English Comparative: Modes Of Comparison

English Comparative: Modes Of Comparison

Cultural context

What you need to compare: the unique world of each of your texts.

Paragraph topics to do so:

An attitude to an issue: Usually the majority of the world of a text will hold a certain attitude towards an issue such as education, personal freedom etc. For example, the world will agree/ disagree with one’s right to education, or will be tolerant/ intolerant of one’s personal freedom in making decisions. Look for an issue present in all three of your texts and compare the various worlds’ attitudes to this.

Influence of authority: Focus on the figures/ parties of authority in the text who dictate how characters act, or if characters reject and ignore such parties.

Social structures: Examine how the worlds are structured; is there hierarchy, one part of power, or is everyone equal? The structure of a world reveals whether a world is defined by equality and fairness, or power and strength: compare the structures of the worlds of your texts.

How the cultural context affects the resolution of the plot: Consider how one of the three elements of cultural context you have focused on contributes to the ending of the text. This will show which element of the world of the text is most dominant.

General Vision and Viewpoint

What you need to compare: whether the texts you are studying reveal a bright or dark outlook on life.

Paragraph topics to do so:

Subject matter that reveals a bright/dark outlook: examine what the texts focus on consider if this reveals a bright/dark outlook on life – does the plot inspire hope, optimism, despair, pessimism etc.

Aspects of life texts focus on: this is not like the above; you are not simply focusing on the plot. You are examining parts of life that the texts centre on (i.e death, poverty) and whether these show the texts to have a bright/dark outlook on life.

Characters sharing a vision of life: here you should be focusing on the parts of life which the characters aspire towards or possess, whether this again gives the texts a bright/dark outlook on life, and why this is so. Are the characters forced to live certain lives and thus have no freedom in their decisions? This would show entrapment, which would not fill many with optimism and thus the text would have a bleak outlook.

Impressions of closing scenes: you should consider whether the closing scene gives us a bleak/bright outlook of life. The closing scenes normally do one of two things, either resolving the problems or obstacles set for characters in the text (bright outlook) or leaving these unresolved (dark).

Theme and Issue

What you need to compare: how a theme is presented in your texts

How differently/similarly the theme is defined: here write about how the theme is presented in the novel; does it succeed above all other forces in the texts or does it struggle to impose its effects on the characters and incidents?

Theme told humorously/tragically: focus on whether the theme is told in a humorous or tragic manner. Do funny moments happen when the theme is at the fore, or is the theme tragic and thus focuses on depressing moments and aspects of life?

Key moments providing an interesting perspective of the theme: consider how key moments reveal something specific about the theme; examples might be that it will never succeed or that all characters are affected by the theme.

Significant characters contributing to the theme: focus on how significant characters help the theme to progress or attempt to/bring about its downfall.

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About the Author

John Ryan

John has a Masters in Modern English Literature and is the founder of RyJoLC, an educational consultancy based in Dublin that provides English language and curriculum resources to educational institutions worldwide.
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