Sample compare-contrast essay outline
Here is a sample outline for an essay comparing and contrasting Achilles’ and Odysseus’ attitudes toward war. This example is excerpted from the Excellence in Literature Handbook for Writers, which contains much more information on this topic and many others. Although this sample mentions only one paragraph per topic sentence, you may have more than one paragraph supporting each main point.
Subject: Homer’s Poems
Focus 1: Achilles and Odysseus from the Iliad and the Odyssey
Focus 2: A comparison between the two heroes’ attitudes to war
Thesis: Odysseus in the Odyssey and Achilles in the Iliad are both frequently tested by hostile forces and combat. However, they differ in their characteristic range of responses to critical situations. A study of these two men in this regard reveals some really significant differences about the worldview in the two poems.
Topic Sentence (TS) 1: At first glance, Achilles and Odysseus share many things in common. (Paragraph goes on to discuss the similarities between the two men.)
TS 2: However, they differ completely in their attitude to the war and the warrior code. (Paragraph goes on to discuss the differences in their attitudes.)
TS 3: From these differences in attitude arise the different ways Odysseus and Achilles respond to physical danger, one of the most remarkable differences in this comparison. (Paragraph goes on to argue cause and effect.)
TS 4: Given the above, it is not surprising that Achilles and Odysseus differ considerably in the way they treat other people who face dangers with them. (Paragraph leads toward a conclusion by describing the consequences of their attitudes.)
Notice that in the sample outline, the argument begins by establishing that the two things being compared are sufficiently similar to bear the comparison. That is often an important point. You should not launch a comparison without indicating why you think these two items belong together in a comparison. For instance, if you set up a comparison in which you compared, say, Peter Rabbit and Odysseus, the reader might genuinely wonder about what these things have in common that enables the comparison between them to make any argumentative sense.
If needed, you may review how to write a comparison or contrast essay in the previous post.
This article was adapted from the Excellence in Literature Handbook for Writers, which is available from Everyday Education, LLC (Janice Campbell’s site).