> Study the following paragraph and consider these questions: (a) Is the writer comparing, contrasting, or doing both? (b) Which of the two subjects receives the focus? (c) How is the comparison or contrast organized and how is it built?
Let's compare the U.S. to India, for example. We have 203 million people, whereas she has 540 million on much less land. But look at the impact of people on the land.
The average Indian eats his daily few cups of rice (or perhaps wheat, whose production on American farms contributed to our one percent per year drain in quality of our active farmland), draws his bucket of water from the communal well and sleeps in a mud hut. In his daily rounds to gather cow dung to burn to cook his rice and warm his feet, his footsteps, along with those of millions of his countrymen, help bring about a slow deterioration of the ability of the land to support people. His contribution to the destruction of the land is minimal.
An American, 6n the other hand, can be expected to destroy a piece of land on which he builds a home, garage and driveway. He will contribute his share to the 142 million tons of smoke and fumes, seven million junked cars, 20 million tons of paper, 48 billion cans, and 26 billion bottles the overburdened environment must absorb each year. To run his air conditioner he will a Kentucky hillside, push the dirt and slate down into the stream, and burn coal in a power generator, whose smokestack contributes to a plume of smoke massive enough to cause cloud seeding and premature precipitation from Gulf winds which should be irrigating the wheat farms of Minnesota. Wayne H. Davis
> Work up a contrast in one or two paragraphs on one of the following subjects. Confine yourself to three or four points of difference and organize around the two is, discuss all the points with regard to A before going on to B:
1. Any two cities you know well
2. People of two different nationalities
3. A sports car and the family sedan
4. Young people and the middle-aged
5. Two sports
> Now compose another paragraph (or paragraphs) on the same subject but this time organize around the three or four points of difference.
> Finally, still working with the same topics, write a third paragraph beginning like this:
Yet despite these differences A and B are alike in several ways.
Analogy is a special kind of comparison in which a second subject is introduced to explain or justify something about the main topic. Here the American writer Flannery O'Connor addresses a class in creative writing:
I understand that this is a course called "How the Writer Writes," and that each week you are exposed to a different writer who holds forth on the subject. The only parallel I can think of to this is having the zoo come to you, one animal at a time; and I suspect that what you hear one week from the giraffe is contradicted next week by the baboon.
O'Connor's main subject is the course on writing. Her analogy is visiting the zoo, or rather having the zoo visit you. By means of the analogy she presents herself with comic self-deprecation and, more seriously, suggests something about the limitations of teaching creative writing.
Analogies differ from straightforward comparisons in several ways. First, they are always focused on one topic, the analogical subject being secondary, serving to clarify or emphasize or persuade. Second, the analogical subject usually is of a different nature from the main subject, so different that most of us would not think the two at all similar. Comparison typically involves things of similar Ford and Chev rolet, for example, or New Orleans and San Francisco, high school and college. Analogies, on the other hand, often find unexpected similarities in unlike things, such as a course in writing and a visit from the zoo.
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