The assignment sheet may say exactly what you need to compare, or it may ask you to come up with a basis for comparison yourself. Once you know your basis for comparison, think critically about the similarities and differences between the items you are comparing, and compile a list of them. For example, you might decide that in Great Expectations , being a true gentleman is not a matter of manners or position but morality, whereas in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall , being a true gentleman is not about luxury and self-indulgence but hard work and productivity.
The list you have generated is not yet your outline for the essay, but it should provide you with enough similarities and differences to construct an initial plan. Once you have listed similarities and differences, decide whether the similarities on the whole outweigh the differences or vice versa. Create a thesis statement that reflects their relative weights.
A more complex thesis will usually include both similarities and differences. Here are examples of the two main cases:. Although Darwin and Lamarck came to different conclusions about whether acquired traits can be inherited, they shared the key distinction of recognizing that species evolve over time.
Note that the French and Russian revolutions A and B may be dissimilar rather than similar in the way they affected innovation in any of the three areas of technology, military strategy, and administration. To use the alternating method, you just need to have something noteworthy to say about both A and B in each area. Finally, you may certainly include more than three pairs of alternating points: allow the subject matter to determine the number of points you choose to develop in the body of your essay.
When do I use the alternating method? For each novel, ask yourself some basic questions, such as the following:. There's a chance that you've already been given your essay topic or have decided on one but if you haven't, these questions may help you get started by helping you focus on a certain aspect of the novels you are writing about.
What you're trying to do is look at the basics of each novel before you go into analyzing the book. The overall goal here is to find connections and patterns patterns between the two novels that you can analyze under the umbrella of a solid thesis. Now that you've finished reading both novels with questions in mind that are relevant to the overall topic you're focused on, it's time to find your thesis.
This is easier said than done, especially when analyzing two books in an essay. Remember, a thesis isn't just a question or an observation, it is part of analyzing the novels in your essay and bringing light the new and interesting aspect of the novels you have discovered and are about to share with your audience. Your thesis about analyzing two books in your essay should be introduced in your first paragraph and serve as the focus of your analytic argument.
This way you can find specific evidence within the text to support it and you don't lose focus on what your thesis has already committed your paper to cover. The "what" component asks that you cover what specific claim you are making about the two books you are analyzing. The "how" asks exactly how you're going to support this claim, using specific literary devices, themes, etc.
When it comes to the "why," you just want to think to yourself "okay, so why would someone care about this topic? Otherwise they might lose interest before it even gets started. Don't be general about it. The more specific you are, the easier it will be to prove it in your essay. Some important things to remember about a thesis that many don't realize are that it can be more than one sentence, a strong thesis addresses a potentially opposing viewpoint, and that it must address the three questions listed above in order to be successful.
Creating a solid thesis is a great start to getting on your way to understanding how to analyze two books in an essay and doing it successfully. An outline is essential when analyzing a book or two in an essay. It is important to provide equal support from both novels for your thesis to keep a balanced argument but also to keep it organized enough so that your reader doesn't get lost. This balance between two novels is why it can be difficult understanding how to analyze two books in an essay.
An outline helps you keep this balance because it ensures that your argument will be presented in an organized fashion, with equal support for your analysis for both books. The thesis for your essay is your starting point and should be at the top of your outline. After that, you want to branch out to the different arguments supporting your thesis and the analysis you made for both novels. Each of these arguments should be divided into separate paragraphs.
I like to think of each topic sentence of each paragraph as a mini thesis. Just like the main one of your essay, it acts as the introduction for the topic you are about to discuss and reminds the reader why this is important. It's also a promise to the reader for what your paragraph is about to cover so remember to stick to exactly what you said you're going to talk about.
Basically, at this point, you want to have an outline with a main thesis on top, with a few topic sentences below, signifying different paragraphs within your text. Now you get to the next step before finishing your outline, which is finding the evidence for support. Outlines are essential when analyzing two books in an essay because they keep your thoughts focused and organized.
Without an outline, it can be easy to get lost since you have to put equal focus on two books under one thesis for your essay. The most important thing not to do when writing a paper in which you analyze two books is to avoid any summaries unless they are absolutely necessary. When your essay requires a summary for one or two books that you are analyzing, try to make them as concise as possible.
The next big step is to find evidence within the text to support your thesis and each little mini thesis below it. This usually consists mainly of quotes but can also be scenes within the two books you are analyzing that you can reference to without quoting.
This doesn't mean you should reread the two novels you are writing your essay about. You should've been taking notes as you read each book with highlighting, underlining, or marking significant passages somehow as you read and kept those earlier questions in mind.
This way, you could go back to each "dog-eared," yellow besmeared, or line covered page and find out which ones are the most significant for your argument. Here, it's best to just take notes of all of the relevant quotes, then narrow it down to the ones that you believe are the strongest support for your claim and each mini thesis. You don't want to use too many quotes but you still want enough to make a compelling argument. Yes, this takes time but it's worth it. Once you have your support from each of the two books you are analyzing in your essay narrowed down, you can move to the final step.
Now that you have your quotes, put them in your outline. For each paragraph, have your mini thesis, the quote you want to use, and then the points for each quote. One basic rule of thumb is that for each quote, you want two sentences after as well as one before it that introduces it to the reader. Don't just put in a quote straight after your topic sentence without any kind of transition to it introducing it or you will drive your professor nuts.
This also goes for any scenes you may reference. At this point, you want your outline to include that you want X quote here, and you will support it by saying Y and Z. I like to use two pieces of evidence for each paragraph. When analyzing and comparing two books in an essay, this makes it easy because each piece of evidence can come from each novel.
Or you can switch off paragraphs going from one book and how it supports your thesis to another paragraph about the other book and how it does or does not do the same thing. Once you have finished your outline, you can begin writing your analytic essay.
You can do this by making a few simple lists of traits that might be comparable. For each novel, identify a list of characters and their roles in the story or important characteristics, and any important struggles, time periods, or major symbols like an element of nature. You may also attempt to come up with book themes that could be comparable.
Sample themes would include:. Your assignment will most likely give you direction as to whether you should find specific characters, story characteristics, or overall themes to compare. If it is not that specific, don't worry! You actually have a little more leeway.
The teacher's goal when assigning this paper is to encourage you to think and analyze. You no longer read for a surface understanding of what happens in a novel; you are reading to understand why things happen and what the deeper meaning behind a character is a setting or an event. In short, you are expected to come up with an interesting comparative analysis. Both of these novels contain a "coming of age" theme since both have characters who grow a new awareness through tough lessons.
Some comparisons you could make:. To craft an essay about these two novels and their similar themes, you would create your own list of similarities like those above, using a list, chart, or a Venn diagram. Sum up your overall theory about how these themes are comparable to create your thesis statement. How much are we influenced by external forces? Does each author seem to lean one way or another? Once you have chosen your books and your elements for analysis, you will need to closely study the texts, particularly the elements you will be comparing.
Use graphic organizers to organize your thoughts, listing things the elements have in common and things that are different. A Venn diagram works well for this as it offers a quick visual display of similarities and differences. As you begin to separate the similarities and differences in the work, you will begin to see patterns forming on which you can draw conclusions. For instance, Dorian Gray and Victor Frankenstein both have secrets.
What is similar about their secrecy? What is different? What are they hiding and why? The answers to these questions will help support your thesis. A compare-contrast essay can be organized in two ways: You can compare subjects point by point or subject by subject.
In the point-by-point method, discuss the different points as they are presented by each character. You could then discuss the transformation of character in both stories. Both Frankenstein and Dorian Gray transform from innocence to culpability. How and why? You could discuss the idea of grotesque appearance in both stories.
What does it symbolize in each work?