Some things to do with a Quote


Digging into a quote requires several different kinds of interrogation and explanation.  At the most basic level is identifying and explaining what is being said.  Beyond that, you want to be able to explain the significance of a quote, and also provide interpretation of the quote.  If youÕre wondering how to do all this, here are some specific angles to take when youÕre dealing with a passage from the reading:


1) Define who is speaking and who is being addressed.  If itÕs a character, name him/her; if itÕs the narrator, define what kind (first person, third person, omniscient, etc.)


2) Summarize what the quote says (plot summary/re-telling).


3) Contextualize: Mention anything important that comes before or after the quote that helps our understanding of the quote.  If you know roughly where in the text the quote is from (the very beginning, the very end, etc.) thatÕs a good thing to add here, too.


4) Look at tone:  is there sarcasm?  What kind of emotion is behind what is being said? Is there fear? Anxiety? Happiness? and how do you know?  What words or phrasing or punctuation indicate this tone?


5) Look at vocabulary and diction:  HOW does the character convey his/her meaning?  Does he/she have an accent?  Very formal language?  Is he/she overcome by emotion?  Does he/she get right to the point?  Speak in plain language?  Point to specific examples.


6) Examine word choice:  Are there any metaphors or similes or other poetic language?  Are there any particularly important descriptive words or words with multiple meanings, or words that just seem really important?  Are there any words with significant connotations? (For instance, as we talked about in class, calling the character ÒVictorÕs creationÓ has a different connotation than calling it Òthe monsterÓ – word choice matters!)


7) Make connections: Are there any other scenes (before or after this quote) that resonate with this passage?  Perhaps there is some repeated language or imagery, or perhaps this passage contradicts something that came before or will come after?  Perhaps there is some repetition with another scene or character.


8) Is there any symbolism here?  Might something stand for something else? 


9) Why does this passage matter to the plot of the story?


10) What do we learn about a character from this passage?


You might not do all of these things with every single quote; however, these questions should help you see ways to dig into the details of a particular passage. 


Just for practice for today, spend some time focusing on the quote that you brought for class today.  Jot down some notes in response to your quote.  Then, swap quotes with someone else, and see what you can do with the other personÕs quote.  WeÕll exchange again, and then use these quotes as a starting place for discussion.