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5.5: Comparison

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    Comparison, like most of these modes of thought and writing, is something we seem to do naturally. Anytime we can name something, we almost automatically categorize it according to its similarities and differences with other things. We understand many things based on “where it fits in” to the world, and we can only understand those relationships based on similarities and differences (or perceived similarities and differences).

    In your essay, you can help place something in the world (in this case the same object or place from your Topic writing) by comparing it to other things. Authors do this in a number of ways. One is to point out explicit similarities and differences. Another is to report various ways something is perceived. We will practice both. These are not the usual kinds of comparison; they are intended to add to what you are already used to doing.

    1. Choose something to compare to your object

    Read the Description of your object/place.

    Think of a quality or feeling that you want me to associate with your description of your object/place. Using the candle from the Narrative section as an example, perhaps I want to emphasize the seriousness and solemnity with which I regard that candle, which after all reminds me of a deceased friend. What else (what other object) might emphasize “seriousness and solemnity?” Perhaps something from a church or similar place might accomplish this. I think of my candle in the same way some churches regard candles, either as representing the seriousness of an event or the importance of some part of it. What can I compare it to? Perhaps the altar. Or maybe something on top of the altar, like a book or other sacred object. Or maybe the candle that stays lit perpetually.

    \[\begin{split} \text{My}\; & \underline{object} \\ &\; \; \downarrow \\ \text{(A candle}\; & \text{from a deceased friend)}\end{split}\]

    \[\begin{split} \text{A}\; & \underline{quality}\; \text{of this particular object or a way it makes me feel} \\ &\quad \downarrow \\ \text{(Serio} & \text{usness or solemnity)} \end{split}\]

    \[\begin{split} & \underline{Something\; else}\; \text{with this quality or feeling} \\ &\qquad \quad \downarrow \\ \text{(} & \text{An altar in a church)} \end{split}\]

    I can also express it as a simile:

    Example \(\PageIndex{1}\):

    The candle from a deceased friend is like an altar in a church.

    Once I choose something with similar qualities to compare to my object, I can go to the next step.

    2. Write a description of the new object

    Write a description of the new object/place, in the same way you wrote your description of your object/place, using the same rules and techniques you used then. When you finish what amounts to your second description (of an object/place similar to yours), you place it directly after your first description, and begin it with “Similarly,” to tie the two together. (You can copy and paste your first description).

    [A description of your object or place]


    [A description of a similar object or place]

    3. Range of perspectives (people)

    Once you finish comparing by a second description of a similar object, think about comparison from a “range of perspectives.” This means simply comparing how others see your object.

    Example \(\PageIndex{2}\):

    My mother saw the candle, for instance, as a dust-collecting nick-knack on my shelf [I would then explain why she thought of it that way, and how I know this, and so on]. One of my friends thought I was too sentimental about the whole thing, so to him the candle was a sort of symbol of wishy-washy, wimpy thinking that was a waste of time [then explain, and so on]. [I then explain] my own feelings [about the candle].

    This is called a “range of perspectives”; you choose at least two perspectives about your object and describe them, then describe your own perspective.

    Notice there are at least three: mother, friend, me. It could be more general (some people, other people, me), but the more specific the better (make the people as different as possible – mom (older, female, related, etc.) vs. friend (male, younger, not related, etc.).

    Note that I save my perspective for the 3rd one.

    Example \(\PageIndex{3}\):

    Some people look at the candle and …

    Other people ask me why it …

    I think about it as …

    Write a range of perspectives comparison for your object/place. It should include 3 sets of perspectives (the mom, friend, me example above is one set; I need 2 more to complete a range of perspectives). Add this to the end of the description/comparison you completed above. The range of perspectives should look something like this:

    Example \(\PageIndex{4}\):

    Some people look at the candle and …

    Other people ask me why it …

    I think about it as …

    My mother dusts it regularly but never gives it …

    My roommate teased me about …

    I don’t let this bother me because …

    We once had a cleaning service that threw it away …

    My deceased friend would have been appalled …

    I am happy now as I …

    4. Range of perspective (from time)

    Another kind of comparison by perspective is based on time. Instead of perspectives from different people, these are perspectives from different points in time.

    Example \(\PageIndex{5}\):

    For example, when I first got the candle, it was a sort of token friendship thing [explain, etc.]. When she died, it became more important. Now I think of her whenever I see it. I don’t ever plan to get rid of it.

    Notice how my perspective on the candle changes at different points in the past, now, and in the future. Write another range of perspectives comparison based on different points in time, using at least three sets of perspectives. It should look something like this:

    Example \(\PageIndex{6}\):

    When I first got the candle and …

    One day I realized how much it meant to me when …

    Now it sits on my dresser …

    Sometimes I look at the candle and wonder …

    At other times I wish …

    Occasionally I take it down…

    It used to be that I …

    Someday maybe I’ll be able to …

    Now I find myself wishing that …

    Add your range of perspective from time to your range of perspective from people. Add to the rest of your comparison. Your complete comparison should look like this:

    [A description of your object or place]

    Similarly, [A description of a similar object or place]

    Range of perspectives (people):


    Range of perspectives (time):



    You may compare any two objects or places this way. When you have a comparison constructed, you may add it to the other elements in your personal writing. When you finish ALL the elements, you may then arrange elements for greatest effect.

    This page titled 5.5: Comparison is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Stephen V. Poulter.

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