Plato vs Martin Luther King
This semester we have examined a variety of different ideas about what it means to live a good life. Select two people/characters from the list below and, in an essay of 3-4 pages, compare and/or contrast what those individuals believe about the good life. You must base your argument upon what these individuals say and do. You should not choose two individuals from the same text.
Your comparison and/or contrast needs to be made on the basis of some criteria (probably two or three) that will allow your chosen individuals to be evaluated; these criteria should provide the structure for your essay. You will need to provide direct quotations from the sources to support your analysis and a Works Cited page at the very end.
One approach might be to compare two individuals who have remarkably similar ideas about the good life, even though they are very different on the surface (in terms of age, race, historical period, etc.). Another approach might be to contrast two people who would completely disagree about how to live a good life, emphasizing their points of disagreement. A third approach would be to choose two individuals who are primarily similar but have one key difference, or who are primarily different but have one key similarity.
Choose two individuals who will allow you to say something interesting about the question of living a good life. In other words, use the mode of comparison as a way to make a point about the good life, rather than simply offering a random list of similarities and differences. This will shape your thesis.
2. Martin Luther
9. The Sisters Martine & Phillipa (treat them as one character)
10. Troy Maxon
11. Rose Maxon
12. Cory Maxon
13. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
14. The narrator of Tans story (Two Kinds)
15. Johann Sebastian Bach
17. Sonnys brother
17. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Comparison and Contrast
Comparison and contrast is a mode of discourse: a method for developing a particular kind of argument. A successful comparison and contrast essay must begin with a purpose. If you compare two things just for the sake of comparing them, you will probably write either a wandering, aimless essay or a boring and obvious one. If you start by deciding what you hope to accomplish, then you can design an essay that will argue a point about your two subjects.
Common Purposes for Comparing
To show that one thing is superior to another.
To show how two seemingly different things are more alike than they seem.
To show that two seemingly similar things are less alike than they seem.
To explain something unknown by comparing it to something known.
When we compare two things, we always base the comparison on some kind of criteria. Occasionally an essay can be built around a single criterion, but most comparisons use two or three criteria. An essential early step in the writing process is to identify the criteria that will form the basis of your comparison. Without clear criteria, your essay is likely to wander about aimlessly.
Organizing a Comparison
The two most common ways of organizing a comparison essay are sometimes called the case pattern and the alternating pattern. The case pattern presents the entire case for subject X, then presents the case for subject Y. The alternating pattern is organized according to the criteria; it alternates between subject X and subject Y, discussing them one criterion at a time. The case pattern has the advantage of keeping the whole discussion of one subject together, but it makes it harder to see the direct comparisons. The alternating pattern chops up each subject, but it makes the comparisons between the two subjects more directly.