A Life in Two Cities
In the summer of 2008, I finally decided that I had had enough of living in Los Angeles. The time had come for me to return to my native New England. However, instead of longing for the banks of the Merrimack River and the sandy beaches of my childhood in Massachusetts, I longed for the lure of the rocky, rugged coast of Maine. When the opportunity arose to move to that rugged Maine coast in Eastport, I was ready to make that leap with my nineteen-year-old daughter.
The irony did not escape me that we would be moving from one coastal corner of America to another. From the southwest to the northeast, or should I say, Down East, as Eastport, Maine is the easternmost city in Maine’s Down East region and the United States. This move from one city to another was not a mere cross-country relocation from one expansive city to another. Oh no, every aspect of Eastport was polar opposite from Los Angeles and I could not have chosen a more perfect place to detox our spirits after living in L.A. for nearly twenty years.
What can I say about Los Angeles that is redeeming? I look back on that time in my life, when I first moved there, against my will, with my daughter and her father, and I recognize that I was set up from the beginning not to like it there. As I played out the stacked deck of cards that the universe had dealt me during my early years in Los Angeles, including the suicide of my daughter’s father, I began to settle in and make a home there for the two of us. Indeed, as the initial culture shock wore off after the move from small town Massachusetts to the big California city, I found that Los Angeles did have plenty to be desired.
Los Angeles is an extended city with many smaller cities within. It is a sprawling landscape of intersecting streets and freeways, and buildings varied in heights from one-story to skyscrapers that ascend up on the city blocks like copses of trees, from the ocean to the mountains and throughout the flat expanse of the San Fernando Valley. Palm trees swayed in the breeze and the scent of citrus blossom often lingered in the air. One could not help but marvel at the nighttime panorama from the top of the Sepulveda Pass with its vast array of city lights on both sides of the pass.
A mecca of cultures and lifestyles spilled across the city as though from a harvest basket, Los Angeles brimmed with bounty in so many aspects. Rich with amenities such as shopping, theaters, and restaurants L.A. provided the opportunity to run errands and find entertainment any time of the day or night that you sought it, seven days a week. With TV, film and music the mainstay of the Los Angeles economy, there was always a wealth of entertainment, from nightclubs, to concerts, to movies to be enjoyed. Ethnic food abounded in Los Angeles; there was no lack of great restaurants to choose from or to simply be inspired by, when cooking at home. Shopping was everywhere around us, with multiple choices of grocers, pharmacies and department stores. Produce was bountiful in Los Angeles, with year round Farmer’s Markets to be found each day somewhere in the city if you were willing to take a quick twenty-minute drive. It is said in Los Angeles that you can get anywhere you need or want to go in the city or the valley within twenty minutes.
Every day, every moment there was sound and music everywhere in Los Angeles. Music was in the streets, from street performers to loud radio’s blaring from the cars rushing by, mingling and merging with the sounds of voices, busy streets, freeways, sirens, helicopters, airplanes, all constantly creating a cacophony of sound effects that played 24/7. The sounds of a busy city teeming with a diverse population.
Los Angeles is a creative nucleus that is bursting with film, music and creative arts power players and thousands of hungry, aspiring artists longing to be discovered in the City of Angels. People watching abounded from the rich and famous, to the homeless that camped on the sides of freeway bridges, in parks, or wherever they could find. In fact, people come from all over the country and world to live in L.A.; everyone in Los Angeles comes from somewhere else. So vast was the city of Los Angeles that you could rarely walk down the street and meet someone who you knew. Los Angeles was a cold place in that regard, strangers who passed by were always in a hurry to get somewhere, because there was so much to do. There was also a harshness to the city that caused its millions of inhabitants to keep their doors locked 24/7 and be mindful of crime all the time. So many people, so much crime, it was a given of the societal make up of a large city like Los Angeles.
As the years living there wore on, I found myself longing to return to small town life. I missed the quiet of the night. I missed living near the ocean. I longed to live amongst nature in a location where I could see land and sea and not a concrete skyline of high-rise buildings. My longing came to fruition when my niece in Eastport told me that she and her husband had recently bought the duplex across the street. That duplex became our ticket to a new, quieter life where nature abounded and the sun rose over the ocean each morning.
My daughter and I packed what we could fit into a 6’ by 12’ U-Haul trailer and we embarked on what became affectionately known as my “Grand Mid Life Crisis Adventure.” That adventure would lead us across the United States to the “end of the middle of freaking nowhere,” as my daughter would come to say. Seven days on the road, with a lot of hard driving, we finally arrived in Eastport via the most convoluted directions for driving through Down East Maine, comprehending that there truly are areas of Maine that do exemplify that “you can’t there from here” saying that Maine is famous for.
Eastport is a cropping of five small islands connected to the mainland of coastal Maine by a seven-mile causeway through the tidal waters of rock, mud, sand, pines and birch trees. My first trip across the causeway breathed new life into my city-wearied soul. The perfection of the late October day shimmered on the landscape in a photographic exhibit of color, texture and light. “Oh, I could lose myself here” I said as we drove along the causeway. Gone were the skyscrapers, they had been replaced with towering pine trees that provided a year round, lush verdant contrast to the constantly changing skies and seasonal landscapes of the region. Gone were the city lights at night, they were traded for more stars in the night sky than we had seen in two decades.
Everything that was abundant in Los Angeles in terms of shopping, entertainment, restaurants, Eastport lacked. With a year round population of 1500 residents, 3,000 in the summer, Eastport blossomed in the summer months and went to bed in the winter. Arriving in mid-fall, we watched the small shops and art galleries in downtown Eastport close up for winter. Social gatherings with aged hippies and artists were like a throwback to 1970’s parties and those get-togethers were the main source of entertainment with the lack of theaters and live entertainment in town. We grew accustomed to getting everything we needed at the small IGA, which woefully lacked in offerings of fresh produce and our favorite ethnic varieties of foods. Whatever we could not get at the little grocer in town, off we would drive for thirty to forty minutes to Calais, Maine on the Canadian border. Calais had the closest pharmacy, a supermarket and the nearest department store of sorts, Wal-Mart. Eastport had little to offer in the way of restaurants or entertainment, a meager handful of restaurants and a community theater, as opposed to the lavish choices of Los Angeles. We heard there had been a Mexican restaurant in town once, but that was gone. The convenient, open 24/7 existence we were familiar with in Los Angeles was nowhere to be found.
By contrast, to the constant 24/7, commotion of the extensive, accessible city of Los Angeles there was no constant din of reverberations in the sparsely populated, isolated city of Eastport. There were no freeways, no sirens, and no helicopters or airplanes inhabiting the auditory airwaves of the sleepy little seaport. There was perfect peace and quiet, away from the noise of teeming life. The cacophonous music of the metropolis was gone and in its place, there was bird song every day.
Like Los Angeles, Eastport too had a creative core that attracted artists, sculptors and painters, a few worn out power players, and occasionally a celebrity or two summered there. Indeed, the city of Eastport boasted that it had the highest percentage of artists living among its populace. Those artists arrived in Eastport from various parts of the country, exactly as people arrive in Los Angeles. Less tolerant and open minded than Angelenos, lifelong residents of Eastport always conveyed that those who had transplanted there from somewhere else were all from “away.” Yet, regardless of the local’s delineation of those who were from “there” and those who were from “away,” you could never walk or drive down the street without getting a wave from everyone who was passing by. Eastport’s form of people watching included just acknowledging everyone they came in contact with. Eastport was the epitome of Down Maine in that way, warm and friendly. Thankfully, as Los Angeles was teeming with daily crime, we found the sleepy little city of Eastport to be virtually crime free.
Life changed and got less complicated when there was nowhere to rush off too. The daily trip to IGA was the way to catch up on the news about town and run into new friends. Walking downtown each morning to the breakwater, where the fishing boats docked year-round, was a way of life, no matter what the season. In addition, nature was ever present daily, from bald eagles soaring overhead to fox and a large herd of deer that roamed the islands. We had been thrust into a pure sense of societal and environmental upset, so different was the context of life in Eastport from Los Angeles.
In time, we let the discordant music of the city of Los Angeles leave our souls, and we let the inaudible sound of inner peace that resonated in Eastport in to permeate our spirits with the timeless atmosphere of dwelling there. The toxicity of the 24/7 world left our city weary souls for the subtle, unhurried lifestyle of the Eastern Most City in the United States. We found quiet communion there in Eastport.
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It’s paralyzing. Moving forward seems impossible, and self-doubt creeps in. You feel like a lost puppy, unsure of what to do next.
When writer’s block strikes, it can be doggone demoralizing. But the good news is that an outline is your best friend for getting organized and ready to write.
In this post, I’ll show you how to develop a compare and contrast essay outline that lets you kick writer’s block to the curb and craft a structurally sound essay about anything.
Let’s start with making sure everyone’s on the same page about what makes up a compare and contrast essay. Ready?
What Is a Compare and Contrast Essay?In the simplest terms, a compare and contrast essay takes two subjects (i.e., objects, events, people, or places)—closely related or vastly different—and focuses on what about them is the same or what’s different or focuses on a combination of similarities and differences.
It’s not, however, just a simple comparison – that’d be too easy, right?
It must serve a larger purpose by doing one of the following:
- State something unknown.
- Clear up a misunderstanding.
- Show that one thing is superior to another.
- Lead to a new way of doing/seeing/understanding something.
- Argue a point with supported facts.
There are several formats for writing a compare and contrast essay, but I’ll use point-by-point organization to make my outline.
Compare and Contrast Essay Outline: Point-by-Point Organization
The point-by-point comparison focuses on comparing and contrasting one aspect about both subjects at the same time.
It’s typically easier for readers to follow this structure. It provides a clear, easy-to-follow structure. To keep things simple, I’ll use a 5-paragraph essay structure to create a compare and contrast essay outline.
The outline consists of three parts:
- Body Paragraphs
- The first difference between subjects
- The second difference between subjects
- The third difference between subjects
Now that you have the basic structure down, let’s break down the components using my two favorite four-legged beasts: Molly and Morgan.
Compare and Contrast Essay Outline: Introduction
The introduction is where you introduce your topic both in broad and specific terms. It’s also where make your thesis statement. The thesis statement provides the main point of or ideas within your essay.
The introduction has three key elements. I’ll go through each separately.
1. Introduction to the main topic
To introduce your main topic, you ideally want to start with a hook sentence and then detail the specifics of the topic itself.
Comparing and contrasting Morgan and Molly, my opening lines to introduce the topic might read something like this:
“Do opposites really attract? The law of attraction says they do, but is this phenomenon limited to humans? It’s definitely not, nor is it limited to romantic relationships. Dogs with drastically different personalities and habits form close attachments all the time.”
2.Specific subjects to compare and contrast
Next you need to identify who or what you’re comparing and contrasting specifically under the main topic and theme.
The next lines in my introduction might look something like this:
“The dogs in my household, while similar in many ways simply because they’re dogs, are vastly different creatures. Molly is a 70-pound bully who likes to pounce, lick, and paw at canines and humans until she gets her way. Morgan, on the other hand, is a 50-pound sweetheart who is content with whatever is going on. Despite their differences, the two dogs are strongly attached to one another.”
3. Thesis statement
Finally, to wrap up your intro, you want to express the specific aspects you’re comparing and contrasting. This provides a clear idea of where your essay is going.
My thesis statement focuses on three specific habits/characteristics of my rambunctious dogs. It might be something like this:
“Most notably, Molly and Morgan differ in how they accessorize, what their favorite toys are, and how they deal with downtime, yet the two have a strong bond as ‘sisters’ who cuddle at every opportunity.”
Whew! The introduction is often the toughest part. It’s where you’ll lay out the structure of your essay. (For this reason, it’s usually a good idea to write the introduction last.) Since that’s done, we’ll move on to Part B, the body paragraphs.
Compare and Contrast Essay Outline: The Body Paragraphs
Since I’m focusing on just three aspects about Molly and Morgan, I’ll have three body paragraphs. Under the point-by-point organization for a compare and contrast essay outline, you’ll need as many paragraphs as the number of aspects you’re comparing and contrasting.
Each paragraph will have a topic sentence focused on the aspect you’re comparing and contrasting. Each paragraph will also have two details about each subject as they relate to the aspect:
Body paragraph #1
The topic sentence states the main idea of the paragraph. The topic sentence of my first paragraph might look like this:
Aspect #1 – Topic sentence: “The first difference between Molly and Morgan is the way they accessorize; while both are budding fashionistas, each of the girls has her own personal style.”
If you can ignore their cuteness (yup, I’m biased, but you have to admit they’re pretty adorable, right?), we’ll dive into the two details for each dog. My detail sentences might look like this:
Subject #1: Molly
- Detail #1: “Molly takes the sporty approach and is perfectly content with her owner’s baseball cap firmly on her head.”
- Detail #2: “Her choice in headwear is indicative of the brute, in-your-face interactions with her sister and owners.”
Subject #2: Morgan
- Detail #1: “On the other hand, Morgan prefers the downhome, classic country look of a bandana.”
- Detail #2: “Her accessory preference speaks to her humble, attention-loving and passive demeanor.”
See how easy crafting a paragraph is when you break it down?
You could write paragraphs in your sleep now, right? No? Okay, let’s do the same thing for the second and third body paragraphs.
Body paragraph #2
Aspect #2 – Topic sentence: “Another difference between the girls is their favorite toys; even though they are both equally protective of their favorites, their choices contradict their personalities.”
Subject #1: Molly
- Detail #1: “Molly prefers to cuddle up with her favorite stuffed animal (which changes over time as she eats them).”
- Detail #2: “She often can be found protectively cuddling the stuffed animal in her sleep and making sure her owners give it plenty of love, too, by pushing the drool-covered plush in their faces at any opportunity.”
Subject #2: Morgan
- Detail #1: “Conversely, Morgan prefers the traditional rawhide bone.”
- Detail #2: “She will growl, snarl, and bare teeth to protect it from anyone (even her owners!).”
Two body paragraphs down – only one to go. If you’re struggling, just take a breather.
Take your time, and work through the outline one section at a time if you need to.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your compare and contrast essay outline doesn’t have to be either (unless you’re a procrastinator).
Body paragraph #3:
Now we’ll look at my third body paragraph. The final body paragraph wraps up the last aspect identified in the thesis. Mine might be constructed something like this:
Aspect #3 – Topic Sentence: “The final difference between the two pups is how they deal with downtime, more specifically, their ability to just chill while ignoring (or not ignoring) distractions.”
Subject #1: Molly
- Detail #1: “Molly isn’t content unless she’s getting attention, even if that attention is simply having a warm human body next to her; she’s frequently found flopping on the couch looking pensive and bored out of her pay-attention-to-me-now-or-I-will-lick-your face-endlessly mind.
- Detail #2: “While it’s sometimes possible to catch a photo-op with her sandwiched between pillows wearing a pleading look, breaking out the camera usually produces a face-licking attack before the shot is even focused.”
Subject #2: Morgan
- Detail #1: “Morgan, however, handles downtime differently. Perfectly content without constant attention, Morgan takes it as an opportunity to curl up and catch some ZZZs.”
- Detail #2: “A heavy sleeper who snores and runs in her sleep while dreaming of chasing squirrels, Morgan is happy sleeping for hours and is undisturbed by camera flashes and clicks.”
That’s it. The body paragraphs are complete. Not so bad, was it?
While I had three body paragraphs, your outline might have only two. Or it might have five. It depends on the number of points you’re comparing and contrasting.
Now we’re ready to wrap things up with the conclusion.
Compare and Contrast Essay Outline: ConclusionHot diggity dog! If you’ve made it this far, you’re in the home stretch—developing the conclusion of your compare and contrast essay outline.
The conclusion is the easiest part. You’ve already set the stage for it with your thesis statement and body paragraphs. It’s just a matter of putting it all together while focusing on three areas:
1. Summary of main points
First, you want to summarize your main points. It’s more than a simple summary, though. You want to synthesize your thesis with the information in your body paragraphs.
I might summarize with a few sentences like this:
“In conclusion, these three aspects clearly show how Molly and Morgan go about their doggy lives in different ways. While Molly likes to accessorize with baseball caps, cuddle with stuffed animals, and sit around looking bored, Morgan prefers rawhide bones, relaxing solo, and sleeping contently whenever she can.”
Next, you want to evaluate what you’ve discussed or talk about possible future developments.
This is where you show the greater purpose of your topic. Your conclusion should answer one question: What does it all mean?
As you work on this part, keep in mind that your conclusion should bring things full circle to your introduction.
My compare and contrast essay outline requires just focusing on an evaluation.
My evaluation sentences might look something like this:
“In some ways, the differences parallel their personalities—Molly as a brute and Morgan as a sweetheart. The differences also show how both dogs sometimes stray from their normal behavior, notably through how they interact with their favorite toys. Taken collectively, however, their differences don’t stop the law of attraction from coming into play. Though they like a different look, like to play with different toys, and like to relax differently, they adore each other and cuddle up together at every opportunity.”
Finally, you need to show the significance of the differences. What was your end goal in showing the differences? (Hint: Refer back to your introduction and thesis statement if you’re stuck here.)
I might use one sentence to show the significance, tie everything back to the intro, and create finality all in one swoop by writing something like this:
“This shows that opposites really do attract—even among canines.”
Download Template for Your Own Compare and Contrast Outline
Have your own compare and contrast essay to write? Make the process easier, and banish writer’s block by downloading this compare and contrast essay outline in MS Word or PDF format to get started.
Compare and Contrast Essay Outline Template (.doc)
Compare and Contrast Essay Outline Template (PDF)
Whether you’re ready to write or still flushing out your topic, using an outline keeps you on-task. It keeps you on-topic to create a logical, easy-to-follow format.
Additional Help for Your Compare and Contrast Essay Outline
Still struggling? Try reading some completed example compare and contrast essays. If that doesn’t work or you’re still feeling a bit unsure, read more about this type of essay.
Finally, don’t forget about editing and proofreading! Even the best writers make mistakes or have difficulty recognizing weak points in their own writing.
If you’re aiming to put your best paw—err draft—forward, have one of our talented Kibin editors edit your essay for grammar, logic, clarity, and flow.
Write on, and best of luck!
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