What is compare and contrast.? I have literature test and I really want to pass it.

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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When a student is asked a comparison/contrast question on a literature exam, it can be on the topic of two separate literary works, or it can be about two characters from the same narrative, two themes from two works, etc. "Compare and Contrast" means that the student points out the similarities and differences between two or more elements in a literary piece.

For instance, if a question asks the student to compare and contrast two characters, the student could use age, personality, conflicts, and actions and speech as categories in which to draw similarities and differences. So, Character A may be a young man as is Character B, but they may differ in personalities. For example, whereas Character A is outgoing and honest, Character B is sometimes rather sly and stealthy. Maybe they both undergo internal conflicts in which they wrestle with a problem in their minds; however, their reactions to these conflicts differ.

  • Here is a model of an answer on a comparison/contrast of characters:

Q:  Compare and contrast Ralph and Jack in Lord of the Flies.

A.  Both Ralph and Jack are part of the group of schoolboys who are stranded on a deserted island when their plane crashes. The blond, handsome Ralph seems a natural leader, while the red-haired, intemperate Jack displays little patience with the boys in his choir. For example, he disparages Simon as always complaining:

"He's always throwing a faint....He did in Big; and Addis; and at matins over the percentor."

Further, when Jack is not elected chief, his "face disappeared under a blush of mortification. he started up, then changed his mind and sat down again while the air rang." These actions suggest that Jack may harbor some resentment against Ralph. Later in the novel, Jack's actions prove that he does resent Ralph because he turns the boys, who have become hunters along with him, against Ralph. In Chapter Five, for example, .....

______________________________

In this example, there is (1) a general statement of comparison and/or contrast (difference); then, there are (2) examples that support/defend the general statement. [More would be given from later chapters if this were a real answer.] Citing (quoting) from the literary work supports answers.

In another model of Compare and Contrast, there could be two poems under discussion. The student could then discuss the likenesses and differences in themes or techniques, such as imagery, symbolism, rhyme, rhythm, metaphor, etc.

When making these comparisons, or explaining the differences, it is best to point to one thing at a time and discuss both poems with each point made. For example, if the student is asked to compare/contrast Robert Burns's "A Red, Red Rose" with "One Perfect Rose" by Dorothy Parker, the student would surely discuss the tones of each poem. 

  • Here is a model of one point that could be made, demonstrating contrast:

Whereas the tone of the poem of Robert Burns is one of endearment and love, the tone of Dorothy Parker's poem is one of subtle sarcasm and irony. Burns writes......., but Parker points to her receiving a "single rose" several times, and then indicates her dissatisfaction with her final lines.

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clyoon's profile pic

clyoon | Student, Grade 12 | (Level 1) Salutatorian

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Comparing is when you take two different things and explain their similarities. Take England and Spain for example.One comparison would also be that they're both countries in the continent of Europe. Contrasting is when you take two things and explain their differences. One contrast would be that Spain's main language is Spanish while England's is English. 

acompanioninthetardis's profile pic

acompanioninthetardis | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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Comparison is the act of taking two things and looking at their similarities, and contrast is basically taking those things and looking at their differences. when teachers usually ask this on an exam, they want to see what you thought the similarities and differences between the works or objects given. 

For example: 

lets say you're asked to compare a table and a chair 

The comparison would be that both table and chair have 4 legs. The contrast would be that tables are usually wider and taller then chairs, chairs don't always have a flat top like most tables, or chairs have a backing and tables don't. 

When doing this with literature, i suggest that you pay attention to the overall writing style of the author usually in these cases things like point of view, which perspective the story is being told from, or the different kinds of rhetoric, or literary devices are more prominent then others etc.. 

parama9000's profile pic

parama9000 | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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There are many things you can compare and contrast. Compare focuses more on the similarities of two works while contrast is about the differences of the works.

In your analysis you can include:

Tone

Mood

Diction

Syntax

Arrangement of words

Syllables

There are really many aspects for you to cover, so manage your time well!

Wiggin42's profile pic

Wiggin42 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 2) Valedictorian

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Comparing and contrasting in literature refers to discussing the similarities and differences between two works, characters, etc. When looking for similarities and differences in two works of literature you can analyze tone, mood, diction, syntax, and other style elements. When comparing and contrasting characters you can discuss their personality, motivation, physical characteristics, etc. 

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