Writing About Literature

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Writing About Literature

Essay 1: Comparing Two Poems

Post your ideas for the first essay below. This is a good place to test thesis statements and topics and to discuss the finer details of the assignment.

Review the prompt and details for this assignment on Blackboard.

28 thoughts on “ Essay 1: Comparing Two Poems ”

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Thesis: In this essay, I will show how “Thirteen Ways to Look at a Blackbird” by Wallace Stevens and “Theme for English B” by Langston Hughes both have themes relation to human emotions and analyze the execution presenting such themes.

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Kyla, this is a great start! Try and focus in on a specific emotion that you read in both of these poems. I’m immediately inclined to point out fear or perhaps love, but there are certainly other emotions described or implied in each poem even if they are not explicitly named.

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Thesis: “Ozymandias” and “My Last Duchess” are two poems that both describe works of art, a sculpture and a painting, respectively, both of which depict a deceased person. These artworks act as masks that hide the subjects’ real nature, as well as depicting the sum of their life’s work.

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Petvy, this is a good overview for your essay. Your thesis statement might want to argue that the dead figures depicted in each work of art are similar and/or different in important ways. For instance, Ozymandias seems to have had a hand in the commissioning of his statue and seems to have held a great deal of power while he was alive. But the Duchess had her portrait commissioned by her husband and was ultimately (we may presume) murdered on her husband’s orders. While she lived, she seemed not to have much power (according to my reading, but perhaps you can prove otherwise). Do these figures fare differently as works of art? Ozymandias’s broken statue seems a bit embarrassing and ironic. The painting of Duchess, however, is a subtler presence: do you think the Duke remains jealous or fearful of her even after her death?

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“Sonnet 73” and “Sonnet 116” are two different, yet very similar poems that use metaphors, imagery, and meter to portray the beauty and everlasting effect of love.

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Karyna, commenting on the mystical qualities of love in Shakespeare’s sonnets is a great starting point for this essay. But know that every poem uses metaphor, imagery, and meter. What you’ll need to show is how the Shakespearean sonnet form (fourteen lines divided into three quatrains and a final conceit expressed in the closing couplet), exemplified in the two sonnets you’ve chosen, works within certain formal constraints to explore what you call “the beauty and everlasting effect of love.” I don’t see a hopeful outlook on love (by which I think you mean romantic love within the confines of a marriage?) in Sonnet 73. That poem is more pensive and is concerned with “lov[ing] that well which thou must leave ere long.” In other words, enjoy the moment because this love is not going to last. This seems to be the antithesis to “the beauty and everlasting effect of love,” so if you keep with the theme you’ve chosen, Sonnet 73 should act as a sort of foil to Sonnet 116. If you’re going to talk about “metaphors, imagery, and meter,” you would do better to focus on elements like tone or mood, personification, or simile, as well as sonic qualities of the poem where you notice them, such as alliteration, assonance, and consonance, and repeated or closely related words. Always use adjectives to describe the tone, mood, imagery, meter, or any other literary device you’re scrutinizing. Using any of these terms without an accompanying adjective doesn’t tell your audience anything they won’t already know.

How do you start to do this? Reading each poem very closely! Start by breaking the poem into sections (quatrains and couplets) and then into lines and finally phrases or single words.

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The two poems I have selected for this Essay is Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost and It is a Beauteous Evening, Calm and Free by William Wordsworth. The theme I am focusing on is nature and the influence it had on both characters in certain ways.

Tayyab, this is a good start. You’ll need to explicitly show what you mean by “nature” because it’s a broad term. You’ll also need to be more specific than to simply state that nature has an “influence… on both characters in certain ways.”

Here are some questions to get you started:

How, specifically, does Wordsworth’s speaker respond to the beauty and calmness and freedom of the evening by the seashore? Is the little girl part of “nature,” as you understand the term? How, specifically, does Frost’s speaker respond to the cold and the snow of the evening, to the woods, to his little horse, to the miles he still has to go before he can sleep? Does it matter that the speaker “thinks” he knows whose woods he stops by?

Do these speaker’s make similar resolutions? Do they have similar responses to their surroundings? What is important about the similarities or differences you see in these responses, and why?

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John Milton’s “On His Blindness” and Sir Phillip Sydney’s Sonnet 1 are both examples of poems that discuss an artist’s relationship to his work and his struggle to find inspiration and meaning in his work. In “On His Blindness”, the author finds it in a higher being while in Sonnet 1 he finds it in another person.

Ilya, I like the contrast you’re setting up between these two sonnets. Besides Milton’s overt deference to God and Sidney’s Muse’s admonition that he need only look into his heart to find the words by which to express his love for his beloved, Milton emphasizes Talent while Sidney emphasizes a progression of interconnected, interdependent, personified ideas: Knowledge, Pleasure, Nature, Invention, Study, etc. Milton wants to avoid wasting his talent, while Sidney needs to be reminded by his Muse to look into his heart. Maybe there’s some room for comparison and contrast here.

Also worth comparing are the voices that speak in each poem: the murmuring voice of “On His Blindness” and the Muse in “Sonnet 1.” Can you make any connections between these two voices?

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John Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn” and Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess” both concern the appreciation of beauty in its stillness. In “Ode on a Grecian Urn”, the speaker is content with the immortalization of movement and strong emotion while in “My Last Duchess”, the speaker is satisfied with keeping his previously outgoing wife still and controlled as a painting.

Chiara, comparing these poems is a very logical move, since they are both ekphrastic poems (talk about ekphrasis in your essay!).

Is the speaker of “Ode on a Grecian Urn” truly, as you say, content? What, then, do we make of his exclamation, “Cold Pastoral!” Pastoral is poetry about an idyllic, restful life in the countryside. But “Cold” vexes this sunny view of pastoral—interpreting the meaning of “Cold” in this line will go a long way toward defending your reading of the speaker’s response to the urn. I do like the ways you’re reading the two poems.

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Although “Sonnet 73” by William Shakespeare and “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” by Wallace Stevens both talk about similar issues, they are able to talk about different aspects of the same idea using there unique poetic writing style.

Jordan, you’ll have to work on this thesis statement. To say both poets have a “unique poetic writing style” doesn’t tell your audience anything. Shakespeare’s sonnet is, formally speaking, a very different poem from Stevens’s “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” which has no rhyme scheme, meter, or fixed stanza. More importantly, what are the “similar issues” these poems talk about? Again, “similar issues” shows your audience nothing. Note the specific similarities in your introductory paragraph and show how your reading of the poems will bring new similarities and differences to light.

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In this paper, I will analyze how both Robert Frost in, “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening,” and Emily Dickinson in “Because I Could Not Stop For Death,” utilize irony to portray death with a paradoxical approach. Dickinson uses irony in her poem by relating a serious topic of death with a soft-approach and tone, treating it as a journey. Likewise, in “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening,” the speaker wants to stop and admire the beauty of the tranquility in the woods, but cannot due to the obligations he still has to fulfill. Frost thus uses irony to convey how the speaker has responsibilities in life before he can “enjoy” a more calmer occasion, such as resting, or even death.

Love this! Keep building on these ideas.

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“The Snow Man” and “The Learn’d Astronomer” employ the themes of nature and man. “The Snow Man” paints the scene of a winter landscape, while “The Learn’d Astronomer” demonstrates the battle between scientific knowledge and natural knowledge of the stars. Both poems involve a higher perspective of thinking: “The Snow Man” promotes an objective view of nature, while “The Learn’d Astronomer” advances that experience and wisdom are the key to true knowledge.

Mary, I really like the ideas you’re working through here. I would question the “objective view of nature” you posit to be present in “The Snow Man.” What, then, do we do with the lines “for the listener, who listens in the snow, / And, nothing himself, beholds / Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.” I can see how one might read this as an “objective view of nature,” as you do. And this is a good reading. I wonder whether the ambiguity of these lines might necessitate further explanation. Similarly, in Whitman’s poem, that learn’d astronomer himself seems to present the speaker and the students in the auditorium with an “objective view of nature.” Keeping in mind that what we now call science used to be called “natural philosophy,” I think you might mean to contrast “scientific knowledge” with “poetic knowledge.” Does this get closer to the position you’re trying to uphold?

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Thesis: In “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” by Wallace Stevens and “Because I Could Not Stop For Death” by Emily Dickinson, both poems utilize different literary devices such as vivid imagery that generates very dark undertones, that help develop the common theme of irony shared between the two.

Lanz, the questions you’ll have to address, if you keep this thesis unchanged, include the following. What is it about the imagery of these poems that can be called “vivid”? Likewise, can you give specific examples (perhaps images that seem similar or even the same between the two poems) of what you mean by “imagery that generates very dark undertones?” Dark in hue, or dark in mood? Both? One or the other, depending on the poem? What is ironic about each poem, and how does irony help us to better understand the speaker of Dickinon’s poem in relation to Death, and the speaker(s) in Stevens’s poem in relation to a blackbird?

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The victims of time often are forced to face their own mortality, this phenomenon occurs throughout Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 60” and “Sonnet 64”. Imagery rooted in metaphorical language (generally alluding to themes regarding nature) in addition to structural parallelism (or lack thereof) creates an overarching theme across poems: Time is an enemy, and occasionally a paradoxical entity.

Cory, comparing these two sonnets is going to give you plenty to say. I think you can get even more specific than simply saying Shakespeare uses nature imagery. He uses imagery of oceans and shores, farms and fields, etc. “Nature” by itself could mean everything that is not myself, i.e., my mind. The shared theme of Time as something to be resisted through cultivating an appreciation for the fullness of life and youth is a great anchor to your more particularized readings of the imagery and its function within each respective poem.

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For my essay, I will be comparing Robert Browning, “My Last Duchess” and Robert Frost, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”. I am interested in the way the story gets told in each poem. I don’t know what it is called though! The majority of Frost’s poem is the person being distracted by the woods. At the end, he regains focus and continues walking. The majority of My Last Duchess is the person complaining about his ex in a painting. At the end, he dismisses it and moves onto Neptune. I need help determining what this is called, but this is what I want the focus of my essay to be of.

Joe, I’m wondering whether you might consider the differences between solitude and society in these poems. On one reading Frost’s speaker is very much alone in the woods, and yet he is not lonely. He knows there’s a village and an acquaintance (perhaps the owner of the woods might even be surmised to be a friend) nearby. He knows he has a place to sleep at the end of his journey. Perhaps it’s in a warm, familiar place, or perhaps it’s an eternal sleep with a community of souls who have died.

Browning’s speaker, Ferrara, on the other hand, enjoys all the comforts of an obedient court, a rapt audience in the courtly attendant of his new fiancée, and a house filled with fine art commissioned by some of the best artists available for hire. And yet, in a very important, poignant way, he is utterly alone in spite of all his power. This is the thing people never seem to understand about power. It breeds isolation and distrust.

I think the word you’re looking for is persona. The persona of the speaker in Frost’s poem seems more genuinely self-assured than the confident yet jealous Ferrara.

Thanks for the reply?

Meant to say Thanks for the reply! With an exclamation not a question mark, now I sound sarcastic. I will definitely try to make comparison on Persona.

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The two poems I will talk about in my essay are, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Bird” and “Because I Could Not Stop for Death”. The common theme I will talk about between the two poems is Death.

Aiden, make sure in your opening paragraph, and in your thesis, to note specific ways each poem reflects on death. In Dickinson’s poem, Death is personified and takes on concrete characteristics (“He kindly stopped for me”). In Stevens’s poem, however, death is not personified and is more implied that openly articulated in the presence, absence, activity, or stillness of the blackbird or the scene in which the blackbird is involved. What role might literary devices like irony, sarcasm, innuendo, or mood play in each poem’s characterization(s) of death? What is clear or unclear about how the speaker thinks about or avoids thinking about death? Can either poem be said to be mournful? Obviously, there’s an endless font of questions to draw from. By articulating your reading of the particular ways in which each poem reflects on death early in your own essay, you’ll hopefully limit the range of possible interpretive questions to something manageable for a five-page paper.

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Comparing Two Poems: Essay Example

Poetry is a unique art form as it usually captures the feelings of a particular individual. Therefore, two poems with the same genre and similar themes can have substantial differences. On the other hand, verses that seem different can share striking resemblances. To compare and contrast two poems, this essay example will focus on the message they carry.

“The Negro Speaks of Rivers” is a poem written by Langston Hughes during the Harlem Renaissance. It was 1921, and the young Hughes was just adding his voice to the plight of the African Americans at the time. “We Wear the Mask” is a piece by the famous author and activist Laurence Dunbar. The lyrical poem was written twenty-five years before Hughes published “The Negro Speaks of Rivers.” By comparing two poems, this essay example will reveal both their similarities and differences.

These two poems were written in the period between the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement. This period was characterized by deep emotions concerning the struggles of the African Americans. Each of these poems represents the poets’ feelings towards the struggles of the African Americans. “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” chronicles the speaker’s historical journey from Africa to the West. The speaker refers to African Americans, their history, and their heritage.

The poem captures this rich heritage albeit in a nostalgic manner. On the other hand, “We Wear the Mask” is a poem by one of the first African American writers to be accorded a national accolade for his work. Dunbar explores the coping mechanisms of the African Americans during their struggles. Both poems address issues that happen in the same period.

Dunbar’s poem was published at the turn of the century shortly after slavery was outlawed. This period was expected to be a victorious time for African Americans and everyone assumed that they were happy. “We Wear the Mask” disputes this idea and presents an argument that happiness among the African American population was a façade.

According to Dunbar, deep inside, African Americans have ‘torn and bleeding hearts’. The message in this poem is not direct and it is in line with the situation in the ground. When this poem was written, the fight for equal rights among African Americans had not started in earnest. Instead, the struggle for equal rights was just bubbling under the surface.

Dunbar’s poem hints at this discontent by claiming that African Americans were just masking their feelings. Dunbar digs deeper into the issue by claiming that most of the population at the time was hiding behind religion to avoid confronting the issues of inequality. In addition, the speaker accuses the African American population of misleading the rest of the population about their actual feelings.

Langston Hughes’ poem has a more melancholic tone. Hughes wrote “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” twenty-five years after Dunbar’s poem was written. Hughes’ poem uses a different approach to address the African American issues of the time. His poem highlights the pride of origin that African Americans have.

The speaker in this poem speaks proudly about his rich history and heritage and how it is closely connected to some mighty rivers around the world. Unlike Dunbar, Hughes does not hide the message of his poem. This is mostly because there was no need for indirect messages after the Civil Rights Movement had already taken shape. Hughes took time out of the equal rights struggles of the African Americans to reflect on this population’s prolific heritage.

By doing this, the poet was alluding to the fact that the Civil Rights Movement was a small hurdle for the population that had come so far. The message in Hughes’ poem is structurally different from that in Dunbar’s poem. Hughes is reassuring African Americans of their supremacy and the need to hold on to their mighty heritage while Dunbar is indirectly urging African Americans to do something about their veiled unhappiness.

The mask that Dunbar talks about hides a prolific history and heritage about the African Americans. On the other hand, Hughes reiterates the need for African Americans to hold on to their rich heritage. Hughes’ poem is also meant to remind the world that African Americans have contributed towards major civilizations around the world. For instance, the speaker reminds the readers that African Americans were part of the civilization that brought the pyramids.

Hughes’ point is that African Americans thrived through various civilizations around the world and the Civil Rights Movement is just another hurdle. The rest of the population at the time viewed the African American population as the recently freed slaves who were supposed to show gratitude. However, most people failed to put into consideration the fact that African Americans’ history predated slavery.

Dunbar’s poem is also structured in a manner that addresses African Americans and the rest of the population. Dunbar sends a call to action to African Americans although his message is not direct. On the other hand, Dunbar’s poem informs the rest of the population that the happiness they see among the African American population is not real. While Hughes’ message is assertive and direct, Dunbar’s message is provocative and indirect.

One of the most striking similarities between these two poems is the fact that they use a central metaphor. Hughes’ poem uses the River as the main metaphor. In addition, he includes it in the poem’s title. The river is used to show the passage of time in “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”. African Americans have come a long way and triumphed over several forms of adversity. However, just like rivers flow eternally, African Americans have kept on flowing.

The metaphor of the river is also used to show that the existence of African Americans will outlast many things. At one point in the poem, the speaker says that he has seen rivers change their appearance depending on the time. This signifies that a time will come when the outlook of African Americans will be favorable. Dunbar’s poem uses the mask as the main metaphor.

The poet also boldly introduces this metaphor in the poem’s first line. The mask refers to the façade that prevents people from seeing the discontent of the African American population. According to Dunbar, African Americans use masks to hide their actual feelings and avoid provoking those who oppress them. The mask is a strong metaphor that also lends itself to the poem’s title. Use of metaphors gives these two poems a valuable outlook and helps the poets pass their strong messages to their audience.

“The Negro Speaks of Rivers” and “We Wear the Mask” are two poems that address the plight of the African Americans albeit from different perspectives. The wishes of the two poets materialized with the success of the Civil Rights Movement. Both poets reckon that the struggle of African Americans is an ongoing process.

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IvyPanda. (2023, October 30). Comparing Two Poems: Essay Example. https://ivypanda.com/essays/comparison-of-two-poems/

"Comparing Two Poems: Essay Example." IvyPanda , 30 Oct. 2023, ivypanda.com/essays/comparison-of-two-poems/.

IvyPanda . (2023) 'Comparing Two Poems: Essay Example'. 30 October.

IvyPanda . 2023. "Comparing Two Poems: Essay Example." October 30, 2023. https://ivypanda.com/essays/comparison-of-two-poems/.

1. IvyPanda . "Comparing Two Poems: Essay Example." October 30, 2023. https://ivypanda.com/essays/comparison-of-two-poems/.

Bibliography

IvyPanda . "Comparing Two Poems: Essay Example." October 30, 2023. https://ivypanda.com/essays/comparison-of-two-poems/.

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The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Comparing and Contrasting

What this handout is about.

This handout will help you first to determine whether a particular assignment is asking for comparison/contrast and then to generate a list of similarities and differences, decide which similarities and differences to focus on, and organize your paper so that it will be clear and effective. It will also explain how you can (and why you should) develop a thesis that goes beyond “Thing A and Thing B are similar in many ways but different in others.”

Introduction

In your career as a student, you’ll encounter many different kinds of writing assignments, each with its own requirements. One of the most common is the comparison/contrast essay, in which you focus on the ways in which certain things or ideas—usually two of them—are similar to (this is the comparison) and/or different from (this is the contrast) one another. By assigning such essays, your instructors are encouraging you to make connections between texts or ideas, engage in critical thinking, and go beyond mere description or summary to generate interesting analysis: when you reflect on similarities and differences, you gain a deeper understanding of the items you are comparing, their relationship to each other, and what is most important about them.

Recognizing comparison/contrast in assignments

Some assignments use words—like compare, contrast, similarities, and differences—that make it easy for you to see that they are asking you to compare and/or contrast. Here are a few hypothetical examples:

  • Compare and contrast Frye’s and Bartky’s accounts of oppression.
  • Compare WWI to WWII, identifying similarities in the causes, development, and outcomes of the wars.
  • Contrast Wordsworth and Coleridge; what are the major differences in their poetry?

Notice that some topics ask only for comparison, others only for contrast, and others for both.

But it’s not always so easy to tell whether an assignment is asking you to include comparison/contrast. And in some cases, comparison/contrast is only part of the essay—you begin by comparing and/or contrasting two or more things and then use what you’ve learned to construct an argument or evaluation. Consider these examples, noticing the language that is used to ask for the comparison/contrast and whether the comparison/contrast is only one part of a larger assignment:

  • Choose a particular idea or theme, such as romantic love, death, or nature, and consider how it is treated in two Romantic poems.
  • How do the different authors we have studied so far define and describe oppression?
  • Compare Frye’s and Bartky’s accounts of oppression. What does each imply about women’s collusion in their own oppression? Which is more accurate?
  • In the texts we’ve studied, soldiers who served in different wars offer differing accounts of their experiences and feelings both during and after the fighting. What commonalities are there in these accounts? What factors do you think are responsible for their differences?

You may want to check out our handout on understanding assignments for additional tips.

Using comparison/contrast for all kinds of writing projects

Sometimes you may want to use comparison/contrast techniques in your own pre-writing work to get ideas that you can later use for an argument, even if comparison/contrast isn’t an official requirement for the paper you’re writing. For example, if you wanted to argue that Frye’s account of oppression is better than both de Beauvoir’s and Bartky’s, comparing and contrasting the main arguments of those three authors might help you construct your evaluation—even though the topic may not have asked for comparison/contrast and the lists of similarities and differences you generate may not appear anywhere in the final draft of your paper.

Discovering similarities and differences

Making a Venn diagram or a chart can help you quickly and efficiently compare and contrast two or more things or ideas. To make a Venn diagram, simply draw some overlapping circles, one circle for each item you’re considering. In the central area where they overlap, list the traits the two items have in common. Assign each one of the areas that doesn’t overlap; in those areas, you can list the traits that make the things different. Here’s a very simple example, using two pizza places:

Venn diagram indicating that both Pepper's and Amante serve pizza with unusual ingredients at moderate prices, despite differences in location, wait times, and delivery options

To make a chart, figure out what criteria you want to focus on in comparing the items. Along the left side of the page, list each of the criteria. Across the top, list the names of the items. You should then have a box per item for each criterion; you can fill the boxes in and then survey what you’ve discovered.

Here’s an example, this time using three pizza places:

As you generate points of comparison, consider the purpose and content of the assignment and the focus of the class. What do you think the professor wants you to learn by doing this comparison/contrast? How does it fit with what you have been studying so far and with the other assignments in the course? Are there any clues about what to focus on in the assignment itself?

Here are some general questions about different types of things you might have to compare. These are by no means complete or definitive lists; they’re just here to give you some ideas—you can generate your own questions for these and other types of comparison. You may want to begin by using the questions reporters traditionally ask: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? If you’re talking about objects, you might also consider general properties like size, shape, color, sound, weight, taste, texture, smell, number, duration, and location.

Two historical periods or events

  • When did they occur—do you know the date(s) and duration? What happened or changed during each? Why are they significant?
  • What kinds of work did people do? What kinds of relationships did they have? What did they value?
  • What kinds of governments were there? Who were important people involved?
  • What caused events in these periods, and what consequences did they have later on?

Two ideas or theories

  • What are they about?
  • Did they originate at some particular time?
  • Who created them? Who uses or defends them?
  • What is the central focus, claim, or goal of each? What conclusions do they offer?
  • How are they applied to situations/people/things/etc.?
  • Which seems more plausible to you, and why? How broad is their scope?
  • What kind of evidence is usually offered for them?

Two pieces of writing or art

  • What are their titles? What do they describe or depict?
  • What is their tone or mood? What is their form?
  • Who created them? When were they created? Why do you think they were created as they were? What themes do they address?
  • Do you think one is of higher quality or greater merit than the other(s)—and if so, why?
  • For writing: what plot, characterization, setting, theme, tone, and type of narration are used?
  • Where are they from? How old are they? What is the gender, race, class, etc. of each?
  • What, if anything, are they known for? Do they have any relationship to each other?
  • What are they like? What did/do they do? What do they believe? Why are they interesting?
  • What stands out most about each of them?

Deciding what to focus on

By now you have probably generated a huge list of similarities and differences—congratulations! Next you must decide which of them are interesting, important, and relevant enough to be included in your paper. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What’s relevant to the assignment?
  • What’s relevant to the course?
  • What’s interesting and informative?
  • What matters to the argument you are going to make?
  • What’s basic or central (and needs to be mentioned even if obvious)?
  • Overall, what’s more important—the similarities or the differences?

Suppose that you are writing a paper comparing two novels. For most literature classes, the fact that they both use Caslon type (a kind of typeface, like the fonts you may use in your writing) is not going to be relevant, nor is the fact that one of them has a few illustrations and the other has none; literature classes are more likely to focus on subjects like characterization, plot, setting, the writer’s style and intentions, language, central themes, and so forth. However, if you were writing a paper for a class on typesetting or on how illustrations are used to enhance novels, the typeface and presence or absence of illustrations might be absolutely critical to include in your final paper.

Sometimes a particular point of comparison or contrast might be relevant but not terribly revealing or interesting. For example, if you are writing a paper about Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey” and Coleridge’s “Frost at Midnight,” pointing out that they both have nature as a central theme is relevant (comparisons of poetry often talk about themes) but not terribly interesting; your class has probably already had many discussions about the Romantic poets’ fondness for nature. Talking about the different ways nature is depicted or the different aspects of nature that are emphasized might be more interesting and show a more sophisticated understanding of the poems.

Your thesis

The thesis of your comparison/contrast paper is very important: it can help you create a focused argument and give your reader a road map so they don’t get lost in the sea of points you are about to make. As in any paper, you will want to replace vague reports of your general topic (for example, “This paper will compare and contrast two pizza places,” or “Pepper’s and Amante are similar in some ways and different in others,” or “Pepper’s and Amante are similar in many ways, but they have one major difference”) with something more detailed and specific. For example, you might say, “Pepper’s and Amante have similar prices and ingredients, but their atmospheres and willingness to deliver set them apart.”

Be careful, though—although this thesis is fairly specific and does propose a simple argument (that atmosphere and delivery make the two pizza places different), your instructor will often be looking for a bit more analysis. In this case, the obvious question is “So what? Why should anyone care that Pepper’s and Amante are different in this way?” One might also wonder why the writer chose those two particular pizza places to compare—why not Papa John’s, Dominos, or Pizza Hut? Again, thinking about the context the class provides may help you answer such questions and make a stronger argument. Here’s a revision of the thesis mentioned earlier:

Pepper’s and Amante both offer a greater variety of ingredients than other Chapel Hill/Carrboro pizza places (and than any of the national chains), but the funky, lively atmosphere at Pepper’s makes it a better place to give visiting friends and family a taste of local culture.

You may find our handout on constructing thesis statements useful at this stage.

Organizing your paper

There are many different ways to organize a comparison/contrast essay. Here are two:

Subject-by-subject

Begin by saying everything you have to say about the first subject you are discussing, then move on and make all the points you want to make about the second subject (and after that, the third, and so on, if you’re comparing/contrasting more than two things). If the paper is short, you might be able to fit all of your points about each item into a single paragraph, but it’s more likely that you’d have several paragraphs per item. Using our pizza place comparison/contrast as an example, after the introduction, you might have a paragraph about the ingredients available at Pepper’s, a paragraph about its location, and a paragraph about its ambience. Then you’d have three similar paragraphs about Amante, followed by your conclusion.

The danger of this subject-by-subject organization is that your paper will simply be a list of points: a certain number of points (in my example, three) about one subject, then a certain number of points about another. This is usually not what college instructors are looking for in a paper—generally they want you to compare or contrast two or more things very directly, rather than just listing the traits the things have and leaving it up to the reader to reflect on how those traits are similar or different and why those similarities or differences matter. Thus, if you use the subject-by-subject form, you will probably want to have a very strong, analytical thesis and at least one body paragraph that ties all of your different points together.

A subject-by-subject structure can be a logical choice if you are writing what is sometimes called a “lens” comparison, in which you use one subject or item (which isn’t really your main topic) to better understand another item (which is). For example, you might be asked to compare a poem you’ve already covered thoroughly in class with one you are reading on your own. It might make sense to give a brief summary of your main ideas about the first poem (this would be your first subject, the “lens”), and then spend most of your paper discussing how those points are similar to or different from your ideas about the second.

Point-by-point

Rather than addressing things one subject at a time, you may wish to talk about one point of comparison at a time. There are two main ways this might play out, depending on how much you have to say about each of the things you are comparing. If you have just a little, you might, in a single paragraph, discuss how a certain point of comparison/contrast relates to all the items you are discussing. For example, I might describe, in one paragraph, what the prices are like at both Pepper’s and Amante; in the next paragraph, I might compare the ingredients available; in a third, I might contrast the atmospheres of the two restaurants.

If I had a bit more to say about the items I was comparing/contrasting, I might devote a whole paragraph to how each point relates to each item. For example, I might have a whole paragraph about the clientele at Pepper’s, followed by a whole paragraph about the clientele at Amante; then I would move on and do two more paragraphs discussing my next point of comparison/contrast—like the ingredients available at each restaurant.

There are no hard and fast rules about organizing a comparison/contrast paper, of course. Just be sure that your reader can easily tell what’s going on! Be aware, too, of the placement of your different points. If you are writing a comparison/contrast in service of an argument, keep in mind that the last point you make is the one you are leaving your reader with. For example, if I am trying to argue that Amante is better than Pepper’s, I should end with a contrast that leaves Amante sounding good, rather than with a point of comparison that I have to admit makes Pepper’s look better. If you’ve decided that the differences between the items you’re comparing/contrasting are most important, you’ll want to end with the differences—and vice versa, if the similarities seem most important to you.

Our handout on organization can help you write good topic sentences and transitions and make sure that you have a good overall structure in place for your paper.

Cue words and other tips

To help your reader keep track of where you are in the comparison/contrast, you’ll want to be sure that your transitions and topic sentences are especially strong. Your thesis should already have given the reader an idea of the points you’ll be making and the organization you’ll be using, but you can help them out with some extra cues. The following words may be helpful to you in signaling your intentions:

  • like, similar to, also, unlike, similarly, in the same way, likewise, again, compared to, in contrast, in like manner, contrasted with, on the contrary, however, although, yet, even though, still, but, nevertheless, conversely, at the same time, regardless, despite, while, on the one hand … on the other hand.

For example, you might have a topic sentence like one of these:

  • Compared to Pepper’s, Amante is quiet.
  • Like Amante, Pepper’s offers fresh garlic as a topping.
  • Despite their different locations (downtown Chapel Hill and downtown Carrboro), Pepper’s and Amante are both fairly easy to get to.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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  • Comparing and contrasting in an essay | Tips & examples

Comparing and Contrasting in an Essay | Tips & Examples

Published on August 6, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on July 23, 2023.

Comparing and contrasting is an important skill in academic writing . It involves taking two or more subjects and analyzing the differences and similarities between them.

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Table of contents

When should i compare and contrast, making effective comparisons, comparing and contrasting as a brainstorming tool, structuring your comparisons, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about comparing and contrasting.

Many assignments will invite you to make comparisons quite explicitly, as in these prompts.

  • Compare the treatment of the theme of beauty in the poetry of William Wordsworth and John Keats.
  • Compare and contrast in-class and distance learning. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each approach?

Some other prompts may not directly ask you to compare and contrast, but present you with a topic where comparing and contrasting could be a good approach.

One way to approach this essay might be to contrast the situation before the Great Depression with the situation during it, to highlight how large a difference it made.

Comparing and contrasting is also used in all kinds of academic contexts where it’s not explicitly prompted. For example, a literature review involves comparing and contrasting different studies on your topic, and an argumentative essay may involve weighing up the pros and cons of different arguments.

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As the name suggests, comparing and contrasting is about identifying both similarities and differences. You might focus on contrasting quite different subjects or comparing subjects with a lot in common—but there must be some grounds for comparison in the first place.

For example, you might contrast French society before and after the French Revolution; you’d likely find many differences, but there would be a valid basis for comparison. However, if you contrasted pre-revolutionary France with Han-dynasty China, your reader might wonder why you chose to compare these two societies.

This is why it’s important to clarify the point of your comparisons by writing a focused thesis statement . Every element of an essay should serve your central argument in some way. Consider what you’re trying to accomplish with any comparisons you make, and be sure to make this clear to the reader.

Comparing and contrasting can be a useful tool to help organize your thoughts before you begin writing any type of academic text. You might use it to compare different theories and approaches you’ve encountered in your preliminary research, for example.

Let’s say your research involves the competing psychological approaches of behaviorism and cognitive psychology. You might make a table to summarize the key differences between them.

Or say you’re writing about the major global conflicts of the twentieth century. You might visualize the key similarities and differences in a Venn diagram.

A Venn diagram showing the similarities and differences between World War I, World War II, and the Cold War.

These visualizations wouldn’t make it into your actual writing, so they don’t have to be very formal in terms of phrasing or presentation. The point of comparing and contrasting at this stage is to help you organize and shape your ideas to aid you in structuring your arguments.

When comparing and contrasting in an essay, there are two main ways to structure your comparisons: the alternating method and the block method.

The alternating method

In the alternating method, you structure your text according to what aspect you’re comparing. You cover both your subjects side by side in terms of a specific point of comparison. Your text is structured like this:

Mouse over the example paragraph below to see how this approach works.

One challenge teachers face is identifying and assisting students who are struggling without disrupting the rest of the class. In a traditional classroom environment, the teacher can easily identify when a student is struggling based on their demeanor in class or simply by regularly checking on students during exercises. They can then offer assistance quietly during the exercise or discuss it further after class. Meanwhile, in a Zoom-based class, the lack of physical presence makes it more difficult to pay attention to individual students’ responses and notice frustrations, and there is less flexibility to speak with students privately to offer assistance. In this case, therefore, the traditional classroom environment holds the advantage, although it appears likely that aiding students in a virtual classroom environment will become easier as the technology, and teachers’ familiarity with it, improves.

The block method

In the block method, you cover each of the overall subjects you’re comparing in a block. You say everything you have to say about your first subject, then discuss your second subject, making comparisons and contrasts back to the things you’ve already said about the first. Your text is structured like this:

  • Point of comparison A
  • Point of comparison B

The most commonly cited advantage of distance learning is the flexibility and accessibility it offers. Rather than being required to travel to a specific location every week (and to live near enough to feasibly do so), students can participate from anywhere with an internet connection. This allows not only for a wider geographical spread of students but for the possibility of studying while travelling. However, distance learning presents its own accessibility challenges; not all students have a stable internet connection and a computer or other device with which to participate in online classes, and less technologically literate students and teachers may struggle with the technical aspects of class participation. Furthermore, discomfort and distractions can hinder an individual student’s ability to engage with the class from home, creating divergent learning experiences for different students. Distance learning, then, seems to improve accessibility in some ways while representing a step backwards in others.

Note that these two methods can be combined; these two example paragraphs could both be part of the same essay, but it’s wise to use an essay outline to plan out which approach you’re taking in each paragraph.

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Some essay prompts include the keywords “compare” and/or “contrast.” In these cases, an essay structured around comparing and contrasting is the appropriate response.

Comparing and contrasting is also a useful approach in all kinds of academic writing : You might compare different studies in a literature review , weigh up different arguments in an argumentative essay , or consider different theoretical approaches in a theoretical framework .

Your subjects might be very different or quite similar, but it’s important that there be meaningful grounds for comparison . You can probably describe many differences between a cat and a bicycle, but there isn’t really any connection between them to justify the comparison.

You’ll have to write a thesis statement explaining the central point you want to make in your essay , so be sure to know in advance what connects your subjects and makes them worth comparing.

Comparisons in essays are generally structured in one of two ways:

  • The alternating method, where you compare your subjects side by side according to one specific aspect at a time.
  • The block method, where you cover each subject separately in its entirety.

It’s also possible to combine both methods, for example by writing a full paragraph on each of your topics and then a final paragraph contrasting the two according to a specific metric.

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how to write a thesis comparing two poems

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how to compare poems

How to compare poems – 5 steps

Previously, I wrote a post on how to analyse any unseen poem , which a lot of you found useful. One of you asked if I could also write a guide on how to compare poems, so that’s what this post is for. 

What’s the deal with comparative analysis – and why does it always seem so much harder…? 

Between an unseen single-poem analysis task and a prepared comparative poetry analysis task, which one would you prefer?

Both can be tricky to master, but neither is unmanageable – we just need to find the right strategy. 

Personally, I think the reason that comparative tasks seem more challenging is largely psychological. It’s not so much that the act of comparing texts itself is hard as it is that we get easily flustered when asked to multitask – especially in a high-stress situation like an exam.

Obviously, if these are set texts that you can prepare for, that should relieve a lot of the stress which would otherwise come with tackling an unseen comparative task (with the right sort of guidance, granted). 

So, what’s my point here?

I’m trying to say if you find comparative tasks intimidating, don’t – because

a) there’s a systematic way to go about doing it well, and

b) I’m going to show you just how to do it in this post, complete with steps and examples. 

5 steps to comparing any poems: a guide

Step 1: summarise the main idea of each poem in 1-2 sentences , step 2: find similarities – thematic, stylistic, structural and formal, step 3: find differences from similarities , step 4: identify 3 key ideas for comparison, step 5: summarise your main argument in a comparative statement.

Or watch my video below, in which I go through the 5 steps to comparing poems (but stick around this blog post for a demonstration of how to do it in the next section, where I compare Carol Rumens and Seamus Heaney’s poems):

What’s the first thing we do when encountering any poem? We read it, of course. But what do you do after you first read the poem? We’re likely to re-read it – either because we don’t really ‘get it’ the first time round, or because we need to start sourcing clues for our analysis. 

Re-reading is all good and well (not to mention necessary), but the problem with it is there’s potentially no end to how many times we could re-read a poem, and so the more we re-read, the more we’re likely to be led into a labyrinthe of questions, which causes more confusion. In normal, non-exam circumstances, that’s perfectly fine, but if you’re racing against time, then a better tactic is to read once, then summarise your first impressions; read twice, and summarise the main idea of the poem. 

But, what if I really don’t get it? Obviously, there’s room to take ‘once’ or ‘twice’ liberally, so no issues if you have to re-read a couple of times before you can summarise anything. My point, however, is not to get sucked into an endless process of reading and re-reading, because before long you’ll have whittled all your time away – only to have nothing to show for it at the end. 

To prevent this, start actively engaging with the poem by asking yourself these questions immediately after reading it: 

What is the main gist of the poem’s content?

How do I feel after reading this poem? 

What are some themes or ideas that jump out at me? 

Is there anything special or weird about this poem? 

Etcetera. 

Then, scribble them down on your planning sheet (you should always plan before you write!), so at least you’re visualizing your response to the poem, which gives you a much better place to start than simply keeping everything in an abstract, befuddled jumble in your head. These notes don’t have to be long – just 1-2 sentences or even bullet points will suffice. 

how to compare poems summarise the main idea of each poem in one to two sentences

Once we’ve settled on a main understanding of the poems, it’s time to switch our thinking to a ‘lateral’ mode. By ‘lateral’, I mean to think across both poems in terms of different aspects of analysis (i.e. theme, style, structure, form), instead of focusing on only one poem at a time. 

Let’s start by looking at the similarities in theme, style, structure and form between the poems. If you’ve read my post on ‘how to tackle any unseen poetry’ (which you should!), you’ll know I love me some tables, rows and columns, so here’s a sample table for us to systematise our observations:

Similarities between Poem A and Poem B

Again, as I’ve mentioned in the unseen post, the ability to spot these similarities (and differences, as we’ll cover in the next step) is predicated on us being familiar with the technical basics. I.e., we can’t spot a metaphor if we don’t know what metaphor means, so make sure that you sort out the fundamentals first – a wobbly foundation is no place to start any poetry analysis task, comparative, unseen, or otherwise.

how to compare poems find similarities between the poems thematic stylistic structural and formal

Differences across poems can appear on multiple levels. There can be complete differences (e.g. Poem A is a sonnet whereas Poem B is a ballad), but more often, we’re looking for ‘differences within similarities’. This is why a good place to start identifying differences is, perhaps a bit ironically, in our similarities table. 

The guiding questions to ask, then, would include the following:

How do the poems present the same theme in different ways? 

How do the poets use the same stylistic, structural or formal techniques to present different aspects of the theme? 

For instance, while both poems may be about love, A could be about unrequited love and B about mutual love, so there’s a thematic difference for you. Alternatively, both poems may feature comparative devices, but while metaphors are used to compare love with dandelions in Poem A, similes could be used to compare love with an onion in Poem B.

Likewise, both poems may be odes , but perhaps A is a Pindaric ode, while B is a Horatian ode (for a more detailed explanation of the ode, read this post). So on so forth. You’ll notice that the ‘differences’, then, could simply be your analysis of the different quotations you’ve sourced for each poem’s ‘similarities’. 

So instead of creating a new table, we can add one extra line underneath each aspect of analysis to address how each ‘similarity’ differs across the poems, like this: 

Once we’ve reviewed all the ‘differences-in-similarities’, we can then zoom out and see if there are other fundamental points of divergence between the poems, i.e. is there something in Poem A that’s totally absent from Poem B, and vice versa? If it serves your argument to also bring these points in, then feel free to add them in. 

how to compare poems find differences from the similarities you have identified

Now that we’ve mapped out all the thematic, stylistic, structural and formal similarities and differences, it’s time to zoom in on how the theme is presented from various angles through the use of style, structure and form.

This means going back to the quotations we’ve sourced for the stylistic, structural and formal categories in each table, and looking at how these quotations present the theme in different ways through the poet’s use of techniques.

The purpose of this is to identify 3 main points of discussion for our main body section, which could look something like this:

Main body 1: How the poems present the nature of love (unrequited vs mutual)

  • Techniques used for this: Poem A (metaphor); Poem B (rhyme) 

Main body 2: How the poems present the fickleness of love, regardless of unrequited or mutual affections 

  • Techniques used for this: Poem A (organic imagery); Poem B (irony) 

Main body 3: How the poems reach their respective revelation about the role of love in our lives

  • Techniques used for this: Poem A (indentation / formal variation); Poem B (rhyming couplet at the end)

Together, your 3 main body points should cover the entirety of both texts, and not be limited to just one section of each poem. As for the ‘techniques used’, these should come in organically as part of your analysis, as you explain how the poet(s) convey these ideas through the use of metaphor , rhyme, organic imagery , irony etc. 

One more point to note is this: even within a comparative framework, there’s likely to be an arc of transformation in the way a theme is portrayed in each poem.

So, if Poem A is about unrequited love, does it begin in a despairing tone, but ends on a more stoic note? And if Poem B is about mutual love, is the idea presented in a purely joyful light throughout the poem, or does an element of doubt seep in halfway?

It’s important that we pay attention to these changes within each poem even while comparing across poems. 

how to compare poems identify 3 key ideas for comparison

Finally, let’s summarise the poems’ similarities and differences in a comparative statement.

This should be the guiding thesis for your essay, which also doubles as your main line of argument and cascades into points of analysis for the main body section.

Perhaps it seems a bit odd to ‘work backwards’ by coming up with the introductory thesis at the end of our planning process, but it works, because when you think about it, your argument should be a distillation of your main points, which are the specifics in each main body paragraph. 

To formulate the thesis, use comparative sentence structures like the following:

While both Poem A and Poem B are about…, Poem A portrays… as…, whereas Poem B casts… as… 

Poem A and Poem B are concerned with…, but Poem A presents… in a … light, while Poem B paints… as…

In Poem A, … is depicted as… However, this same subject matter is dealt with differently in Poem B, where the poet portrays… as… 

Your comparative thesis should be thematic in nature (i.e. it spells out how a theme is portrayed across both poems); any shared or different techniques could either be left to the main body analysis, or – if it helps clarify your focus as you go on to write the rest of your essay – you could add one follow-up sentence after the comparative thesis to summarise the technical overlaps and divergences between the poems.

For example, “Poem A relies mainly on comparative devices and imagery, while Poem B features personification and rhyme to convey the nuances of…” etc etc. But this is largely optional. 

how to compare poems summarise your main argument in a comparative statement

Quick demonstration: Carol Rumens’ ‘The Emigree’ vs Seamus Heaney’s ‘Storm on an Island’ | AQA GCSE English Literature Power and Conflict Poetry

Below, I’ll demonstrate how we can apply these steps to a comparison between two GCSE Power and Conflict poems – Carol Rumens’ ‘The Emigree’ and Seamus Heaney’s ‘Storm on an Island’. 

You can refer to the texts here (The Emigree) and here (Storm on an Island).

In ‘Emigree’, the persona is a political exile (hence the title) who has left her home country to escape political persecution. In the poem, she reminisces about her native city with nostalgic fondness, while conveying her awareness of the tyrannical threat that lurks in the shadows of her past. In a nutshell, she misses home but knows that she will probably never be able to return. 

The main idea of ‘Storm in an Island’ is that we’re often afraid of things that aren’t out to get us. We prepare for potential dangers, and yet are unaware that we can’t always prepare for them, or that they usually turn out to not be dangerous at all. In this poem, the persona initially sees nature as a force of threat, but ultimately understands that while nature is forceful, it doesn’t have to be threatening. 

Main idea 1: Preserving the home against external dangers  

  • In ‘The Emigree’, the persona fights back against her political persecutors by preserving a pure memory of her home city
  • In ‘Storm’, the persona braces himself for a potentially devastating storm by fortifying the structures of his home
  • Techniques used: war and natural imagery

Main idea 2: Reality vs expectation / ideal

  • In ‘The Emigree’, the persona would ideally like to return to her city, but it is implied that those in power back home do not welcome her presence.
  • In ‘Storm’, the persona anticipates a threatening storm, but ultimately realises that it’s much less destructive than he had expected it to be.
  • Techniques used: alliteration (plosives vs sibilants) 

Main idea 3: The turbulent nature of life 

  • In ‘The Emigree’, the persona is unmoored from her roots, and as an exile, she constantly struggles with conflicted emotions about wanting to return and yet knowing that she probably can never do so.
  • In ‘Storm’, nature is seen to be a turbulent force that changes in ways humans can’t quite anticipate.
  • Techniques used: enjambment and varied lineation 

Both ‘The Emigree’ and ‘Storm on an Island’ present the individual in the face of external dangers, whether real or imagined. However, while Rumens’ persona faces the threat of political persecution, and chooses to counter it by preserving a purer memory of her home, Heaney’s persona over-calculates the dangers of the storm, and eventually discovers that his fear of nature is largely unjustified. 

Bit of a mammoth post, I know, but I hope this helps break down the poetry comparison process into digestible chunks! If you have any questions, reach out to me here .

To read other study guides, check out my posts below: 

  • How to ace any Shakespeare question
  • How to analyse any unseen poem – 3 top tips
  • How to revise for English Literature – 8 top tips

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how to write a thesis comparing two poems

How to Write an Essay Comparing Two Poems

How to Write an Essay Comparing Two Poems at SolidEssay.com

In what follows you will get familiar with some useful instructions regarding how to write an essay comparing two poems. Please use them only as a starting point and not as absolute authority - essay writing is always a unique process.

Writing an essays comparing two poems – 7 useful tips

1. reflect on the topic.

As with any other kind of essay, here you need to reflect very deeply upon the topic. Ask yourself the following questions: what is your task? What will be your leading idea (or thesis)? Then write down everything which comes to your mind and use it while writing the essay.

2. Formulate a topic of your comparison

You cannot merely title it “A comparison between the poem A and the poem B.” It should be rather exposed as a topic; for example, “The idea of romantic love in the poem A and the poem B.” Of course, this is valid only if your teacher has not assigned a precisely formulated topic.

3.  Describe both poems one by one

Pay attention especially to their plot (if there is such), to the ideas that are exposed in them (in short), and to their narrator or main character.

Advice : you do not need to go into details while describing the poems. This should not take more than one-fifth of the whole essay. Thus, if your essay is ten pages long, the description needs to be around two pages.

4. Find similarities between both poems  

You can do this by referring to their style, length, author, social and political context. Usually such a task requires comparing two poems belonging to one literary school (romanticism, symbolism, etc.). However, it is also possible to compare poems by two great poets although both of them belong to different nations, traditions and schools.

5. Reveal the differences between both poems

Again by referring to their method, style, etc. 

6. Turn to your central idea  

Now you need to turn to the central idea which is the basis of your topic; for instance, romantic love. How is this idea treated in both poems? You can use quotations in order to prove how romantic love is defined by both authors. The first author puts more stress on its tragic dimensions, and the other author is more optimistic concerning it. You can also refer to the style and methods used by the particular poets because ideas are suggested also in technical way (i.e., not only verbally).

7.  Conclusion

You can conclude the essay by saying what are the similarities and differences in the treatment of the main idea (or that which is your topic).

Remember that your conception should be clearly expressed and logically proved. The fact that you are dealing with poems does not indicate that you can say about them whatever comes to your mind. A literary analysis should be logical.

From all said above, it can be asserted that writing an essay comparing two poems requires preparation and deep reflections on one central idea, common for both poems. You have to demonstrate your observational skills and also ability to find meanings through interpretation. 

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Baruch College Writing Center

Strategies for Comparison

This resource outlines strategies to help you draft a compelling comparative thesis, whether you’re writing a classic “compare and contrast” essay or looking to strengthen an argument.

Identify a significant difference or similarity

Brainstorm your comparison, significant comparisons: templates and examples, draft your own comparative thesis.

If you’re comparing (or contrasting) two or more texts, images, or examples, ask yourself: Are the things you’re comparing mostly alike? Or mostly unalike? Do they have more in common, or more differences?

Focus on the less obvious option to develop a significant and supportable thesis.

The strongest arguments introduce something potentially surprising about their topics, taking a position other readers/writers/critics might not have noticed at first.

If differences are easy to identify, emphasize an important similarity.

Venn diagram showing two circles that overlap only slightly. Arrows point to the small area of similarity.

If similarities are easy to identify, emphasize an important difference.

Venn diagram showing two circles that largely overlap. Arrows point to the small area of difference.

Avoid stating the obvious

This may feel counterintuitive at first. If you’re comparing two poems, for example, and you notice they have the same structure, a similar tone, and shared vocabulary, you may be tempted to focus your argument on what they have in common. But those are also comparisons all readers are likely to notice! A strong thesis makes a significant claim that needs supporting evidence to be persuasive.

If you need help determining whether to emphasize a similarity or difference, brainstorm first by completing the following Venn diagram.

Venn Diagram

If you find yourself mostly filling out the middle, focus on an important difference! If you find yourself mostly filling out the sides, focus on a similarity instead.

Now that you’ve chosen a significant difference or similarity to emphasize, your next step is to draft a thesis statement that identifies and explains the comparison.

Read the following templates and examples to get started. In each, the writer starts by introducing what seems obviously true—a clear difference or similarity—and then complicates that by focusing on a significant departure.

Emphasizing an important similarity:

  • While it may seem that A and B have little in common apart from ________________, they actually share ________________.
  • Despite many clear differences, both A and B ______________________________.
  • While it may seem that Democrats and Republicans disagree fundamentally on how the U.S. should be run, the fact that both parties supported the Defense Authorization Act—permitting the indefinite detention of American citizens on U.S. soil— suggests they share a core set of beliefs about government power.
  • Despite the schools’ different curricula, both serve the same overarching mission …

Emphasizing an important difference:

  • Although A and B share ________________, they significantly differ in that ______________________________.
  • A and B appear to have many commonalities, but depart from one another when ______________________________.
  • While T-Mobile and Verizon may appear to have similar marketing strategies, they target their audiences differently : T-Mobile caters to a niche audience of young people who live in cities, while Verizon emphasizes their nationwide coverage.
  • Although Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn” and Rilke’s “Archaic Torso of Apollo” are both ekphrastic poems about ancient Greek artifacts, they offer very different perspectives on antiquity…

Finally, draft your own comparative thesis, emphasizing a significant difference or similarity. If you’re looking for more templates to study, consult our Useful Language for Thesis Statements resource .

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How to Compare and Contrast Poems Like a Lit Major – A Guide for Poetry Lovers

How to Compare and Contrast Poems Like a Lit Major - A Guide for Poetry Lovers

Poetry is an art form that transcends boundaries and opens up new worlds of expression for both the writer and the reader. It allows us to delve into the complexities of human emotions and thoughts, offering a glimpse into the depths of the human soul. To truly appreciate the beauty and power of poetry, it is essential to understand how to compare and contrast different poems, just like a literary major.

When comparing and contrasting poems, it is important to look beyond the surface level and delve into the deeper meanings and themes that each poem presents. Each poem offers a unique perspective on life, love, and everything in between. By analyzing the various elements of a poem, such as its structure, tone, and imagery, you can uncover hidden connections and insights that may not be immediately apparent.

One effective method for comparing poems is to create a template or framework that allows for a systematic analysis of each poem. This template can include categories such as theme, tone, imagery, and structure. By examining each poem within these categories, you can identify similarities and differences in how the poems convey their respective messages.

For example, let’s take a look at two famous poems: William Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” and Nissim Ezekiel’s “Enterprise.” While these poems may seem quite different at first glance – one describing the beauty of nature and the other exploring the complexities of urban life – a closer analysis reveals similarities in their themes of human experience and the power of memory.

Understanding Poetry

One of the first steps in understanding poetry is to read and analyze the poems you’ll be comparing. Take a close look at the themes, the styles, and the overall messages that the poets are trying to convey. Are they similar or very different?

It’s also crucial to consider the background and beliefs of the poets themselves. This can help you formulate a deeper understanding of their works and their views on the world. Remember that poets are human beings with unique perspectives, and this can greatly influence their writing.

When comparing poems, it’s important to have a clear thesis statement that highlights the main points you’ll be discussing. This will help guide your analysis and keep you focused on the similarities and differences between the poems. For example, you may compare two poems that both use nature imagery to convey a sense of beauty, but one may focus on the calm and steady rhythm of nature whereas the other may emphasize the swift and unpredictable nature of it.

As you dive into the poems, you’ll likely find that there are similarities and differences in their use of poetic devices such as rhyme, meter, and imagery. Pay close attention to how these elements are used in each poem and how they contribute to the overall meaning and tone.

One method of comparing and contrasting poems is to create a template or a table with headers that outline the specific points or themes you’ll be discussing. This can help you organize your thoughts and ensure that you’re addressing all aspects of the poems.

Keep in mind that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to comparing and contrasting poems. Each analysis is unique and needs to be tailored to the specific works you’re examining. That’s why it’s important to be open-minded and willing to switch perspectives as you delve deeper into the poems.

Key Elements to Analyze

When comparing and contrasting poems, it’s important to consider a few key elements. These elements will help you delve deeper into the poems and find the similarities and differences that make each one unique.

One important element to analyze is the time period in which the poems were written. Consider the historical background and the social, political, and cultural events that were happening at the time. This will provide valuable context for understanding the poems and their themes.

Another element to look at is the poet’s background and the influences that shaped their writing. Knowing about the poet’s education, life experiences, and literary traditions they were part of can reveal a lot about their style and subject matter.

Next, consider the themes and topics of the poems. What do they share in common? Is there a particular idea or thought that both poems explore? This can be a useful point of comparison and contrast.

Pay close attention to the sound and language used in the poems. Are they highly structured and formal, or more free-flowing and experimental? Do they use rhyme, rhythm, or metaphor in similar or different ways?

Also, take note of any shifts or changes in tone, perspective, or theme within each poem. Does one poem start off with a particular idea and then shift to something completely opposite? Or do both poems reveal a gradual change in thought or emotion?

Consider the use of imagery and figurative language in the poems. Do they use similar or different symbols and metaphors? How do these literary devices enhance the meaning and message of each poem?

Lastly, don’t forget to look at the overall tone and mood of the poems. Are they uplifting and light-hearted, or do they have a more somber and serious tone? The tone can greatly affect the reader’s interpretation and emotional response to the poems.

Techniques for Comparing Poems

When comparing poems, it can be a complex task to navigate through the different themes, tones, and poetic devices used by the poets. Although there are no set rules for comparing poems, there are several tips that can help you analyze and understand the similarities and differences between two or more works.

1. Start with a Central Topic

Before diving into the specifics of each poem, it’s essential to have a clear understanding of the central topic or theme. This will provide a foundation for your comparison and will help you identify the key elements that make the poems similar or different.

2. Look for Similarities and Differences

While comparing poems, focus on the similarities and differences in terms of themes, imagery, tone, and poetic devices used. Look for common motifs or symbols that appear throughout the poems, as well as any contrasting elements that set them apart.

3. Analyze the Poetic Devices

Pay close attention to the poetic devices employed by the poets. Look at the use of metaphors, similes, personification, alliteration, and other literary techniques. Analyzing these devices will give you valuable insights into how the poets convey their ideas and emotions.

4. Consider the Tone and Mood

Examine the tone and mood of each poem. Do they have a similar emotional impact, or do they evoke different feelings? Consider how the poets use language and imagery to create a particular atmosphere or establish a certain emotional connection with the reader.

5. Reflect on the Structure and Form

Explore the structure and form of the poems. Do they follow a specific rhyme scheme or have a consistent meter? Are they written in a traditional format like a sonnet or free verse? Consider how the structure and form contribute to the overall meaning and impact of the poems.

6. Justify Your Comparison

In your comparison, make sure to justify why you are comparing these particular poems. What makes them suitable for comparison? Is it their shared themes, styles, or historical context? Justifying your comparison will strengthen your argument and provide a solid basis for your analysis.

7. Avoid Making Assumptions

Try to approach the poems with an open mind and avoid making assumptions based on your preconceived notions or personal biases. Let the words of the poems speak for themselves and trust the integrity of the poets’ work.

By following these techniques and keeping an open mind, you can compare poems in a thorough and insightful way. Remember that comparing poems is not about finding a “right” or “wrong” answer, but rather about deeper understanding and appreciation of the art of poetry.

Tips for Contrasting Poems

When it comes to comparing and contrasting poems, there are several tips that can help you analyze and understand the differences between two works of literature. Here are some key points to consider:

By following these tips, you can delve deeper into the poems and uncover their unique qualities and differences. Whether you’re an English literature student or simply a poetry lover, comparing and contrasting poems can be a highly rewarding exercise in understanding and appreciating the beauty of language and the depth of human experience.

Tags play a crucial role in poetry as they help to categorize and organize poems based on their themes, styles, and structures. They serve as a useful tool for poets and poetry lovers alike, helping them navigate through the vast world of poetry and compare and contrast different works.

In poetry, tags can be as specific as “white” or as broad as “love.” They can be made up of words that describe the subject matter, tone, or style of a poem. For example, a tag like “urban” can refer to a poem that depicts city life and its challenges, while a tag like “spring” may allude to a poem that celebrates the season of renewal and growth.

Tags are particularly helpful when comparing and contrasting poems. By identifying and comparing the tags of two poems, you can immediately see the similarities and differences between them. This can be a starting point for deeper analysis and understanding of the poems.

For instance, if you’re comparing two poems by William Wordsworth and Nissim Ezekiel, you can use tags to categorize their themes. Wordsworth’s work is often characterized by a deep connection with nature and a belief in the spiritual and therapeutic power of natural surroundings. On the other hand, Ezekiel’s poetry often reflects urban life and the struggles of modern society.

Using tags can also help you identify the poetic techniques and methods employed by different poets. For example, if one poem is based on a steady rhyme scheme and the other has free verse, you can tag them accordingly. Similarly, if one poem uses vivid imagery and the other relies more on descriptive language, you can categorize them using appropriate tags.

Tags can be used both for comparison and contrast. By comparing tags, you can identify similarities between poems, such as shared themes or similar poetic devices. On the other hand, by contrasting tags, you can highlight the differences between poems, such as opposing views or contrasting tones.

One useful method is to build a table of tags before delving into the comparison and contrast. This allows you to have a visual representation of the different tags and easily spot similarities and differences between poems. This template can serve as a guide as you analyze and compare poems.

Ultimately, tags are a valuable tool for poets, scholars, and poetry enthusiasts to explore and analyze different poems. They provide a way to categorize and compare poems based on their themes, structures, and techniques. By using tags, you can uncover hidden connections between poems and gain a deeper appreciation for the diverse world of poetry.

What are Tags in Poetry?

In the world of poetry, tags are like keywords or labels that poets use to categorize and describe their work. They are an essential tool for both poets and readers to understand the themes, emotions, and messages conveyed in a poem.

Tags are used to form connections between different poems that have similarities or differences, allowing readers to compare and contrast them. By using tags, poets can guide readers through their poems and help them interpret the underlying meaning.

Tags can be direct or implied, depending on the poet’s intentions. Direct tags are explicitly mentioned in the poem, while implied tags can be inferred through the themes, imagery, or language used.

Why are Tags Important?

Tags serve multiple purposes in poetry. Firstly, they help readers find poems that resonate with their interests or desires. By searching for specific tags, readers can explore a wide range of poems that revolve around a particular theme, emotion, or idea.

Secondly, tags provide a framework for analyzing and discussing poetry. When comparing two or more poems, tags can be used as points of reference to identify similarities and differences between them. This process helps foster a deeper understanding of the poems and enables readers to formulate a well-rounded analysis.

Lastly, tags reveal connections between poems that may not be apparent at first glance. Two poems with seemingly unrelated themes may share common tags that link them together. This can lead to a shift in perspective and a greater appreciation for the intricacies of poetic expression.

How to Use Tags in Poetry Analysis?

When analyzing poetry using tags, it is important to keep the following tips in mind:

  • Identify the main themes and ideas of the poem. These can be used as tags to analyze and compare with other poems.
  • Look for recurring imagery, symbols, or metaphors throughout the poem. These can also serve as tags and indicate underlying themes.
  • Analyze the language and tone used by the poet. Words and phrases can be powerful tags that reveal the poet’s intentions and emotions.
  • Consider the historical and cultural background of the poet. This can provide additional context and shed light on the tags used in the poem.
  • Don’t be afraid to create your own tags if you see connections that the poet may not have explicitly stated. Poetry is open to interpretation, and your unique perspective is valuable.
  • Compare and contrast the tags used in different poems. Look for similarities and differences to understand how poets approach similar themes or ideas.

What is the purpose of comparing and contrasting poems?

The purpose of comparing and contrasting poems is to gain a deeper understanding of their themes, styles, and techniques. It allows readers to explore the similarities and differences between different poems, which can lead to insights about the poems themselves and the broader human experience.

What are some common techniques used in comparing and contrasting poems?

Some common techniques used in comparing and contrasting poems include examining their structure, language, imagery, tone, and theme. By analyzing these elements, readers can identify similarities and differences in how the poems convey their messages and evoke emotions.

Can you compare and contrast poems from different periods?

Yes, you can compare and contrast poems from different periods. In fact, comparing and contrasting poems from different periods can be especially interesting because it allows readers to see how poetry has evolved over time and how different historical contexts have influenced poetic styles and themes.

What are some tips for writing a compare and contrast essay about poems?

Some tips for writing a compare and contrast essay about poems include: carefully analyzing the poems to identify similarities and differences, organizing the essay in a clear and coherent manner, using specific examples from the poems to support your points, and providing thoughtful analysis and interpretation of the poems.

Why is it important to consider the cultural and historical context of poems when comparing and contrasting them?

Considering the cultural and historical context of poems is important when comparing and contrasting them because it helps readers understand the influences and motivations behind the poems. It allows readers to see how societal and historical events have shaped the poets’ perspectives and the themes and techniques they employ in their poems.

The purpose of comparing and contrasting poems is to analyze and understand the similarities and differences between them. It allows readers to gain deeper insights into the themes, structure, language, and literary techniques used in the poems. Comparing and contrasting poems also helps to appreciate the unique qualities and characteristics of each poem.

Alex Koliada, PhD

By Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for studying aging, genetics, and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics. His scientific research has been published in the most reputable international magazines. Alex holds a BA in English and Comparative Literature from the University of Southern California , and a TEFL certification from The Boston Language Institute.

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How to Compare Poems

Last Updated: September 4, 2022 References

This article was co-authored by Christopher Taylor, PhD . Christopher Taylor is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at Austin Community College in Texas. He received his PhD in English Literature and Medieval Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2014. There are 14 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 13,361 times.

When comparing 2 poems, pay attention to both form and theme. The sound and shape of a poem is as important as its subject. Make sure to note use of traditional and experimental forms and techniques. Some research about the authors will help you contextualize the work, and will shed light on your interpretations. If you are writing a comparison paper about the poems, start by establishing their similarities, then break down their differences in form, theme, and historical context.

Comparing Formal Choices in the Poems

Step 1 Identify the poem's form.

  • If a poem has no lines or stanzas, but is instead written in sentences or paragraphs, it is a prose poem.
  • Note how different it feels to read a poem with long lines, very short lines, or lines that are spaced unevenly.
  • Notice if the lines end in punctuation, or if the sentences in the poem are broken up across the lines. When sentences split across lines, this is called enjambment.

Step 2  Scan the...

  • Even if a poem doesn't have a regular rhythm, it can still be rhythmic. The poet is likely using a mixture of different poetic feet.
  • The most famous poetic foot in English is the iamb, which is 1 unstressed and 1 stressed syllable. For instance, "Japan" is an iamb.
  • A line of five iambs is called "iambic pentameter, as in Shakespeare's "Sonnet 18": "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day."

Step 3 Establish the rhyme scheme for rhyming poems.

  • For the last century, it has become less common for poetry to rhyme. If you are reading a contemporary poem that rhymes, therefore, the poet is making an unusual choice. Think about why they are doing this: is the poem humorous? Is it inviting a comparison to song, or children's poetry?
  • For instance, in this poem by David Brazil, "My wife she slept/as in a frieze/and dreamt a dream/she could not seize," the rhyme feels serious, not humorous, so that's your clue that the poet might be invoking song or older forms of poetry. [4] X Research source

Step 4 Listen for assonance and alliteration within lines.

  • For instance, Alli Warren's poem "Breadwinning for Birds" includes both assonance and alliteration in its title. The repeated "b"s and "d"s are examples of alliteration, while the repeated "i" sound is an example of assonance. [6] X Research source

Step 5 Learn the conventions of the traditional forms if that applies.

  • If you know you are working with a Shakespearean sonnet, for instance, you will know that the poem has 14 lines, 3 ABAB rhymes, and a final rhymed pair. It will not have stanzas, but will be presented as a block. [8] X Research source
  • Keep in mind that the Shakespearean or English sonnet differs from the Italian or Petrarchan sonnet. Determine which type your sonnet is before you continue.
  • If you are working with a poem that does not appear to be in a traditional form, just take notes on its lines and stanzas. Consider how the poem's form might impact its content.

Step 6 Contextualize the choice of form.

  • Note if the poems are written in a form that sprang out of their time, a form that has been popularized since, or if the poet was the inventor of the form.
  • For instance, if you were comparing a sonnet by Petrarch to a sonnet by Bernadette Mayer, you would need to give both of them credit for refining a form. Petrarch did not invent the Petrarchan sonnet, but rather popularized it. Bernadette Mayer did not invent the experimental sonnet, but her rule-breaking sonnets inspired countless imitations.

Step 7 Compare experimental techniques in the poems.

  • For instance, you might compare Etel Adnan's The Arab Apocalypse with David Larsen's The Thorn, as both books of poems include visuals. You would note that while Larsen writes many of his works by hand, thus "painting" his poems, Adnan does rather the opposite, "writing" drawings into her poetic lines in the place of words.

Considering Thematic Differences and Similarities

Step 1 Determine if the poems are about any of the same subjects.

  • For instance, if you are reading 2 poems about spiritual epiphanies, and one is written from the perspective of an observer, while the other is from the perspective of the poet, you are likely to notice feeling more detached curiosity about the former, and more of an emotional, personal feeling about the latter.
  • Some poems might address you as a reader, refer to the author as the author, or talk about their own composition and intentions. Note how this self-aware style differentiates the poem from a more "transparent," self-contained poem.

Step 3 Analyze the tone.

  • For instance, when Elizabeth Barrett Browning writes, "I love thee to the depth and breadth and height/my soul can reach, when feeling out of sight/of the ends of being…" her tone is sincere, serious, and religious.
  • However, when Joan Murray writes "oh my love is a mist of stars/and I am a little sad," she is combining an exaggerated image with an understated emotion to create a wistful, slightly ironic tone.
  • Notice how formal choices affect tone. For instance, in these lines by CA Conrad, the sudden capitalization of "Darling" implies sarcasm instead of affection: "you think Oscar Wilde was funny/well Darling I think he was busy/distracting straight people/so they would not kill him." [12] X Research source

Step 4 Evaluate metaphors, similes, and other figurative language.

  • Similes compare 2 unlike things using "like" or "as," as in Nazim Hikmet's line: "This world will grow cold…like an empty walnut shell."
  • Metaphors compare 2 unlike things without using "like" or "as," as when Laura Riding describes her hair as "a scarf unwoven."
  • Imagery uses the senses, describing something so that the reader can almost see, hear, feel, taste, or smell it, as in this startling image by Elizabeth Willis: "The devil does not speak to a witch. He only moves his tongue."
  • Compare the uses of figurative language in the poems you are reading. If one poem uses a lot of metaphors, but the other a lot of similes, how does that affect you? The metaphor poem might feel more direct and powerful, while the simile poem might sound more academic or uncertain.

Step 5 Compare the biographies of the authors.

  • For instance, Santa Terésa de Jesús and San Juan de la Cruz both wrote Catholic devotional poetry in Spain during the counter-reformation, but differences in their lives affect their engagement with the subject. Saint Terésa de Jesús was born earlier, came from a patrician family, and suffered illness and "ecstatic" encounters with God. Her visionary writings were a huge influence on San Juan de la Cruz, who joined the religious order based on her ideas, and wrote his own versions of many of her poems.
  • Therefore, if you are comparing Santa Terésa's "Vivo sin vivir en mí," and the parallel poem by San Juan, "Coplas por un alma que pena por ver a Dios," you would note that "Coplas" came second, and you might note that while the lines are more complex, they lack the passionate immediacy of "Vivo."

Step 6 Research the intended audience and medium of each poem.

  • For instance, some poems are written to be recited aloud, while others are more likely to be read by an individual from the page. Some authors write for a broad audience, publishing their work internationally and commenting on global issues.
  • Others might be writing for a smaller audience: for a small town, for speakers of a certain language, for a patron, for a loved one, or for a group of local poets who are socially and artistically entwined.

Writing a Comparison Paper about Poems

Step 1 Begin talking about the similarities.

  • For instance, if you were writing about Etel Adnan and David Larsen, you would explain here that both are poets who are also visual artists, and explain that they both mix painting into their writing.

Step 2 Craft a thesis statement.

  • For you to have enough to write about, the poems you compare should have something in common. For instance, write about 2 sonnets by different poets from different time periods, write about several poems that all share the same author but that come from different phases of that author's life, compare love poems from different languages and cultures, or compare 2 contemporary poems that riff on the same older poem.

Step 3 Compare the authors' treatments of the themes.

  • For instance, Shakespeare depended on his wealthy patrons for financial support, so his treatment of a subject might be biased to flatter his patron.

Step 4 Describe the form of each poem.

  • If you are comparing Shakespeare's sonnets to the sonnets of Bernadette Mayer, you might want to note that Shakespeare's sonnets are always the same length, while Mayer's sonnets, though normally short and sonnet-like in appearance, are of many lengths.

Step 5 Explain how the form affects the meaning of each poem.

  • For instance, a sonnet by Shakespeare will always include a "volta," or "turn" of thought, before ending on a rhymed couplet that resolves the tensions in the poem. However, a sonnet by Bernadette Mayer may end any number of ways, and the volta may occur at any time. [18] X Research source
  • Therefore, you can describe how the predictable form of Shakespeare's "Sonnet 18" fills the reader with a reassuring sense of eternal, reliable love, while Bernadette Mayer's hilarious sonnet, "You jerk you didn't call me up" ends with an extra couplet in the form of choose-your-own-adventure instructions, thus presenting an image of a love that is unstable, often disappointing, yet exciting.

Step 6 End by summarizing the comparisons.

  • For instance, if you were writing about Etel Adnan and David Larsen's poems, you might turn outward at the end of your essay by describing painters who have included poetry in their paintings.
  • If you are writing about style differences between Santa Terésa de Jesús and San Juan de la Cruz, you might turn in by phrasing something in the manner of both authors: "As San Juan might say, we live, by the grace of reading, in the words of the dead. Or as Santa Terésa would put it: we die by the book."

Expert Q&A

  • When you quote a few lines from a poem, replace the line breaks with "/". For instance, if you are quoting four lines from Joan Retallack's poem Not a Cage, for instance, you would write: "The shadow of the coup continues to hover over Spain/In the ordinary way of summer/girls were still singing/like a saguaro cactus from which any desert wayfarer can draw." [20] X Research source Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

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  • ↑ https://www.poetryfoundation.org/learn/glossary-terms/stanza
  • ↑ https://www.poetryfoundation.org/learn/glossary-terms/meter
  • ↑ https://www.poetryfoundation.org/learn/glossary-terms/rhyme
  • ↑ https://www.poetryfoundation.org/harriet-books/2018/08/yosefa-raz-interviews-david-brazil
  • ↑ https://www.poetryfoundation.org/learn/glossary-terms/assonance
  • ↑ https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/90625/breadwinning-for-birds
  • ↑ https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/collection/poetic-forms
  • ↑ https://www.poetryfoundation.org/learn/glossary-terms/sonnet
  • ↑ https://www.bbc.com/bitesize/guides/zcf2tyc/revision/1
  • ↑ https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/148106/glitter-in-my-wounds
  • ↑ https://www.poetryfoundation.org/articles/70215/learning-about-figurative-language
  • ↑ https://www.bbc.com/bitesize/guides/zcf2tyc/revision/2
  • ↑ https://www.poetryfoundation.org/learn/glossary-terms/volta
  • ↑ https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/54240/not-a-cage

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How to Compare and Contrast Two Poems

When you compare and contrast two poems, focus on similarities and differences between the themes, tone, imagery and language . You might compare and contrast two poems by the same author to show how the poet uses diverse methods to get her points across. Or, you might compare and contrast poems by different authors.

Focus on the Themes

Show how two poems have similar or different themes such as romantic love, death or courage. For example, you might compare and contrast themes in the epic poem "Beowulf" with those in "The Odyssey" by Homer. The two poems are similar because both contain themes of courage, honor, loyalty, hospitality and duty. However, Beowulf also contains themes about revenge and tribal allegiances, and "The Odyssey" contains themes about free will.

Examine the Mood and Tone

Two poems by the same author can have similar or different moods and tones . For example, you might compare and contrast two poems by the same author, such as "A Prayer in Spring" and "A Late Walk," by Robert Frost. The poems are similar because both focus on the wonders of nature and the changing seasons. However, "A Prayer in Spring" has a cheerful, delightful tone and a peaceful, grateful mood. Conversely, "A Late Walk" has a melancholy, somber tone and a depressing, pessimistic mood. Frost effectively differentiates the beauty of spring in one with the barrenness of fall in the other .

Study Imagery in Both Poems

Poets often use imagery and symbolism to reveal important truths about man and nature. Compare and contrast the use of imagery and symbolism in one poem with another poem from the same era. For example, you might compare and contrast Emily Dickinson's poem "Because I Could Not Stop for Death" with Edgar Allan Poe's poem "The Raven." The two poems are similar because they deal with themes of death and loss, and both poets use imagery to reveal truths about death . However, Dickinson uses a pleasant carriage ride with a gentlemanly driver, the sunset and a house as a final resting place to show the inevitable, yet understandable and acceptable, role death plays in human lives. Poe uses an ominous, haunting raven who only utters "nevermore" to represent the dark, unwelcoming finality of death.

Evaluate the Language, Style and Format

Examine the language, style and format of both poems to find similarities and differences. Look at the author's choice of words, the meter, rhythm and the length of each line or stanza. For example, some poets prefer one-syllable words and short lines, such as Dr. Seuss, and others, such as William Wordsworth, prefer multisyllable words and long lines or stanzas. Consult with your teacher to determine how technical she wants your comparisons and contrasts to be, such as whether she wants you to discuss iambic pentameter, stressed syllables and feet.

  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill -- The Writing Center: Comparing and Contrasting
  • Santiago Canyon College: English 102 -- Essay #2 -- Writing About Poetry; Professor Maureen Roe
  • The Odyssey; Homer
  • Poem Hunter: A Prayer in Spring; Robert Frost
  • Poem Hunter: A Late Walk; Robert Frost
  • Poetry Foundation: Because I Could Not Stop for Death; Emily Dickinson
  • Poetry Foundation: The Raven; Edgar Allan Poe

As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.

Thesis ideas for Comparing and Contrasting two poems

amharp5 2 / 2   Sep 7, 2008   #1 Good evening, I have an essay due in two days but trying to come up with a thesis on comparing and contrasting two poems, "Night Clouds" by Amy Lowell, who describes compares meaning to cloud formations with stallions in the night sky by using symbolism and imagery; one for physical sensation and the other for nature. Robert Browning's poem "Meeting At Night," instills a prevailing and romantic mood during a nocturnal time constructed almost exclusively by direct images and colors from the night sky. Ok, I know each have the night in common, just not sure what my main point to start with. I tried this: "Even though both poets write about the strength of night, and how powerful they can be with images of nature, they vastly have different meanings and outcomes." Any ideas?

EF_Team5 - / 1,586   Sep 7, 2008   #2 Good evening. Well, why do you think they both take place at night? What is so special about the cover of darkness in these two works? What about nature? Because the night sky is a natural phenomenon, could you compare the two portrayals of the same phenomenon? As for the contrasts, you could use, as you say, the different meanings instilled by both authors as well as their different results. A list could help you get more organized with your thoughts. Write down a quick note about the commonalities and differences between the two; that should help you get started. Regards, Gloria Moderator, EssayForum.com

OP amharp5 2 / 2   Sep 7, 2008   #3 Hi Gloria, I appreciate the quick response, I can compare the night and contrast each meaning of the night, and those results! I will do that with a list and press on from there. Thank you again and take care, Andy

mannsbabygurl44 - / 2   Dec 20, 2009   #4 Need help with comparing and contrasting 2-3 poems I don't understand poetry...What should I do????

sbrooks10 2 / 18   Dec 20, 2009   #5 Do you have any other options? Is this a supplement or a required essay? If it's required, I would suggest googling poetry techniques that you could cite as similar or dissimilar in each. Examples of some techniques are: imagery (not only visual but also the creation of any sensory experience, smell, touch, taste), diction (word choice, kind of a lame one), structure (of the entire poem), tone, meaning/ theme, point of view, syntax (how each line/ sentence is organized, subject, verb, object and what not), alliteration (repeated sounds)... I hope that helps!

mannsbabygurl44 - / 2   Dec 20, 2009   #6 It does help...Thanks. Just not sure I can get 3-4 pages out of that : /

how to write a thesis comparing two poems

d7821890 - / 1   Apr 21, 2011   #8 Contrasting and comparing two poems I need help in comparing and constrasting the essay mentioned above. The author of both poems is Marjorie Agosin. Thanks.

MutedHandWasher 1 / 1   Apr 22, 2011   #9 In what ay do you need help? as in outlining? analyzing? etc.

Vennessa - / 1   Oct 31, 2012   #11 Help in compare and contrast poem essays. Hello, please I need help on how to write compare and contrast essays between two poems. The poems I have are; Fifteen by William Stafford and The Seven Ages of Man by William Shakespeare. I already have my rough draft, but I don't know how to expand on it. Do I just need to explain the meaning of literary devices? Please, I need your help. Thanks.

tannerazm 1 / 5   Oct 31, 2012   #12 I gave you a chance To water the plants I didn't mean that way... ZIP UP YO PANTS!

usernameabp - / 1   Nov 4, 2013   #13 I need to compare and contrast a poem and a work of fiction. i need to analyze a work of fiction and a poem and develpo a thesis that conmapres and contrasts them on a chosen theme. does anyone know of some peices of work i could use??

how to write a thesis comparing two poems

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Humanities LibreTexts

4.1: Introduction to Comparison and Contrast Essay

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The key to a good compare-and-contrast essay is to choose two or more subjects that connect in a meaningful way. Comparison and contrast is simply telling how two things are alike or different. The compare-and-contrast essay starts with a thesis that clearly states the two subjects that are to be compared, contrasted, or both. The thesis should focus on comparing, contrasting, or both.

Key Elements of the Compare and Contrast:

  • A compare-and-contrast essay analyzes two subjects by either comparing them, contrasting them, or both.
  • The purpose of writing a comparison or contrast essay is not to state the obvious but rather to illuminate subtle differences or unexpected similarities between two subjects.
  • The thesis should clearly state the subjects that are to be compared, contrasted, or both, and it should state what is to be learned from doing so.
  • Organize by the subjects themselves, one then the other.
  • Organize by individual points, in which you discuss each subject in relation to each point.
  • Use phrases of comparison or phrases of contrast to signal to readers how exactly the two subjects are being analyzed.

Objectives: By the end of this unit, you will be able to

  • Identify compare & contrast relationships in model essays
  • Construct clearly formulated thesis statements that show compare & contrast relationships
  • Use pre-writing techniques to brainstorm and organize ideas showing a comparison and/or contrast
  • Construct an outline for a five-paragraph compare & contrast essay
  • Write a five-paragraph compare & contrast essay
  • Use a variety of vocabulary and language structures that express compare & contrast essay relationships

Example Thesis: Organic vegetables may cost more than those that are conventionally grown, but when put to the test, they are definitely worth every extra penny.

Graphic Showing Organization for Comparison Contrast Essay

Sample Paragraph:

Organic grown tomatoes purchased at the farmers’ market are very different from tomatoes that are grown conventionally. To begin with, although tomatoes from both sources will mostly be red, the tomatoes at the farmers’ market are a brighter red than those at a grocery store. That doesn’t mean they are shinier—in fact, grocery store tomatoes are often shinier since they have been waxed. You are likely to see great size variation in tomatoes at the farmers’ market, with tomatoes ranging from only a couple of inches across to eight inches across. By contrast, the tomatoes in a grocery store will be fairly uniform in size. All the visual differences are interesting, but the most important difference is the taste. The farmers’ market tomatoes will be bursting with flavor from ripening on the vine in their own time. However, the grocery store tomatoes are often close to being flavorless. In conclusion, the differences in organic and conventionally grown tomatoes are obvious in color, size and taste.

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IMAGES

  1. Comparing Two or More Poems for a Literature Essay

    how to write a thesis comparing two poems

  2. Comparison of Two Poems Free Essay Example

    how to write a thesis comparing two poems

  3. How to compare poems

    how to write a thesis comparing two poems

  4. GCSE Comparing Poetry Paragraph Structure

    how to write a thesis comparing two poems

  5. Comparing two poems

    how to write a thesis comparing two poems

  6. Essay plan for comparing two poems, based on wjec poetry anthology

    how to write a thesis comparing two poems

VIDEO

  1. How to Write a THESIS Statement

  2. How to Write Chapter 1 of a Thesis: The Problem and Its Setting

  3. Guidelines in Writing the Title/How To Formulate Thesis Title?

  4. How to Write RESEARCH ABSTRACT

  5. Chapter 3 of Thesis Writing/Writing Chapter 3 of the Thesis

  6. How to write Thesis (4)

COMMENTS

  1. Comparing Two or More Poems for a Literature Essay

    Two Useful Mnemonics for a Poetry Essay: S.M.I.L.E. and F.I.E.L.D. A mnemonic is a familiar group of letters to help you memorise something through association with those letters. For example, to help you compare the poems and to write the essay, these two acronyms may come in handy: SMILE: Structure, Meaning, Imagery, Language, Effect

  2. How to Compare and Contrast Poems Like a Lit Major

    Method 2: Switch between paragraphs. The other way for how to compare and contrast poems is to switch between works every paragraph. In this way, you discuss one element of one poem and move on to discuss the same element in the second poem. Often, this method is the easiest for a reader to follow.

  3. How to Write a Compare and Contrast Thesis Statement

    For a compare and contrast essay, use several of your main points in your thesis to show the reader where your argument is going. While bats and bears appear to have little in common at first glance, they are remarkably similar in their species classification and hibernation habits. 2. Your method.

  4. Comparing poems

    Packing your analysis of two poems into one essay involves planning. There are different ways you could approach writing a comparative essay. These are some points to think about:

  5. How to Write a Compare & Contrast Essay in Poetry: The Most

    3. Write a Thesis Statement. A compare and contrast essay is not just a list of similarities and differences between the two pieces of poetry. Your comparative analysis should pursue a goal or to come to a conclusion - and it is expressed in a thesis statement. A thesis statement is the core idea of your essay in a condensed form - ideally ...

  6. Essay 1: Comparing Two Poems

    28 thoughts on " Essay 1: Comparing Two Poems ". Thesis: In this essay, I will show how "Thirteen Ways to Look at a Blackbird" by Wallace Stevens and "Theme for English B" by Langston Hughes both have themes relation to human emotions and analyze the execution presenting such themes. Kyla, this is a great start!

  7. Comparing Two Poems: Essay Example

    The lyrical poem was written twenty-five years before Hughes published "The Negro Speaks of Rivers.". By comparing two poems, this essay example will reveal both their similarities and differences. These two poems were written in the period between the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement. This period was characterized by deep emotions ...

  8. Comparing and Contrasting

    Making a Venn diagram or a chart can help you quickly and efficiently compare and contrast two or more things or ideas. To make a Venn diagram, simply draw some overlapping circles, one circle for each item you're considering. In the central area where they overlap, list the traits the two items have in common.

  9. How to answer a poetry comparison question

    A comparative thesis as an introduction - this only need be two or three sentences long. 3 analysis paragraphs. a. Poem 1 - core difference/similarity from thesis. b. Poem 2 - core difference/similarity from thesis. c. Thoughtful comparative paragraph [AKA the guitar solo paragraph] which will generally be a difference within the core ...

  10. Comparing and Contrasting in an Essay

    In the block method, you cover each of the overall subjects you're comparing in a block. You say everything you have to say about your first subject, then discuss your second subject, making comparisons and contrasts back to the things you've already said about the first. Your text is structured like this: Subject 1. Point of comparison A.

  11. How to compare poems

    Step 5: Summarise your main argument in a comparative statement. Finally, let's summarise the poems' similarities and differences in a comparative statement. This should be the guiding thesis for your essay, which also doubles as your main line of argument and cascades into points of analysis for the main body section.

  12. How to Write an Essay Comparing Two Poems

    Then write down everything which comes to your mind and use it while writing the essay. 2. Formulate a topic of your comparison. You cannot merely title it "A comparison between the poem A and the poem B.". It should be rather exposed as a topic; for example, "The idea of romantic love in the poem A and the poem B.".

  13. Strategies for Comparison

    Avoid stating the obvious. This may feel counterintuitive at first. If you're comparing two poems, for example, and you notice they have the same structure, a similar tone, and shared vocabulary, you may be tempted to focus your argument on what they have in common. But those are also comparisons all readers are likely to notice!

  14. 8.10: Compare and Contrast Poetry Assignments

    However, at the time he was writing, elegies were formal, public, and impersonal poems, rather than private expressions of grief. 'Lycidas' commemorates a member of a prominent family rather than a close friend of the poet's. Over two hundred years later, Hopkins, while working loosely within the same elegiac convention, adapts it.

  15. 13 Compare and Contrast Thesis Examples to Inspire You

    With these points in mind, let's take a look at 13 compare and contrast thesis statement examples to get you started with your essay. I've included a broad topic for each thesis statement and divided the lists into general comparisons and literary comparisons. I've also linked each of the topics to a related example essay for extra ...

  16. AQA GCSE English Literature

    Structuring the Essay. Your exam question paper will ask you to compare two of your studied anthology poems. This can seem daunting, especially as you have to write about two separate poems in one essay, and that only one of these poems is printed in the exam paper. However, examiners just want to see your ideas and opinions on the poems you ...

  17. How to Compare and Contrast Poems Like a Lit Major

    Techniques for Comparing Poems. When comparing poems, it can be a complex task to navigate through the different themes, tones, and poetic devices used by the poets. Although there are no set rules for comparing poems, there are several tips that can help you analyze and understand the similarities and differences between two or more works. 1.

  18. Simple Ways to Compare Poems (with Pictures)

    Note how different it feels to read a poem with long lines, very short lines, or lines that are spaced unevenly. Notice if the lines end in punctuation, or if the sentences in the poem are broken up across the lines. When sentences split across lines, this is called enjambment. 2. Scan the meter of each poem.

  19. How to Compare and Contrast Two Poems

    Examine the Mood and Tone. Two poems by the same author can have similar or different moods and tones. For example, you might compare and contrast two poems by the same author, such as "A Prayer in Spring" and "A Late Walk," by Robert Frost. The poems are similar because both focus on the wonders of nature and the changing seasons.

  20. Thesis ideas for Comparing and Contrasting two poems

    There are 2 methods for doing a compare/contrast essay. Google this: compare, contrast, essay, alternating, opposing. If you are having trouble, the first thing to do is write a sentence about something... something about one of the poems. If you want, you can google the name of the poem with the word "analysis" and see what other scholars say.

  21. 4.1: Introduction to Comparison and Contrast Essay

    The key to a good compare-and-contrast essay is to choose two or more subjects that connect in a meaningful way. Comparison and contrast is simply telling how two things are alike or different. The compare-and-contrast essay starts with a thesis that clearly states the two subjects that are to be compared, contrasted, or both.

  22. 14 Poems to Compare and Contrast Like an Expert

    Two Poems to Compare and Contrast Based on Objects as Symbols. "Sunflower Sutra" by Allen Ginsberg vs. "Ah! Sun-flower" by William Blake. You've likely done a compare and contrast essay before (if not, check out tips on how to write a compare and contrast essay). Fortunately, comparing poems isn't much different.

  23. Model Answers

    12. Write a clear essay with a central argument based on your own opinions. All parts of the essay must directly answer the question. Select quotations and references from both the given poem and one other of your choice. Quotations must be accurate, and provide evidence for the points you make in your argument. AO2.