwell)

There are serious consequences for plagiarism. VCAA will penalise students for plagiarism. VCAA uses statistical analysis to compare a student’s work with their General Achievement Test (GAT), and if the cross-referencing indicates that the student is achieving unexpectedly high results with their schoolwork, the student’s school will be notified and consequential actions will be taken.

Plagiarism should not be confused with:

  • ‍ Paraphrasing : to reword or rephrase the author’s words
  • ‍ Summarising: to give a brief statement about the author’s main points
  • ‍ Quoting : to directly copy the author’s words with an indication (via quotation marks) that it is not your original work

Blending Quotations

You should always aim to interweave quotations into your sentences in order to achieve good flow and enhanced readability of your essay. Below is a good example of blending in quotations:

John Proctor deals with his own inner conflict as he is burdened with guilt and shame of his past adulterous actions. Yet during the climatic ending of the play, Proctor honours his principles as he rejects signing a false confession. This situation where Proctor is confronted to ‘sign [himself] to lies’ is a stark epiphany, for he finally acknowledges that he does have ‘some shred of goodness.’ ( The Crucible, Arthur Miller)

There are three main methods in how you can blend quotations into an essay:

1. Adding Words

Broken sentences  are a common mistake made when students aim to integrate quotations into their sentences. Below are examples of broken sentences due to poor integration of a quotation:

‘Solitary as an oyster’. Scrooge is illustrated as a person who is isolated in his own sphere. ( A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens)

Never write a sentence consisting of  only  a quotation. This does not add insight into your argument, nor does it achieve good flow or readability.

Scrooge, ‘solitary as an oyster’, is illustrated as a person who is isolated in his own sphere.  (A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens)

This example is better, however the sentence is still difficult to read. In order to blend quotations into your sentences, try adding in words that will help merge the quotation and your own words together:

Described as being as ‘solitary as an oyster’, Scrooge is illustrated as a person who is isolated in his own sphere.  (A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens)

Scrooge is depicted as a person who is ‘solitary as an oyster’, illustrating that he is isolated in his own sphere.  (A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens)

Tip: If you remove the quotation marks, the sentence should still make sense.

2. Square Brackets ([   ])

These are used when you need to modify the original writer’s words so that the quotation will blend into your essay. This is usually done to:

Change Tense

Authors sometimes write in past  (looked) , present  (look)  or future tense  (will look) . Depending on how you approach your essay, you may choose to write with one of the three tenses. Since your tense may not always match the author’s, you will need to alter particular words.

Original sentence: ‘…puts his arm around Lewis’ shoulder’ ( Cosi, Louis Nowra)

Upon seeing Lewis upset, Roy attempts to cheer him up by ‘put[ting] his arm around Lewis’ shoulder’. ( Cosi, Louis Nowra)

Change Narrative Perspective

The author may write in a first  (I, we) , second  (you)  or third person  (he, she, they)  narrative. Since you will usually write from an outsider’s point of view, you will refer to characters in third person. Thus, it is necessary to replace first and second person pronouns with third person pronouns. Alternatively, you can replace first and second person pronouns with the character’s name.

The original sentence: ‘Only now can I recognise the scene for what it was: a confessional, a privilege that I, through selfishness and sensual addiction, failed to accept…’  (Maestro, Peter Goldsworthy)

When Keller was finally ready to share his brutal past with Paul, the latter disregarded the maestro, as he was too immersed in his own adolescent interests. However, upon reflection, Paul realises that ‘only now can [he] recognise the scene for what it was: a confessional, a privilege that [he], through selfishness and sensual addiction, failed to accept’.  (Maestro, Peter Goldsworthy)

Insert Missing Words

Sometimes, it may be necessary to insert your own words in square brackets so that the quotation will be coherent when incorporated into your sentences.

The original sentence: ‘His heels glow.’ ( Ransom, David Malouf)

Achilles, like Priam, feels a sense of refreshment as highlighted by ‘his heels [which] glow.’ ( Ransom, David Malouf)

It is important to maintain proper grammar while weaving in quotations. The question is: does the punctuation go inside or outside the final quotation mark?

The rule is: If the quoted words end with a full stop (or comma), then the full stop goes inside the quotation marks. If the quoted words do not end with a full stop, then the full stop goes outside the quotation marks.

Original sentence: 'Sagitty’s old place plus another hundred acres that went from the head waters of Darkey Creek all the way down to the river.’ ( The Secret River, Kate Grenville)

Punctuation inside:

During the past decade, Thornhill became the wealthiest man in the area, owning ‘Sagitty’s old place plus another hundred acres that went from the head waters of Darkey Creek all the way down to the river.’ ( The Secret River, Kate Grenville)

Punctuation outside:

During the past decade, Thornhill became the wealthiest man in the area, owning ‘Sagitty’s old place plus another hundred acres’. ( The Secret River, Kate Grenville)

6. There Are Also Other Ways of Using Quotation Marks

Title of text.

When including the title of the text in an essay, use single quotation marks.

Directed by Elia Kazan, ‘On The Waterfront’ unveils the widespread corruption among longshoremen working at New Jersey docks. ( On The Waterfront, Elia Kazan)

Alternatively, you can underline the title of the text instead of using single quotation marks. Many teachers and examiners prefer this option.

Quotation Within a Quotation

When you quote the author who is quoting someone else, then you will need to switch between single and double quotation marks. You firstly need to enclose the author’s words in single quotation marks, and then enclose the words they quote in double quotation marks. If you're following the American standard, you'll need to do this the opposite way - that is, using double quotation marks for the author's words and and then single quotation marks for the quote. We recommend sticking to the preferred Australian style though, which is single and then double.

Original sentence: ‘…something bitter and stringy, too difficult to swallow. “It’s just that – I – um, I hate it…It’s too – it’s too Indian!”’ ( Sticks and Stones and Such-like, Sunil Badami in Growing Up Asian in Australia)

Sunil’s unusual name leads him to believe that it is ‘…something bitter and stringy, too difficult to swallow. “It’s just that – I – um, I hate it…It’s too – it’s too Indian!”’ ( Sticks and Stones and Such-like, Sunil Badami in Growing Up Asian in Australia)

As you can see, the student has quoted the author’s words in single quotation marks. The dialogue used by the author is surrounded by double quotation marks. This demonstrates that the dialogue used in the text still belongs to the author.

Using Quotations to Express Irony

When you wish to express irony, you use quotation marks to illustrate that the implied meaning of the actual word or phrase is different to the normal meaning.

As a young girl, Elaine is a victim of Mrs Smeath and her so called ‘friends’. Her father’s interest in insects and her mother’s lack of housework presents Elaine as an easy bullying target for other girls her age who are fit to fulfill Toronto’s social norms. ( Cat’s Eye,  Margaret Atwood)

In this case, ‘friends’ is written in inverted commas to indicate that Elaine’s peers are not truly her friends but are in fact, bullies.

7. Questions You Must Ask Yourself When Weaving Quotes into Sentences

1.  Does the quote blend into my sentence?

2.  Does my sentence still make sense?

3.  Is it too convoluted for my readers to understand?

4.  Did I use the correct grammar?

8. How To Find Good Quotes

Tip One: Do not go onto Google and type in 'Good quotes for X text', because this is not going to work. These type of quotes are generally the most famous and the most popular quotes because, yes they are good quotes, but does that necessarily mean that it's going to be a good quote in your essay? Probably not. But why? Well, it's because these quotes are the most likely to be overused by students - absolutely every single person who has studied this text before you, and probably every single person who will study this text after you. You want to be unique and original. So, how are you going to find those 'good quotes'? Recognise which quotes are constantly being used and blacklist them. Quotes are constantly used in study guides are generally the ones that will be overused by students. Once you eliminate these quotes, you can then go on to find potentially more subtle quotes that are just as good as the more popular or famous ones. Tip Two: Re-read the book. There is nothing wrong with you going ahead and finding your own quotes. You don't need to find quotes that already exist online or in study guides. Go and find whatever gels with you and whatever you feel like has a lot of meaning to it. I had a friend back in high school who was studying a book by Charles Dickens. I haven't read the book myself, but there was a character who couldn't pronounce the letter S, or he had a lisp of some sort. What my friend did was he found this one word where, throughout the entire book, the guy with the lisp only ever said the S one time and that was a massive thing. So, he used that. This is something that is really unique and original. So, go ahead and try to find your own quotes. Tip Three: Realise that good quotes do not necessarily have to come from the main character. Yes, the main character does often have good quotes associated with whatever they're saying, but just know that you do have minor characters who can say something really relevant and have a really good point too. Their quote is going to be just as strong in your essay as a main character's quote, which will probably be overused and overdone by so many other students. Tip Four: Develop a new interpretation of a famous or popular quote. Most of the time, the really popular quotes are analysed in very much the same way. But if you can offer a new insight into why it's being said or offer a different interpretation, then this is automatically going to create a really good quote that's going to offer a refreshing point of view. For example, if we look at The Great Gatsby , one of the most famous quotes that is constantly being used is, 'He found what a grotesque thing a rose is and how raw the sunlight was upon the scarcely created grass.' What most people will do is they will analyse the part about the 'grotesque thing a rose', because that's the most significant part of the quote that stands out. But what you could do instead, is focus on a section of that quote, for example the 'raw'. Why is the word raw being used? How does the word raw contribute extra meaning to this particular quote? This way you're honing in on a particular section of the quote and really trying to offer something new. This automatically allows you to investigate the quote in a new light. Tip Five: Just remember that the best quotes do not have to be one sentence long. Some of the best quotes tend to be really short phrases or even just one particular word. Teachers actually love it when you can get rid of the excess words that are unnecessary in the sentence, and just hone in on a particular phrase or a particular word to offer an analysis. And also, that way, when you spend so much time analysing and offering insight into such a short phrase or one sentence, it shows how knowledgeable you are about the text and that you don't need to rely on lots and lots of evidence in order to prove your point. Those are my five quick tips on how to find good quotes from your texts!

Need more help with quotes? Learn about 5 Ways You're Using Quotes Wrong .

Resources for texts mentioned/referenced in this blog post:

Comparing: Stasiland and 1984 Study Guide

A Killer Text Guide: Cosi (ebook)

Cosi By Louis Nowra Study Guide

Cosi Study Guide

Growing Up Asian in Australia Study Guide

A Killer Text Guide: On the Waterfront (ebook)

A Killer Text Guide: Ransom (ebook)

Ransom Study Guide

The Crucible by Arthur Miller Study Guide

A Killer Text Guide: The Crucible (ebook)

‍ The Crucible and Year of Wonders Prompts

Comparing: The Crucible and Year of Wonders Study Guide

The Great Gatsby Study Guide

‍ A Killer Text Guide: The Secret River (ebook)

The Secret River by Kate Grenville Study Guide

Charlie’s Country  is an Australian drama film directed by Rolf de Heer, starring David Gulpilil. The linear film, co-written by de Heer and Gulpilil, tells the story of Charlie, a middle-aged Aboriginal man living in the town of Ramingining. The audience follows Charlie as he sets off to reconnect with his Indigenous origins; choosing to abandon urbanised society, Charlie flees into the bush to live by his “Mother country”. Much to his demise, Charlie subsequently becomes ill and is admitted to hospital in Darwin. After discharging himself from the hospital, Charlie is quickly arrested for assaulting a policeman. Charlie serves time in prison for his crime and the film’s final scenes show Charlie, free and mentoring young Aboriginal boys in their native cultural traditions. As the audience follows Charlie’s everyday encounters, they gain insight into the harsh realities faced by Aboriginals in modern-day Australia. Through his individual plight for survival amidst illness and poverty, de Heer presents profound political commentaries on this very pertinent social issue, spanning decades in Australian history.

The film's critical acclaim upon its release in 2013 was the impetus in prompting conversations and debates about the politics of Indigenous Australians. De Heer’s depiction of this remote community grappling with issues as a result of government-imposed law serves to capture the oppression and deeply ingrained racism that continues to persist.

Tracks  is one Australian woman’s survival narrative. The 1980 autobiographical memoir by Robyn Davidson, recounts her courageous 1700 miles trek across Australia, beginning from Central Australia towards the Indian ocean. In the effort to escape the monotony of her daily life, Davidson travels to her first destination -- Alice Springs -- in 1973 to start preparations. In the 2 years she spends there, she learns how to train camels and live minimally, the former proving to be a challenge. Despite her vehement will to refuse any kind of donation or financial help, Davidson eventually accepts a writing deal in partnership with National Geographic, providing the much-needed funds to confirm her departure. It's through this deal that she meets Rick Smolan, whom under the conditions of her deal has been recruited to photograph this journey - an unsettling compromise for Davidson which she ruminates on frequently in the novel. With her beloved dog Diggity and her camels, Davidson traverses the Australian landscape, discovering more about herself, her country and the people. 

Fundamentally, this book is as much about Davidson’s internal transformation and personal frontiers as it is about exposing the colonial and masculine ethos that permeates Australian history.

Themes (Similarities and Differences)

At LSG, we use the CONVERGENT and DIVERGENT strategy to help us easily find points of similarity and difference. This is particularly important when it comes to essay writing, because you want to know that you're coming up with unique comparative points (compared to the rest of the Victorian cohort!). I don't discuss this strategy in detail here, but if you're interested, check out my How To Write A Killer Comparative . I use this strategy throughout my discussion of themes here and in a later section, Sample Essay Plan.

Isolation and Alienation

Charlie, drawing on Gulpilil's own experiences, becomes profoundly alienated from his Ramingining community to the extent where he serves no major function in the community life. Charlie is alienated both physically and figuratively, not only does he live in a makeshift hut on the outskirts of town, but he is separated from the Aboriginal community in this town and resents the fact that white Australians have assumed power over his land. He is evidently neglected from the wider society, which causes much of the internal and external conflict he experiences in the film, an ordeal which many within the Indigenous minorities can empathise with. 

In his efforts to escape his life within the confines of the intervention, Charlie sees isolation and social rebellion as a mechanism to rediscover his Indigenous roots, spending time in nature to fulfil his journey for self-discovery and to gain the freedom he’s lost. Removing himself from a town permeated by imperial powers provides him with an opportunity to restore his lost sense of self-autonomy. De Heer is intending to reveal the difficulty of assimilation for Aboriginal Australians. He also highlights the importance of human connection and relational harmony for individuals.

“Do you mind if I call you Charlie? I have difficulty pronouncing foreign names.” “Now I’m a foreigner?” (Charlie and the Darwin doctor) 

“It's isolated, it's remote.” (Policeman Luke on Ramingining)

“I work for them catching criminals, they don’t pay me.” (Charlie)

“I don’t know what’s wrong with him… shaming us.” (Pete on Charlie)

Robyn Davidson views complete isolation as a way to detach herself from the commercialism and expectations of modern-day Australia, to connect with nature and to challenge her own beliefs of herself. For her, complete solitude in this journey is a private and personal gesture designed to intentionally preserve the sanctity of the trip. While Rick Smolan’s company appears benign, Davidson’s abrasive attitude towards him as well as her reluctance in ‘selling’ her story is particularly revealing of her attempt to maintain the subjectivity of the trip. The act of breaching this solitude is what Davidson sees as an egregious debasement of the sacredness of the journey, allowing it to be objectified by the eyes of the public. In addition to this, isolation signifies liberation and freedom from a society laden with rigid expectations, Smolan acts as a constant reminder of these external responsibilities. Davidson experiences alienation from the wider society, being a confident, decisive woman trekking independently and defying the limitations imposed on her sex. She also repeatedly expresses her sense of alienation when entering Aboriginal communities and although she is sensitive to the impression she gives, she acknowledges her persistent feeling as an outsider. Davidson is aware of the divide between these two cultures that have resulted from a history of inequality and oppression. In  Tracks , Davidson also demonstrates the need for meaningful connections, however she sources this from her animal companions and nature.

“My aloneness was a treasure which I guarded like a jewel... but like everything [it] had to follow the laws of change.” (p. 40)

“No more loved ones to care about, no more ties, no more duties, no more people needing you to be one thing or another, no more conundrums, no more politics, just you and the desert baby.” (p. 94)

“I could never enter their reality, [I] would always be a whitefella tourist on the outside looking in.” (p. 146)

“I could not be with the Aboriginal people without being a clumsy intruder.” (p. 146)

Charlie’s displacement from his community is the driving force behind his decision to return to the Aboriginal way of life. De Heer uses this depiction of Charlie, to serve as a wider embodiment of the difficulty for the Indigenous people to assimilate and conform to the western lifestyle. After witnessing the limitations he faces under the ‘whitefella’ laws in Ramingining, it is Charlie who first attempts to escape his community. He repeatedly rejects the life of subordination and compliance under the government laws, which as shown in the film has forced many of the Indigenous people to neglect their own traditions and way of life (for example, they must now eat unhealthy fast foods to survive and go through school). Charlie’s individualistic expressions seen through crafting a spear and going hunting are actively suppressed by the white authority, leaving him to conclude that the only way to fully exercise his personal agency is to live in the Australian wilderness, alone. His act of abandoning the car with his belongings and parting with almost nothing in his possession is significant in demonstrating his defiance of the imposition of western culture and his journey for self-reliance. De Heer depicts how conforming to an oppressive society is detrimental and praises the self-transformative effects of embracing individualism rather than blindly conforming.

"Live the old way… …going to my Mother Country.’"(Charlie)

“F--- those thieving…white bastards.” (Charlie)

“The kids go to school now. They don’t care.” (Charlie)

“Why did you come here? From far away… stealing people’s stuff! Is this your land?... F---ing bastards.” (Charlie)

“I’m free now. I have my own supermarket! And this is my country! I can dance with it!” (Charlie)

Robyn Davidson’s decision to leave her normal life in Queensland to cross the Australian desertland is one that becomes the subject of much scrutiny and doubt. Her bold, dauntless approach towards pursuing this journey, specifically as a single, young woman was radically counter-cultural to the perception of women in the 1970s as delicate and docile individuals. Davidson’s indifference and somewhat dismissive attitude towards the derogatory remarks and reductive characterisations are indicative of her acknowledgement of the unjustified prejudice that permeates Australian culture. Additionally, Davidson’s assertive personality and commitment to travelling in the wilderness alone is ultimately an establishment to herself as an autonomous woman, rebelling against the traditional conventions of marriage, motherhood and domesticity that was previously expected of her. Ultimately, Davidson strongly asserts the need for resistance, particularly where there is the expectation for conformity, as well as her experience, is revealing of the cleansing and liberating feelings of embracing individualism rather than conforming.

“(Dropping eyes to chest level). "Where’s yer old man?" "I don't have an old man." (p. 5)

“I was self-protective, suspicious and defensive and I was also aggressively ready to pounce on anyone who looked like they might be going to give a hard time.” (p. 34)

“It was essential for me to develop beyond the archetypal female creature who from birth had been trained to be sweet, pliable, forgiving, compassionate and door-mattish.” (p. 34)

“I wanted to… unclog my brain of all extraneous debris, not be protected, to be stripped of all social crutches, not to be hampered by any outside interference.” (p. 91)

Belonging and Identity

The laconic and monotonous pace of the film is suggestive of a more deeply rooted issue surrounding the identity distortions experienced by Aboriginals, even to the present day. This depiction acts as a personification of the widespread troubles of Indigenous Australians -- the deep struggle between submitting to the institutions of the ‘whitefella’ intervention and clinging to what is left of their traditional heritage, often rendering them feeling separated from both cultures. The mundane nature of his daily activities conveys the social incongruence between Charlie’s struggle to live sufficiently as a ‘traditional’ elder or as a ‘modern’ Australian, finding himself disconnected from both. This internal battle is psychologically taxing for Charlie, as he encounters many contradictions: receiving welfare payments, only to have to give them away to his family, and so he goes without food and later becomes hungry, only to be denied the opportunity to hunt for his own food. Fulfilling one culture means rejecting the other, and freedom in one means rebellion in the other. Thus, Charlie sees social transgression as his only choice of refashioning his own identity. De Heer reveals how freely establishing a secure sense of identity and belonging in their culture is critical in the lives of these individuals, however, the long-term damage that western society has inflicted has made this almost impossible.

“You’ve got a job, and you’ve got a house…on my land. Where’s my house? Where’s my job?” (Charlie)

“We need to teach them… the traditional ways.” (Charlie’s friend) 

“I’ve been away fishing, now I’m home. I’m eating well. It’s my own supermarket.” (Charlie)

In  Tracks , Davidson’s attempt to escape the responsibilities and social pressures to immerse herself in nature is ultimately a journey of self-discovery; to define her own identity irrespective of the expectations imposed on her by the 1970s society. As a solitary female, challenging the restrictions of her sex and exposing herself to unpredictable surroundings, she can curate her own identity as a progressive, post-colonial feminist, seizing and capitalising on the autonomy she has. This endeavour allows Davidson to undergo a form of self-transformation, a search for meaning for herself and others, what she describes as a “desocializing process -- the sloughing of, like a snakeskin”. Furthermore, Davidson is determined to rediscover her place in respect to the desertland, educating herself about the native biodiversity and most importantly, the native people. Although Davidson recognises that she will always be considered a ‘whitefella’, she finds a sense of fulfilment and belonging in engaging with and observing the rural Aboriginal communities. She demonstrates a deep understanding of the distorted identity and loss of belonging for the Aborigines at the hands of imperial white forces and is sensitive to the damage that has been inflicted. Above all, Davidson gains a renewed, stable sense of identity and belonging through her resistance to the imperial Australian racist mentality, challenging the male-orientated culture. However, she is also confronted by the reality of this breakdown of identity within the Aboriginal communities.

“This was my first home, where I felt such a sense of relief and belonging that I needed nothing and no one.” (p. 40)

“From the day the thought came into my head ‘I’m going to enter a desert with camels’, to the day I felt the preparations to be completed, I had built some intangible but magical for myself…” (p. 95)

“I wanted to understand so much… I melted into a feeling of belonging. They were letting me into their world. They asked me if I wanted to dance.” (p. 145)

“Once dispossessed of this land, ceremonial life deteriorates, people lose their strength, meaning and identity.” (p. 167) ‍ ‍

Connection to Nature

The significance of nature to the Aboriginal people is at the core of this film. Charlie embodies this connection through his escape to the Australian wilderness. This first acts as a fresh alternative to the restrictive, repressive lifestyle within his government-intervened community, given. It's an opportunity to rebel against the western lifestyle and restore his traditional way of life, which leaves him feeling free, happy and powerful. However, his struggle to adjust to this change is indicative of the corruption of the intrinsic link between the people and the land. The harmonious, symbiotic relationship that the Indigenous people once had with the land has deteriorated; having been essentially poisoned through the introduction of a progressive white society. As much as Charlie tries to balance elements of both cultures by hunting and quitting smoking, it becomes apparent to him returning to where ‘[he] was born’, is the only way to rediscover his sense of self and truly experience freedom. Ultimately, like much of the wider Indigenous people, Charlie’s unable to fully abandon the constraints of white society and has become dependent. De Heer confronts the audience with the consequences of this irreversible separation through the illness and poverty that the Aboriginal people must endure.

“There’s lots of food in the bush… It's like a supermarket out there.” (Charlie’s companion)

“Then you’ll die in the wrong place… a long way from your country… They’ll be no one with you, no one to look after you.” (Charlie to a friend)

“I was born in the bush. They didn’t find me in the bush.” (Charlie)

“I want to go home now......back to my own country......where my place is...” (Charlie)

The connection to nature seen in  Tracks  serves several functions for Davidson. Contrary to the majority of attitudes of the time, Davidson can recognise the sanctity of the Australian land and is determined to learn about and experience this connection between the Aboriginal people and their environment. Like in  Charlie’s Country , Davidson’s encounter with the rural, minimalist Aboriginal communities is a distinct contrast to the urban society which she leaves behind. It’s a sobering reminder to Davidson of the persisting racism and colonialist mentality which pervades Australian history and confirms the serious consequences that have occurred from the loss of connection between land and people. Even further, her battle to survive and adapt to the unpredictability of the desert is the ultimate test of endurance, which Davidson acknowledges enables lasting self-transformation and consolidates to her the true majesty and reverence of nature. Therefore, this escapism into the desertland is Davidson’s own challenge for personal change and a chance to experience true liberation like Charlie, as well as finding peace with the natives by means of acknowledging the usurpation of their traditional land and rights.

“All around me was magnificence. Light, power, space and sun. And I was walking into it. I was going to let it make me or break me.” (p. 101)

“It is difficult to describe Australian desert ranges as their beauty is not just visual. They have an awesome grandeur that can fill you with exaltation or dread, and usually a combination of both.” (p. 122)

“Besides, no amount of anthropological detail can begin to convey Aboriginal feeling for their land. It is everything -- their law, their ethics, their reason for existence.” (p. 167)

“And just as Aborigines seem to be in perfect rapport with themselves and their country, so the embryonic beginnings of that rapport were happening to me.” (p. 193)

Author Views and Values

Aboriginal rights and the intervention.

Like in any comparison, it is important to understand some of the key events that were occurring at the time of both the text and the film. While  Tracks  and  Charlie Country  are set more than 3 decades apart, the issue of Aboriginal rights is still equally as important in both settings.

In  Tracks , the 1970-80s saw many progressive milestones in Aboriginal history. Just years prior to Davidson’s departure, Australians voted for change in the constitution officially recognising Aboriginal people in the national census. Later, 1976 saw the Aboriginal Land Rights Act, which allowed the Indigenous people to assume ownership of land that was acknowledged to be rightly theirs. Many of these legislative changes were indicative of a larger-scale shift in attitudes towards the fairer treatment of Aborigines. While the oppression and racism continued, it was individuals like Robyn Davidson who pioneered the way for greater change and equality. Davidson ultimately intends to highlight the devastation that has occurred to the Aboriginal people following colonisation and aims to shine the light on the persisting issues these individuals face in an ostensibly ‘post-colonial’ Australia.

  • Despite some advancements of Indigenous rights in the 1970s, Davidson is firmly opposed to the ongoing racist attitudes held by white Australians.
  • Davidson sympathises with the deep hardship endured by the Aboriginal people, which was characteristic of the evolving attitudes towards racial equality in 1970s Australia.

In addition to this, was the 2007 ‘intervention’.  Charlie’s Country  is set some years following the introduction of the Northern Territory National Emergency Response. Following reports of child sexual abuse and neglect, the Howard Government unleashed national forces to remote Indigenous communities in the effort to act as law enforcement and impose alcohol and drug restrictions. De Heer examines the consequences of what was described as a ‘last-ditch’ attempt to maintain power; an act that was widely criticised and showed to further exacerbate the suffering of the Indigenous people. Hence, de Heer’s film provides a personal insight into the difficulty of navigating life for Indigenous citizens as a result of the Intervention, and how Charlie’s struggles are representative of the anguish of the wider Aboriginal community.

  • Drawing parallels with the time of 2007 Northern Territory Intervention, de Heer intends to reveal the identity distortions that Indigenous individuals suffered due to the enforcement of westernised laws.
  • De Heer’s depiction of Charlie’s alienation from Ramingining was indicative of the wider Aboriginal population in the time following the 2007 Intervention, which saw the introduction of new restrictions into rural communities in the Northern Territory.

Women's rights in Australia

The 1970s was a critical time for women's rights in Australia. At this point in time, after the first wave enabled women to vote, the second wave of feminism was moving through the nation. Women all across Australia were now fervently advocating for their own autonomy and freedom in the workplace and at home; their efforts directed more to dismantle the rigid social structures and expectations that were demanded from them. Davidson is an avid proponent for this cause and demonstrates a tactful and astute understanding of her image as a white, middle-class woman. She openly reiterates her distaste for the sexist remarks and misogynistic caricatures she faces and is determined to confound the restrictions placed on her sex of being a domesticated and weak female. Overall, Davidson is promoting the principles of breaking through societal expectations, however, also reveals the many challenges she encounters in doing so.

  • Davidson’s defiance of the traditional female image is indicative of the progressive attitudes regarding women's rights in 1970s Australia.
  • Davidson’s embodiment of feminist ideas was synonymous to the 1970s second wave of feminism, where women in Australia were fighting for more freedoms at work and at home.

Comparing metalanguage and film techniques

It can be a bit daunting trying to compare techniques in a novel to those in a film. In this instance, it is crucial to first look at the idea you are comparing. For example, we can observe that both  Tracks  and  Charlie’s Country  show the liberating and cathartic feeling that comes from escaping social pressures. Now, let's look at  how  Robyn Davidson and Rolf de Heer achieve this, albeit in different manners. In  Tracks , Davidson uses  imagery  to describe the desertland she meets, when she says, “It is like a vast unattended communal garden, the closest thing to earthly paradise I can imagine”. De Heer communicates this premise of freedom, however, does this by featuring a variety of  diegetic sounds  of the biodiversity in which Charlie finds himself.

Another example is how intimacy with protagonists is edified. De Heer uses sustained, intimate close up shots and at many times breaks the fourth wall by having Gulpilil look directly at the camera. On the other hand, Davidson employs colloquial language and is liberal with her use of expletives in order to convey a casual, conversational mood between herself and the reader.

Other aspects to consider:

Anthropomorphism  in  Tracks  is   the act of attributing human traits or behaviours to a god, animal or object. Davidson’s use of anthropomorphism to describe the animals around her (specifically the camels and her dog Diggety) is suggestive of the necessity for companionship for humans; the need to establish meaningful connections with others. For Davidson, companionship with animals comes easier than with humans (presuming this stems from her perception of society as problematic and grossly flawed).

  • Davidson on camels: “They are haughty, ethnocentric, clearly believing they are god’s chosen race. But they are also cowards and their aristocratic demeanour hides delicate hearts. I was hooked.” (p. 14)
  • “[The camels] hung around me like flies, shuffling their feet, looking embarrassedly at the ground or coyly through their elegant lashes, acting apologetic and loving and remorseful…” (p. 80)
  • “Diggity had become a cherished friend rather than simply a pet.” (p. 227)
  • “[Diggity] combined all the best qualities of god and human and was a great listener." (p. 207)

Cinematography, specifically types of cinematic shots  in  Charlie’s Country .   Those commonly seen in the film include wide shots (camera captures a wide view of the context or setting), close up shots (camera captures events from a short distance away; involves a character’s facial features and expressions), as well as panoramic shots (camera pans around horizontally, showing surroundings). Directors are intentional in the type of cinematography they employ; therefore it is crucial to observe the context in which these shots take place in order to enrich the analysis. 

  • Several wide angle, landscape shots of nature, both at the beginning of the film and when Charlie first enters the Australian wilderness.
  • Close up shots of Charlie sitting by the fire, and when he is in prison.
  • Panoramic shots of Aboriginal art that Charlie discovers in the wild.
  • Panoramic shot also in the courtroom where Charlie is on trial.

Remember! When analysing, you  must  consider where these occur in the context of the film’s narrative, and the effect they have on enhancing the events/themes/broader ideas being presented in the scene. (i.e. How are the characters portrayed compared to their surroundings? Compared to others? How are they interacting with these elements? Why has the director chosen this angle/shot?)

Sample Essay Plan

Compare how Tracks and Charlie’s Country present the importance of Individualism.

Sample Introduction:

Set amidst an era of significant social and political change, Robyn Davidson’s autobiographical memoir ‘ Tracks’  and Rolf de Heer’s film ‘ Charlie’s Country’  explores the plight of individuals who embrace individualism. Both Davidson and de Heer assert that individualism is necessary for the protagonists, who find themselves marginalised from the wider population. Through their respective journeys to independence, Robyn and Charlie achieve  a sense of empowerment through identity self-refashioning , as well as they express  their disapproval of   the toxic institutions of society . However, the text and the film also demonstrate how at times,  embracing individualism can present challenges to those who pursue it . Ultimately, Davidson and de Heer commend those who do not fully conform to society.

Paragraph 1: Charlie and Robyn gain empowerment through independently establishing their own identity.

Robyn sees the trip as a demonstration to herself of the shedding of the traditional image of white, middle class woman: 

  • “Am I an individualist because I believe I can take control of my own life? If so, then yes, I was definitely that.” 
  • “I had… been sick of carrying around the self-indulgent negativity which was so much the malaise of my generation, my sex and my class.”
  • Describes the experience as a “gentle catharsis” and that “[She] was happy”.

Charlie’s abandonment of the Ramingining community is an attempt to resolve the identity ambiguity he feels as a result of the Government intervention.

  • Charlie appears to receive government benefits only to have to give it away to family, later divulging that “I have no money left… or food. I’m hungry”. When he tries to source food by traditional means, he is punished. All this demonstrates his struggles in balancing two cultures.
  • Going back into his “Motherland” he is joyful, dancing and eating again. Recognises a sense of security in going back -- “That’s what I want”, “now I’m home”.

Paragraph 2: Embracing individualism for the protagonists means resisting toxic societal constructs.

Robyn adamantly condemns the deeply entrenched racism of Australian culture and sympathises with the Aborigines and their hardship. Her determination to learn about the Aboriginal people is an attempt to overcome the wedge that has been driven between the two communities: 

  • “Racism is a daily experience for blacks in Alice Springs. It reinforces their own feelings of worthlessness and self-hate.”
  • “Large mining corporations… lusting after Aboriginal Reserve land.”
  • The dependency of the Aboriginal people termed as a “handy PR stunt” for government and policies equated to “apartheid in South Africa”.

Charlie becomes increasingly resistant against the traditions and policies of the government institutions.

  • Many times he is seen throwing cigarettes into the fire -- his resentment towards the introduction of white customs. "You come from far away and bring us alcohol, ganja, tobacco... all bad!"
  • Charlie rejects the white lifestyle by refusing to eat the food in the community, recognising its detrimental properties. Charlie on illness: “It’s all that… white man junk food we eat."

Paragraph 3: Resisting conformity is challenging for Robyn and Charlie, particularly in an oppressive society.

Robyn is met with harsh opposition and derogatory depictions in the media: 

  • Labelled “the next town rape case.” 
  • Discovers feces on her pillow one night in Alice Springs -- “let my presence be known as if I were a trespasser.”
  • “‘Camel lady’ had that nice patronising belittling ring to it.”

Charlie is constantly shut down when embracing the ways of his culture; ultimately submitting to individualism also unveils his dependency on white society.

  • He is charged with ‘recreational shooting’, and his hunting spear is considered "a dangerous weapon."
  • Charlie’s confession earlier about his false teeth: “I can’t eat with them… I can eat without them” alluding to this dependency on society.
  • The irreversible damage of white intervention is evident in Charlie’s poor health as a consequence of going back to “the old way” -- must go to the hospital.

Additional essay topic and prompts:

‘Resistance to conformity is at the forefront of Tracks and Charlie’s Country ’. To what extent do you agree?

Discuss the ways in which the environment assists the protagonists in their journey for self-discovery.

‘The connection to the land is significant for the characters of both Charlie’s Country and Tracks ’. Discuss.

‘The stories of Charlie and Robyn represent the plight of many others’. To what extent do you agree?

Compare the ways in which characters in Tracks and Charlie’s Country seek to discover what really matters to them.

‘Despite their deep hardship, Charlie and Robyn find transformation in their journeys’. Discuss.

Useful Resources

How to Write a Killer Comparative

Reading and Comparing Tracks into the Wild

Compare the Pair- A guide to structuring a reading and comparing essay

The link between your contention and topic sentences in relation to the prompt

Master Reading and Creating

We've curated essay prompts based off our The Crucible and Year of Wonders Study Guide which explores themes, characters, and quotes.

  • Compare how the conflict between illusion and reality is explored in these texts. ‍
  • 'Uncertainty breeds fear, and fear breeds further uncertainty.' Compare how this idea is demonstrated in The Crucible and Year of Wonders . ‍
  • Compare how secrets and superstition affect the characters in both texts. ‍
  • Compare how The Crucible and Year of Wonders explore issues of human fallibility and deception. ‍
  • Compare the ways these texts examine the preservation of morality amidst accusation and condemnation. ‍
  • 'Humans are ultimately inclined towards evil rather than good.' Compare how the two texts explore this inclination. ‍
  • Compare how The Crucible and Year of Wonders examines the strength of one's faith during hardship and conflict. ‍
  • “How little we know, I thought, of the people we live amongst.” ( Year of Wonders ) Compare what the two texts say about community and one's understanding of reality. ‍
  • "Here we are, alive, and you and I will have to make it what we can.” ( Year of Wonders) 'It is only possible to discover what it means to live when faced with death.' Compare the ways these texts explore this possibility. ‍
  • “It is the essence of power that it accrues to those with the ability to determine the nature of the real.” ( The Crucible ) Compare the ways the two texts demonstrate the connection between power and controlling the truth. ‍
  • Compare how truths and falsehoods shape the lives and societies in The Crucible and Year of Wonders . ‍
  • Compare how The Crucible and Year of Wonders shows that conflict can cause both regression and strengthening of integrity and humanity. ‍
  • Compare how women are perceived in both The Crucible and Year of Wonders . ‍
  • Compare the ways morality is examined and determined in these texts. ‍
  • "Man, remember, until an hour before the Devil fell, God thought him beautiful in heaven?" ( The Crucible ) Compare how the two texts explore the repercussions of disillusionment.

The Crucible and Year of Wonders is usually studied in the Australian curriculum under Comparative (also known as Reading and Comparing). For a detailed guide on Comparative , check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Comparative .

Updated on 11/12/2020

  • Introductions
  • Themes in Ransom and The Queen
  • Similarities and Differences
  • Literary and Cinematic Techniques in Ransom and The Queen
  • Essay Topics for Ransom and The Queen
  • Resources for Ransom and The Queen

1. Introductions

Set during the Trojan War, one of the most famous events in Greek mythology, David Malouf’s historical fiction Ransom seeks to explore the overwhelming destruction caused by war , and the immense power of reconciliation . Drawing on The Iliad , the epic poem by Homer, Malouf focuses on the events of one day and night, in which King Priam of Troy travels to the enemy Greek encampment to plead with the warrior Achilles to release the body of Priam’s son, Hector. Maddened by grief at the murder of his friend Patroclus, Achilles desecrates the body of Hector as revenge. Despite Achilles’ refusal to give up Hector’s body, Priam is convinced there must be a way of reclaiming the body – of pitting new ways against the old, and forcing the hand of fate. Malouf’s fable reflects the epic themes of the Trojan War, as fatherhood , love , grief , and pride are expertly recast for our times.

To learn more, head over to our Ransom Study Guide (which covers themes, characters, and more).

Set in the weeks leading up to and after the infamous death of Princess Diana in 1997, The Queen captures the private moments of the monarchy's grief and loss , and Queen Elizabeth II's inner conflict as she attempts to keep her private and public affairs separate.

The film opens with Tony Blair's "landslide victory" in the election as the "youngest Prime Minister in almost two hundred years", preempting viewers of the "radical modernisation" that's to come as he takes the reign. Juxtaposed with Blair's introduction is the stoic Queen Elizabeth II, residing in Buckingham Palace serenaded by bagpipes, in a ritual unchanged since Queen Victoria, immediately establishing the entrenched traditional values she represents. Princess Diana’s sudden death at the hands of relentless paparazzi results in turmoil in both the lives of those in the monarchy and adoring British citizens who mourn for the loss of the “people's princess". As days ensue with no public response from the Royal Family, the British people grow in disdain towards the authority , demanding a more empathetic response. Caught between the people and the monarchy is Blair, who sees the Royal Family’s public image suffer as a result of inaction.

Despite heavy resistance from the Queen, he eventually encourages her to surrender old royal protocols and adopt a more modern approach to meet public expectation: to fly the flag at half-mast, hold a public funeral, and publicly grieve for the loss of Princess Diana – all in all, to show the people that the monarchy cares. The Queen’s decision to accept Blair’s advice ultimately reconnects her with the British people and restores the Royal Family’s reputation amongst the public.

Together, Ransom and The Queen showcase the challenges involved in leadership roles : the inner conflict that leaves these individuals torn between their private and public demands . More on this in the next section.

2. Themes in Ransom and The Queen ‍

Parenthood and leadership.

In both texts, deaths act as a catalyst for both Priam and the Queen’s personal change – Priam’s son Hector, and the Queen’s, ex-daughter-in-law, Princess Diana.

In Ransom , we learn of the familial sacrifice Priam has needed to make as a leader . His separation from loved ones is expected as he has been ‘asked to stand…at a kingly distance from the human, which in [his] kingly role…[he] can have no part in'. Up until Hector’s death, Priam has been removed from paternal experiences, a sad truth when he admits that his relationships with his children are merely ‘formal and symbolic,’ and a part of the ‘splendour and the ordeal of kingship'. Unlike his wife Hecuba, whose grief is assailed by intimate moments with her children as she recalls, ‘Troilus was very late in walking…I was in labour for eighteen hours with Hector', Priam is unable to recall these private memories . Despite what would ordinarily be experiences shared by both father and mother, Priam cannot echo his wife’s grief to the same extent as these experiences have not been ‘in his sphere’ and he is even ‘unnerved’ by them. Malouf demonstrates how Priam’s royal obligations have suffocated his role as a father, and consequentially, he has been unable to connect with his family in the way he would desire to.

While Priam’s overt expressiveness in his limitations as a father may sway empathy from Ransom readers, Queen Elizabeth’s stoicism at first makes her appear cold-hearted and unfeeling. Her reaction to Prince Charles’ desire to fly a private jet to see Diana in hospital (‘Isn’t that precisely the sort of extravagance they always attack us for?…this isn’t a matter of state.’) is one from a leader's mindset - she's more concerned of the media’s reaction, rather than offering familial care and concern. However, as the film unfolds, viewers come to understand that her stoicism doesn’t necessarily come about because of her own personal choice , but rather, because her leadership role demands it of her.

TIP: Save the words ‘stoicism’ and ‘stoic’ to use in your essay. These words describe someone who experiences suffering but doesn’t openly express it.

We see the Queen’s quiet intentions to protect her grandchildren – ‘I think the less attention one draws to [Diana’s death], the better…for the boys’ – yet her silence is the inadvertent cause of public scorn. As such, Frears doesn’t make a villain out of the Queen, someone who on the outside may seem unfeeling and apathetic, but encourages viewers to see her from a unique perspective – a woman who struggles to manage her identity in both the private and public light.

It is only when Priam and the Queen detach themselves from their traditional roles that we see a change for the better in both of their personal journeys. Priam’s removal of his ‘jewelled amulet [and] golden armbands’ is symbolic of his shedding of the royal weight, and paving way for his step into a paternal role. Likewise, the Queen’s physical distancing from Buckingham Palace, an iconic symbol for tradition , into the public sphere where she mingles with the British people enables her to finally play the role of a grandmother. Both texts show how parenthood can lead to a more enriched human experience. Malouf finally portrays Priam as a happy man when he has the vision to be remembered in his legacy for his role as a father first, then as a king. Likewise in The Queen, her highness’ public mourning connects her with her people , and brings her joy and delight at last.

Tradition, Change, and the New

Both texts explore the challenging tug and pull between upholding traditions and making way for the new.

As humans, we cherish traditions because they are customs or beliefs that have been passed on from generation to generation. They have sentimental value, and by continuing on these traditions, our actions show that we respect the path our elders have laid for us. Tradition is not necessarily depicted in a negative light in either texts, but rather, shown to have its place. The Queen’s resistance against sailing the flag at half mast is out of deference for her elders. Even Somax’s casual storytelling about his daughter-in-law’s griddlecakes is customary, as each time his son would ‘set up the stones’ and her ‘quick and light…flipping’ of the cakes. However, Frears and Malouf both assert that adaptability in upholding tradition is also needed in order for us to grow and develop as humans.  

The new is not depicted as an experience one should fear, but rather, an experience one should approach with curiosity . As Malouf writes, ‘[Priam] saw that what was new could also be pleasurable'. The following positive expressions from the king ‘chuckling’ and ‘smiling’ echo the sentiment that while humans naturally resist change, embracing it is often beneficial to our lives. To be meta, Ransom is the retelling of the Trojan events, but Malouf adds to this tradition with a fresh perspective on the story.

Frears and Malouf both demonstrate that change is often propelled into possibility through the support and urging of others . Priam’s vision for his journey is instilled by the goddess Iris, who comes to him in a dream. His consequential journey is supported by Somax, whose ordinary everyday experiences teach Priam more about fatherhood than he had learnt as a father himself. Meanwhile, Achilles drags Hector’s body day after day, with no intention of change until Priam suddenly appears in his camp. Both texts highlight the influence those surrounding us can have on our personal change.

3. Similarities and Differences

At LSG, we use the CONVERGENT and DIVERGENT strategy to help us easily find points of similarity and difference. This is particularly important when it comes to essay writing, because you want to know that you're coming up with unique comparative points (compared to the rest of the Victorian cohort!). I don't discuss this strategy in detail here, but if you're interested, it's worth checking out my How To Write A Killer Comparative ebook to see how you can really set yourself apart and ace Comparative writing. I use this strategy throughout my discussion of themes above and techniques in the next section. To help you get started, here are some questions to get you thinking about the similarities and differences between the two texts:

  • Public vs. Private Spheres: how is public vs. private life portrayed in either texts?
  • Stories and Storytelling: who tells the story in either texts? Is there power in storytelling? Why do humans share stories?
  • Grief, Death, and Loss: How do humans deal with death? What emotions do we experience?

4. Literary and Cinematic Techniques in Ransom and The Queen

Opening portrayals of queen elizabeth and priam.

comparative essay conclusion structure

When Charles consoles Prince William and Harry after informing them of their mother’s death, Queen Elizabeth peers inwards from outside the room, distant and removed from her family. The enclosed frame of the door only serves to heighten her isolation from her family as she is pained by the ‘unrestrained intimacy and affection’ between the boys and their father, something she is unable to partake in. Her face half-covered by the shadows stresses how her familial experience only occurs from afar as she prioritises her role as her highness. Internal change, at least at this point in the film, has yet to begin.

comparative essay conclusion structure

Meanwhile in Ransom , Priam’s journey of personal change is established immediately as he realises that he needs to move beyond this ‘brief six feet of earth he moves and breathes in'. The finite space he has become accustomed to now almost represents (and this may be an intense interpretation) a jail cell in which he as a father, as a human being, has been incarcerated in. He is ready to pursue a new identity beyond just that as a king. Both Ransom and The Queen showcase the sacrifices made by both leaders, and the rigid, almost-dehumanising expectations that are set upon them when they take reign. Both texts encourage their audience to empathise with the leaders , for the challenges they face in their unique positions.

The Queen Film Techniques

I created an in-depth video on the first 20 or so minutes of The Queen you'd might find helpful. Have a watch and see whether you missed out on any film techniques:

[Video Transcription]

To begin with, we have this quote that is displayed at the very start of the film, and it says,

"Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown,"

and it's spoken by Henry IV Part II. So, the Part II gives me an indication that this is a quote from some way in Shakespeare's texts. If I then go on Google and actually have a look and type up this quote, then I know for sure that it is indeed from Henry IV Part II, a text and play that was written by William Shakespeare. So, I'm telling you these things because this is actually how I would go on to learn information about the film. I don't just automatically know for sure that it is from this particular text that Shakespeare wrote up. So, I want to ensure that I'm right by going and having a look at Google.

Quotes at the start of any film, at the start of any book, usually have importance to them and they usually should give you an insight as to what's to come. And, for me, I find when I look at this particular quote, it definitely links to the themes of leadership, of motherhood, parenthood, and of perhaps the sacrifices that the queen has needed to make in order to lead her nation. So, with this particular quote, I would write it down somewhere and keep it in mind as you're watching the remainder of the film, because you'll see those themes come to life and have a better understanding of what this quote is talking about.

So, immediately, this film opens up with a news presenter talking about Tony Blair going to the election polls. It's displayed as footage on a TV screen. This gives us insight into a couple of different things. Firstly, it gives us context. The second thing is that it's displayed on a TV and it's broadcasted by a news channel. And, as you probably know, the media, the paparazzi, and just the entire culture of representing news during this time is something that will be heavily explored throughout this film. Especially because it may or may not have led to the death of Princess Diana.

So, again, contextually, it gives us an idea that around this time, the news media was quite overwhelming and omnipresent, which means that it was sort of just everywhere. It was always around. It's sort of no different from today, but there's a reason why they establish it as an opening shot. And that's just sort of give us as viewers an understanding that the news has a big play in what's going to happen in the remainder of this film.

So, I really liked the quote,

"We're in danger of losing too much that is good about this country, as it is,"

that's spoken by the painter, who's drawing a portrait of the queen. This, again, sort of establishes that idea of change immediately at the beginning of the film, or should I say, resistance to change. So, it's already sort of outlining the path that this film is about to take.

Again, I really like this quote,

"The sheer joy of being partial."

So, from the onset with the queen, I think it's important to understand that we don't villainise her, or at least the director doesn't villainise her. He portrays her as a human being, as somebody who is in this position of the queen, which has a lot of weight upon it. And you can tell that she's all glammed up and she's fulfilling her role as the queen, but she's admitting that she envies us as everyday citizens being able to vote, to be able to have an opinion, and just go to the booths. To me, this establishes her as somebody who I empathise with, or sympathise with even.

I think this part with the music in the background and how the queen breaks the fourth wall. So, the fourth wall is basically when any character inside a film actually looks directly at the camera, at you, as the audience. And, to me, this gives me a sense of joy. It makes me feel like it's quite funny, the way that she's looking at us, especially with the...and again, this sort of reiterates my idea that we're not supposed to look at the queen as some evil or some cold-hearted person who is unfeeling for Diana's death later on, but that she's just like one of us and she can participate in a joke and we come to see this in a little bit.

So, in the next scene, we have a wide shot of Buckingham Palace, and in the background, you can hear bagpipes playing. This is something called diegetic sound. Diegetic sound is when you have sounds that come directly from the world in the film. So, the bagpipes sort of establish this sense of tradition. Everything in the scene represents tradition. Buckingham, Palace, the flag, the bagpipes, and that as an early shot of this film sort of shows us the entrenched tradition that exists. That nothing has changed as of yet, and things as sort of going on as they've always had.

Again, Frears is trying to show us the human side of the queen. And so that's why we've got the shot of her waking up in bed. She's all cuddled up and snuggled up in warm and comfy bedding. And it shows that she's vulnerable, in a way. And this is important for us as viewers, as we come to understand her inner thoughts and feelings later on.

So, immediately when the queen wakes up, she has a pile of newspapers in front of her. That adds, again, to that sense of omnipresent media. It's all around us, at least in that period of time.

This time, we have archival footage. So, archival footage is footage that has been taken from that period of time and placed into this film. It adds to the film's sense of authenticity, the fact that it's based off historical offense.

I really like this shot as the queen and Robin walking down the hallway to meet Tony Blair. This is a great snapshot and a great mise-en-scene. And mise-en-scenes, basically, to me anyway, it's when you pause the screen and it's everything that's inside that shot from props, in the foreground, in the background, what the person is wearing, or what the characters are wearing. So, with this particular art, we can not only see the two characters, but we can also see everything that's in the background.

And again, this really adds that sense of tradition because you've got all these paintings from probably famous people back in the day, or ancestors of the monarchy, and then you've got Robin saying he's promising a constitutional shake up, the first one in 300 years, and the queen saying, "Oh, you mean he's going to try and modernise us?" This is a great juxtaposition between the new coming in versus the old.

When Robin makes the joke about Tony Blair's wife having a curtsy that's described as shallow, it's humorous, it's funny, and the queen laughs as a result. The humor that's speckled throughout this film, I think really helps to lighten up the situation, but also to again, show us that the queen is human and that she can enjoy a joke.

I think this is a great snapshot as well. So, we've got the camera looking down at Tony Blair and his wife. When a camera does look down at an object or character, it gives us, as the audience, a sense that that person or character is inferior or they're not in a position of control. And it ties in with the fact that this is Tony Blair's first day in Buckingham Palace as a prime minister and he's only just onboarding the role.

So, in terms of him versus the queen or the monarchy, which is symbolised by everything around him, the setting that he is encompassed in, it shows that he really isn't the one who's playing the field here. He's not the one who is in charge. I love that we've got one of the queen's men giving them rules on what they need to do.

So, we're slowly walking up the stairs towards the queen who is in position of power. So, the staircase is quite symbolic.

Another important thing to know is that Mrs. Blair is actually accompanying the prime minister this first time round that he goes to Buckingham Palace. It shows that he is nervous, he said it himself, but he's not entirely comfortable with his role yet. So he needs the support of his wife. This is in comparison with later in the film at the very end, actually, where Tony Blair goes to Buckingham Palace himself and conducts a meeting with the queen, very similar to the one that he's doing now.

This shot where we've got Mrs. Blair sitting opposite the guard at quite a distance adds to the sense of awkwardness, and it's paralleled with the sense of openness between the queen and the prime minister as well. So, it shows that we've got the old and the new sort of coming together and sort of not really gelling.

Something to keep an eye on is parallels in the film. It's always a really good idea to compare the start and end of this particular film, because we've got such similar scenarios in meaning at the start of the film and in meaning at the end of the film. What you'll notice in this particular scene is that they don't appear in the same shot. They sit opposite one another and one shot on Tony Blair, one shot on the queen, and it sort of goes back and forth. And that's to heighten that sense of distance between them. That sense of unfamiliarity. This is in comparison with the end of the film when we see the two of them walking down the hallway together, out into the garden as equal.

Here's another great shot. So, to add on the idea of the queen having more power versus prime minister, it's quite clear here as he sits down and asks for her hand.

I love the way that Mrs. Blair walks. She's sort of like half...I don't know how you would explain her stride, but it's obviously not one that is aligned with how the queen walks, which is quite poised and quite together. Rather, Mrs. Blair's walk is sort of frumpy, it's sort of bouncy, and her arms are sort of flailing around a little bit, and so adds to that sense of new, of change, of difference. And so that adds to the story of Tony Blair and his family and what he represents as something new and different and probably unwelcome for the queen.

So, that's it, that's my analysis of the first 10 minutes or so of this film. If you're interested in a more detailed film technique analysis, I've just written a killer comparative based on Ransom & The Queen. In this, I show you film techniques that I pick out throughout watching the film, how to analyze them, and also then go on to show you how they are used in A-plus essays. I'm so confident that this study guide will be able to help you improve your understanding of both texts and get you towards that A+ for your SAC and exams.

If you're curious about what's inside the study guide and want to see if it's right for you, head on over and read a free sample to see it for yourself. I hope it gives you something to launch off. If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the description box below. I have plenty of resources for you guys down there as well if you needed help for your SAC and exams and I'll catch you guys next time. Bye.

Historical Footage and Context

comparative essay conclusion structure

Based on historical events, The Queen is interspersed with real archive television footage leading to, and following Princess Diana’s death. Frears incorporates these clips to help provide viewers insight on the politics, media culture, and public reaction in 1997.

Princess Diana’s introduction through archival clips at the beginning of the film highlight her as a vulnerable individual at the mercy of oppressive and intrusive tabloid newspapers. The sweeping pan of paparazzi on the night of Diana’s death serves to emphasise the obsessive media, who at the time, were paid in excess of one million pounds for taking photos of her. Moments of her kissing on a boat are revealed to the world without any respect for her privacy. This archival footage helps viewers understand the distressing omnipresence of the media, and the turn of the public against the paparazzi and media following Diana’s death.

Likewise, Malouf uses parts of The Iliad as foundations for his novel. The original tale, written during the 8th century BC, explores in detail Achilles’  refusal to fight for his leader Agamemnon, Patroclus’ role in the war, and also the disputes between the gods as they argue over the fate of mortals. By offering a retrospective of this historical story, Malouf invites readers to better understand the Trojan War and Greek mythology, and the impact the gods had on Trojans and Greeks.

For more discussion on literary and cinematic techniques, have a look at my A Killer Comparative Guide: Ransom & The Queen . In this in-depth study guide, Angelina Xu (ATAR 99.6, 46 English study score) and I also break down 5 essay topics, providing you explanations on how to brainstorm and plan each of these essays, then convert these plans into A+ essays complete with annotations! I've dropped some sample essay topics below for you to try at home yourselves:

5. Essay Topics for Ransom and The Queen

"I told him he shouldn't change a thing." ( The Queen ) Compare how Ransom and The Queen explore resistance to change.
Compare the ways the two texts explore the efficacy of different leadership types.
Compare the ways the two texts explore the importance of storytelling.
'Wordless but not silent.’  ( Ransom ) Ransom and The Queen explore how silence can be louder than words.
"Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.” ( The Queen ) “...the lighter role of being a man.” ( Ransom). Compare how the two texts show the burden experienced by those in leadership positions.

‍ 6. Resources for Ransom and The Queen

[Video] Ransom Themes (Revenge, Grief, Forgiveness) and Essay Topic Tips!

The following resources are no longer on the study design; however, you might still pick up a few valuable tips nonetheless:

[Video] Invictus and Ransom | Reading and Comparing

[Video] Ransom Literary Devices & Invictus Film Technique Comparison

I am Malala and Made in Dagenham is usually studied in the Australian curriculum under Comparative (also known as Reading and Comparing). For a detailed guide on Comparative , check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Comparative .

  • Compare the importance and role of idols and role models in I am Malala and Made in Dagenham.
  • Describe the role of fear and obligation as an obstacle to progress by comparing I am Malala and Made in Dagenham. ‍
  • ‘As we change the things around us, the things around us change us’. Discuss the extent to which this is true by comparing I am Malala and Made in Dagenham. ‍
  • Discuss the benefit of adversity in strengthening one’s will to persevere by comparing I am Malala and Made in Dagenham. ‍
  • Resilience is more important than success. Discuss whether this is true within the texts I am Malala and Made in Dagenham. ‍
  • Compare the role and importance of family within the texts I am Malala and Made in Dagenham. ‍
  • Compare both I am Malala and Made in Dagenham in relation to the importance of language as a device (spoken and written).
  • Compare the forms of resistance displayed by protagonists Malala Yousafzai and Rita O’Grady in texts I am Malala and Made in Dagenham and decide why they chose these methods.
  • Analyse the effectiveness of small triumphs creating ripple effects in wider communities by comparing I am Malala and Made in Dagenham. ‍
  • Discuss whether support networks are intrinsic for a single figure to create positive change by comparing I am Malala and Made in Dagenham. ‍
  • The main protagonists are galvanized by the people they wish not to be like rather than their role models. Discuss to what extent this is true by comparing the texts I am Malala and Made in Dagenham.
  • Made in Dagenham and I am Malala explore the vices of deceit, appeasement and scapegoating. Discuss these by comparing both texts, commenting on how they pose a threat to the causes of both protagonists.
  • What role do interpersonal relationships play in the texts I am Malala and Made in Dagenham? Can these relationships be both positive and negative? Discuss.
  • Change cannot be immediate but gradual. To what extent is this true in texts I am Malala and Made in Dagenham .
  • Examine the role of the media in driving social change by comparing texts I am Malala and Made in Dagenham ‍
  • A patriarchal society is invariably one that is repressive. Discuss this statement and its truths or falsities by comparing texts I am Malala and Made in Dagenham. ‍
  • Discuss solidarity in relation to social, historical and cultural progress and whether it can be both positive and negative by comparing texts I am Malala and Made in Dagenham.

You’ll often find that study guides begin with a section on historical context. Even though it might be tempting to skip over this section, there’s a lot you can take away from understanding the period of time in which your texts are set in. I’ll show you how with examples for both Ransom and The Queen in this video.

Let’s start with a brief overview of why you need to know the historical context. Context, a topic explored in detail in our  How To Write A Killer Text Response , plummets you back to the era of when your texts were set. You effectively ‘step into the shoes’ of the people living in that time, and in doing so, gain a better understanding of their views and values. People’s views and values are often shaped by important events of the time, social culture and norms, and everyday experiences. For example, think about your own context. You’re part of Generation Z, and one defining part of a Gen Z experience is growing up with technology from a young age. Social media is just normality, pretty much everyone has it, uses it as a source of online communication. So how does this shape your views and values? By having access to online information in this way, Gen Zers tend to be more passionate about social issues, because people of this age can leverage social media to voice their opinions or follow those who resonate with them. Only 20 years or so ago, we only had giant media that voiced their own opinions via newspapers or TV. You didn’t have such a wide array of voices from people of different races or experiences. Think about the recent death of George Floyd, and the incredible ripple effect his death had on the world and the power of social media in the Black Lives Matter movement.

So looking at The Queen and Ransom , we want to dive right into their respective eras and understand how people thought and felt during these time periods. This helps us better understand what the messages Frears and Malouf are trying to tell or teach us through their works, enabling you to write better essays. Let’s start with The Queen.

The 1980s to 1990s was a time when the world was  enamoured  by the Princess of Wales (or Diana, as we’ll call her). Her shyness, broken family history, ongoing charitable efforts, and iconic fashion choices made her a royal favourite. She was dubbed the ‘People’s Princess’ not only because of her relatability but also because of her tenuous relationship with the royal family. She’d been wronged by the royal family; first by Prince Charles’ affair with Camilla, then with the lack of support from the Queen when she asked for marriage advice.

At the time, public opinion of the royal family was greatly influenced by tabloid papers - after all, there was no Instagram for the royals to tell their own story. After an estimated 750 million people tuned in to watch Diana’s wedding to Charles, paparazzi began documenting her every move. Princess Diana became the most photographed person in the world, with paparazzi offered up to £500,000 for even grainy pictures of her (that’s equivalent to $1.5 million AUD today!). In the competitive fight to snap the most profitable photos of Diana, the paparazzi invaded her most private moments, taking shots of her kissing Dodi Al Fayed while on holidays, and sunbathing topless at her hotel in Spain. Diana’s despair and requests to be left alone remained unanswered, so when the paparazzi chased her to her death in 1997, the  public response was emphatic .

The public turned against Britain's press and photographers, and the overwhelming outpour of grief is a testament to the injustice the public felt on behalf of Diana. To add insult to injury, the monarchy’s initial reticent response was deemed inadequate, negatively shifting the public’s attitude or ‘mood’ - a term we often hear in the film - towards the royals. The monarchy needs to stay in the public’s favour, lest the end of the institution.

That’s why  The Queen   is a film about change on several fronts,  the first dynamic response from the public, The Queen abandoning royal tradition and acquiescing to public demand, and how all this happens within months of  Tony Blair’s new premiership .

With this, you can understand why change is one of the biggest themes discussed when comparing these two texts. Let’s look at Ransom.

Moving back a further 3000 years earlier than The Queen ,  Ransom is  a retelling the Trojan War, one of the most famous events in Greek mythology. To truly understand random, you must first familiarise yourself with Greek mythology, the Trojan War, and The Iliad. We’ll have a look at these three as if they’re matryoshka dolls (where dolls of decreasing size are place done inside another):

The biggest doll: Greek mythology

We’ll start with  Greek mythology  since it’s the umbrella knowledge you need to know before understanding the Trojan War and  The Iliad . Essentially a collection of stories about gods, heroes and other creatures, Greek mythology was used by ancient Greeks to explain the existence of the world. Without the scientific developments we’ve discovered to date, ancient Greeks attempted to explain the creation of the earth, human behaviour, death and love through their mythical stories. Notice how the gods  (Iris, Hermes)  appear  when  Priam needs help and advice throughout  Ransom. 

The reason why Greek mythology is still prevalent in modern society is that the lessons taught in these stories are still applicable today as they depict universal truths about human qualities such as our strengths and flaws. Without you even realising it, our world today is filled with references to Greek mythology. Take, for example,  Pandora , (the jewellery company that sells little charms you need to buy separately to make up a bracelet), whose namesake comes from the myth about Pandora’s box (basically, Pandora’s unchecked curiosity led her to open a forbidden box, releasing all illnesses and death into the world - side note, could we blame Pandora for COVID-19 then? Just kidding). Or take the first  God of War  game ,  which follows the story of Kratos whose ability to be a loving father is overpowered by his anger and desire for vengeance. Interestingly, the tale of Pandora’s box also is featured in this game.

Luckily for you though, you don’t have to be an expert in  all  Greek mythology, but you should probably have a good gist of the Trojan War.

The middle doll: The Trojan War  

Now we narrow things down to  one  of the most legendary Greek myths - the Trojan War.  This war might be familiar to you because it is the backdrop and context for Malouf’s  Ransom . 

The myth begins with  Zeus , the father of all gods, and his brother  Poseidon  lusting after the goddess of water,  Thetis . However, they are warned by  Prometheus , an intelligent mortal - better known for being chained to a rock as a result of stealing Zeus’ fire - that Thetis would give birth to a son who would be mightier than his father. Alarmed at this possibility, the two gods arrange for Thetis to marry Peleus, a mortal. Since humans were believed to be inferior to gods, this ensured that Thetis’ child would be a mere mortal, rendering the prophecy redundant.

Any potential issues appeared resolved until the gods omitted  Eris , the  goddess of discord  from Thetis and Peleus’ wedding invitation list. Furious at this insult, Eris arrives at the wedding with her own plans. She inscribes a golden apple with the words, ‘To The Fairest’ and throws it amongst the guests. Naturally, all goddesses want to claim the prize. Eventually, the choice is narrowed down to three of the most beautiful goddesses:  Aphrodite ,  Athena  and  Hera . Unable to reach a decision, they turned to Zeus to judge who should win the title. However, Zeus refuses to do so and instead, elects a mortal with good judgment of beauty to make the choice. This mortal is  Paris, Prince of Troy  and whose birth produced a prophecy that he would one day bring misfortune to his people and town.

The three goddesses approach Paris with not only their beauty but also bribes. Hera offers him power and control over Europe and Asia, Athena promises that she will make him a great warrior while Aphrodite proposes to him the most beautiful woman on earth. Since Paris is more interested in women than power and war, he awards Aphrodite with the golden apple. With this exchange sealed, the beginning of Troy’s troubles begin as the most beautiful woman on earth, Helen is already married to Menelaus, king of Sparta.

After a diplomatic mission to Sparta, Paris elopes with Helen, who falls in love with Paris upon their first encounter (literature concerning this part of the story remains ambiguous). Upon discovering Paris’ betrayal, Menelaus calls on Helen’s many suitors to invade Troy and retrieve his wife. His brother,  Agamemnon  recruits and leads the Greek army into battle against the city of Troy, and thus begins the Trojan War.

And finally, the baby doll: The Iliad

Homer’s  The Iliad  is a poem that begins ten years into the Trojan War. By now, Thetis, the goddess who had married Peleus, has given birth to their mortal son  Achilles , the mightiest of all Greeks, as predicted by the prophecy (Achilles should definitely be familiar to you because he’s the main character in Ransom !). Although he is a fighter for Agamemnon, their relationship is strained after Agamemnon demands that Achilles give up his beloved war prize,  Briseis . Since Agamemnon desires Briseis for himself, this enrages Achilles to the point where he refuses to fight in the Trojan War. This leads to dire consequences for the Greeks as they lose many men in battle and are forced to retreat to their ships after the Trojans successfully turn the tide of the battle.

Concerned for his Myrmidons (a group of the strongest and skilled warriors who fight for Achilles) yet too proud to budge from his position, Achilles is persuaded to allow his close friend and comrade Patroclus, to wear Achilles’ renowned armour and lead his Myrmidons into battle (ah, we’re starting to see even stronger connections to  Ransom  now). This strategy is designed to rouse fear in the Trojans and cause them to temporarily retreat - enough time to allow the Greeks to rest and recover - as they’d see ‘Achilles’ back in battle.

Despite Patroclus’ skills as a soldier, Achilles insists that Patroclus only fight until the Greeks can successfully fend off the Trojans away from their ships. During the fight, however, Patroclus disobeys Achilles’ orders and continues to pursue the Trojans back to their gates. At this point, he encounters and is killed by Hector, the prince of Troy and leader of the Trojan army.

Fuelled with rage and grief over Patroclus’ death, Achilles agrees to fight once again for the Greek army, much to Agamemnon’s pleasure. In their next battle, Achilles kills many warriors and the Trojans are forced to retreat back to the safety of their walls. Hector, against the will of his family, faces Achilles alone outside the walls of his home, knowing that Achilles is on a path to avenge Patroclus’s death. In a fierce battle between the two greatest Trojan war warriors, Hector was killed. Achilles takes Hector’s body with him and dishonours it day after day by chaining it to a chariot and dragging it along the walls of Troy. Malouf begins the  Ransom  story here. The gods agree that this blasphemous behaviour cannot continue and send the god Hermes to guide king Priam, father of Hector to the Greek camp. Once in their camp, Priam falls to his knees and pleads Achilles for the body of his son. Touched by the king’s words, Achilles relents, allowing Priam to finally hold a proper burial for Hector.

Appreciating the differences between  The Iliad  and Ransom storyline will lead to a better understanding of the themes and symbols in  Ransom .

One of the main differences between the two texts is their depiction of  Priam’s  journey to  Achilles . In  The Iliad , this journey is explored only momentarily and focuses more on the presence of Hermes. The inclusion of the new character  Somax  in Ransom also offers a new perspective on this old tale. While  The Iliad  only touches upon Achilles’ and Priam’s suffering, Malouf delves into the emotional journey that the characters undergo during the darkest episode in the Trojan War.

comparative essay conclusion structure

That’s why the themes of  grief ,  loss  and  death  should be quite prominent in your comparison between  Ransom  and  The Queen  along with the importance of  stories  and storytelling.

In my new study guide  Ransom and The Queen , I show you how you can use your knowledge you’ve learned there to write A+ essays. Take a look at our study guide below!

Additional resources for Ransom and The Queen

A Killer Comparative Guide: Ransom and The Queen

[Video] Ransom and The Queen (Themes, Film Techniques, Literary Devices)

How to Write a Killer Comparative Ebook

[Video] Ransom Themes (Revenge, Grief, Forgiveness and Essay Topics)

The Erratics is usually studied in the Australian curriculum as a Text Response. For a detailed guide on Text Response, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response .

Within the intimate Albertan landscape of her memoir, The Erratics , author Vicki Laveau-Harvie guides her readers through the inhospitable terrain that marked her family environment. Laveau-Harvie’s memoir is complex, showcasing the complicated dynamics that arise within her dysfunctional family. Understanding the ideas and values that underpin these family tensions is crucial to scoring well in The Erratics , which is why this blog will break down the key themes and quotes to help you analyse the memoir. 

Family & Trauma

Truth & perspective, choice & agency.

Family lies at the heart of The Erratics . Both sisters spent their childhoods navigating the hostile familial setting fostered by their mother’s turbulent behaviour, resulting in a profound trauma that manifests itself in their present lives. The ways in which they manage this trauma, whilst reestablishing a connection with their family, is a core aspect of Laveau-Harvie’s memoir. 

‍ ‘We’ve been disowned and disinherited…When something bad happens to them, we’ll know soon enough and we’ll deal with it together. I don’t realise at the time, but when I say that, I imply care. I imply there may be something to salvage. I misspeak. But I’m flying there anyhow. So is my sister. Blood calls to blood. What can I tell you?’ (p. 17) 

From the outset, Laveau-Harvie asserts the underlying tension of her memoir. Having established her mother to be as ‘mad as a meat-axe’ in the first chapter, the reader may find Laveau-Harvie’s decision to return to Canada bizarre, to say the least. However, for Vicki the choice makes sense, having promised her sister that she will return to support her when ‘something bad happens’. 

Laveau-Harvie suggests that people cannot completely separate themselves from their blood relations, and that most importantly, a moral obligation to one’s family and self-preservation are not mutually exclusive. Rather, she suggests that there exists a ‘precarious balance’ between these commitments and that one’s family cannot be ignored in times of need, because, ultimately, ‘blood calls to blood’. 

‍ ‘...everybody knows a family Christmas will always go badly, that even the most extremely lowered family expectations will not be met. Magazines publish the same articles…year after year, on why we harbour these wildly unrealistic expectations of family unity.’ (p. 54)

Laveau-Harvie challenges the ‘wildly unrealistic expectations’ of familial culture depicted in countless generations of Canadian magazines. She uses the imagery of a ‘family Christmas…go[ing] badly’ to dismantle the idea of a traditionally wholesome festive season, suggesting that such compassion is inaccessible in the presence of her mother’s ‘mercurial’ personality.

Additionally, Laveau-Harvie’s insistence that ‘everybody knows a family Christmas will always go badly’ is immediately juxtaposed by the gracious dinner she shares with her friends. Laveau-Harvie appreciates how they ‘light up their properties in such joyous fashion’ relative to the ‘Hotel California’ her parents reside in. Thus, Laveau-Harvie invites her readers to reflect upon the value she places on this fulfilment of familial duty; how all it takes is an act of selfless humanity to restore (to some extent) the vision that ‘family unity’ is not ‘unrealistic’, but rather, completely possible. 

‍ '...the giant Douglas fir…It has prospered, cutting off the view of the Rockies…even though it should have never flourished…The tree is full of tiny birds, red-breasted nuthatches who live in it year-round…' (p. 42)

Laveau-Harvie uses the Douglas fir as a symbol of survival, emblematic of the extraordinary circumstances under which she was able to 'flourish'. Laveau-Harvie recounts her numerous travels throughout the memoir – Canada, Australia and Hong Kong – her decision to 'opt for geography' acting as a means of self-preservation, placing distance between herself and her family (in particular, her mother). It is made clear from the prologue that the Okotoks Erratic foothills, also called the Rockies, are a motif for the indomitable presence of the mother ( see here for more on setting in The Erratics ) from which Laveau-Harvie escapes.

Hence when the Douglas fir is described to have '[cut] off the view of the Rockies' it conveys Laveau-Harvie’s success in physically removing herself from the hostile family setting she was trapped in. However, note that Laveau-Harvie’s geographical location does not relieve her of her trauma – she openly explains how she 'walk[s] like an invalid through life'. Regardless of this, Laveau-Harvie 'prosper[s]…even though [she] should have never flourished', parenting kind and compassionate children ('tiny birds') of her own despite the immeasurable anguish she endured during her own childhood. Thus, Laveau-Harvie demonstrates the capacity to break a vicious cycle of trauma created by her mother, instead using her own 'principle of pre-emptive karma' to limit passing on her grief.

A reflection of a specific six-year period of her life, Laveau-Harvie uses her memoir to explore the multifaceted nature of truth, how a shared experience can give rise to varying perspectives and responses. An intimate piece of storytelling in its own right, The Erratics is a platform from which Laveau-Harvie urges the reader to discover their own truth, whilst cherishing a balanced view of reality 

‍ 'This is not untrue. My sister feels differently. She has her truth and I have mine but she isn’t the one doing the talking right now.' (p. 12)

Consistently throughout The Erratics , Laveau-Harvie emphasises the differences between the sisters, and the varying extents to which their past trauma has affected and damaged them. She suggests that despite a shared upbringing, with the same malignant presence of their mother, one’s perspective is unique to the individual. It also raises discussion about the truth the reader is presented in the memoir. As the author, Laveau-Harvie guides her readership through events as they pertain to her memory - the subjectivity of her memoir is something Laveau-Harvie openly admits to her readers. 

Regardless, there are clear distinctions between how the sisters respond to their trauma. The sister struggles to 'negate a past that haunts her', feeling 'the blows of the past continuously in her present'. Conversely, Laveau-Harvie’s past 'is not merely faded…it’s not there', with many of her memories repressed to help her survive her anguish. Thus, Laveau-Harvie affirms how one’s response to trauma is dependent on the individual, how one’s truth is often adapted to their needs in order to survive. 

‍ 'The aurora borealis are fading. Well, he says, show’s over. Gotta see a man about a dog. You should move on too. You’ll have more scope now, for the good stuff. He waves his arm. Wider view, he says. Farther reach. But only for the good stuff.' (p. 217)

Bookending her memoir with the geological construction and spiritual origins of the Okotoks Erratic foothills, Laveau-Harvie ultimately uses her memoir as a reflective process that helps her find 'closure' towards her mother’s legacy. Initially conveying her mother’s menace through the 'danger' of the Rockies, Laveau-Harvie’s connection with the Albertan landscape helps her see hope within the 'landscape of uncommon beauty'. Her mother’s life 'tainted' by mental illness, Laveau-Harvie comes to an understanding that her behaviour, much like the harshness of the Canadian winter, was 'nothing personal'. Thus, upon her mother’s death, Laveau-Harvie crafts an intimate interaction between her mother and Napi the Trickster, closing her memoir with the hopeful wish that her mother now lives a life with 'wider view…farther reach…but only for the good stuff'. Hence, in a final act of forgiveness, Laveau-Harvie honours the life of her mother, whose potential was tarnished by mental illness. 

‍ 'My sister says her suburb is working-class; she also tells me that she considers herself working-class…I try to make her see that we have sprung desperately from a violently aspirational upper-middle-class background, and that I see that as part of the greater malaise we live with.' (p. 186)

Laveau-Harvie continues to emphasise the differences between her and her sister, with one focus being how their values have developed in response to their trauma. There is a clear difference between the sisters when they discuss their definitions of ‘working-class’; the sister argues that she and her suburb are working-class, defined by 'having a job'. Contrastingly, Laveau-Harvie 'tr[ies] to make her see that [they] have sprung…from a violently aspirational upper-middle-class background', and expresses some concern towards her societal status being 'part of the greater malaise [they] live with'. 

The sister chooses to identify as 'working-class', thereby highlighting how her parent’s obsession with the accumulation of material wealth has influenced her perception of class and privilege. Amassing an 'impressive wall of properties', the sister parallels her father’s 'pride…at the sight of watching his wife spend big'. On the other hand, Laveau-Harvie openly acknowledges her family’s privilege but instead perceives it as a 'malaise' and chooses to separate herself from any degree of avarice. Thus, the reader is invited to reflect upon the differences between the sisters’ perspectives, how the sister may still be in thrall to her parent’s values, whereas Laveau-Harvie’s sense of self is inextricably linked to the natural landscape over material possessions. 

Many characters that feature in Laveau-Harvie’s memoir are elderly, and experience a unique set of challenges that only comes with the ageing process. The mother and the father, for example, both endure deteriorating health conditions that compromise their independence and autonomy. As such, Laveau-Harvie offers an interesting insight into what it’s like to observe and deal with ageing parents who struggle to accept the limits of their age. 

‍ 'My father is looking far away, back in a moment when life was excitement and danger and possibilities…’ (p. 91)

Laveau-Harvie’s father often finds himself reminiscing over his past, reflecting on war-time memories or the wealth he accumulated from his work in the oil industry. Although, Laveau-Harvie does suggest to her readers that these stories become more exaggerated each time they are told, highlighting the difficulty the father has in coping with his ageing body. Laveau-Harvie illustrates how the ageing process inevitably incurs a loss of independence and autonomy, and uses the characterisation of her father to emphasise the challenge of reconciling with this isolating experience. 

By 'looking far away, back in a moment when life was excitement and danger and possibilities', Vicki’s father uses his memories to retain the feeling that 'he’s twenty and bullet-proof'. Reminiscing over his act of heroism during the war, the father commends himself for the 'precise calculations' that enabled him and his copilot to perform a 'remarkable manoeuvre'. Thus Laveau-Harvue uses this hyperbolic description of her father’s story to reveal how elderly people must often depend upon their past memories to maintain a sense of autonomy in the present. 

Laveau-Harvie suggests that elderly individuals such as her father must 'confront the real' in accepting that the ageing process will physically hinder their independence, leaving them to feel rejected by their own bodies. Hence, Laveau-Harvie exposes her readers to how the ageing process can be an inherently challenging experience for elderly individuals to accept. 

‍ 'It happens, they say. With older people They come to, and a whole married life of disappointment and bitterness slips out, like an organ escaping an incision, like a balloon filled with acid. It bursts on impact, burning holes in their spouses’ clothing and leaving little round scars on their flesh that never heal completely.' (p. 19)

There are many marriages and long-term relationships mentioned throughout the memoir: the mother and the father, the aunt and the uncle and the sister and her partner. Even Laveau-Harvie herself is divorced from 'the father of [her] children'. Laveau-Harvie acknowledges the difficulty in maintaining these types of relationships; how they are often marked by histories that invariably include events that are never resolved or forgiven. Laveau-Harvie explores this notion through her use of metaphor, likening the 'bitterness' of unresolved conflict to 'a balloon filled with acid…burst[ing] on impact'. Here, she asserts the importance of forgiveness in a long-term relationship, affirming its capacity to maintain and restore compassion, love and empathy. 

Moreover, Laveau-Harvie suggests that in the absence of forgiveness, marital conflicts are left to foster 'disappointment and bitterness' that is released when people enter elderly life. Laveau-Harvie conveys how the 'burning holes' in a long-term relationship can compromise its stability, leaving 'little round scars…that never heal completely' - thereby reinforcing the feelings of isolation and despondency endured by The Erratic ’s elderly characters. Thus, Laveau-Harvie reinforces the value of forgiveness, how a willingness to empathise with a partner, especially early in a relationship, can minimise the 'bitterness' experienced when one ages. 

‍ 'We’re like the king and the queen, my uncle says, every time we see any of them, whenever they visit. Like the king and the queen. They smile at the fullness of their life: love and problems, success and loss, pride and a hefty measure of grief. A well-worn life fully lived, perspectives widening with each new baby, blossoming like one of those paper flower buds that unfold into unexpected beauty when you plunge them into water. ' (p. 86) 

With Laveau-Harvie’s parents at the forefront of the memoir, it seemingly appears that she depicts only a grim image of old age. Whilst she does offer these insights, Laveau-Harvie also portrays the emotionally rich and satisfying life lived by her ageing aunt and uncle. 'Smil[ing] at the fullness of their life', the aunt and the uncle 'peer endearingly' over their extended family. Their 'perspectives widening with each new baby', Laveau-Harvie also uses the virtuous imagery of her aunt and uncle to emphasise the value of an emotionally rich elderly life. 

Metaphorically referred to as 'the king and the queen', Laveau-Harvie uses the connotations of royalty imbued in this metaphor to emphasise the richness of a life spent in a nurturing family environment, where widening perspectives help ageing individuals find a 'fullness' in their life despite the 'hefty measure of grief' endured. Thus, Laveau-Harvie juxtaposes her aunt and uncle’s willingness to engage with family against her parent’s 'disown[ment] and disinherit[ment]' of their daughters. 

Throughout their lives, the sisters have suffered immeasurable trauma at the hands of their parent’s decisions. Yet, despite this, the two daughters demonstrate that they possess a strength of character capable of making the most difficult of decisions. Laveau-Harvie explores the significance of employing one’s agency in reconnecting with, and restoring, familial relationships. 

‍ 'It means always try to do the decent thing, the rational thing, the selfless thing, the boring thing, because then you won’t have to beat yourself up with guilt until your early stress-induced death…Do nothing you know you will live to regret.' (p. 80)

'Tattoo[ed]' 'on the corner of [her] soul', the philosophy to live without regret is permanently engrained as part of Laveau-Harvie’s character, a testament to the integrity she holds that allows her to make the difficult decision to return to Canada and reconcile with her trauma. Laveau-Harvie fully understands the challenges, and even dangers, she would be facing upon her return. Despite having been disinherited two decades prior, and entirely aware of her mother’s volatility, Laveau-Harvie ultimately chooses to use her agency and confront, reconcile and heal from her past.

Interestingly, Laveau-Harvie’s sister also exhibits similar behaviour. When her mother is hospitalised, the sister also returns to Alberta; she takes upon herself several responsibilities involving the cleaning and organising of her parent’s house (which ultimately risks her life as she triggers an angioedema attack). This therefore invites the reader to reflect upon the sister’s willingness to do 'the selfless thing[s]' necessary to help her family; and perhaps suggests that to live with no regrets is a philosophy shared by two sisters 'petrified by grief'. 

‍ 'I reminded her that Dad went along with my mother in disinheriting us, removing any right we had to help him in his old age; that, most hurtfully of all, he believed everything she told him about us, even though he now holds other views. It is as a result of his own inability to act that he now barely has a connection with us and has none whatsoever with his grandchildren.' (p. 187)

When the reader is first introduced to the father, they are met with the imagery of a frail old man suffering from a starvation diet enforced by his cruel and narcissistic wife. However, as the memoir progresses, Laveau-Harvie limits the reader’s sympathy towards her father, who she instead affirms is a victim of his own design. Laveau-Harvie holds her father accountable for the passiveness that perpetuated the mother’s unpredictable behaviour. Illustrating how her father 'went along with [the] mother in disinheriting' herself and her sister, Laveau-Harvie challenges the extent to which her father’s intervention could have mitigated the devastating 'swathe of misery' cast by the mother. Therefore, Laveau-Harvie asserts the power of one’s voice, suggesting that had her father employed his agency then perhaps the extent of his daughters’ trauma could have been minimised. 

‍ 'There are the dangers and difficulties you summon up the courage to deal with physically, every day, in the lab or the forest, and then there are the blows that fall from the air, unseen, unpredictable, but nonetheless brutal and crippling. Confronting the real makes you a person of substance; fending off the invisible light that always blindsides you makes you Chicken Little, hoping to absorb a little warmth from the lights on the tree.' (p. 65)

'Confronting the real', Laveau-Harvie demonstrates that to begin the healing process and reconcile with the past, one must make the difficult choice to 'summon up the courage to deal with…the blow that fall from the air'. Upon her return to Canada, Laveau-Harvie faces the 'unseen' and 'unpredictable' challenges her mother has imposed. She deals with the web of lies spun by her mother, the bureaucracy of the hospital workers and her starved father’s declining health. However, despite the overwhelming trauma of her past and the challenge of being reunited with her parents, Laveau-Harvie ultimately chooses to use her agency and 'confront the real', enduring the 'brutal and crippling' blows along the way. 

Want to dive deeper into this text? Check out our blog post on Understanding the Symbolic Nature of Setting in The Erratics. 


Margo Channing played by Bette Davis

As the protagonist of the movie, Margo Channing is a genuine and real actress raised by the theatre since the age of three. She is a vulnerable character who openly displays her strengths and weaknesses; Mankiewicz showcasing the life of a true actress through her. Initially, we see Margo as mercurial and witty, an actress with passion and desire (not motivated by fame but the true art of performing). She is the lead in successful plays and with friends like Karen and Lloyd to rely on and a loving partner, Bill, it seems that she has everything.

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However, Margo’s insecurities haunt her; with growing concerns towards her identity, longevity in the theatre and most importantly her relationship with Bill. Eventually, in a pivotal monologue, Margo discusses the problems that have been plaguing her. She battles with the idea of reaching the end of her trajectory, the thought that ‘in ten years from now – Margo Channing will have ceased to exist. And what’s left will be… what?’ By the end of the movie, Margo accepts the conclusion of her time in the theatre and understands that family and friends are what matters most, not the fame and success that come with being an acclaimed actress.

Eve Harrington played by Anne Baxter

Antagonist of All About Eve , Eve Harrington (later known as Gertrude Slojinski) is an egotistical and ambitious theatre rookie. With a ‘do-whatever-it-takes’ attitude, Eve is first introduced to the audience as a timid and mousy fan (one with utmost dedication and devotion to Margo). However, as the plot unfolds, Eve’s motive becomes increasingly clear and her actions can be labelled as amoral and cynical, as she uses the people around her to climb the ladder to fame.

Margo is her idealised object of desire and from the subtle imitations of her actions to infiltrating and betraying her close circle of friends, Eve ultimately comes out from the darkness that she was found in and takes Margo’s place in the theatre. Mankiewicz uses Eve’s character to portray the shallow and back-stabbing nature of celebrity culture; Eve’s betrayal extending beyond people as she eventually turns her back on the world of theatre, leaving Broadway for the flashing lights of Hollywood.

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Addison DeWitt played by George Sanders

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The voice that first introduces the audience to the theatre, Addison DeWitt is a cynical and manipulative theatre critic. Despite being ambitious and acid-tongued, forming a controlling alliance with Eve, Addison is not the villain.

The critic is the mediator and forms a bridge between the audience, the theatre world, and us; he explains cultural codes and conventions whilst also being explicitly in charge of what we see. Ultimately, Addison is ‘essential to the theatre’ and a commentator who makes or breaks careers.

Bill Simpson played by Gary Merill

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Bill Simpson is the director All About Eve does not focus on Bill’s professional work but rather places emphasis on his relationship with Margo. He is completely and utterly devoted to her and this is evident when he rejects Eve during an intimate encounter. Despite having a tumultuous relationship with Margo, Bill proves to be the rock; always remaining unchanged in how he feels towards her.

Karen Richards played by Celeste Holmes

Wife of Lloyd Richards and best friend and confidante to Margo Channing, Karen Richards is a character who supports those around her. During conversations she listens and shares her genuine advice, acting as a conciliator for her egocentric friends. Unfortunately, Karen is also betrayed by Eve, used as a stepping stone in her devious journey to fame.

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Lloyd Richards played by Hugh Marlowe

Successful playwright and husband to Karen Richards, Lloyd Richards writes the plays that Margo makes so successful. However, as Margo grows older in age, she begins to become irrelevant to the plays that Lloyd writes. Subsequently, this causes friction between the two characters and Mankiewicz uses this to show the audience the struggles of being an actress in the theatre; whilst also adding to the Margo’s growing concern towards her age.

Lloyd is unwilling to change the part for Margo and thus Eve becomes a more attractive match for the part. An unconfirmed romance between the budding actress and Lloyd also adds to the drama within All About Eve .


Birdie played by Thelma Ritter

A former vaudeville actress (which means that she acted in comic stage play which included song and dance), Margo’s dresser and close friend, Birdie is not afraid to speak the truth. Initially she sees right through Eve’s story and she warns Margo to watch her back. Despite not being in much of the movie, Birdie’s critical eye is a foreshadowing for the audience towards what is to come.

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Max Fabian played by Gregory Ratoff

Producer in the theatre, Max Fabian is involved in theatre just to ‘make a buck’. He is a hearty character who adds comic relief to a dramatic plot.

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Miss Claudia Caswell played by Marilyn Monroe

Aspiring actress, Miss Caswell is seen briefly throughout the movie to show the audience the shallow nature of the world of show business. Unlike Eve, she relies on her appearance to ‘make’ it rather than talent; as seen during her encounter with Max and the unsuccessful audition that followed.   

Phoebe played by Barbara Bates

The next rising star to follow in Eve’s footsteps, Phoebe is featured at the end of the film. In this scene there is a foreshadowing of the future, which suggests a repeat of the past, thus, making Phoebe an interesting character to observe. She is a manufactured construction of an actress and illustrates how replaceable a character is in the world of theatre.

Hey everyone! This is Part 2 in a series of videos I will release on VCE Study Guides. The content goes through the sample VCAA Chickens Range Free article which you can find  here . Feel free to analyse it yourself, then check out how I’ve analysed the article!

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Reckoning & The Namesake are studied as part of VCE English's Comparative. For one of our most popular posts on Comparative (also known as Reading and Comparing), check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Comparative .

  • Inheritance of Trauma 
  • Identity and Naming
  • Memory and Retrospect

Magda Szubanski’s memoir, Reckoning, and Jhumpa Lahiri’s bildungsroman, The Namesake, follow misguided protagonists as they attempt to reconcile and ‘reckon’ with complicated family histories. Magda is burdened by her father’s legacy, whilst Ashoke’s distressing train accident lays the foundation for Gogol’s uncertainty, exposing the inescapable and often inscrutable marks that trauma leaves on the identities of later generations. With a large focus on inherited trauma , identity and memory , we’ll be breaking down some crucial quotes from each of these texts to better understand these key themes. 

For a deeper look into some of the themes in Reckoning and The Namesake , check out this earlier post . And, if you need a refresher on how to properly embed quotes in your writing, take a look at How To Embed Quotes in Your Essay Like a Boss . 

1. Inheritance of Trauma

Whether it be the hardships of war or the adversity of misfortune, both texts observe family timelines steeped in history and trauma. Magda and Gogol are inadvertently burdened by their parents’ experiences, which remain obscure and confusing to the two protagonists and only complicate their identities. 

We were tugboats in the river of history, my father and I, pulling in opposite directions. He needed to forget. I need to remember. For him, only the present moment would set him free. For me, the key lies buried in the past. The only way forward is back. (p. 13)

This quote is intrinsic to the authorial intent behind Szubanski writing her cathartic memoir. The experiences of Magda’s father in war-torn Poland are, as Magda expresses, ‘passed on genetically’. Yet, with Zbigniew’s instinct to ‘[clamp] down tight on all feeling’, his trauma remains unrevealed and unexamined during much of Magda’s life. This impenetrable history impresses onto Magda as intergenerational trauma, which leaves her an ‘unregulated mess’, constantly  ‘ricocheting between feeling nothing and feeling everything’. 

As Magda accurately describes, both she and her father are metaphorical ‘tugboats in the river of history’, drawn in completely opposite directions to resolve their traumas. For her, digging into the ‘buried’ past is vital to understanding her father and herself. As she puts it, ‘the only way forward is back’. This is entirely the opposite for Zbigniew, who is unwilling and unable to articulate his trauma in anything other than ‘incoherent…jottings’ and ‘fragments’. Burdened by his past, Zbigniew prefers living in the present moment where he can suppress and avoid the past. However, this difference in how the two approach trauma leads to a strained father-daughter relationship founded upon a lifetime of misunderstandings and secrecy that only deepen their inability to understand one another. 

‘ Even at that young age,’ Mum told me, ‘I knew, I knew I had done something wrong.’ When she told me this her face caved in, stricken with remorse. Actors can never replicate this look. Meg didn’t punish her, but ‘Oh! The look of disappointment on my poor mother’s face.’ Now, today, more than eighty years later, my mother still feels the stinging sense of guilt.  History repeats. That story of how, when I was six, I got blood on my best dress before a trip to take Dad to hospital. Mum slapped my leg in hasty anger. I understand now, of course, that it was herself she was slapping. Her life-loving, disobedient six-year-old self. We are bookends, she and I. (p. 346)

Intergenerational trauma surfaces as ‘patterns’ within the Szubanski family, where regret and resentment are passed down as ‘hand-me-down trinkets of family and trauma’. Magda uses the metaphor of ‘bookends’ to describe her and her mother’s remarkably similar experiences dealing with familial trauma. In other words, both Magda and Margaret are mirror images of each other, both having a shared experience of supporting and living with ill fathers. When Magda gets ‘blood on [her] best dress’ before another trip to the hospital, Margaret ‘slap[s her] leg’. Although Magda initially mistakes this reaction as ‘hasty anger’, hindsight allows her to understand that Margaret was preoccupied with a ‘stinging sense of guilt’, and was reprimanding herself - the ‘disobedient six-year-old self’ who had similarly ruined her own ‘special dress’. This realisation suggests that even though trauma ‘repeats [like]…history’, there is a generational difference in the way individuals are able to process and respond to situations of grief, poverty and war. 

‍ The Namesake

And suddenly the sound of his pet name, uttered by his father as he has been accustomed to hearing it all his life, means something completely new, bound up with a catastrophe he has unwittingly embodied for years. "Is that what you think of when you think of me?" Gogol asks him. "Do I remind you of that night?" "Not at all," his father says eventually, one hand going to his ribs, a habitual gesture that has baffled Gogol until now. "You remind me of everything that followed." (p. 124)

Just as Magda inherits Zbigniew’s harrowing war experience, Ashoke’s own ‘persistent fear’ from the train derailment that cripples him lives on through his son’s name. His chance rescue whilst ‘clutching a single page of ‘The Overcoat’’ is meaningful and life-altering. For Ashoke, naming his child after the ‘Russian writer who had saved his life’ emphasises his profound appreciation for surviving the accident. His son Gogol is a comforting reminder of ‘everything that followed’. In this way, Gogol acts as a symbol of both redemption and hope, representing Ashoke’s optimistic appraisal of his accident and his determination to make the most of his miraculous rescue. 

But for Gogol, the memory of his father’s accident is entirely foreign and lacks any real meaning for him. His childhood pet name ‘Gogol’ - which he has always resented for making him feel out of place around other kids - suddenly becomes ‘something completely new’ when he discovers the truth about Ashoke’s accident. Gogol feels enormous pressure to live up to his father’s expectations as he represents a ‘catastrophe he has unwittingly embodied for years’. This is the source of much of Gogol’s guilt, confusion and resentment (towards his name, father, family and entire culture) and gradually erodes his sense of self. However, this inscrutability of the past only deepens Ashoke’s and Gogol’s similarity, whilst complicating and straining their father-son dynamic. Ashoke is unable to recognise the burden he has placed on his child, whilst Gogol alternatively cannot appreciate or truly understand being a miracle and source of salvation for Ashoke. Like with Magda and Zbigniew, here, father and child are unable to understand each other, creating a schism in their relationship which they are never able to reconcile. In any case, Lahiri conveys that the actions of enduring and processing trauma are intertwined and often leave permanent traces across future generations.

But Gogol is attached to them. For reasons he cannot explain or necessarily understand, these ancient Puritan spirits, these very first immigrants to America, these bearers of unthinkable, obsolete names, have spoken to him, so much so that in spite of his mother’s disgust he refuses to throw the rubbings away. He rolls them up, takes them upstairs, and puts them in his room, behind his chest of drawers, where he knows his mother will never bother to look, and where they will remain, ignored but protected, gathering dust for years to come. (p. 71)

Lahiri also indicates generational similarities in how individuals relate to trauma. As a second-generation migrant who has always felt displaced from his culture, Gogol’s graveyard field trip allows him to experience a semblance of belonging in Massachusetts for the first time and relate to America’s ‘very first immigrants’. While Ashoke profoundly connects to the Russian writer Nikolai Gogol, his son Gogol refuses to get rid of the etchings of archaic names. These ‘ancient Puritan spirits’ with similarly ‘unthinkable, obsolete names’ like his own provide Gogol with a source of relief and offer proof that he is not alone in his differences. He feels protective of them - conveying his own desires to defend himself against childhood bullies, and also providing a way to preserve this first true moment of belonging. 

Just as ‘The Overcoat’ resonates with Ashoke, Gogol feels connected to the etchings and conceals this single page from his mother Ashima, who is resentful of the peculiar American school excursion. Similarly, Ashoke struggles to convey the deep significance behind his own liberating ‘single page’ from the Russian book. In this way, both pages remain ‘ignored but protected’ and, for both father and son, symbolise the power of literature and storytelling to salvage their profoundly intimate and life-altering moments that are unfathomable to others. 

2. Identity and Naming

Both Reckoning and The Namesake suggest that hasty personal reinventions can only temporarily suppress, rather than truly resolve, trauma. The ‘self-made man’ Gogol strives to be, and the ‘mostly-self created…Little Englishman’ identity that Zbigniew carves for himself, are simply ‘bandaids plastered over’ unresolved grief and hardships. Cut off from family and history, these facades only worsen their inner discontent and complicate identities. 

For my father Australia was love at first sight. The moment we landed he knew he had done the right thing. The blast-furnace heat invigorated him. Only mad dogs and my father would go out in the midday Australian sun. He wouldn’t just go out in it…he would mow the lawn in it. We had a big, bumpy, untamed backyard and when the mercury hit 103 degrees Fahrenheit he’d be out there dragging the lawnmower across every inch of it. Wearing Bombay bloomers and a terry-towelling hat, singing Polish songs over the din of the mower. (p. 44)

Escaping battle-scarred Poland and the origins of his trauma, Zbigniew is a migrant who ‘could not shed his Polishness fast enough’. He ‘crosse[s] the world to get away’ from his destroyed and tarnished home. Zbigniew begins a ‘second life’ as Peter, and like the Polish amber Magda’s cousin gifts her, Zbigniew is ‘transformed by pressure’ (a metaphor for the natural formation of amber) into the ‘Little Englishman’. This persona is a role he takes with grave determination - an echo of the ‘killer instincts’ he suppressed from his abandoned life as a Polish assassin. Bewildering the rest of his family, Zbigniew relishes the ‘invigorat[ing]…blast-furnace heat’ of Australia, and acts the part of a true Aussie in his ‘Bombay bloomers’ and ‘terry-towelling hat’. This characteristically Australian ensemble essentially functions as another battle armour he equips himself with to protect his blemished soul, tainted by a history so ‘bizarrely awful’ that his only way to survive is by ‘clamping down tight’ through an ironclad persona. 

Magda recalls him ‘forever trying to tame th[e] lumpen block’ of ‘untamed’ and ‘unpredictable’ soil in their yard, ‘dragging the lawnmower across every inch’. This crystallises the truth of his life: no matter how committed Zbigniew is to perfecting any project, simply plastering order (trying to tame the lawns by mowing them) over chaos (heat + lumpen, untamed, unpredictable soil) leaves the trauma unresolved.

The rest of it went smoothly and before too long I had my entire sharpie uniform. Only one thing was missing—a Conti. This smart striped cardigan, worn high and tight, was the centrepiece of the ensemble, the definitive wardrobe item of the sharpie. But none was available, not in Croydon anyway. We had to settle for a plain cardie, rolled up at the bottom until it sat under my boobs. I never did get a Conti. I think it was a sign. (p. 126)

Like her father, Magda toys with personas herself. Identity is fluid and inconstant for Magda, often fluctuating between a form Zbigniew would be proud of, one she hopes would trigger any emotional reaction from him, and one desperate to fit within the social climate of Croydon. She cultivates a variety of comic personalities and, like her father, pursues her own ‘tennis madness’ by becoming madly obsessed with the sport and playing competitively. Magda also attempts to embrace the dutiful Catholic ‘good girl’ personality she believes would satisfy her father, but she rebels when he continues to ‘display [no] emotion at all’ and embraces the Sharpie youth gang uprising in her neighbourhood. However, Magda ruefully mocks the contradictory nature of her Sharpie persona, describing her conversion as a hybrid - a ‘convent-school Sharpie’ - rather than the ‘true Sharpie chick’ she aspires to be. But, while all of these personas attempt to unite the ‘disparate, confusing parts’ of her identity, they just suppress the ‘real girl’ behind the mask and leave her more dissociated from herself than ever before. 

Magda goes to great lengths to ‘smoothly’ acquire the perfect Sharpie disguise, but even with the ‘entire Sharpie uniform’, her facade is flawed; she lacks the Conti cardigan, which is the ‘definitive wardrobe item of the sharpie’. Her Sharpie identity becomes a parody of the authentic Australian youth gang. The flaws behind her imitation persona are worsened when Magda tries to replace the Conti ‘centrepiece’ with a simple ‘plain cardie, rolled up at the bottom’. Magda only realises this when she barely avoids a ‘beating’ by a ‘predatory Sharpie’ whilst vulnerable, dressed in her convent-school uniform, and unrecognisable as a fellow gang member. Here, she is finally able to concede that she has only been ‘playing at being a bad girl’ and laments, ‘I never did get a Conti. I think it was a sign’ - wryly foreshadowing the inevitable dissatisfaction of teenage facades. 

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The Namesake

"I'm Nikhil now," Gogol says, suddenly depressed by how many more times he will have to say this, asking people to remember, reminding them to forget, feeling as if an errata slip were perpetually pinned to his chest. (p. 119)

Gogol’s place in the world as an ‘American Born Confused Deshi’ (ABCD) is his own ‘awkward [truth]’. Like his own name which he scornfully labels a ‘scratchy tag’, his status as an ‘ABCD’ is another brand he is ‘forced permanently to wear’. He is both ashamed and resentful toward his second-generation migrant identity and feels ‘neither Indian nor American’ whilst mocked for his nickname that is ‘of all things Russian’. Indeed, Gogol’s entire adolescent experience is eclipsed by his confusion about ‘who he is’ as he struggles to obtain any stable foundation for his identity. 

Unlike the costumes and disguises that Magda and Zbigniew embrace, Gogol takes action by solemnly changing his name to Nikhil, the ‘one that should have been’ given to him all those years ago. But even Gogol is acutely aware that this ‘scant’ persona leaves him having to repeatedly reinforce and assure others (and himself) of his identity. Gogol actually rejects the name ‘Nikhil’ on his first day of preschool, foreshadowing the inward dissociation he experiences later in life. He is again ‘afraid to be Nikhil, someone he doesn’t know.’

Similarly, the flask Gogol’s sister Sonia gives to him for his thirtieth birthday, inscribed with his new initials NG, becomes a symbol of his inability to ‘break from that mismatched name’. Lahiri indeed suggests that identities are unavoidably ‘engraved’ with the layered ‘randomness’ of their lives and cannot be easily dissolved. 

And then he returned to New York, to the apartment they’d inhabited together that was now all his. A year later, the shock has worn off, but a sense of failure and shame persists, deep and abiding. There are nights he still falls asleep on the sofa, without deliberation, waking up at three A.M. with the television still on. It is as if a building he’d been responsible for designing has collapsed for all to see. And yet he can’t really blame her. They had both acted on the same impulse, that was their mistake. They had both sought comfort in each other, and in their shared world, perhaps for the sake of novelty, or out of the fear that that world was slowly dying. Still, he wonders how he’s arrived at all this: that he is thirty-two years old, and already married and divorced. His time with her seems like a permanent part of him that no longer has any relevance, or currency. As if that time were a name he’d ceased to use. (pp. 283-284)

For the majority of his life, Gogol alternates between feeling irritation and resentment for his Bengali heritage, and profoundly longing to be truly Indian. Gogol has several failed relationships and romantic encounters: Kim, with whom he introduces himself as Nikhil ‘for the first time in his life’, then Maxine, who attracted him with the ‘gift of accepting her life’. But, like his indulgence of and immersion in the Ratliff’s self-satisfied American life, the interactions with these women feel like a ‘betrayal of his own’ culture, family and identity. 

It is ‘familiarity’ that draws him to Moushumi, a childhood Bengali family friend with whom he ’s[eeks] comfort’ in their shared culture. For Gogol, his relationship with Moushumi represents the possibility of salvaging a childhood he spent disliking, but for Moushumi it’s a betrayal of her principles of independence. She has ‘turn[ed] her back’ her Indian and American ties to embrace a third culture in France, a country with ‘no claim’ on her and none of the cultural pressures of her heritage. 

Gogol longs - ironically - for stability and ‘fall[s] in love with Gothic architecture’; he equates his failed marriage with Moushumi to a ‘building he’d been responsible for designing’. This is essentially Gogol’s way of dealing with the trauma of his divorce, translated into a form he can understand and process. And yet, even a year after their separation, a ‘sense of failure and shame persists, deep and abiding’ - Lahiri suggests that trauma, grief and heartbreak are embedded into our identities and we don’t require a set length of time to accept them. 

Both Moushumi and Gogol come to realise that they were sustained merely by ‘the same impulse’ to erase discomfort, their marriage ‘collaps[ing] for all to see’. Their relationship becomes meaningless and their time together dissolves like a ‘name [Gogol had] ceased to use’. Lahiri conveys that re-entering and recreating a life once discarded (as harshly as Gogol discards his own name) is impossible, even irrational. 

3. Memory and Retrospect

It is no surprise that retrospect and remembrance emerge as central themes in both Reckoning and The Namesake . Gogol’s resented ‘namesake’ itself is a conduit for redemptive memory, whilst Magda ascertains the value of history to ‘salvage’ the present.

I wanted to know; I didn’t want to know. Without realising it I plotted a course somewhere between the two. My father, unable to get any further with his own attempts at a reckoning, had simply closed the door on the past. And now I was about to open that door. (p. 290)

Retrospect specifically becomes a vital motif in Reckoning as Szubanski uses her memoir to ‘join up the dots of [her]self’ and gain perspective on her father’s ‘unresolved and unexamined feelings’. Through her adult perspective, she reflects on her early doubts as she is finally able to appreciate and understand her heritage, reading ‘ Dni Powstania ’ and ‘Exodus’ on the Poles’ shame. Although Magda and Zbigniew ‘[pull] in opposite directions’ for most of her life, only by becoming the ‘collector of [Zbigniew’s]…stories’ and taping his ‘confession’ are the two brought to some level of understanding. Magda is finally able to ‘ rozumiesz ’ (to understand) that her father had ‘never helped the Nazis’, and on some level, ‘feel the feelings [her] father could not allow himself’. Perhaps more importantly, Zbigniew is able to share the paradoxical nature of his guilt - ‘what he had done in the name of good’ - feeling neither ‘ashamed’ nor ‘proud’ of his past. His reflection through the outlook of a ‘half old, half young’ version of himself mirrors Magda’s own introspection - in this sense, the ways in which Magda and Zbigniew are resolving (or at least learning to accept) trauma are ‘repeat[ing like]…history’ in their family. 

I was never told anything much about Luke. But my mother’s eyes—beneath the humour—were haunted by a deep, fretting sadness. Behind the querulous hypervigilance, the nitpicking, the irritability, there cowered a terrified child. A child full of panicky uncertainty about everything. I wanted to reach back and grab her hand and pull her through time and…what? I wanted to hug my mother when she was a child, to tell her everything was all right. (p. 336)

Szubanski observes how generations of poverty and war have shaped her mother’s ‘flinty’, unyielding determination to ‘just…get on with it’ and move on from adversity. Her ‘deep, fretting sadness’ hidden ‘beneath [her] humour’ is compassion and grief for her father, Luke, who ‘woke every night screaming’ after the war. This resonates strongly with Magda because her own father’s war experience mirrors Luke’s. The two families (Magda’s family, and her mother’s family) are forced to ‘[walk] on eggshells for fear of detonating [them]’. 

However, Magda is able to understand that her mother’s capricious tendency to ‘cling like a python then turn and snap like a crocodile’ is a product of her trauma, which allows Magda to understand Margaret’s character on a more intimate and genuine level. Magda, as a neglected and ‘terrified child’ with ‘panicky uncertainty’ herself, empathising with Margaret’s own troubled childhood allows Magda to offer her mother the comfort and support she craved when struggling alone beneath Zbigniew’s ‘exacting…standards’. Through this, Szubanski seems to suggest that although the legacy of trauma is an ongoing and deeply complex process, ‘reach[ing] back’ to process unresolved traumas together becomes a precious and vital way to ‘salvage’ bruised relationships. 

There is no question of skipping this meal; on the contrary, for ten evenings the three of them are strangely hungry, eager to taste the blandness on their plates. It is the one thing that structures their days: the sound of the food being warmed in the microwave, three plates lowered from the cupboard, three glasses filled. The rest of it—the calls, the flowers that are everywhere, the visitors, the hours they spend sitting together in the living room unable to say a word, mean nothing. Without articulating it to one another, they draw comfort from the fact that it is the only time in the day that they are alone, isolated, as a family; even if there are visitors lingering in the house, only the three of them partake of this meal. And only for its duration is their grief slightly abated, the enforced absence of certain foods on their plates conjuring his father's presence somehow. (pp. 180-181)

Even in death, Ashoke’s spirit is able to heal his fractured, grief-ridden family - truly and ultimately ‘transcend[ing] grief’, fulfilling the destiny his name’s meaning set out for him. Surrounded by meaningless condolences and forced sympathy - the ‘calls’, the ‘flowers’ and the ‘visitors’ - the Ganguli family is left ‘unable to say a word’ or process their loss in a safe and judgement-free space. The ‘mourner’s diet’ that sustains them, even in all its ‘blandness’, is able to ‘slightly [abate]’ their grief; it ‘conjur[es Ashoke’s] presence’ and unites the ‘isolated’ Gangulis ‘as a family’. Ironically, these cultural traditions that young Gogol so adamantly refused become the ‘only thing that seems to make sense’. Preserving and honouring Ashoke’s memory, this forsaken custom becomes an unanticipated lifeline for a family torn apart by cultural expectations, irreconcilable differences and shared tragedy. 

"Try to remember it always," he said once Gogol had reached him, leading him slowly back across the breakwater, to where his mother and Sonia stood waiting. "Remember that you and I made this journey, that we went together to a place where there was nowhere left to go." (p. 187)

Unlike Magda and Zbigniew who are able to reconnect in life, Gogol’s own poignant flashbacks with his father are cherished only after his death. However, it is only with this hindsight that Gogol is truly able to appreciate these initially resented, perhaps forgotten, moments as meaningful connections to his family. Gogol’s relationship with his father is tragically underpinned by a lifetime of misinterpretations and misunderstood trauma, the two unable to understand each other’s disparate outlooks on life and culture. However, when they visit Cape Cod both Gogol and Ashoke are, if only momentarily, pioneers. They are exposed to the world, just as Ashoke had been when he migrated to America; the two travelling ‘together to a place where there was nowhere left to go’. 

Gogol indeed grapples with a desire for stability and meaning throughout his entire life, bewildered by the ‘unintended’ series of ‘defining and distressing’ events. However, family indeed becomes the source of true security for Gogol. ‘Remember[ing]…always’, he preserves the memory of his father, and resistant to time and change, it remains a comforting constant amidst the ‘randomness’ that characterises and complicates his family’s life.

Anna Funder’s Stasiland and Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go bring together two complex, poignant worlds of “personal stories” and subjective narration of what once was, an individual's place in history and its aftermath, especially when the world attempts to move on.

Establishing a literary allusion to Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in the title, Funder’s narrator of Anna fills the role of Alice as she stumbles upon and explores the absurd and unjust world of the German Democratic Republic (GDR). Driven by an almost naive curiosity, akin to Alice herself, Funder conducts extensive interviewing to uncover not only the stories and experiences of the victims of the regime, but also of the Stasi, the “internal army by which the government kept control”. Through her literary journalism, Funder creates an intimate and sensory experience for the reader, extending beyond factual occurrences to capture the “horror-romance” of East Germany, “a country which no longer exists” but its inhabitants, victims and perpetrators continue to live on.

TIP - Research the history of the German Democratic Republic, the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall and the influence of the Soviet Union within East Germany, in contrast to West Germany. Understanding the backbone of “this land gone wrong” in which Funder delves into gives much greater context for the significance of her work and ideas in which you can explore in your writing.

Never let me go.

Ishiguro delves into human mortality through the platform of a science fiction world, where the focus is ultimately on the prospect of an existence where one’s life is knowingly shortened, and what becomes important with such a backdrop. Readers are introduced to the concept of ‘clones’, existing as live incubators of organs that will be later harvested for others. Perceived by society as less than humans, Ishiguro’s narrative focuses on clones who spent time at Hailsham, a boarding school ‘experiment’ in England which attempted to provide a more ‘humane’ education and upbringing for clones, and their sheltered perspectives on their existence, their mortality and purpose.

Authors’ views and values

Why have Funder and Ishiguro written what they have written?

Funder’s dogged pursuit to uncover and reveal the “portraits” of individuals who lived through the GDR was prompted by West Germany’s dismissal of, and use of stereotypes when these individuals were concerned, and the assumption that “no-one is interested in these people”. She discovers that “things have been put behind glass”, in the forms of museums and metaphorical mausoleums, “but they are not yet over”. Stasiland therefore acts as a work that champions the importance of memory, of remembering and of history, as Sisyphean of a task as this inevitably is because it is “working… against time”. In addition, Funder’s purposeful choice to include the perspectives of the Stasi themselves opens up another realm of understanding to the reader. It allows the audience to examine the Stasi's motives and justifications, their humanity or lack thereof, of the lessons learnt and unlearnt, as a means of framing the entire regime and of framing the spectrum of humanity.

Whilst Ishiguro’s universe differs greatly when placed alongside Stasiland , his characters also belong to a world that no longer exists, as their Hailsham upbringing evolves into a historical artefact, reflective of a world that “wanted [the clones] back in the shadows” and which remained oblivious to the reality of the clones’ existence. Ishiguro gives voice to the clones; the “poor creatures” who otherwise possessed no voice or recognised humanity in this world, and no purpose apart from their utility as organ donors. These individuals are shown to be no less human than you and I, and it is in their sheltered lives, headed towards “wherever it was [they were] supposed to be”, which permits the reader to examine their own life purpose and meaning, and how a clone’s existence is ultimately reduced in not only length, but also ability and capacity.  

Both texts confront uncomfortable truths about humanity and reality, the treatment that certain individuals were unfortunately subjected to which resulted in their dehumanising, and which “broke” them, sooner or later.

TIP - Reframe this question for any text you are studying - including text response! There is intent and purpose underlying each and every text that is definitely worthy of thorough unpacking and consideration; the thinking you will do will help to further your analysis and comparison considerably.

Themes and comparison.

What are the big ideas underpinning the texts? How are they explored? What sorts of comparisons can be drawn between the two texts?

At LSG, we use the CONVERGENT and DIVERGENT strategy to help us easily find points of similarity and difference. This is particularly important when it comes to essay writing, because you want to know that you're coming up with unique comparative points (compared to the rest of the Victorian cohort!). I don't discuss this strategy in detail here, but if you're interested, check out my How To Write A Killer Comparative . I use this strategy throughout my analysis of the following themes.

Dystopian reality

Stasiland : As prompted by the VCAA 2015 exam, the GDR is indeed ‘cruel and absurd’, especially in the methods the nation constructed and enforced this society, as this ultimately broke the souls of innocent individuals, and left questions unanswered and scars unhealed for many. It showcases how what could potentially be described as 'idealistic' in terms of government control can become grotesque, how otherworldly and Orwellian this recent history seems, and how the perspectives of victim, perpetrator, outsider and more are not restricted to the land of the GDR, but to today as well. In addition, as Funder discovers, these perspectives are closely intertwined, in which certain individuals of the Stasi were victimised too, and could not remain in the "group in the know [as] one of the unmolested".

Never Let Me Go : The novel’s context of clones is removed from the reality that readers are familiar with, and as Ishiguro focuses on the clones’ perspectives throughout, there always remains an element that feels 'off' and ’not quite right’ about who they are and the purpose of their existence. Whilst the context of Never Let Me Go differs greatly from a regime with "the most perfected surveillance state of all time", it highlights an unsettling reality, in which scientific advancement has resulted in a society benefitting from the clones' existence and from organ harvesting, but who are also rejecting of the possibility of their humanity. The clones may never be able to perceive and fully understand this cruelty or absurdity themselves, but this does not mean they are not victims of this, for a fate that they could not choose.

Possible points for comparison : The victimisation of individuals in both texts, whether it was internalised or ushered into oblivion is central to the absurd worlds of Stasiland and Never Let Me Go . The clones are in a way, victims from birth, and unable to avoid their shortened existence and purpose, whereas those in the GDR who were subjected to surveillance, interrogation, torture, etc. became ensnared and damaged beyond repair; the aftermath of which they were unable to escape from. However, the closing of Hailsham and the falling of the Berlin Wall spell out different fates in the two texts - those in Stasiland may be "fettered" by their past that is "not ever, really, over", but are provided a future in which there is hope for rebirth in the "green", "lush" city of Berlin and beyond. On the contrary, the clones are only able to move toward their fate, towards "wherever it was [they are] supposed to be" and towards completion. Coupled with the naivety accompanying the clones' existence, their acceptance of what is ahead and the lack of awareness surrounding their victimisation, readers are prompted to consider the cruelty of such existence, and whether there is greater tragedy in having your "soul buckled out of shape, forever", or in never knowing who you really are.

The act of remembering

Stasiland : In discussing and unearthing a recent history of a "bygone world" that many individuals wish to "pretend it was never there", Funder's attempt to create and immortalise "portraits" of East Germans raises questions about how events and lives are remembered and forgotten. Especially when elements of this past in the GDR could not be "pinned down by facts, or documents", the detrimental impact of a lack of recognition and acknowledgement of one's past, especially one filled with trauma, is thereby highlighted by Funder. When the rest of the world deems the GDR and the Stasi to only belong "behind glass" in museums and yet it is "not yet over" for those who are still suffering and carrying scars, physical and psychological, the purpose of Stasiland rings clear and true. Whilst it is a Sisyphean attempt, "working against forgetting, and against time", through Stasiland , Funder ultimately gives a voice to the "personal stories" comprising history, before there are "none left".

Never Let Me Go : Through the lens of Kathy H's narration and the recollection of her memories surrounding her upbringing, readers uncover the pieces of her existence as moments of her past begin "tugging at [her] mind". Memory itself can be fickle, recording and preserving certain experiences but not others, and as time passes, "fading surprisingly quickly" before being lost in the ether of one's past. Ishiguro's continual mention of Kathy's memories of an event, of her years at Hailsham and beyond almost lulls the reader into overlooking this element of the narration - in which the reader's understanding is built upon an uncertain and incomplete foundation of facts; similar to how the clones' "sheltered" understanding of their world came to be. After Hailsham closes, its existence recedes into the memories of the clones, and although Kathy declares that the memories will be retained "safely in [her] head", upon her completion, this will also be lost, and Hailsham will be further diminished in history as a 'failed experiment' and one day forgotten.

Possible points for comparison : The valiant efforts to remember and preserve the once-was is woven into the fabric of both texts, despite the inevitability of forgetting as death and 'completion' claims those who lived through East Germany and Hailsham respectively. When the recent history of the GDR becomes a "lost world", and the importance of remembering what transpired is being superseded by the innovation and process of the present, it opens up room for the same mistakes of the past to be made again. Hailsham was an attempt to create a more idealised and humane upbringing for the clones, and to showcase their humanity in a society which rejected this, and the boarding school's closure reflects a failure in which any previous successes will never be acknowledged. Memory, and by extension, one's understanding of the past is what enables change in the future; in attitude, in approach, in the treatment of others, in decisions, in growth, as an individual and as a whole. With its gradual loss, it may also be ineluctable that history repeats itself in one way or another.

Subjective narration, stories and lives

Stasiland : Stasiland itself is comprised of the stories of human lives, and includes various individuals' tenacity, strength and courage to their vices, cruelty and cowardice. By seeking out not only those who were victims of the regime but also perpetrators, Funder examines the many complex facets of human nature and the irreversible impact of the GDR on East Germans and who they became or were broken into. However, the personal involvement of Anna as a narrator and most importantly, as an outsider to the GDR provides a subjective perspective of this history. Whilst this has received criticism, it is important to consider how the human experience itself is subjective, as is never being able to truly understand another individual's story as the exact experience is theirs alone to hold and perhaps be "fettered" to; both of which are evident in Stasiland .

Never Let Me Go : Ishiguro constructs a narrative in which Kathy H and the clones are assumed human individuals from the text’s introduction, and it is only as the clones uncover how they may be "troubling and strange" that the reader gains a sense of how they are perceived in society as sub-human. However, the pre-determined fate and mortality of these "poor creatures", especially as they are born and 'complete' seemingly without a scope of awareness beyond their exposure during their upbringing and their sole purpose as organ donors - renders their lives even more heart wrenching and tragic - and human. The simplicity with which Ishiguro details the musings and reflections of Kathy H, and in the concluding moment of her imagined fantasy of Tommy, as not "out of control" as she may felt, readers cannot ignore the stark juxtaposition with the circumstances of her existence, in which she ultimately has no control over her identity as a clone. To grasp autonomy, to defy and deviate from being "wherever it was [she] was supposed to be", even for a moment, Ishiguro portrays a courage which is undoubtedly human.  

Possible points for comparison : When faced with the stories of lives not our own, but each individual possessing elements which resonate and resemble us, it is much more possible to understand their struggles, their intentions and their experiences. Consider the story behind each face, each character, each name, not only in these two texts but also other texts and even our lives, as we are fundamentally more similar than different when compared to each other, even in the face of separation and distinction.

Ultimately, Funder and Ishiguro's texts probe the existential question of what it means to be human and what defines one's identity, and how it is shaped by experience, fate, intentions and actions. Question the texts, question the characters, question yourselves, and you'll discover worlds and perspectives closer to home than the GDR or Hailsham may initially seem.

We’ve explored creative writing criteria, literary elements and how to replicate the text over on our The Ultimate Guide to VCE Creative Writing blog post . If you need a quick refresher or you’re new to creative writing, I highly recommend checking it out!

For many students, writing creative pieces can be slightly daunting. For some, it is about unleashing the writer within as the boundaries and thematic constraints that exist in Text Response are lifted. For others, it can be an opportunity to discover new writing styles, branching out from the generic T-E-E-L structure.

Formats of imaginative pieces include:

  • short narratives,
  • a personal diary entry ,
  • chronicling the character's thoughts,
  • and monologues.

Writing in an imaginative style allows you to draw from your own morals, views and feelings. You can weave in personal anecdotes, experiences, and metaphorical language which gives one's writing that pizazz and individualist factor!

Moreover, you can showcase how you have perceived and interpreted the characters within the novel/film, the landscapes they inhabit. Alternatively, you can step into different personas. For example, for the topic of conflict, I can write as an injured army medic, a doctor, a foreign correspondent and a war photographer.

However, imaginative writing also has many pitfalls students tumble into (do not despair; you can get out of it!):

1) Don't get too caught up in emotions and flowery language.

Great imaginative pieces are not only graded on how good your story telling skills are. More importantly, your teachers would be grading on the palpable links to the themes of the text and prompt you have been given.

In Year 11, when I wrote an imaginative piece, I went overboard with the flowery metaphorical language. My teacher said ‘Overall, the piece is good however, at some parts it sounded like purple prose.’ When I read it over now, I shudder a little.

2) In Reading and Creative, there is greater emphasis on extrapolating themes and ideas from your studied text.  

So, those radical and out-of-the box ideas and views you have in relation to the text can now be used.

For example, the overarching themes in  Every Man In This Village Is A Liar  encompass the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, inequality (the unequal status of women in Middle East), the effect of war on the physical body and the human psych and, how the media portrays war and violence. The starting point to planning any context piece is to use quotes and ideas within your text. Infer meaning from those quotes and main ideas and ask yourself:

  • 'Does it hold a great degree of relevance to issues prevalent today?'
  • 'Can I link it to my sac/exam prompt?' 

So, here's an example of planning a creative piece. Two of my favourite quotes from  Life of Galileo  are:

'Science is the rightful, much loved daughter of the church.'
‘Our ignorance is limitless; let us lop off a millimeter off it. Why try to be clever now that we at last have a chance of being less stupid.’

In essence, this conveys the overarching theme of science vs. religion, and how Church and the inquisition exploit the peoples' views through their own ignorance. Their fear of change, pioneering and gaining of new knowledge stems from the prospect of chaos if society's entrenched values are uprooted. I interpreted this as 'ignorance is not bliss' and instead, it breeds fear in people. This is in relevance with the tragic events that has occurred in recent years - acts of terrorism, and/or racially motivated attacks. In the context of our modern society, religion and science still maintain an intriguing and tumultuous relationship. As the advancement of technology and ethics are not at equilibrium, this is where controversy arises. Conversely, we now have to consider whether this relates to the prompt:

A person never knows who they truly are, until tested by conflict.

Possible idea for this example:

"Is it ethical to administer a new drug capable of rewiring and regenerating brain function at a neuronal level to someone who has sustained extensive brain damage? Is it deemed humane to potentially change a person's character? At what personal cost will this have? - Playing god."

Tips to achieve A+ in creative writing

1. ensure it is related to the text..

A lot of students believe that the reading and creating essay is exactly the same as the old context essay. However, there is a significant difference! While a creative context essay does not have to link to the text in any way and only needs to explore a certain idea (e.g. encountering conflict), the reading and creating essay needs to offer a relevant interpretation of the text as well as show understanding of the text’s messages and how the text creates meaning .

The easiest way to write a creative response that links clearly to the text is to write about a scenario that is related to the plot line. You can do this by writing a continuation of the storyline (i.e. what happens after the end?), or by filling in gaps in the plot line which the author did not explicitly outline (what happens behind the scenes that caused the outcome?) In this way, your response will be completely original and still demonstrate an understanding of the world of the text.

2. Write in a way that shows understanding of how the text creates meaning.

When creating your response, be aware of the features present in your text (such as characters, narrative, motifs etc) that you can use in your own essay. For example, if the text is narrated from a first-person perspective, you may also mimic this in your essay. Or, you could tell it in first-person from another character’s point of view to demonstrate another interpretation of the text. You may also include motifs from the text into your own response. But be careful when making decisions about structure, conventions and language. If the text is written in very formal and concise language, it is probably not a good idea to use slang. Similarly, if the text is a play, structuring your response as a script might be a better choice than writing a poem!

3. Explore the explicit and implied ideas and values in the texts.

Lastly, remember that whilst it is a creative response, your purpose is NOT to tell a nice story but to explore the ideas, values and messages left by the author! There will always be various interpretations regarding these values, and you can express your understanding of the text through your portrayal of certain characters, or through the events in your response. For example, if you were studying Measure for Measure and wanted to explore how human nature cannot be restrained or limited by law and punishment, you could write a continuation of the play in which the city of Vienna has reverted to its original state of moral decay.

4. Show, don't tell

Creative essays are great because they offer interesting and unique stories; however, there is one common downfall that occurs in writing. Some students create pieces that are  too  straightforward. Rather than using vocabulary, imagery and symbolism to express a point, they simply write down a statement that sums up what they wish to say. Your aim is to invite the reader to  experience  the story through your words. This can be done through the character’s thoughts, feelings, actions etc. Thus the well-known phrase among writers, ‘ Show, don’t tell’ . Keeping this idea in mind turn you into a much more successful writer – and you’ll see the difference!

Tell: Katie was very happy.

Show: Katie’s face lifted. Little wrinkles appeared around her bright eyes, her dimples made an appearance that dug into her cheeks as a big grin emerged to show her perfect teeth.

Tell: She felt horrible for the weeping children.

Show: Guilt throbbed inside her as she stared at the weeping children. Her heart pounded against her chest, her hands trembling beside her still body, her brain screaming at her to do  something .

Tell: I was scared.

Show: I hear my breathing; heavy, and rapid. I shut my eyes tightly. I can feel goosebumps running up my arms and down my back.

To test whether or not you are ‘telling’ instead of ‘showing’, think about whether or not your sentence leaves room for questions. In Example 1, ‘Katie was very happy’ would leave the reader thinking – what thought or action showed that she was happy? Whereas ‘show’ demonstrated that she was happy without directly stating it.

The key is to go into the finer details of your story!

Finally, have fun and enjoy the process of planning a creative narrative, let your imagination run a little wild and rein it in with your knowledge! Hopefully these tips were helpful and you are now more confident and informed on the Reading and Creating response! 

This blog post was written by Amanda Lau, Rosemary Chen, and Lisa Tran.

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The Nuances Of Comparative Essay Structure

Want to craft a stellar comparative essay? Let’s learn about the structure of Comparative essays.

Essay structure is a crucial skill for achieving those coveted grades 8-9 in GCSE English. At Bettering Youth , we believe in nurturing academic excellence while prioritizing the well-being of our students. Let’s explore the structure, key elements, and impactful vocabulary to elevate your child’s comparative essay writing.

Understanding Comparative Essays

A comparative essay involves analyzing and comparing two or more texts to uncover meaningful connections, contrasts, and insights. It goes beyond summarizing; it delves into the nuances of literary elements, themes, and characters across different works. Understanding how to structure this essay is important to ensure maximum impact for the reader.

How to Structure a Comparison Essay


The introduction sets the stage for your essay. Begin with a compelling hook that intrigues the reader, followed by a concise thesis statement outlining the texts you’ll be comparing and your main argument. Make sure your readers know which texts you’ll be comparing.

Tip: A thought-provoking quote or a bold statement can make for a captivating introduction.

Body Paragraphs

1. Point of Comparison

   – Introduce the first aspect you’ll be comparing.

   – Provide context and mention the texts.

2. Analysis of Text 1

   – Dive into the first text, exploring relevant quotes and examples.

   – Analyze literary devices, themes, and characters.

3. Analysis of Text 2

   – Apply the same detailed analysis to the second text.

   – Draw comparisons and contrasts with Text 1.

4. Comparative Analysis

   – Explore the similarities and differences between the texts.

   – Use comparative phrases to enhance clarity.

Tip: “Similarly,” “Likewise,” and “Conversely” are powerful connectors for comparative analysis.

Summarize the key points without introducing new information. Reinforce your thesis and leave a lasting impression on the reader.

Tip: End with a thought-provoking statement that resonates with your analysis.

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Two types of comparative essay structure, 1. block method.

   – Structure:

     – Separate sections for each text.

   – Advantages:

     – Clear and straightforward.

     – Easy to follow.

   – Considerations:

     – May lead to a list-like essay.

2. Integrated Method

     – Alternating points between texts.

     – Promotes direct comparison.

     – Highlights connections.

     – Requires a strong organizational skill.

Achieving Grade 8-9: Key Elements

1. Sophisticated Vocabulary

   – Replace common words with more nuanced alternatives.

   – Utilize a thesaurus to enrich your vocabulary.

Tip: Instead of “show,” consider “illustrate” or “demonstrate.”

2. Varied Sentence Structure

   – Experiment with sentence length and structure.

   – Incorporate complex sentences for depth.

Tip: Combine short, punchy sentences with longer, more elaborate ones for a dynamic flow.

3. Critical Analysis

   – Go beyond surface-level analysis.

   – Interpret the author’s intentions and the impact on the reader.

Tip: Address the “how” and “why” of literary techniques and their effect.

4. Clear Comparative Phrasing

   – Use explicit comparative phrases.

   – Ensure a seamless flow between texts.

Tip: “In contrast to,” “By comparison,” and “On the contrary” enhance the clarity of your comparisons.

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Mastering the Art of Essays:

  • part 1: preparing for your comparative essay
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  • Mastering the Art of Essay Writing: A Comprehensive Guide

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– Smith, J., “Mastering the Art of Comparative Essays” (2021), Academic Publishers.

– Turner, R., “A Guide to Advanced English Vocabulary” (2019), Scholarly Press.

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What is a Comparative Essay?

Paraphrasing the thesis statement, the author's opinion, scope of conclusion, how to write a conclusion for a compare & contrast essay.

A well-written essay should have at least ​ three main components: an introduction, a body and a conclusion. ​ While the introduction introduces the topic and draws the reader in, the body of the essay should consist of several paragraphs supporting the essay's main argument or hypothesis. A strong conclusion will satisfactorily draw an essay's argument to a close. ​ For a comparative essay, ​ the conclusion should successfully paraphrase the main points in the essay and offer a closing thought or opinion.

​ A compare and contrast essay, also known as a comparison essay, talks about how two ideas or objects differ and how they are similar. ​ Some essays may only talk about similarities, while others may only talk about differences. This focus depends on the ​ ​ length and scope ​ ​of the essay.

An example of a topic for a compare and contrast essay is a comparison between life in a city and life in the country. The conclusion to this essay will include ​ at least two important components: the paraphrased thesis and the author's opinion. ​

The thesis statement is usually included in the introduction to the essay, and it ​ provides the reader with a clear understanding of the essay's topic and scope. ​ The first or second sentence of the conclusion should be ​ a restatement, or paraphrase, ​ of the thesis statement.

​ Example: ​

If the thesis statement is, "Many people prefer to live in a city because of access to better health care and a wider variety of cultural and athletic events," the paraphrased thesis statement could be, "In conclusion, many people find city life preferable because of closer proximity to more cutting-edge healthcare systems and because of more choices of extra-curricular activities."

While the body of the essay should generally include objective information, the conclusion should include ​ one or two sentences articulating the author's opinion. ​ This stance should not be conveyed using an "I" statement, which is usually not recommended in formal writing.

A sentence relating to the thesis statement comparing life in the city versus life in the country could be, "For these reasons mentioned above and others, life in the city is more advisable for individuals for whom a better quality of life is non-negotiable."

​ The conclusion should not include more than a re-stated thesis statement and the author's short opinion. ​ This section of the essay is not a place in which ​ new information or information unrelated to the topic ​ is introduced. All information should be contained within the introduction and the body of the essay, and the conclusion's scope should be limited to ​ what has already been mentioned ​ in the essay. Oftentimes, the conclusion will end with the author's opinion.

Megan Ritchie has been a writer for more than 10 years, and has been published in a number of journals and newspapers, including "The Daily Targum" (Rutgers University's daily newspaper) and "The Philadelphia Inquirer." She has a Master's degree in Education from the University of Pennsylvania.

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  • A Research Guide
  • Writing Guide
  • Essay Writing

How to Write a Comparative Essay: Step-by-Step Guide

  • What is comparative essay
  • Structure and outline
  • Tips how to start
  • Step-by-step guide
  • Comparative essay format
  • Comparative essay topics
  • Comparative essay example

What is a Comparative Essay?

How to write a comparison essay: structure and outline.

  • The topic sentence should introduce the reader to what the paragraph handles.
  • A discussion of the aspect is done in the middle of a paragraph.
  • The last part of the paragraph should carry a low-level conclusion about the aspect discussed in the paragraph.
  • The paragraph should present enough information, as too much or too less may render it meaningless.
  • Every paragraph should handle a single aspect, e.g., it is quite unreasonable to compare the size of one object to the color of another .

Tips on How to Start a Comparative Essay

Step-by-step writing guide to write a comparative analysis, step 1: identify the basis of the comparison..

  • For example, a question may ask you to compare capitalism and communism and write the arguments. This question has a clear objective; hence you don’t have to go the extra mile.
  • Another case may be to compare any two political ideologies. It is a general question, and you have to figure out the various political ideologies and then identify any two that you can compare. Such instances require the author to develop the basis of comparison by themselves and write it down.

Step 2: Develop the content of the essay.

Step 3: come up with a thesis., step 4: develop the comparative essay structure., step 5: write your compare essay..


Comparative Essay Format

Alternating method;.

  • Gives more details about the item in comparison, making it easy to handle two different points;
  • Produces a well-analyzed and integrated paper.
  • Cases where detailed comparison is needed;
  • When the points of comparison are not related.

Mixed paragraphs method;

  • gives the issues equal weights in terms of comparison;
  • the reader gets to identify the comparison factor easily.
  • When dealing with a long comparative essay;
  • When dealing with complex topics that need close attention.

Block Method;

  • When dealing with short essays;
  • When dealing with simple topics;
  • Cases where there is no clear relation between items of comparison of point one and point two;
  • When you want to build the ideas of question two from those highlighted for question one;
  • When dealing with many issues.

Comparative Essay Topics

  • Compare and contrast the GDP figures of the US and Australia.
  • A comparative essay on World War I and World War II events.
  • Comparison between political ideologies such as capitalism and communism.
  • Positions on issues, e.g., Healthcare in the US and Australia.
  • Comparison between various Sports teams.
  • Different Systems of Government.
  • Comparison between various influential people.
  • A comparative essay on religion, e.g., Christianity and Hinduism,
  • Comparison between various texts,
  • Comparison in technology, such as comparing different cars,

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10+ Comparative Essay Samples

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Academic institutions always provide writing exercises to students so that the level of understanding that the students can have about a particular subject manner is widened. One of the most common academic essay examples  that’s given as writing assignment to students is the comparative essay. A comparative essay, also known as comparison essay or compare and contrast essay, is the type of essay that specifically analyzes two subject matters. There are a lot of academic fields where writing a comparative essay can be beneficial to students and their educational undertaking.

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A comparative essay can either compare or contrast two topics, theories, materials and other subjects of discussion. However, there are activities where both comparisons and contrasts are necessary to be presented. If you are required to write a comparative essay but is unaware on how you can do one effectively, you can browse through the samples that we have gathered for you so you can be more knowledgeable on how to structure both the content and layout of this kind of essay.

Comparative Essay

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Comparative Essay For High School

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College Comparative Essay

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Comparative Essay Plan Template

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Compare and Contrast Sample Essay

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Sample Comparative Essay Format

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The Concept of Comparative Essays

Different  college essay examples  are written based on different sets of instructions. Depending on the writing task that you have at hand, the things that you may include in your comparative essay may vary. However, the concept of making a comparative essay remains the same. For it to be clearer in your mind, here is how a comparative essay works:

  • A comparative essay is an academic essay  that requires students to create a comprehensive and precise comparative report about two things.
  • A comparative essay is an organized written material that is meant to provide a comparison that should be easily understood by the target readers. It is set to impress people by providing them the information that they need to be aware of about two subjects and how they differ and/or compare with each other.
  • A comparative essay can be written if you have two objects or subjects that can be compared in a level where their similarities and/or differences are relevant or meaningful for a specific purpose.
  • A comparative essay can be used in formal writing assignments and it can also be the basis for various research assessments.
  • A comparative essay is created through pertaining precise points of comparison. These points should be backed by actual researchers, factual information, and other reliable evidence.

Block Comparative Essay Example

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Student Comparative Essay Sample

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How to Develop the Content of Your Comparative Essay

Before writing a comparative essay, you first need to arm yourself with the information that you need. This will allow you to create a comparative essay that is filled with relevant and helpful information. More so, this can help you veer away from committing  common essay mistakes  if you are already in the process of actual content writing.

The way that you plan to present your ideas, especially if they are backed up with facts, can make your comparative essay more successful. Listed below are the steps that you may use when developing the content of your comparative essay.

  • The first thing that you need to do is to be aware of the question that you need to answer. You need to be aware of the essay prompt so you can address the needs of your readers. It is essential for you to be fully knowledgeable of the essence of the question so you can interpret it accordingly. The content that you will write will only be effective if it is related to the question and if it matches the purpose on why the essay is necessary to be written.
  • Know whether there are limits for your discussion . Always identify whether you need to know the similarities or the differences between your subjects. Also, you need to know whether the scope of your essay assignment requires you to do any of these or both.
  • Select the ideas that you would like to compare. It is important for you to have an in-depth understanding of the kind of comparison that you will write. The framework of your essay should be based on an actual evaluation that can point out how you were able to perceive the similarities or differences of the subject.
  • Assess whether you already have sufficient points for comparison. Your ability to present as many valid points as possible can make a lot of clarifications about the unanswered questions that you can enlighten your readers with.
  • Once the points of your comparison are already specified, list down whether they are under the similarities or differences of the two subjects. This step can help you be organized throughout the writing process. With easy access to how subjects are compared, you can be guided on how to use them in your content development.
  • Evaluate your list. Your list is only your initial view about the subjects being reviewed or assessed. Hence, further evaluation is necessary. Make sure that you will read through the entire list so you can rank them based on their impact and weight of thesis.
  • Chronologically arrange your list based on your basis of comparison . Make sure that you will follow a metric when examining the items that you will place in your actual comparative essay.
  • Know the approach that you will use when developing your essay content. Will you be theoretical? Will you focus on answering questions for comparison? It is essential for you to be aware of your basis so your approach can provide you with maximum benefits within the entirety of the content development process.
  • Research further about your subjects so you can verify whether your claims and initial claims are correct. This can help you create more topics and gather more evidence that can support your comparison.
  • Create a thesis statement where your discussion can set its foundation. This will enable you to start writing the comparative essay that you would like to achieve.

You may think that this is a very long process just for developing the ideas that you will present. In a way, you may be right. However, being prepared and ready on how you will attack and execute the writing assignment can make it easier for you to create a valid discussion.

Comparative Contrast Essay Template

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Printable Comparative Essay Sample

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Steps in Organizing Your Comparative Essay Discussion

Aside from knowing the idea of what you will write about, the structure of your essay or the organization of your essay’s content can affect the smooth flow of your discussion. Even during  last minute essay writing  activities, you can still come up with an outstanding comparative essay if you are already knowledgeable on how you can organize your essay’s idea, content, structure, and discussion. Listed below are some of the ways on how you can efficiently organize your comparative essay’s content.

  • Refer to the outline of your comparisons. This is where the items that we have discussed above can be helpful. If you are already guided by your comparisons, then you can easily rank their relevance to the essay that you will write. Referencing your comparisons can make it easier for you to have a thesis statement that you can further discuss.
  • Organize your writing strategies. The strategies that you will incorporate into your discussion can make it easier for readers to relate to your point. You need to make sure that your strategies are aligned with your type of comparison and the subjects that you are comparing.
  • Properly address your comparisons.  For your comparative essay to be highly-usable, you need to make sure that you will implement simplicity within your discussion. Do not make it complicated. The content of your comparative essay should be as simple as possible so that it can be furthermore understood.
  • Organize your paragraph structure.  The way that you create your paragraph listing can be one of the factors that can either improve or destroy your comparative essay. You should create a draft that can specifically state the items that you will discuss per paragraph. Create statements that can address specific comparisons and divide them per paragraph. Each of your paragraphs should be talking about one subject so you can give focus per comparison aspect.
  • Evaluate whether your writing guide is already organized enough. It is essential for you to not overlap subjects of discussion. When organizing your statements, make sure to cover one subject at a time. This will help you create a comparative essay that contains a list of carefully arranged and curated evidence which are further discussed and broken down into relevant specification pieces.

Simple Essay of Comparison Sample

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Sample Comparative Essay in PDF

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Writing Guide in Creating the Actual Comparative Essay

Just like  descriptive essay examples  and other kinds of academic essays, a comparative essay can be created in different ways. Each writer has various techniques that can be applied when doing this particular kind of essay. Since there are no strict rules when it comes to crafting a comparative essay, all you need to ensure is that your comparative essay is comprehensive, understandable and credible. Here is how you can effectively write your actual comparative essay:

  • Create an introduction to the topic. Your thesis statement should contain the subjects that you will talk about. You also need to create an initial discussion of what your readers can expect to the reader within the content of your comparative essay. A strong validation of your comparison can make your readers more interested to browse through the entire essay document.
  • Develop your next paragraphs for discussion. As mentioned above, work per paragraph. Arrange your topics of discussion in a way that each paragraph can specifically state one comparison topic per time. You have to create an interesting discussion so you need to ensure that all your paragraphs are organized and well-written.
  • Finalize your comparative essay with a conclusion. Your last paragraph should contain the information about your final thoughts with regards the comparison. How different or similar are the two subjects from one another? How sure are you that your basis is factual and relevant? Create a great impact b
  • y having a conclusion that can put together all your points of discussion.

Compare Contrast Essay Sample

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Sample Comparative Essay Guide

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Factors to Consider When Writing a Comparative Essay

In comparison to  evaluation essay examples , a comparative essay is more keen with regards the assessment of two subjects. If you will write a comparative essay, you need to have an idea of the impacts of different factors to the result that you may get at the end of the writing activity. Listed below are some of the elements or factors that you need to take into consideration when writing a comparative essay.

  • Your discussion’s organization.  Within the entirety of the comparative essay creation, it is very evident that organization is key to success. As a writer, you need to ensure that you have a skeletal plan that can create your discussion more polished and coherent. The discussion of your organization can greatly affect the impression of your readers with regards your knowledge about your topic as well as your level of understanding with what you are talking about.
  • Your thesis statement.  When creating a comparative essay, you need to stick with an argument that can provide you the framework for the effective dissemination of information. Your thesis statement should be based on the results of your frame of references. You need to analyze your subjects properly so that you can create a stand on how you perceive them in levels of similarities and/or differences.
  • Your claims or grounds for comparison.  You should always be aware of your selection processes. At the end of the writing activity, you need to validate the importance of comparing two subjects. Always have your grounds of comparison ready so you can ensure your readers that you have followed a particular set of criteria that can enable the objectivity between the selection of two items for comparison. The rationale that you have behind your subject selection can make your comparative essay more appealing.
  • Your reference frame.  A comparative essay’s frame of reference deals with the way that the writer has created the groupings for the comparison. May it be talking about the similarities, differences, or both of these factors; a comparative essay should be able to have a reference that can identify how the characteristics of ideas, themes, theories or even problems are arranged.

With the samples that we have in this post, it will be faster for you to identify the points of discussion that you need to provide. Again, comparative essays vary from one another in terms of content. Ensure that you are fully aware of the writing instructions given to you so you can plan your comparative essay’s content and structure accordingly.

Always refer to the guidelines and tips that we have specified so you can create effective decisions in every step of your comparative essay development. Do not be afraid to write what your thoughts. As long as these thoughts are based on factual references, then it will be easy for you to have a comparative essay that can achieve its purpose or reason for creation.

the art of writing a comparative essay lies in the delicate balance of presenting similarities and differences in a clear, coherent manner. This type of essay encourages critical thinking and develops analytical skills, crucial for academic success. For further guidance on creating effective comparative essays, the UNC Writing Center offers a detailed resource on comparing and contrasting ( UNC Writing Center ). This link provides valuable insights and examples, helping students refine their comparative writing skills. By mastering the comparative essay, students not only enhance their writing abilities but also deepen their understanding of contrasting subjects, an essential skill in many academic and professional fields.

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How to Write a Comparative Essay: Structure & Tips

A comparative essay may be something you are unfamiliar with in your schooling journey so far, the structure of the essay as a whole should be quite familiar to you. As you already know, having the correct structure and practices when writing is vital to having a good end product. This article will build on what you already know and teach you some new skills in how to write a comparative essay. 

What Is a Comparative Essay?

A comparative essay is an essay that contains an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. What makes a comparative essay different to other essays is that it compares and contrasts two different texts. 

A comparative essay is usually completed by students in years 10, 11, and 12 undertaking General English. However, students in other English subjects and younger grades can also be asked to write comparative essays, or students may have similar assessments in other subjects, such as writing a history essay.

how to write a comparative essay

Comparative Essay Structure

In a comparative essay, much like other essays, there is your introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. There are a few different ways you can structure your essay, but these elements stay the same. 

  • Introduction: In the introduction of a comparative essay, you should include; an overview and brief synopsis of the texts you are comparing, your thesis statement, and an outline of your arguments.
  • Body paragraphs: The body paragraphs of your comparative essay contain all of your evidence and arguments, this is by far the longest part of your essay. This is where you actually compare and analyse the texts.  
  • Conclusion: Your conclusion should not introduce any new information, but rather summarise your arguments and restate your thesis. 

How to Write a Comparative Essay Introduction

As mentioned above, your introduction should include: an overview and brief synopsis of the texts you are comparing, your thesis statement, and an outline of your arguments. A good practice to see if your introduction is long enough is to have your introduction be 10% of your total word count – so an 800-word essay would have an 80 word introduction. 

Your introduction is the first thing people are going to read, so make sure it addresses the overall question clearly and succinctly. The easiest way to do this is in your thesis statement. 

How to Write a Body Paragraph for a Comparative Essay

In the body of your essay you should have around two to four paragraphs. Each of your paragraphs should only surround one argument or idea that supports your thesis. 

There are two different ways you can structure the body of your essay, you can either: 

  • Compare and contrast both texts in the same paragraph for each idea, or, 
  • Dedicate paragraphs to each text individually. 

Both of these methods are perfectly acceptable, but there are limitations to both. For option one, it is important to remember you should be evenly analysing both texts, not favouring one over the other. It is also essential to remember for this option, to analyse in enough depth to support your argument. For option two, it is crucial that you are still comparing both texts. An easy way to do this is to us comparative language such as: however, conversely, in contrast, similarly. This is to ensure you are still meeting the requirements of the genre and task. 

How to Write a Comparative Essay Conclusion

As mentioned above, your conclusion should not bring up any new arguments but should summarise everything you have said up to that point. This includes restating your thesis and arguments. Much like your introduction, it is good practice to have your conclusion be approximately 10% of your overall word count. 

Comparative Essay Writing Tips

  • Create an outline : A well-structured outline helps you stay focused and ensures that your arguments flow logically from one point to the next.
  • Always link back to your thesis statement.
  • Reference as you go , do not leave it to the last minute.  
  • Emphasise differences and similarities : Make sure to clearly highlight the differences and similarities between the two subjects.
  • Use specific examples : Use concrete examples to illustrate your points and make your writing more persuasive.
  • On the contrary
  • Furthermore
  • In the same way
  • Compared to
  • In contrast
  • On the one hand … on the other hand.
  • Work with others to edit and refine your work , this may be using the support of an English tutor,  or joining a study group. 
  • The best way to work towards getting an A in English is drafting! Write a first draft as soon as possible – it is easier to edit than a blank piece of paper!
  • Proofread and edit : Finally, make sure to proofread and edit your essay for grammar, spelling, and clarity.

Excel in Your Comparative Essay Writing!

The best way to improve your writing, whether it be comparative essays or any kind of essay, is to use the resources available to you. You can ask your teacher for help, form a study group with your friends and help each other, or you can get a tutor to help you!

Need a helping hand writing a comparative essay? A Team Tuition is here to help. With our tried and true tutoring methods, we can help you write impressive essays with our at-home and online tutoring. Find a tutor near you today!

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  1. How To Write A Comparative Essay

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  1. Comparative Essay

    1. What is a Comparative Essay? 2. Comparative Essay Structure 3. How to Start a Comparative Essay? 4. How to Write a Comparative Essay? 5. Comparative Essay Examples 6. Comparative Essay Topics 7. Tips for Writing A Good Comparative Essay 8. Transition Words For Comparative Essays What is a Comparative Essay?

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    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 …).

  3. Comparative Analysis

    Common types of comparative analysis essays and related types: two works in the same genre, two works from the same period (but in different places or in different cultures), a work adapted into a different genre or medium, two theories treating the same topic; a theory and a case study or other object, etc. How to Teach It: Framing + Practice

  4. Compare and Contrast Essays: The Ultimate Guide

    Write with Grammarly In this guide, we explain how to write a compare-and-contrast essay, including some advanced tips and examples. We discuss how to structure your essay and how to frame your thesis, but first, let's take a broader look at why comparison essays are so useful. Purpose of a compare-and-contrast essay

  5. How to Write a Comparative Essay (with Pictures)

    1. Analyze the question or essay prompt carefully. You may have a great idea for a paper in your head, but if it doesn't perfectly match the prompt, you may not create the product your instructor has asked for. Look over the prompt (and rubric, if you have one) carefully and underline key phrases.

  6. Comparing and Contrasting in an Essay

    General prompt Discuss the effects of the Great Depression in the United States. One way to approach this essay might be to contrast the situation before the Great Depression with the situation during it, to highlight how large a difference it made.

  7. How to Structure an Essay

    Chronological structure. The chronological approach (sometimes called the cause-and-effect approach) is probably the simplest way to structure an essay. It just means discussing events in the order in which they occurred, discussing how they are related (i.e. the cause and effect involved) as you go. A chronological approach can be useful when ...

  8. Writing a comparative essay

    The broad structure of a comparative essay is already very familiar to you, and consists of an introduction, several body paragraphs and a conclusion. The introduction should include a clear contention that alerts the reader to your response to the topic, as well as the main ideas your essay will explore. It must contain references to both texts.

  9. How To Write A Comparative Essay

    Make sure to have an introduction and conclusion. The comparative essay is one form of document that you will probably be expected to write at some point over the course of your college career. The purpose of this article is to provide you with a thorough overview of the comparative essay. Specific things that will be addressed include:

  10. How to Conclude an Essay

    Step 1: Return to your thesis To begin your conclusion, signal that the essay is coming to an end by returning to your overall argument. Don't just repeat your thesis statement —instead, try to rephrase your argument in a way that shows how it has been developed since the introduction. Example: Returning to the thesis

  11. How To Structure A Comparative Essay (VCE English Tips)

    August 8, 2020 • General VCE • joelleva What is a comparative essay? The comparative essay, in only its second year of being on the VCE English syllabus, is a cause for confusion for many students and teachers alike. Read on for one simple way to structure a comparative essay. Comparative essay structure

  12. Comparative essay structure

    Using what you know to offer your opinion is what counts - agree, disagree, partially agree, partially disagree - it's doesn't matter as long as your essay is directly responding to the Q asked throughout and is doing so in a comparative way. Here's an extract from the Chief Examiner's Report

  13. Guide To Writing a Comparative Essay

    Make a list of similarities and differences to prepare for outlining and composing your essays. Look at your source annotations and generate five to ten comparisons as you read your notes. Find ways your subjects are similar and different using annotated sources by focusing on thematic insights. 5. Outline your essay.

  14. How To Write A Comparative Essay

    In this article, we will teach you how to write a comparative essay, including Y12 Module A Textual Conversations requirements, different comparative essay structures, dos and don'ts, and an exemplar paragraph of both structures.

  15. Comparative Essays: Exploring Similarities and Differences

    Contents The first step in writing a comparative essay is to pick a topic. This could be anything from comparing two political theories to contrasting the architecture of two different cities. Once the topic has been chosen, it's important to brainstorm ideas and gather relevant information on both subjects.

  16. How should I structure a comparative essay?

    In your conclusion you should work to give an evaluation of the comparative points made throughout the essay but again following the rule of closely and consistently linking both texts in a sentence. The rest of the structure for a comparative essay is the same as any other: Introduction (outlining the course of the essay and outlining initial ...

  17. The Ultimate Guide to VCE Comparative

    The below example adopts the 'Alternate' Comparative essay structure where the first part of the body paragraph focuses on Text 1 ... (English study score 45), read her advice on 5 Tips For A Mic-Drop Worthy Essay Conclusion. If you're looking for more A+ Comparative essay examples, then you can also get your hands on any of our LSG study guide ...

  18. The Nuances Of Comparative Essay Structure

    Let's learn about the structure of Comparative essays. Essay structure is a crucial skill for achieving those coveted grades 8-9 in GCSE English. At Bettering Youth, we believe in nurturing academic excellence while prioritizing the well-being of our students. Let's explore the structure, key elements, and impactful vocabulary to elevate ...

  19. How to Write a Conclusion for a Compare & Contrast Essay

    A well-written essay should have at least three main components: an introduction, a body and a conclusion. While the introduction introduces the topic and draws the reader in, the body of the essay should consist of several paragraphs supporting the essay's main argument or hypothesis.

  20. How to Write a Comparative Essay: Step-by-Step Guide

    Structure and outline Tips how to start Step-by-step guide Comparative essay format Comparative essay topics Comparative essay example You should know what a comparative essay is before you get to writing. A comparative essay is composed of many paragraphs explaining how two subjects are either similar or different.

  21. Comparative Essay

    A comparative essay, also known as comparison essay or compare and contrast essay, is the type of essay that specifically analyzes two subject matters. There are a lot of academic fields where writing a comparative essay can be beneficial to students and their educational undertaking. Download Comparative Essay Bundle.

  22. How to Write a Comparative Essay: Structure & Tips

    There are two different ways you can structure the body of your essay, you can either: Compare and contrast both texts in the same paragraph for each idea, or, Dedicate paragraphs to each text individually. Both of these methods are perfectly acceptable, but there are limitations to both.

  23. Comparing poems

    However in structure B, the comparison takes place throughout the whole essay and avoids looking at the poems separately. This is a better model to use and one which can be applied to comparisons ...