How to Compare & Contrast Literary Mediums

Instructor: Ginna Wilkerson

Ginna earned M.Ed. degrees in Curriculum and Development and Mental Health Counseling, followed by a Ph.D. in English. She has over 30 years of teaching experience.

Literary mediums can be compared and contrasted according to various criteria. This lesson will give you the basic criteria for comparison and look at two versions of a familiar tale.

Literary Elements across Genres

When most people think of literature, they remember things they read in school: novels and short stories, poetry, and perhaps a drama script or two. Unless you were studying film, the screenplay was probably not on your reading list. Yet, if you think about films that you have enjoyed, many of them were originally written as a novel or stage play.

All of these literary mediums, or genres, share some major elements that enable us to compare and contrast them. Some common literary elements are:

  • Setting, the time and place where a story takes place
  • Character, a person (sometimes an animal, robot, etc.) involved in a story
  • Plot, the events of a story
  • Conflict, the problem in a story that propels the plot
  • Point of view, or the perspective of the story's narration

Let's compare some of these elements in The Hobbit as presented in two genres: the novella by J. R. R. Tolkien and the film.

Novel vs. Film

Novels usually provide more detailed background information than a screenplay. For example, a novel usually takes more time to develop the characters. You can recognize this difference in the two versions of The Hobbit. In the movie, you have to work a bit harder to understand the background information: who Bilbo is and why he is going on an unexpected journey.

Novels provide so much background information, in part, because the genre is text, not visual. With written narrative, the reader is required to use his or her imagination to fill in what settings and characters look like. For example, when you read The Hobbit, you have picture in your mind what Gollum looks like. Tolkien describes the creature well, but it is still left to the reader to 'see' Gollum as he plays the riddle game with Bilbo. In the film, we all see the same image of Gollum, and every movie-goer all over the world will have the same idea of what Gollum looks like.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account