I’m trying to wrap my head around the mental checklist a student needs to have ticked off in their brain to feel confident that they can tackle whatever question comes up in the comparative. Apologies for ignoring gv&v and literary genre, I’m sure I’ll get to them eventually. For now, I’ve re-organised the questions for theme or issue and cultural context into the following categories:

Theme or Issue:

Questions which focus on key moments / dramatic or interesting moments in texts.

Questions on what you’ve learned from studying this theme (personal & universal insights)

Questions on the extent to which this theme or issue is resolved

Cultural Context:

Questions that ask you to compare the cultural context in general & the values/attitudes which are evident in each society

Questions that ask you to discuss how you feel about these societies / studying these societies

Questions that ask you to discuss the impact of the society on the central characters

Questions that ask how the cultural context effects the unfolding of the plot

Questions that ask you to discuss ONE aspect of the cultural context (gender roles, social class)

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If anyone wants the full list of questions, organised by type, here they are:

Theme or Issue

Questions which focus on key moments / dramatic or interesting moments in texts

1. “Important themes are often expressed in key moments in texts” Compare how the authors of the three comparative texts studied by you used key moments to heighten your awareness of an important theme.

2. “There are key moments in a text when a theme comes sharply into focus” Discuss.

3. “The dramatic presentation of a theme or issue can add greatly to the impact of narrative texts”

4. “Exploring a theme or issue through different texts allows us to make interesting comparisons

5. (a) Choose a theme from 1 text you have studied & say how it helped maintain your interest in the text. (30) (b) Compare how the theme is treated by the authors of 2 other texts to maintain the reader’s interest. (40)

6. (a) Compare how key moments in 2 of your texts raised an important theme or issue (40)

(b) In a third text show how a key moment helped your understanding of the same theme (30)

Questions on what you’ve learned from studying this theme (personal & universal insights)

1. “Studying a theme or issue enables a reader to form both personal and universal reflections on that theme or issue” Discuss in relation to two or more texts.

2. “A reader’s view of a theme or issue can be either changed or reinforced through interaction with texts.”

3. “A theme or issue explored in a group of narrative texts can offer us valuable insights into life

4. “The comparative study of a theme or issue allows the reader to gain a variety of viewpoints on that theme or issue

(a) Describe the viewpoint on your chosen theme in one text you have studied. (30)

(b) Compare the viewpoint on the same theme in your other two texts. (40)

5. “The study of a theme or issue can offer a reader valuable lessons and insights.”

(a) Identify and discuss at least one valuable lesson or insight that you gained through the study of a theme or issue in one text on your comparative course. (30)

(b) Compare at least one valuable lesson or insight that you gained, from studying the same theme or issue (as discussed in (a) above), in two other texts on your comparative course. The valuable lesson or insight may be the same, or different, to the one discussed in (a) above.(40)

Questions on the extent to which the issue is resolved:

1. “In many texts, a theme or issue may not be resolved to the complete satisfaction of the reader” Discuss

2. (a) Discuss the extent to which a theme or issue is resolved to your satisfaction in one text on your comparative course.

(b) Compare the extent to which the same theme or issue is resolved to your satisfaction in two other texts on your comparative course.

Cultural Context Questions

Questions that ask you to compare the cultural context in general & the values/attitudes in each society:

1. In the light of your understanding of the term the cultural context write an essay in which you compare the texts you have studied in your comparative course. (70)

2. (a) With reference to one of the texts you have studied in your comparative course, write a note on the ways in which the cultural context is established by the author. (b) Compare the ways in which the cultural context is established by the authors of two other texts on your comparative course.

3. In any cultural context, deeply embedded values and attitudes can be difficult to change” (70)

4. Understanding the cultural context of a text allows you to see how values and attitudes are shaped

(a) Discuss in relation to one text you have studied (30) (b) Compare the way the values and attitudes are shaped in two other texts you have studied. (40)

Questions that ask you to discuss how you feel about these societies / studying these societies:

1. “A reader can feel uncomfortable with the values and attitudes presented in texts” (70)

2. “A narrative text creates its own unique world in which the reader can share” (70)

3. “Understanding the cultural context of a text adds to our enjoyment of a good narrative” (70)

4. Imagine that you are a journalist sent to investigate the cultural context of the worlds of the three texts from your comparative course. (a) Write an article on the cultural context you found most interesting. (30) (b) In a second article compare the cultural contexts of the other two worlds with each other. (40)

Questions that ask you to discuss the impact of the culture / society on the central characters:

1. The main characters in texts are often in conflict with the world or culture they inhabit(70)

2. The cultural context can have a significant influence on the behaviour of the central character(s) in a text

3. The opportunities or lack of opportunities available to characters in the society or world in which they live have a huge impact on them(70)

Questions that ask how the cultural context effects the unfolding of the plot:

The cultural context of a narrative usually determines how the story will unfold” (a) Compare the way in which the cultural context influenced the storyline in two of the texts you have studied (40) (b) Show how the cultural context influenced the storyline in a third text you have studied (30)

Questions that focus on ONE aspect of the cultural context:

1. The issue of social class is important in shaping our understanding of the cultural context of a text

(a) Discuss the importance of social class in shaping your understanding of the cultural context of one text you have studied (30 marks)

(b) Compare the importance of social class in shaping your understanding of the cultural context of two other texts you have studied. (40 marks)

2. The roles & status allocated to males or females can be central to understanding the cultural context of a text

(a) Show how this statement might apply to one text on your comparative course. In your answer you may refer to the roles and status allocated to either males or females or both. (30)

(b) Compare how the roles and status allocated to males or females, or both, aided your understanding of the cultural context in two other texts on your comparative course. (40)

28 Responses to Comparative Q’s By Type

  1. Laura says:

    I’m doing Catcher in the Rye, Casablanca and Sive for my comparative, but I find it very hard to find an aspect in Cultural Context under which they can be compared to any great extent, I find I’m always talking about Sive, will this lose me marks? Also do you make your comparisons in one paragraph or use link sentences and discuss separate texts in separate paragraphs? Thanks!

    • If you talk too much about one text (more than half the time) yes you will lose marks.

      I don’t recommend writing separate paragraphs – it would be too easy to forget the most important part of comparative studies – the comparisons!

      Take some ideas first, then apply them to each text in turn.

      For example, in each of these texts there are people in positions of authority who abuse their position – Mena, Thomasheen, Sean Dota in Sive; Renault & Strasser in Casablanca; Stradlater in the way he treats Jane – I can’t remember this text, haven’t read it since college but why did Holden get expelled? Did he deserve this punishment?

      Look at the way women are treated in these societies – are they powerful or powerless? Do they make their own decisions or do other people make decisions on their behalf?

      Is each society corrupt? When people need help, do they get it or do people treat them badly? Is this society one you’d be happy to live in? Why / why not?

      Hope that helps!

      Evelyn

  2. Pearl says:

    This article is amazing thank you so much!!
    A lot of people are pretty convinced that general vision and view point is bound to come up.. could you by any chance give us questions or key points about it?

  3. Pearl says:

    Oh I just saw Gv and V on your page now
    sorry about that..

  4. veronica says:

    Hi,

    Im just wondering how many similarities and comparisons would you need to include in the comparative section when comparing 2 texts? Also if you are comparing a film and a novel do you need to talk about the technical aspects of the film or can you just compare it as if it were a text? Thanks very much.

    • You can discuss the technical aspects of the film – camera angle, editing etc… – it’s always impressive when students do – but you don’t have to for theme, cultural context. However, I would discuss them for Literary Genre (mode for 2015) and General Vision and Viewpoint however.

  5. Niamh says:

    If the question asks for at least two texts is it enough just to answer on two?

    • Yes. But if it says “the texts you have studied” then they’re expecting three.

      • theyo says:

        Hi Evelyn,

        Thank you for such a great site!

        Your reply above is the answer to what I have been wondering about for a number of days. For the type of questions you mentioned above, questions that state “of the texts you have studied” or “from the texts you have studied” or “in each of the texts you have studied” i.e 2010 (B 1.), you have said that three texts are expected 🙁 Is this definitely the case? How heavily penalized would you be if you answered with two texts?

        Does this also mean that for the LC 2015 Exam there is no certainty that at least one question out of the total of four will offer the use of only 2 texts?

        • You are expected to discuss three texts unless the question specifically says to discuss two (or ‘in two or more’). And yes, there is no reason to believe that one of the four questions will do that – in fact it’s more likely at higher level that all of the questions will ask you to discuss all three but the exams are by their very nature unpredictable so who knows… At ordinary level it’s much more likely that you’ll be asked to discuss 2 texts. Hope that helps… Evelyn

  6. Conor says:

    My three texts are Casablanca, Sive and Pride and Prejudice. I studied cultural context and have difficulty discussing multiple topics while trying to include two or three of the texts. I chose to write about love and marriage and gender roles (which are the easier of my four topics to write about) and then I can’t differentiate between power and money (my other two topics) I just seem to repeat myself even when I try to explain the difference eg. Darcy is powerful because of his place in society but his money also gives him power. Any advice?

    • The easiest way to separate out the issues is to attach them to different key moments in your head. So take money – in Casablanca, Rick is well off but he draws the line at exploiting his employees or the vulnerable refugees in his society, telling Ferrari “I don’t buy or sell human beings” to which Ferrari replies “That’s a shame, they’re Casablanca’s leading commodity”. In fact, Rick could be much wealthier if he wanted to be but he refuses to trade in human misery, even fixing the roulette table so that Jan and Annina can escape Casablanca without her having to sleep with Renault to get an exit visa.

      Now attach the issue of power to a different key moment in the text in your head. For example, we see a blatant abuse of power when Ugarte is shot dead rather than simply arrested and Renault and Strasser cover up what happened cynically commenting to Laszlo “we haven’t decided yet whether he commit suicide or died trying to escape”. It seems those who hold power can behave in a corrupt heavy handed manner without any fear or being caught or called to account.

      Hope that helps! Of course, remember the important thing is not your knowledge of individual texts, but the manner in which you combine and intertwine them!

      Evelyn

  7. Gareth says:

    For the Theme and Issue question, where you have to compare your reflections on a theme or issue, how do you separate them into universal and personal? If they are all my personal opinion on a theme/issue, then they are all personal, yet if all of them can be applied to life, then they are all universal too? I can come up with endless reflections and opinions on themes and issues (I’m studying I’m Not Scared, Juno and the Paycock and the Road), yet the division into universal and personal is trickier.

    • My gut instinct is that personal reflections refer to moments, events, people in your own life while universal reflections can be shared/experienced by us all… but you don’t need to have an artificial division in your essay, as long as both are referenced over the course of your essay… Hope that helps.

  8. CT says:

    Hi would you have any points for comparing the theme of friendship in How many miles to Babylon, The Great Gatsby and the King’s Speech? I think your website is great!

    • Just ask some core questions – how does the friendship form? What’s it based upon? What obstacles does it encounter? Do these obstacles (people or events) weaken the friendship or strengthen it (through adversity)? How is the depth of the friendship revealed in the texts – what do they do for each other? IS there a key moment or event which deepens the friendship further? At the end of each text, where does the friendship stand?

  9. Orla H says:

    Could you do one of these for G V&V and Lit Genre when you can please? This one was so helpful! Thank you

  10. aidan says:

    Hi, just wondering have you any advice about completing a comparison essay on theme/issue on ‘suffering’ with ‘King Lear’ The Catcher in the Rye’ and The Kings Speech’ . on not sure how to go about it or what to add in or leave out.

    • Ask a few key questions and use these to organise your thoughts. When does the suffering of the main character first appear in the text and how is it commuicated to us the reader/audience? Write a paragrapph or two on that, using a key moment from each text, weaving the texts together. How does the main character respond to this suffering? – is their reaction one which will help them to ease their suffering or one which will only make things worse? Write one or two paragraphs on this, using key moments, weaving the texts together. Do other characters suffer? 1 more paragraph, weaving texts together. What’s the climax of the suffering in each text? 2 more paragraphs, weaving, comparing, contrasting. How does the text end? Does the suffering end? How do you feel about the ending of each text? Weave, weave, weave, compare, contrast… hope that helps.

      In the end, whatever question comes up, it’s about asking yourself a question which will frame each paragraph/section that you write. That’s the key to good essay writing really – what’s the focus of this paragraph? What’s the key question I’m answering in this paragraph? Do that for every paragraph, with a logical sequence, and you should be fine…

  11. Shannon says:

    I’m studying the kings speech,how many miles to Babylon and junk and the peacock any advice please?

    • This may seem like a smart arse reply, but the texts you’re studying isn’t the first thing that’s relevant.
      – You need to know the modes and have it clear in your head exactly what they mean.
      – You need to know how to compare and contrast.
      – Then you need to know your texts well, in particular key moments which reveal something significant in relation to the modes you’re studying.
      – Finally, you practice writing essays where you weave your texts together.

      That’s my advice as far as it goes. Students all over the country use different texts. What’s being assessed is not knowing individual texts, but how well they understand the modes, can apply this to their texts (which they do of course have to know quite well) and how well they can weave their texts together, comparing and contrasting as they go and achieving a depth in the comparisons they make (emphasising both similarities and differences).

  12. David says:

    In a Gen. v&v question, can the role of be women be included in an answer?

    • Depends why you’re including it. If the way women are presented, or treated by society, or by other characters impacts on the vision being presented by the author, then fine. If the view of women disturbs you, fine. But be clear on what GV&V is and on WHY you’re discussing the role of women – otherwise, your answer may not make much sense.

  13. Linda says:

    Hl I was wondering if you could help me with the meaning of the question “a theme or issue may not be resolved to the complete satisfaction of the reader” Im studying brooklyn how many miles and juno and the paycock and our theme is forbidden relationships, but im unsure of what the question is exactly asking us to write about?

    • Again, apologies for the delayed response. I’ll answer anyway to help any future students who may have this query.

      It’s basically asking you to what extent you were happy with how this theme or issue stood at the end of the text.

      So let’s say your theme is friendship. At the end of the text are the central characters still friends? Have the forces attempting to keep them apart been defeated? Have the protagonists remained friends despite all the odds? Will their friendship last into the future or are they both even still alive? Are you satisfied with how it all ends up? Do you like the ending, or if you don’t like it can you at least accept it as credible and believable? Did it move you emotionally?

  14. Hannah says:

    Hi Evelyn, firstly I would just like to thank you for each and every post on this site -they have truly been a godsend!
    Secondly, I would appreciate your opinion on the amount of key moments to be explored/points to be made in a theme and issue essay. I was also wondering if this approach to the theme of isolation would leave me with an essay too long for the 70 minutes assigned:
    -opening scene
    -attitude of protagonist towards their isolation (whether it is self imposed)
    -part society plays in imposing /reducing isolation
    -part relationships with other characters play
    -part setting plays
    -moments of belonging
    -crisis
    -resolution

    Is this too much? If so, what should I leave out? Thanks a million

    • So sorry for the extremely delayed response. I’ll reply anyway in case the answer is useful to people doing LC 2016.

      Discussing all of the things you mention in 3 texts in 70 minutes seems to my eye almost impossible. Your response is a response to the question asked. The number of key moments you refer to will depend on what points you decide you want to make to respond to that question.

      I know that seems like a very vague reply but it all depends on the question asked what you decide to include and what you leave out.

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