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Essay 5 – Compare / Contrast

Unit of discourse

rhetorical parts: assertion, support, explanation

Earth's Lights

Earth’s Lights

analogy: pull out your gun, load, aim and shoot

An assertion is like a gun. Anyone can pull one out and start waving it around. By itself, an assertion is an opinion, all talk, lots of fervent belief, but nothing else. To make it more persuasive, all you can do it raise your voice, wag the gun more wildly.

The support is the bullets. It’s what you load your gun with. A loaded gun is a lot more threatening. It can, potentially, do a lot more damage than the gun by itself.

However, to effectively communicate, you need to pull the trigger. No matter how good your gun and your bullets, you’re never going to hit your target unless you pull the trigger. Your target is your reader, and that’s a singular “reader”, on purpose. You cannot shoot everyone with a gun. It’s pretty much one at a time.

Same with an essay. Don’t try to write to “everyone”. Write to one specific person, one reader. You need to explain what you want your reader to get out of the evidence. Then it’s not just your opinion against someone else’s. It’s your substantiated, explained opinion, which is more persuasive and carries more weight than the opinions of those wagging their guns at each other.


Which are stronger, our similarities or our differences? Facts:

  • The bacteria in your stomach is more closely related to the bacteria in the stomach of someone born halfway around the world than it is to the bacteria in your own mouth.
  • Most people stay with the religion they are born with.
  • Your country is not the center of the universe. There are other people living on this planet, and they live differently than you do, and they are really happy that way.

Compare the U.S. to one or both: a foreign country or the world of Brave New World. You should have at least two criteria for comparison.

Rhetorical situation

This assignment has two options. You should choose one.

Intercultural comparison option

If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home. – James Michener

Don’t tell me how educated you are. Tell me how much you’ve travelled. – Mohammed

You have an internship with Medaille’s student affairs office. The VP for student affairs has been charged with developing the section of the College’s web site explaining and encouraging student exchange opportunities with some Asian countries: China, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam.

This section of the web would be used by both American and Asian students to be able to understand the other culture in terms of their own. It would also help them make the decision about whether or not to participate in the exchange program.

Beijing, China

Beijing, China

The VP has asked all of you interns to compare various aspects of the two worlds. The good news is that she is letting you choose which aspects and which country to compare to the U.S. She wants this web to go beyond what everyone can learn on the Wikipedia, which is more like an objective report. She would like an essay, which in this case is like a report with a purpose, aka a thesis statement.

In other words, don’t just compare aspects of the cultures. Compare them with a purpose. Three examples, though I’d prefer if you came up with your own:

1. Compare educational systems with the purpose of showing how similar they are, which will make a transition easier for the international student. Or you could compare them to show the two or three big differences that the international student needs to take into account in order to thrive in the foreign educational environment.

New York, U.S.

New York, United States

2. Compare how college students balance their academic life with their social life.

3. Compare morality. Ask one of the international students read the two stories about the dog and the chicken. In person or via email, ask them the question: Did anyone in these stories do something morally wrong?

Story 1

A family’s dog was killed by a car in front of their house. They had heard that dog meat was delicious, so they cut up the dog’s body and cooked it and ate it for dinner. Nobody saw them do this.

Story 2

A man who lives alone goes to the supermarket once a week and buys a chicken. But before cooking the chicken, he has sexual intercourse with it. Then he cooks it and eats it. Nobody sees him do this.

Share your answer to that question with the international student. Discuss the differences. Ask them how they think other people from their country would respond. Show them the page on our course web with your classmates’ responses.

Let's have a contest for best caption for this picture given the context. Send me your suggestions.

Let’s have a contest for best caption for this picture given the context. Send me your suggestions.

You may quote them or copy and paste their email as long as you make it clear which words are theirs.

The first sentence of your essay should give a short answer to the question. Are the differences between the responses individual or cultural? Yes, no, maybe, or whatever.

For example, “No one in either of these stories did anything morally wrong, but ….” 0r “In the story about the chicken, what the man did was not morally wrong.” or “In both these stories what the people did was morally wrong, but at least in the dog story, the family ….”

The rest of your essay should explain and elaborate on that response. Also, deal with the opposite response. In this example, you might write something like, “Those who think that the man did something morally wrong are probably assuming that the chicken …”


To learn more, look at the comparison/contrast page.

Brave New World option

With your brand-new Medaille degree, you are working for a pharmaceutical company that has just received a license to market soma in the United States. One of the demographic segments that they want to market to is the college student. Since you have just graduated from a college, your boss has asked you to evaluate the graphic identity of four different advertisements for marketing soma to students at small private colleges. The advertisements would appear in the same places that ads for alcohol now appear.

You should assume that soma would have the same effect on today’s college students as it had on the people in Brave New World.

The ads are on the right (click to enlarge):

  • Take a Soma Holiday
  • Take Soma Be Happy
  • Soma Tablets
  • Soma-Cola

Rank order (first, second, third, fourth) the ads in the order that you think they would be effective, that is, would encourage use of soma among college students.

Rank them according to what criteria? Message and appeal, not necessarily in that order.

message, expressed in both text and images

  • which message is more accurate (or less misleading) about what soma does?
  • which message is more likely to appeal to college students? Why?

graphic appeal

  • which one is more likely to be a poster on someone’s wall or the background for their phone or tablet?

As evidence, you should use

  • descriptions of the advertisements (text, shapes, colors, images, etc.)
  • direct quotations from Brave New World
  • descriptions of what Soma did to the characters

As explanation, tell your boss why you rank-ordered them as you did. You don’t expect your boss to change his or her own rank-ordering. But you do expect you boss, after reading your essay, to understand why you ranked them the way you did.

To learn more, look at the comparison/contrast page.