As if writing a more standard essay were not enough, your instructor slaps you with this: a compare and contrast essay. What makes it worse is that it’s about poetry—as if you know how to compare and contrast poems already.
How does she expect you to completely decipher and explain not just one poem but two? To make matters worse, some of the poems you have read in class this semester may as well have been written in a foreign language.
Let’s take a step back and start in a language you do understand: pop songs. Now, pop songs are not poetry. And your instructor likely wouldn’t appreciate an essay about the nuances of the latest Pitbull song when compared to Twenty One Pilots’ new single. But this is a good place to learn the technique of how to compare and contrast poems.
Comparing Taylor Swift to Miley Cyrus: Yep, That’s Right
THE MOST EPIC RAP BATTLE OF HISTORY!
Just kidding. I wish.
Instead of hosting a showdown, I’m going to show you how to compare and contrast poems successfully using “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus and “Blank Space” by Taylor Swift as my examples.
(In case you’ve been living under a rock, here are links to the lyrics of Wrecking Ball and Blank Space.)
Whenever you’re comparing and contrasting poetry, the first thing you should do is make a list of both obvious and subtle similarities and differences. Here’s what such a list might look like for these two songs:
- Both songs discuss dysfunctional or doomed relationships.
- Both songs use violent imagery and language.
- “Wrecking Ball” is more of a lament, whereas “Blank Space” has a satirical tone.
- The songs both discuss a superficial love where no one succeeds in having a deep connection with the other person.
- “Blank Space” comes across as purposefully malicious, while “Wrecking Ball” makes the violence in the relationship sound accidental.
- “Blank Space” employs a variety of slant rhymes, whereas “Wrecking Ball” primarily uses full rhymes.
Once you have a list of significant similarities and differences between the works you’re comparing, you can move on to building your thesis statement.
Note that pop songs don’t have many of the elements of a poetic work. When looking for similarities and differences in the poems you have chosen, make sure to consider the rhyme scheme, format, meter, and time period.
Calm down, Taylor. You’re playing in a whole different ballpark.
Building a Thesis Statement for a Comparison Essay
The thesis statement is arguably the most difficult part of writing your essay, but it doesn’t have to be intimidating. In learning how to compare and contrast poems, keep in mind that your thesis statement should have the following elements:
- A basic, one-to-two-sentence outline of what you will discuss throughout the essay
- An evidence-based opinion or argument that someone could disagree with
- A balanced sentence structure that gives equal weight to both works
If you need more information about building the perfect thesis statement, check out this blog about the five-step thesis statement.
In order to come up with a thesis statement for my pop-song comparison, I need to return to my list. What sort of argument would encompass most, if not all the points I listed?
To make this easier, let’s start with a template:
Though [poem 1] uses [poetic element 1] and[poem 2] employs [poetic element 2], both works contribute to [common theme].
Using this template, let’s add the songs I chose as examples and spruce up the wording. A good thesis statement for comparing these songs might look like this:
Though “Wrecking Ball” focuses on the lack of emotional connection in a relationship and “Blank Space” takes a more satirical, callous perspective on relationships, both songs employ violent imagery to convey that relationships are often superficial.
Here, I have hit many of the major talking points I want to cover within my essay. I have also outlined how my essay is going to look. Also note that it would be reasonable for someone to argue against my claim that the songs are about the superficiality of relationships—this arguability is what makes for a good thesis statement.
To help you get started, here are some poetic elements to consider for your thesis statement:
- Narrative voice
- Line breaks
You can find more ideas of what to discuss in your paper by looking at these poetic elements.
And you can get more help building the perfect thesis statement here (hint: choose the compare and contrast essay type).
How to Compare and Contrast Poems: The Tennis Match Problem
Unfortunately, you want to avoid tennis matches in your essay.
While writing comparison essays, students often run into the tennis match problem once they get into their body paragraphs. The tennis match refers to when you switch the poem or body of work you’re talking about every couple sentences or so.
While you do want to give equal weight to each work you discuss, you don’t want your reader getting whiplash every time you swap between them. In other words, “Who would win in a tennis match? Miley Cyrus or Taylor Swift?” isn’t an ideal title or premise for our example.
To avoid this issue, you can employ one of two methods.
Method 1: One at a time
In this method, you analyze one poem completely before digging into the next. This way, your reader gets plenty of space to think about your points and arguments. However, in using this structure, you risk missing the real comparison between the works.
If you choose to explicate on the works separately, make sure to use phrases such as “Though [poem 1] relies heavily on … , [poem 2] … ” and “Unlike [poem 1] … ”
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.
When using this structure, make sure you have complete body paragraphs. A complete paragraph should include the following:
- The topic sentence (an argument about the evidence you have)
- Evidence (a direct quote or paraphrase from the work)
- A tie-in (to connect the point back to your thesis statement)
That’ll make you way too good to play tennis.
Want to know what a good compare and contrast essay looks like? Check out these example poem comparisons.
Final Tips on Writing a Comparison Essay
Now that you have the basics down and know exactly how to pit Taylor and Miley against each other, you can move on to the big leagues: writing a comparison essay for actual poems.
To help you, here are some closing tips:
- If your instructor allows you to choose the poems you compare and contrast, choose several pairs and make an initial comparison list with each pair. From there, you can better see which set would make for a better, more substantial essay. Remember, for best results, you want two poems that have a common theme.
- After writing your first draft, read your essay out loud and imagine the tennis match scenario. Is there too much back and forth? Will readers understand what you’re trying to prove?
- Make sure you’re using enough evidence to prove your thesis statement. Do this by including direct quotes. Don’t forget that you should only have one piece of evidence per paragraph. You should use the rest of the paragraph to explain why the evidence is important.
And when you’re working on your final draft, don’t forget to get a second pair of eyes on it. Kibin editors will provide insightful advice about how you can improve your essay and get a better grade.
Now, fill that blank space on your paper, go in like a wrecking ball, and impress your instructor with your know-how on how to compare and contrast poems like a lit major!
Psst... 98% of Kibin users report better grades! Get inspiration from over 500,000 example essays.
Comparing and contrasting two major influences in the lives of all people always provides intriguing results and gives us more insight into how we function as human beings and what influences and to which extent. Contrasting two entertainment mediums can give us insight and better understanding of the positive and negative aspects of both.
Books and music have a way of influencing people in different aspects. But, besides the obvious, what’s interesting is how much it influences us and why. Certain individuals enjoy listening to music while others enjoy reading books. However there are many similarities and differences between the both, and they certainly affect people in different ways.
One of the biggest influences reading a book can have over us is our emotional state. Reading books help us relieve our emotions, but over a certain period of time, not instantly. While it does help with reducing stress and negativity, because it takes a long time to read, individuals usually choose other means of relaxing and enjoying themselves.
However, when it comes to being influenced by books from multiple cultures, this is where the language barrier prevents us from understanding and feeling. However, individuals who do read books aren’t only influenced emotionally by them. The more someone reads books, the more knowledge they gain, enrich their vocabulary and becomes more understanding of different world cultures, although they might not know the language. This is a powerful way of introducing the varieties of the world, even though there’s a language barrier.
Books also induce certain feelings, however, good or bad, these feelings don’t come to us in a matter of seconds. Books have a way of slowly introducing certain notions and thoughts into our mind and making us think deeper about what we read.
What about the feeling of togetherness? Books are usually a solitary action. While there are group readings and book discussion organized, books are initially made for reading alone, therefore, it usually doesn’t boost your team spirit or creates a feeling of connection.
One huge advantage of reading books is getting knowledge and information from them. Although there are different genres of books available that cater to diverse needs and have a different goal. Overall, books are packed with information that can teach us so much and pack our brains with knowledge. It influences us to stay curious and motivated to learn new things and thrive on expanding our knowledge.
Similar to books, music helps get rid of negative emotions, but only in a much more efficient way. Overall, it’s a more popular medium for relaxation because it provides instant gratification.
Unlike books, music brings people together through melody, no matter which language is in question. It can be English, Spanish, French or Tagalog, but the melody itself can make us feel a certain way. Similar to books, music can bring people together through different cultures. We are able to listen to music in different languages, created and inspired by various traditions in the world.
From yet another perspective, music tends to hit our emotions right away, and cause abrupt reactions. These reactions can be both positive and negative, but the reality is,listening to music instantly changes our mood.
Unlike books, music has the power to bring people together and make them feel like they’re a part of the team. Whether it’s through dancing together, or in a group, or even sharing the same passion for certain music. We can all listen and enjoy the same song together. There are so many dance groups out there that came together because of the love for the same typeof music, and ever since then, different melodies cultivated an entire world of groups and individuals competing to show who sings, plays or loves music better.
Once again, unlike books, music isn’t informational. Although it does affect emotions and causes the feeling of togetherness, it does not enable us to learn from it. How much knowledge can actually fit in a 4-minute song? Songs can carry messages and ideas, but they can not carry knowledge about our past, teach us new skills or expand our knowledge about a certain field, which might be a downside to listening to music, then again, songs can carry powerful messages and ideas.
When it comes to comparing and contrasting books and music, it’s a hard process. Both have their positive and negative influences and are more powerful at affecting or influencing certain feelings or changes. However, there’s no denying that both can and will keep on influencing generations to come, and it’s only safe to say, that if the best choice is to have both things influence your life in order to reap all the benefits.