Compare/Contrast Essay
Short Fiction Unit
AP English Literature & Composition

Choose a pair from the following options and write an essay in 40 minutes that compares and contrasts significant aspects of the two. The literary pre-planning chart (given separately) is meant to help you review each story closely. You are not expected to include everything from the chart in your essay. Since this is an AP essay, you will be showing how the author realized the theme or the "so what" via literary techniques: imagery, symbolism, setting, characterization, tone, diction etc. Remember, you are always writing about the effect of the literary elements and would never simply mention them without regard to the effect upon the whole work. The stories are paired because of obvious similarities. It will be your job to clarify those similarities and to show also how the stories differ. One thing that makes this type of essay difficult is that there is often too much to write about. The trick is to latch on to what seems most significant and narrow your focus accordingly.

There are basically two ways to organize a compare/contrast essay:

  1. whole to whole (write about one story first, then the second)
  2. subject to subject (move back and forth between stories, writing about character, then setting, etc. for example)

Be sure to use the proper transitions to help you link your ideas. Have your Falcon Skills & Style Handbook open to the transitions page as you write. Or print the page from the web and have it at your side.

Paring Options

Stories to compare/contrast: Suggested themes: (or use your own)
A Good Man is Hard to Find & Greenleaf
  1. Moments of Grace
  2. Christian hypocrisy
The Death of Ivan Illych & Harry's House Centerpiece (Joni Mitchell song)
  1. Recognizing what's important in life
  2. Marriage
Paul's Case & Araby
  1. Reality vs. Fantasy
  2. Self awareness

Go to the following sites for more help in planning and organizing a compare/contrast essay:


2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 Dawn Hogue
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