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Essay Plan Comparing Poetry

Try to concentrate on the function, the purpose, of the assignment: the teacher is encouraging you to penetrate the inner workings of poems in general -- how poems work.In a compare-contrast essay, the thesis statement can be replaced by a general declaration such as "By comparing and contrasting the way these two poems give their poetic effect, we can better understand Eliot's statement 'A poem must not mean, but be.'"  Then start with the...

Try to concentrate on the function, the purpose, of the assignment: the teacher is encouraging you to penetrate the inner workings of poems in general -- how poems work. In a compare-contrast essay, the thesis statement can be replaced by a general declaration such as "By comparing and contrasting the way these two poems give their poetic effect, we can better understand Eliot's statement 'A poem must not mean, but be.'"  Then start with the largest elements: genre, period, length, stanza structure, etc. Follow these comparisons with a paragraph about connotations -- how certain phrases and words in both poems have a history of prior use along with their simple definition.  Then look at subtler aspects -- placement of imagery, echoes of one line with another, etc.  If the essay is a long one, you can discuss the poems individually, giving a paragraph to each element of one poem, then doing the same to the next poem, followed by a paragraph drawing your two poems together; if a shorter essay is better, combine the discussions into one paragraph for each element, in which the poems are discussed together. 

Which of the two essay structures works better when responding to the example essay question?

Structure A

IntroductionHow both talk about family relationships between parents and children
Paragraph 1How Walking Away deals with family relationships - themes and form, structure and language
Paragraph 2 How Eden Rock deals with family relationships - themes and form, structure and language
Paragraph 3 Ways in which they are similar
Paragraph 4 Ways in which they are different
Conclusion Sum up comparison

Structure B

IntroductionHow both talk about family relationships between parents and children
Paragraph 1How the themes and ideas of Walking Away and Eden Rock are similar and different
Paragraph 2 How the form and structure of Walking Away and Eden Rock compare and how this links to their effect
Paragraph 3 How the language of Walking Away and Eden Rock compare and how this links to their effect
Conclusion Sum up comparison

Feedback

Either of the examples above could produce a good essay as they both explore each poem and compare their similarities and differences. However in structure B, the comparison takes place throughout the whole essay and avoids looking at the poems separately. This is a better model to use and one which can be applied to comparisons of other poems.

Explore the study guide for 'Walking Away' .

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