How to Embed Quotes into Analysis

Quotes as a form of “textual evidence” can be used to support your interpretation and embedding them into analytical sentences is a useful skill in VCE English.

While there are no absolute rules about quoting, here are some points to consider:

  1. Quotes should be integrated into your own analysis i.e. not quoted in large slabs. 3-8 words is usually a good length for a quote.
  2. Quotes are mostly used in the main body paragraphs of the essay, although occasionally they can be used in the introduction.
  3. Quotes should be used to analyse not simply describe the text.

Let’s look at an example that continues the Rear Window essay begun on the previous blog posts – how to write an introduction and how to write a main body paragraph.


First, let’s consider a case study of what NOT to do:
Prompt: In Rear Window, Alfred Hitchcock suggests that suspicion is justified. Discuss.

 

Example: Hitchcock suggests that suspicion is justified through the protagonist of the film, Jeff, who uncovers the “secret, private world of the courtyard”. Early on in the film, Jeff says “that’s the kind of look a man gives when he’s afraid someone might be watching”. Through this quote, Jeff demonstrates his obsessive distrust of Thorwald. Jeff also describes Miss Torso as picking “the most prosperous [man]” illustrating how no one is safe from the scrutiny of the camera. Jeff says that his voyeurism is “only a little bit of innocent fun” but this is not the case because he is really playing the role of detective in the murder mystery.

This passage has selected some relevant quotes and presented some ideas about the text, however, the quotes and the analysis are not integrated very well. While the first part of this topic sentence does respond directly to the prompt, using the key word “justifies”, the second part describes the plot unnecessarily. The subsequent sentences tend to describe the text, using phrases such as “Jeff says” and “Jeff describes” without elaborating on how they contribute to the meaning of the text. Moreover, phrases such as “through this quote…” or “this quote suggests” are often clunky and superfluous and can be avoided by selecting shorter quotes and integrating them with analysis.

The technique of nominalisation is a useful way to avoid excessive description and make sentences more analytic. Nominalisation entails changing verbs into nouns. For example, the sentence starter “Jeff says that…” can be nominalised by writing “Jeff’s statement that …”.

The former tends to establish the sentence as purely descriptive while the latter tends to encourage interpretation.


Now let’s consider how the text and ideas above can be rewritten to incorporate better quoting practice:

Example: A significant way in which Hitchcock justifies suspicion is through his portrayal of Jeff as a hyper-suspicious protagonist whose obsessive distrust dominates the camera and ultimately prevails. Initially, the audience is encouraged to view Jeff as an impulsive and frustrated man who is predisposed to “welcome trouble” and therefore, an unreliable observer. However, by having the camera adopt Jeff’s scrutinising gaze, Hitchcock quickly transforms the act of watching from “a little bit of innocent fun” to a paranoid exposition of the sinister events that underlie the “secret private world” of the courtyard setting. Indeed, suspicion saturates every level of the film, from Jeff’s flippant pronouncement that Miss Torso “picked the most prosperous looking [man]” at the dinner party to his adamant conviction that Thorwald is “afraid someone might be watching”.

This passage successfully integrates short quotes with textual analysis to present an interpretation of the film. The topic sentence provides a clear point of view about the role of Jeff in vindicating suspicion and this point of view is supported by evidence in the proceeding sentences. Note that each sentence includes both a quote and an interpretation. For example, “picked the most prosperous looking [man]” (quote), “suspicion saturates every level of the film” (interpretation). The integration of quotes and interpretation is facilitated by nominalised phrases such as “Jeff’s pronouncement” and “Jeff’s scrutinising gaze”.

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