The Great Big Comparative Chart

on Black Rain and The Assault

For your first World Literature Essay, you will need to be ready to write about the two novels we’re currently studying (or have recently studied).  You will need to have an understanding of each of these novels, not only by themselves, but in comparison/contrast to each other.  For that reason, I have made sure that these novels have many large, shared links with each other.  It is your job (as a class) to uncover what these links are and to explore (and I mean really explore) the depths and intricacies of those links.

Keep in mind:  A “link” can be any shared aspect of the works: their themes, their characters (either in portrayals and relationships and/or functions), or their techniques (you know beginnings and endings, imagery, point-of-view, symbolism, structure, or style).  And by “shared,” I mean that those aspects must be the same, close to the same, or similar ideas that are used in distinctly opposite ways.  Some examples of what I mean appear below:

  • Both Palace Walk and The House of the Spirits share the theme of revolution.  (super-simple link)
  • Both Palace Walk and The House of the Spirits use major characters as martyrs to revolutionary causes to promote both authors’ pro-revolutionary beliefs.  In both novels, the characters that are most strongly connected to the revolution are the most moral and likeable.  Thus, by having these moral and just characters die while fighting for freedom in a revolution, both Mahfouz and Allende celebrate the revolutionary objectives those characters fought for. (detailed link)
  • Both As I Lay Dying and The House of the Spirits use multiple narrators in order to tell their stories.  In As I Lay Dying, the narrative is pieced together through the first person point of view of multiple characters, each with his or her own biases and peculiarities in a stream-of-consciousness style.  The effect on the audience is to leave them reeling from confronting the ludicrous and selfish nature of mankind.  Faulkner forces the reader to admit the fact that we are ultimately alone and unable to understand one another.  Meanwhile, Allende structures the stories of her narrators under the guise of an omniscient narrator, a narrator we find out is actually Alba, the youngest member of the Trueba family.  By filtering all the stories, even Esteban’s, through Alba’s omniscient narrator, Allende creates a story that is whole and continuous.  Ultimately, Allende suggest that stories provide hope for future generations.  (detailed link)  (ok… don’t freak…. it’s just an example J; however, the more you prep now, the easier it will be to spit stuff like this out on your World Literature Essays in June and next year in Ms. Spachman’s class)

If I was going to write my second sample above up in a chart, it might look something like this:


Shared Aspect


Palace Walk

The House of the Spirits

Theme of “revolution” + use of a martyred character

§         Fahmy, one of the main characters in the novel, is the biggest supporter of the Egyptian revolution against the British Protectorate in 1919.  He actively participates in the movement, even serving in a leadership capacity.

§         Fahmy is the “best” of the main characters.  While the other adult male characters in the novel are tortured by lust and sin, Fahmy is always kind and virtuous.

§         While the other adult male characters pursue lustful liaisons, Fahmy is a victim of unrequited love.  This further cements the audience’s positive feelings towards this character.

§         Fahmy dies while participating in a peaceful protest against the Protectorate.

§         Jaime, one of the main characters in the novel, is an extremely active member of the socialist movement that momentarily is elected to power in Chile, before being toppled by a military coup.

§         Jaime is also one of the “best” characters in the novel.  He is a doctor that works with the poor in the slums.  Compared to the other adult male characters in his family, he is the most selfless and giving, especially in contrast to his twin brother.

§         Jaime is also a victim of unrequited love.  He remains faithful and devoted to the object of his love, despite her drug addiction and relationship with his twin brother.

§         Jaime is captured by the military after refusing to leave the socialist president’s side.  He is shot after days of torture.



We will be working on filling out a chart together.  All of this “filling out” will appear on-line through Ms. Spachman’s website, and you can go there to download more recent versions after people have started filling in ideas they’d like to share (I will give you the link tomorrow in class).

By Friday, May 21, your assignment is to submit 2 individual (yes, work it out on your own) ideas to add to the chart.  By “ideas,” I mean giving your thoughts on at least two linked aspects of the plays.  So, for example, the work I did in the sample chart above with Palace Walk and The House of the Spirits would count as ONE idea.  And yes, you should aim at making your idea that detailed, but it could be slightly less and still score well.

Additionally, you may submit more ideas or partial ideas to me for extra credit.  In this case, you may work with a partner to develop your ideas, just make sure you submit your work with both your names on it.  If you want the extra credit to count, it must be submitted by Monday, May 24.

How does this work?

  • You can submit your ideas to me in writing by creating your own chart.
  • You can download a copy of the chart on-line, open it up in Word, type in your additions and bold them so I can clearly see what you’ve added.  Then print your work OR email it to me in an attachment to
  • Keep checking on-line for newer versions of the chart to increase your own idea bank and for additional ideas to respond to/add to.