Compare and Contrast Essay

Compare and Contrast Essay



Compare and Contrast Essay

Essays comprise works of writing that discuss certain subjects of matter in innovative ways. Generally, the aim of a good essay is to convince the reader in order to move him or her to accept a specific perspective, stance or manner of understanding. However, it is important for a writer to note the different ways that make an essay impose such effects on the reader. One of these ways involves understanding the composition’s structural components. Indeed, structural components are vital for any work of writing since they have the ability to affect an individual’s comprehension of a particular viewpoint. Examples of common components include tone of writing, and format. In relation to this particular assignment, the component that will be under scrutiny is style. The essays, Sister Flowers, by Maya Angelou and Fish Cheeks, by Amy Tan, pose structural elements used by the authors, which prove to be essential to their main objectives.

In overview, both narratives converge towards the subject of race. Indeed, the factor is prominent in both essays especially in terms of the way it had a significant consequence on the way the personas interacted with other individuals within the stories. Maya Angelou’s essay follows an experience that the leading character, Marguerite Johnson, has when she encounters one of the few African-American women aristocrats, Mrs. Bertha Flowers. Alternately, Amy Tan’s Fish Cheeks depicts an event in which a Chinese family invites a minister’s White American family for dinner. At glance, both stories seem direct, however, the point of similarity is evident where both highlight the problems that the protagonists face in attempting to fit in with the general culture at hand. For instance, Johnson becomes considerably uncomfortable while in the presence of Ms. Flowers.

For instance, in the narrative, the protagonist, after being informed by her grandmother that Ms. Flowers requests her presence, becomes jittery and uneasy. At this point, she is significantly nervous regarding a number of things that she should or should not do in front of the aristocrat. For instance, she is unable to choose the attire that she will don. Henderson states that, “What on earth did one put on to go to Mrs. Flowers’ house?” (Angelou, 1970, 21). In addition to this, the reader also notices the degree to which her visit is affecting her based on the way she views her Sunday Dress as a possible taboo. Nonetheless, from both examples, it is evident that the protagonist is under considerable influence from her racial background, which further determines the cultural background that she possesses and has experienced ever since she was a child.

 Similarly, the Chinese girl is also distressed because of the presence of Robert’s family in her home. Undeniably, the leading character seems to be rather negative of her race and consequent background. Because of this, she views every form of food that her mother serves during the dinner as uneventful and even, embarrassing. In addition to this, she also seems to deviate towards the American culture based on what her mother tells her when she presents her with the beige mini-skirt as a present. The protagonist’s mother states that, “But inside you must always be Chinese…Your only shame is to have shame” (Tan, 2004, 31). From this, it is evident that the daughter expresses shame for her cultural background and race. Her shame is present to the point that she expresses humiliation when her father belches even though it is customary in Chinese culture.

Another similarity within both of the stories comprises the use of introspective dialogue. The utilization of introspection is vital especially in understanding the thoughts, perspectives and emotions that the protagonists experience within their different encounters. One instance of introspection is where Henderson exudes her thoughts concerning the way her grandmother seems to disrespect Mrs. Flowers. In this section, she asserts that,

“Mrs. Flowers didn’t belong to our church, nor was she Momma’s familiar. Why on earth did she insist on calling her Sister Flowers? Shame made me want to hide my face. Mrs. Flowers deserved better than to be called Sister. Then, Momma left out the verb. Why not ask, “How are you, Mrs. Flowers?” With the unbalanced passion of the young, I hated her for showing her ignorance to Mrs. Flowers. It didn’t occur to me for many years that they were as alike as sisters, separated only by formal education” (Angelou, 1970, 22).

From this paragraph, the reader views the thoughts that Henderson exudes in relation to Mrs. Flowers. At first, she thinks that her grandmother is disrespectful but after that, she realizes that her grandmother is disrespectful since she is the same age as the aristocrat.

Further introspection is also present in Amy Tan’s story. At one point, the reader notices the inner thoughts and reflections that the protagonist expresses towards her family’s dinner. In the second paragraph, the girl seems to be ashamed and uneasy of the food that her mother has cooked for the guests. Based on her dialogue, she asserts that she did not want to have the function with Robert’s family in the first place. After this, she also exudes her reason for stating this. Foremost, the protagonist wonders how Robert will perceive of the Christmas dinner. Following this, she also continues to think of the perception that Robert may have regarding her ‘noisy’ Chinese relatives who do not possess appropriate American manners. In addition to this, she also expresses her disappointment based on the varieties of food that her mother has presented, which according to her, are not similar to what Americans consume (Tan, 2004).

Regardless of the various similarities that the essays possess, there is also a considerable degree of differences between them. One of these disparities regards the format of the compositions. In Sister Flowers, the author utilizes a rather prose form of format for the story. The structure of the essay is considerably similar to the framework adapted in poems. In addition to this, the paragraphs (which resemble stanzas) are numbered further identifying the inclination of Angelou’s story towards a generic free verse structure. The structure used in Fish Cheeks is completely different from the one evident in Angelou’s story. Accordingly, the author used a framework that is rather common especially in the presentation of personal essays. For instance, the piece of writing possesses an introductory paragraph. In addition to this, the essay is also separated into six sections. These sections constitute the main body of the essay. Lastly, Tan’s narrative possesses a conclusion. Even though the conclusion does not offer a summary of the story, it provides an individual ending of the composition, which is understandable and rather befitting for a personal essay.

In conclusion, the story, Fish Cheeks, by Amy Tan is considerably superior to Maya Angelou’s Sister Flowers in terms of style. This is because of the manner in which it has undergone organization. Accordingly, the way the author structured the composition makes it simple to read and understand. In addition to this, the essay’s structure facilitates its neatness further influencing the reader’s attention to it. However, both essays, regardless of their similarities and disparities, are interesting reads for any audience. Regardless of their informal nature, these narratives offer an insight into the impact that an individual’s race and subsequent cultural milieu may impose on the way he or she associates with persons of different settings and status.


Angelou, M. (1970). Sister Flowers. In M. Angelou (Ed.), I know why the caged bird sings (pp. 21-27). New York, NY: Random House.

Tan, A. (2004). Fish cheeks. In A. Tan (Ed.), The opposite of fate: Memories of a writing life (pp. 31-33). New York, NY: Penguin Books.

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