Comparison Contrast Custom Essay Writing Tip
Comparisons and Contrasts
When you set out to choose a topic, you want to be revealing something new and interesting. Often what you should be doing is looking for patterns, patterns of racist or sexist language, patterns of violence, patterns of religious or other cultural imagery, patterns that reveal character or values. The list could go on forever. The mere fact of the parallel or contrast, however, cannot be the argument of the paper. You need to make something of it. What questions do these comparisons and contrasts raise, and what answer might you suggest?
In "The Doubloon," a chapter in Moby Dick, several different characters each try to interpret the symbolic meaning of a gold coin stamped with the picture of a rooster, a volcano, and a tower. Each sees something of himself in the coin. Each projects his personal interests onto the coin, until at last the crazy black boy, Pip, says the coin is the ship's belly button, and he recounts the very old joke that if you unscrew your belly button, your buttocks will fall off. If we ever finally understood God's true and final meaning, suggests Melville, then the whole thing might just come to an end, earth and heavens rolled up like a scroll. Better to leave it a mystery.
We humans, however, cannot stop picking at that scab. Ever since Adam ate the apple, we have pursued knowledge regardless of the risk. We look at people and wonder about them; we watch the news and ask what is really going on; we suspect there is something between the lines or behind the text. We notice patterns of behavior and think "aha!" Why does Julie always date men who drink too much? Why is Fred so eager to convince us so often that he hates gays? One of the tricks of writing college papers is learning to look at our everyday behavior as if investigating the outlandish customs of some South Sea island tribe. Like Fox Mulder and Captain Ahab, we insist that the Truth is out there and we cannot rest until we have grasped it, no matter what the cost. What makes us tick, we want to know, and that very wanting is the ticking we would know about. The I wants to look itself in the eye but cannot stand outside of itself to see it-self directly. And so we endlessly chase our tails looking for clues to the meaning of it all. The patterns may be within any one text or between several texts, or between texts and television, or texts and politics, or texts and biology or computer science. Such patterns reveal something and thus raise questions that make excellent paper topics. In one of my published papers, I compare the love poetry of Emily Dickinson with Bob Dylan's album "Time Out of Mind" and argue that in each the absent lover is not some human but Christ. Such unexpected, cross-disciplinary parallels are dear to the hearts of humanities teachers.
A close cousin to the comparison essay is the contrast essay. Here, instead of similar patterns, we find differences that are revealing. Most people think that the many blacks who traveled north to Chicago from the south are generally alike, but black migrants from Alabama and those from Mississippi brought with them distinctly different habits and values. Uncovering hidden differences can be just as interesting as uncovering hidden comparisons. Some Baptists dunk and some Baptists sprinkle. Just what is that all about, anyway?
The best approach is to combine these two perspectives to show both comparison and contrast in the same paper and to develop an argument based on each. One of the classic examples of a good comparison-and-contrast essay is Bruce Catton "Grant and Lee." In this short essay, Catton uses the personal differences between these men to show the differences between the North and the South that led to the Civil War. Each man is portrayed as a representative of his region, and by the time Catton has shown us these two men, we understand why they fought and why both are revered as great Americans.