Comparative Evaluation Essay

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The Assignment for the Paper
Your goal in this paper is to compare and contrast some element of two films made by the two most famous silent film actor/directors (although Harold Lloyd has been gaining ground on both in recent years), Buster Keaton’s The General and Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights, and to make some kind of evaluative judgment regarding them. Note that you need not — and probably should not — claim one film is better than the other; it is a much easier task to argue that one film does something in particular better than the other. Even saying one film is “funnier” is not the best approach because they employ different kinds of comedy. As always, a specific and well thought-out thesis is key to an effective essay.

Guidelines
Structure is the key to this assignment. Pay careful attention to your organization, whether basically block or alternate. The paper may again be either open- or closed-form. You should not analyze specific evidence in your first paragraph or your conclusion. The thesis will presumably be your evaluation.

You need to focus your essay in some way. You may discuss theme (or message), characterization, plot, setting, or any other attributes of the films, but you cannot discuss everything in enough detail to be interesting.

Do not confuse the actor/directors and the characters. Keaton plays Johnny Gray: Keaton does the stunts, but Gray tries to enlist in the army. Chaplin plays a tramp, but the tramp is the one who gets drunk with the millionaire. The same principle applies to Marion Mack (who plays Annabel Lee) and Virginia Cherrill (who plays the blind girl).

While it is important that you establish that these films have both points of comparison and points of contrast, you should not spend equal portions of your essay comparing and contrasting. Most comparison essays do more of one than the other. The best idea is to spend more time on whichever — the differences or the similarities — you think are...
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