English Comparative: Structuring Your Answer

English Comparative: Structuring Your Answer

Clarity of Purpose

This quality involves you completing the set task, here to compare your texts under a mode of comparison. The four paragraphs of your main body are where you will compare your three texts, with each paragraph focusing on a different paragraph topic. As said above, this serves two purposes; these topics will provide proof that your introductory statement can be made, while also achieving the eight comparisons required in your answer.

A suitable way of comparing your three texts in each paragraph is with a threefold method which introduces your paragraph topic, elaborates on it so as to show how it provides evidence for your introductory statement, and finally comparisons between your three texts so as to provide evidence that what you said in the second part of the threefold relevant is factual. Each part of your answer can be seen as confirming the previous element; the paragraph topic serves to back up your introductory statement, your elaboration explains how the topic does so, and the comparisons from your texts provide evidence of how the topic backs up the introductory statement. This ties in with Efficiency of Language use as it not only compares your texts and thus deals with the task but also structures your answer in an organized manner.

This can be seen with the question we began earlier. As said, what must be mentioned first is the paragraph topic that is being used to answer the question:

‘The subject matter of texts contributes to the presentation of an outlook on life in a text, either bright, dark, or both.’

Immediately, as the introduction informed the marker of what the rest of the answer contains, the first line reveals what the rest of the paragraph will focus on, the subject matter of texts. Next you need to state how this paragraph topic is true and thus can be used to prove the factuality of your paragraph topic, and something such as such would suffice:

‘A text’s subject matter reveals the journeys of characters, and the paths that are taken in various texts. If these pathways provide these characters with fulfillment and success then the texts reveals the bright message that such is possible in life. However if this is not the case then fulfillment, success and prosperity do not appear possible and the outlook on life is dark, as is seen in all three texts on my course.’

The marker is immediately shown how the paragraph topic, the subject matter of texts, can provide a bright or dark outlook on life and immediately your paragraph topic is shown as able to illustrate that your introductory statement is true. All that is left is to compare your three texts to provide evidence of this.  Comparing your three texts involves another quality needed:

Coherence of delivery

This involves you answering the question consistently throughout, and thus ensuring that the various elements (different paragraph topics, texts) join together to form a unified answer. This is most important in two areas of your answer, the first of which is the comparison of your texts. Comparing your texts is important as provides coherence as you talk about different texts in as small a space one paragraph, and also as this is the set task for the section. To achieve this you either compare all three texts, contrast all three texts, or compare two and contrast one; regardless you should use linking phrases to achieve this, such as ‘Similarly’, ‘We see this again with’, ‘In sharp contrast’ etc.

We see an example when continuing the paragraph mentioned:

The subject matter of S reveals a bleak outlook. The text tells the story of Thomasheen, who cynically traps Sive, a young woman, and Sean Dota, a desperate old man, in a marriage due to his selfishness and greed. This reveals a dark outlook not simply because of Thomasheen’s exploitative nature but also due to his power which ensures that no one around him can stop his plan. While the matchmaker cynically remarks ‘amn’t I like a scarecrow always, matchmaking and making love between people I spend my days and no thanks for it’ he soon reveals his evil motives, remarking that Sive may be ‘Illegitimate… Whatever she is, she has the makings of a woman.’ We soon learn of his plan: to marry Sean Dota and Sive as it will earn him one hundred pounds because, as Mena says, ‘It isn’t out of the goodness of yeer heart you are playing your hand.’ The matchmaker then declares that despite Dota being ‘half of a fool’ that ‘What matter if the girl be what she is, if she had a black face and the hooves of a pony… the man I mention is taken with her. He will buy, sell and lose all to have her. He have the wish for the girl… No quibble between the pair of us, Mena. Sean Dota is the man.’ Thomashseen admits he arranged Sean Dota to marry Sive because Sean Dota is desperate, telling  Mena ‘’Tis the ageing blood in the thief… Ah! It’s an old story, girl. The old man and the young woman. When they get the stroke this way there is no holding them. There is the longing he have been storing away these years past.’ Such is the cold, cruel nature of Thomasheen that even Mena, who is convinced of the arranged marriage, admits that ‘You are like all the matchmakers: you will make a rose out of a nettle to make a bargain.’ HMM mirrors S. The text focuses on the radical changing views of Alexander Moore of his home, which reveals a dark outlook on life as his disillusionment at the place he considered home eventually forces him to fight in and experience the horrors of war. Moore says at the text’s beginning that  ‘Because I am an officer and gentleman they have given me notebooks, pen, ink and paper. So I write and wait’ and thus reveals that he is waiting to be sentenced to death, for crimes at war. As we then hear his story we tragically see how his faded love for his home led him to such an end. Initially Moore is satisfied with his surroundings, as he views his home and wonders ‘if it would ever be possible to love any person as (he) loved those blocked of granite, the sleeping windows, the uncompromising greyness, the stern perfection of the building in front’. He holds a deep connection to his surroundings, revealed when he speaks of the hills ‘which protected us from the world’: he tells the reader that ‘Some mornings when I looked out of my window the hills seemed so close that I only had to stretch a hand out beyond the glass to touch them’. His admiration of the swans in his lake mirrors that of Yeats in Coole: ‘The swans floated for nine months of the year to and fro on the water, sometimes taking off with a great cracking of their wings, then, overcome with the energy they had used up, they would allow themselves to drift on the wind like huge crumpled pieces of paper hurled up in the sky.’ However soon Alexander grows tired of the same environment, and believes that his home and those in it will not remain as idyllic as that which he has come to love. This is symbolized as he views his father’s office, which soon is ‘a room full of shadows, a watching room’, where Alexander believes ‘no matter where I stood or sat someone was just behind me, not just wanting the quick conciliatory smile over the shoulder, but someone stern and demanding.’ This belief stems from his view of his parents’ relationship, which steadily declines: ‘They would be there, immaculate themselves, their heads elegantly bent towards the morning paper and the cream-drenched porridge, starched damask napkins folded neatly across their knees. They would grow old immaculately, their implacable hatred of each other hidden from the world.’ Alexander resolves to leave, and his embrace with his mother on the day of his leaving symbolizes his unwillingness to be confined there anymore: ‘I finally reached her and her hands flew like two birds around my neck and she pulled my face to hers. I kissed one cheek and then the other. She still held me. I put up my hands and unfastened hers.’

As seen, even though different texts are used the simple use of a linking phrase allows both texts to be presented as showing the same thing, that the subject matter of texts can show a bleak outlook on life. By using three words you have ensured that you are dealing with the set task by comparing your texts and also that your essay’s coherence is not broken up by the movement of focus to a different text (this can also be seen as showing Efficiency of Language use with your use of language and organization of the paragraph suitably).

Linking phrases also serve to connect your various paragraphs that each focus on a certain area of your mode of comparison, so as to present them all as providing evidence of your introductory statement. To begin the next paragraph of the answer above something such as this could be used:

Like the subject matter of texts, the vision of life characters hold also contributes to the outlook on life created in these stories.’

The marker is thus shown that this paragraph will serve the same function as the last, and thus your paragraphs become linked, transforming them into a unified answer.

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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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