Comparative Analysis: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and others

Objective: To use analytical skills to draw connections and disconnections between two or more pieces of literature, to effectively use outside sources and to incorporate outside knowledge to a close reading.


This third essay allows you more freedom than the first two, but also requires that you make not-so-obvious connections between texts that might not seem to have any connections at all. You will use Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone as the basis for your analysis, and then widen your consideration to other texts-these include but are not limited to James and the Giant Peach, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and the book you're reading for your final project. You should, however, be realistic about moving outside of the children's fantasy genre, as other genres have different goals and audience considerations. Use outside references to support your ideas about archetype, theme, etc.

Choosing a Topic

As you read Harry Potter, notice things that compare in different ways to other books: the shifting role of orphan or villain ("enemy"), the use of magic (as tool, as in-born skill, as part of the natural world, etc.), the use of prophecy, the role of the quest or journey, etc. Use your reading journal to make these connections to other texts. You may want to choose one text to compare to, and add what you know of others. Don't rule out using other "texts" such as movies, TV shows, songs, myths, etc.

Try to stay away from the blatantly obvious; for example, "Magic is a way of life in Harry Potter's world, as it is in the world of the Charmed ones." This kind of thesis is faulty in a few ways: one, it will lead this essay to just listing similarities, something that is obvious to the audience who knows these works anyway. The second fault with this thesis is that it doesn't get to the complexity of either "world" involved; Harry Potter's world is split, and his duality of living in a muggle world and a magic world could be a key to another more complex thesis.

Developing a Thesis

While you may refer to multiple texts for comparison, you'll want to keep Harry Potter at the forefront, and use at least one other primary to do an in-depth comparison. Remember, keep your topic focused on a particular element from the stories. This should be in your thesis. Some examples of working theses:

Orphans play a significant role throughout children's fantasy literature, but while many have a similar goal of obtaining a surrogate "family," how they recognize their own ability to attain that shifts. Indeed, the elements of "orphan- ness," while highly variable, are often the instrument of self-discovery for the orphan, which propels the orphan into a place of victory.

In Harry Potter, there are many characters who want to wear the villain's face- Draco Malfoy, Snape, Voldemort, the Dursleys. In James and the Giant Peach, situation becomes the force to overcome. The idea of villain can shift, often within the same story, but what doesn't change is the protagonist's absolute necessity to overcome the "villain" before the end of the story.

When developing a thesis, make sure that it identifies what focus your essay will have (theme) and what you have to say about it now that you're considering the life of this theme in multiple texts.

Using Outside Sources

You will want to use outside sources, including the text(s) you're comparing to. I will leave the amount you use outside sources up to you, but be honest: how much (or how little) do you need to establish the existence of an archetype, or to help support the ideas you have abut this theme? Print sources like Contemporary Literary Criticism or other reviews/scholarly articles on the books will be helpful to you, as will general literature or children's literature books that help define different aspects of literature, like archetypes, etc. You may choose to compare to other media, such as TV, film, music, etc., so don't leave these source possibilities out.

You will need to have a proper works cited page, with all the appropriate information. Don't forget to use the appendix in Writing Analytically or the MLA Handbook for Writing Research Papers for help in citing sources or writing your works cited entries.


You will want to begin exploring your ideas as you are reading Harry Potter, so as you see connections with themes, character types, etc., outside of HP, be writing in your journal about what you have to say about them in those sources. For example, if I were going to write about the variability of the orphan in literature, I would first explore what being an orphan does for Harry's character-he is treated poorly by the Dursleys, and shares the sympathetic character vote with many other orphans in literature-Cinderella, James, Little Orphan Annie. He also I'd explore what the connections are on that line of thought, but also where there are orphans who don't fit that role, like Peter Parker/Spiderman or Bruce Wayne/Batman. This will open a huge box of considerations, like superhero genre's differences, but I will stay on focus, always returning to Harry. His greatest desire is something that can be compared to other orphans in texts-he wants his parents back. James, however, never says any such thing. He just wants to have friends to play with, and wants to be loved. There's plenty more to explore, but this is just an example. I'd want to find text from those other orphans to help me support my ideas about them, but not too much.

As you move through multiple drafts, be aware of supporting your ideas. Remember, the ideas are what you're supporting with evidence from texts. Keep in mind everything you've learned from previous essays about using evidence effectively, and quoting only when necessary.

Again, I suggest you keep a running Works Cited page that changes when you add more source material. It's easier at the end to make sure it's correct if you have revised it more.


When it's time to look at drafts again and again, look first at what your essay accomplishes. It's a good exercise to summarize in a few sentences what your essay does, and then compare that to your working thesis. If they don't match, you know you have some revising to do on your thesis.

Outlining your essay as it is written helps three-fold: first, it allows you to see what ideas you've covered, and will help you see what ideas you've left out that need to be there. Second, it helps you review your organization for build-up and development of idea. Third, it helps you revise your thesis to better reflect what your essay will be doing.

During the revising process, look for places where you have evidence but no idea, or vice versa.

Later on in the revising process, look at your word choice, sentence structure, and phrasing. Making these changes will also lead you to proofreading for other mechanical errors.

Since you won't get a chance to revise this essay for a higher grade, it's important to stay on task and on schedule in order to pass in your best work.


Make sure not to forget to check your use of in-text citations, source material, and MLA format for your works cited page.

Proofread your essay carefully-this affects how your reader receives the information, and you won't get a chance to fix things in class. You must complete your process before coming to class.

Nitty Gritty

This essay will be between four and six pages long, not including your works cited page.
Your essay should follow regular MLA format.
Deadlines are detailed on the course calendar and on the handout from class.

Grading Criteria

Has the author developed his/her own ideas about a focused idea through multiple texts?
Does the author stay focused on one main idea throughout the essay?
Has the author used outside sources to support or contrast his/her own ideas?
Does the author analyze the text in connection with other texts?
Has the author avoided making assumptions that aren't founded in research?
Has the author achieved a complex comparative analysis, and not a simple compare/contrast list?
Does the essay follow MLA format?
Does the essay include an accurate works cited page?
Is the essay proofread, and clear of word choice, spelling, and punctuation errors?

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