• Diving Bell

Student blog: analysing the quote

I bet you can only remember three techniques: alliteration, repetition, and onomatopoeia - and you can probably only spell one really confidently. Still, not to worry, because there's a big secret - you don't need sexy Greek names for techniques. I repeat, analysing the quote does not mean 'label it with a technique'.

Sometimes labels are good. Not on quotes though.

‘But aren't we supposed to find poetic techniques in every paragraph? Isn't English just a technique hunt? What do we DO with the quote, then?'


Excellent questions, my little literature-munching minions. Remember - the quote has actually done all the hard work. You're trying to prove what you said in your topic sentence. If you've chosen the right quote/episode, the proof should be obvious to an idiot. Your analysis of the quote should (politely) assume that your reader might be fuzzy on the obviousness, and make it clear.


This does NOT mean paraphrase it. You should say how the quote shows your point (so you’ve got to have one of those) not that it does.


There are bad things to do with a quote. These include:

1. Paraphrase. This is the equivalent of repeating the quote. This assumes that the marker is an idiot, who cannot understand what the quote means, so you have to spell it out with, or without, interpretative dance.


2. Harrassment. This is where you hang bothersome Greek-sounding things off it, like a white chick at a club in Bankstown. You claim that the quote 'It's in the air we breathe.' shows clear evidence of catalepsis, or possibly acoloutha. It has nothing to do with your point, but that won't stop you breathing down the neck of this quote until it just gives in to your amphibologia.


Maaaate - that's an example of police aganactesis, it f*%^&%ing is, bra!

3. Misrepresentation. Like the lawyer who tries to argue that his client's ram-raid was actually good for the glazing industry, don't make your quote show things that it patently doesn't show. Like this piece of work by a lunatic I taught once (not, 'I once taught', but 'I taught once'. That was enough. He didn't come back to my class again. Ever.):

Robert Frost's "Stopping by Woods" is a lot about the theme of isolation, especially discovering yourself when you're in an isolated setting with an animal. The persona of this poem feels isolated with nature and he also treats his horse like an anthropomorph to show how isolated he feels, but not with it. "And miles to go before I sleep and miles to go before I sleep" is an example of repetition and this emphasises how isolated he is.


An example


OK, so what actually does count as analysis? As I've said in other posts, it's showing HOW your evidence answers the question. That means you cannot memorize it. We've been working on this question:


Through the telling and receiving of stories, we become more aware of ourselves and our shared human experiences.

Explore this statement with close reference to your prescribed text.


So far we've written this paragraph (see the other Student blog posts for a step-by-step build up).


Winston’s attempts to tell the story of his life in the forbidden journal shows a self-awareness that is unusual in an Outer Party member, but more dangerous is his desire to increase this through storytelling, and to share it with other self-aware people. As the long extract from Goldstein’s book will reveal, the Party can command absolute obedience only because the rank-and-file members are not aware of themselves as individuals with agency, choices, and potential to act in any other way. By filling Party members’ days with closely-directed communal activities like the Two Minutes Hate and the Anti-Sex League and morning physical jerks, they never achieve complete individuation and thus never object. This much is evident when he opens the diary. He writes the date and cannot go further because ‘A sense of complete helplessness had descended upon him.’


Right. We need a sentence after the quote showing how it supports our claim in the topic sentence. Pick the right one from the following four:


a) In this description, Orwell outlines Winston's lack of energy, which the Party has caused by making him exhausted all the time, like the other members of the Outer Party.

b) In this description, Orwell's use of prosopopoeia shows how insidious the Party's treatment of their members really is.

c) In this description, Orwell's use of the dynamic verb 'descended' indicates Winston's status in the Outer Party, since he lives in a high-rise unit building and is therefore low-class, so that the helplessness must 'descend' from the higher up members of the Inner Party.

d) In this description Orwell presents the real antagonist in the novel: the instincts inculcated within Winston by the Party, this inhuman and internal 'sense' that prevents him from narrating his way to empowerment and connection.


You try


If you're doing 1984 imagine the next quote is going to be this one:


Winston’s inability to think for himself – the basis of self-awareness – is clearly hamstrung the moment he attempts to ‘transfer to paper the interminable restless monologue that had been running inside his head, literally for years. At this moment, however, even the monologue had dried up.'


Write an analytical sentence or two which are NOT paraphrase, technique-pinning, or misrepresentation. If you're not doing 1984, look at the paragraph I know you've been building up over the weeks :)

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