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How can I analyse a quote in depth?

  

For exam and coursework answers, one thing that will consistently be asked of you is to provide in-depth analysis of a quote. However this is often easier said than done, especially if you’re unsure of where to begin, so I’d recommend using a simple step-by-step process:

Step 1- Select your quote carefully

Make sure your quote is relevant: think about who or what it is referring to, where it comes from in the text and how this relates to the question.

Consider the length of the quotation: I suggest opting for a shorter one so that you don’t waste valuable time writing and/or memorising the quote. This allows for more time spent actually analysing the quote and showing off the skills that the examiner actually wants to see (contrary to popular belief, English Literature is a lot more than a memory test!) It is possible to get an A* using just quotes that are made up of three or less words!

Step 2- Identify literary techniques

Although you can analyse a quote in depth just focusing on word choices, examiners LOVE it when you identify and name literary techniques in your essay.

Think about things like:

Alliteration

Enjambment

Caesura

Metaphor

Simile

Emotive language

Personification

Line length (in verse)

Stage directions (in plays)

Sounds in words (plosive or sibilant)

Step 3- What effects do these techniques have? What effects does this quote have overall?

By this point, you will have provided some analysis, however you need to go further to show that you have analysed in depth. To do this, think about what effect individual techniques have and how this may alter the impact of the quote as a whole.

Do your best to include alternative interpretations: the sibilance in ‘she is silent’ could create a soothing, peaceful effect, but it could alternatively be interpreted as eerie or sinister. To take your work to the next level, you might want to consider which interpretation you think is most convincing and why you think this is the case.

Step 4- What effect do you think the writer intended this quote to have? To what extent do you think they achieved this intention?

In order to get the top levels for English literature, you really need to add some evaluation, so think about why the writer may have chosen to use the literary techniques and words that they did; if you found the quote could be interpreted in multiple ways, which way do you think the writer wanted it to be interpreted? Do you think any ambiguity in the quote was intended?

Once you have stated what you believe the writer wanted to achieve through their choice of words and literary techniques, you can even go so far as to think about to what extent you believe the writer was successful. Remember that you do not have to like the writing that you are being asked to analyse, as long as you can explain why you do not think it was effective!

Megan S. GCSE English Literature tutor, A Level English Literature tu...

2 years ago

Answered by Megan, a GCSE English Literature tutor with MyTutor


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Degree: English (Bachelors) - Durham University

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