Sparknotes and Cliffnotes both assist a reader and can help students interpret literature at a more in depth level, and help improve understanding the literary elements, character developments, and plot development that a author uses to help create the story. Both sites provide similar information, ranging from overall plot summaries and character analysis, but Sparknotes goes more into the literary aspect of the book, while cliffnotes focuses more on the character and his motives. In analyzing Jay Gatsby, Cliffnotes focuses much more on Gatsby himself and his underlying motives to his character, like “In assessing Gatsby, one must examine his blind pursuit of Daisy.” (Cliffnotes). Sparknotes focuses not only on the overall character of Jay Gatsby, but also analyzes how his character compares with other characters, and how his character relates to the author. Some of examples of Sparknotes on Gatsby are, “Fitzgerald uses this technique of delayed character revelation” (Sparknotes), and “Gatsby is contrasted most consistently with Nick” (Sparknotes), showing how Sparknotes develops a more in depth character analysis. However, both sites have a similar set up, as the book must be searched for in the tool box when first accessing the site, and on the left a toolbar exists of the different sections a reader can glance through for detailed information. The most significant difference between the two sites when it came to character analysis was Sparknotes had a broader analysis while Cliffnotes analysis was narrower.
Sparknotes and Cliffnotes present the information similarly when the sites analyze the plot, using paragraph form going in chronological order. Sparknotes summarized the storyline, while capturing a deeper understanding in the last paragraph, like “Nick reflects that the era of dreaming—both Gatsby’s dream and the American dream—is over” (Sparknotes), while Cliffnotes summerizes but also refers to specifics from the book, for example, “Gatsby, mysteriously standing in the dark and stretching his arms toward the water, and a solitary green light across the Sound” (Cliffnotes). Both discuss scenes from the book, but Cliffnotes goes into greater detail of scenes and what happens in the scenes. Cliffnotes ends the summary with a deeper meaning line as well, by stating “The novel ends prophetically, with Nick noting how we are all a little like Gatsby, boats moving up a river, going forward but continually feeling the pull of the past” (Cliffnotes). Essentially both provide a solid overall summary of the book, but if a student needs specifics to refer to in an essay; Cliffnotes would be more beneficial as Cliffnotes contains greater depth on scenes in the book while Sparknotes provides a better overall overview of the storyline. Sparknotes was also easier to follow and provided a good background to the book, while Cliffnotes contains better information for someone who already has a basic understanding of the book and needs specifics.
Maybe the most glaring difference between Sparknotes and Cliffnotes is Sparknotes contains a themes and motifs section while Cliffnotes does not. The fact Cliffnotes does not contain a theme and motif section hampers the site considerably. What Cliffnotes offers instead consist of “critical essays” of the book, which have benefits, but the motif and themes section in Sparknotes gives better information and has enough detail for a reader to receive a good grasp of the material. Sparknotes discusses the overall theme and covers smaller symbolic parts of the literature that are hard to pick up. For example, Sparknotes explains the themes and then explain motifs like the weather, the eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg, and the Valley of Ashes (Sparknotes). The Cliffnotes critical essays do explain the theme but require much more work than the Sparknotes themes and motifs section. The essays contain substantial detail but no more than the Sparknotes section and they do not touch on motifs as well. If one needed to write an essay on the theme of Great Gatsby, Cliffnotes would provide a great example of how to approach the topic and guide a student on the themes, like “variety of themes — justice, power, greed, betrayal, the American dream and so on” (Cliffnotes), and help create a thesis for their paper. Overall, however, Sparknotes has a quick, condensed insightful section on themes and motifs while Cliffnotes presents the information on themes in a long, time-consuming essay.
In general, Sparknotes seems to have better quality information that covers all aspects and has helpful insight compared to Cliffnotes. Cliffnotes has its benefits, like specific detail about scenes in the plot and critical essays, but Sparknotes site is easy to navigate, contains just as good information, and condensed. Sparknotes has more value when analyzing a book, for Sparknotes explains the connections and explains the big picture. Works Cited
“The Great Gatsby By F. Scott Fitzgerald Critical Essays Social Stratification: The Great Gatsby as Social Commentary.” The Great Gatsby: Critical Essays: Social Stratification: The Great Gatsby as Social Commentary. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Mar. 2013. “The Great Gatsby.” SparkNotes. SparkNotes, n.d. Web. 06 Mar. 2013. aa