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The Fine Art of Comparing and Contrasting

A comparison and contrast essay is exactly what it sounds like, taking two people, places, things or event, showing how they are similar and how they are significantly different. Frequently used in literary analysis, comparison and contrast essays are used to compare the styles and techniques used by two or more writers. For instance, the books The Scarlet Letter and To Kill a Mockingbird have significant similarities, but are two very different stories. A comparison and contrast essay on these two books would present the similarities and differences between the two books, citing specific examples and providing insightful quotes from each book to support the presentation.

In The Scarlet Letter and To Kill a Mockingbird, the authors both show the impact of social injustice and the incredible weight of unspoken secrets. In The Scarlet Letter, the heroine is harshly judged for an extra-marital affair and ostracized by the Puritan community she lives in. In To Kill a Mockingbird, a black man is wrongfully accused of raping a white woman during the 1950s and is unfairly convicted.

In The Scarlet Letter, the woman’s lover suffers severe psychological strain and illness due to the secret he keeps regarding their affair. In To Kill a Mockingbird, the guilty party (the victim’s own father) is driven by his unspoken secret to silence anyone who challenges his version of the events.

Both books also address the strong conflicts generated by their respective storylines, though in significantly different manners. In The Scarlet Letter, the conflict is more internal, presented in the shame and inner turmoil experienced by the characters. To Kill a Mockingbird focuses more on the external, social conflicts experienced by and surrounding the characters.

The two books are also quite different. The Scarlet Letter presents the story from a position of detachment, disclosing the story from the viewpoint of an impersonal narrator. To Kill a Mockingbird, in contrast, is written in first person from the viewpoint of the young girl in the story, making the story more personal.

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