"Dreams of a better life are critical when your working environment is dangerous." How should I approach this in a compare/contrast essay?
I don't think it's possible to write a compare/contrast essay on this topic since I don't know which two ideas to compare or contrast. I thought about comparing the arguments FOR the topic with the arguments AGAINST the topic but I have no idea of how to go about this.
Did your teacher give you any instructions along with this writing prompt? If not, try asking him or her for a little more information. Be sure to ask politely. If you say, "This assignment is impossible," your teacher may think you are trying to get out of doing it. If you say, "I need to know more about what you want me to do," or something along those lines, your teacher will know right away that you are asking for help and not just complaining.
If your teacher is not available to help, there are a couple of ways you could attack this problem. You could, as you suggest, compare and contrast arguments for and against the prompt statement. In a dangerous working environment, dreaming could create more danger. But dreams can also bring peace and hope, as well as help clarify goals for the future. There is enough there for arguments on both sides. The difficult part of this approach would be creating a thesis statement. You cannot just say the two sides are different; you need to find a reason for making the comparison. See the eNotes page on "How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay" (link below) for more insight on this.
Another option would be to approach your essay from the perspective of a person who works in a dangerous job. Then you could compare and contrast a dangerous working life with dreams for a better life. How is the dream life different? Would some people miss the dangerous working life after achieving goals for a better life? If the better life is difficult to attain, why should the worker bother dreaming of it?