Essay Two: The Comparative Analysis

During our discussion of the course goals on the first day of class, I told you that we’d explore a variety of thematically-linked texts and practice several different approaches to analyzing those texts. We employed one of those analytical strategies in Essay One when we conducted a close reading of a single text and reported our findings. One of the lessons that we took away from Essay One was the need to think carefully about what we can (or can’t) illustrate or prove when writing about literature. As you know, we were limited to making claims that could be proven by citing examples from a single text.

We won’t face the same constraints with Essay Two, because this time you’ll write about multiple (two or more) texts. Your assignment is to conduct a comparative analysis – a “lens comparison (,” in other words – of two of our textbooks which focuses on one of the following “core” themes:

1) free will
2) agency and power
3) the imagination

The claim should focus on a text from Unit Two – Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot or Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five – and present the second textbook as a comparative example. In essence, then, your thesis will answer the following question: What can be deduced about this theme as it appears in Text A (Waiting for Godot or Slaughterhouse-Five) when compared with the same theme in Text B (another text that we’ve read this semester)?

A preliminary thesis might look something like this:

While Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse-Five might appear to refute the concept of free will, the same theme’s appearance in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot suggests differently; a comparison of the two reveals Vonnegut’s novel as a celebration of agency and self-empowerment.

To be clear, I’m not necessarily endorsing this idea – I’m just suggesting it as a hypothetical example. The explanation that follows, though, would include close readings and analyses of excerpts from each text. In order to prove this claim, the version of free will which appears in Beckett’s play would need to shed light on the same theme in Vonnegut’s novel – perhaps because Billy’s crisis can be considered “existential,” for example, or because Vladimir and Estragon’s plight can suggest a different reading about the nature of Billy’s paralysis.

Regardless of your claim, please also ensure that the essay is organized, concise, grammatically-correct and properly cited using the MLA Citation Style. This essay should be between four and six pages.