Sub-Quoting

or “Dissecting Quotes precisely”

A good reading of any text often relies on close reading – how you can say a lot about a piece of literature based on the language that the writer uses, and not just the plot that he or she creates. TO write a strong analytical essay, you must maintain a tight focus on the language of the books that we read, and not just a loose grasp of the general plot. Keep a focus on the words that the author uses, and how he/she chooses to use them, rather than just the basics of the plot that he/she created. Here are two examples of a close reading, one from poetry, and one from a novel, to give you an example of what good sub quoting ought to look like

From The Catcher in the Rye:

The quote: “Some stupid guy had thrown peanut shells all over the stairs, and I damn near broke my crazy neck”

Plot Reveal (not a sufficient analysis of the quote): Holden is depressed when leaving Pencey, but doesn’t want us to see it. You didn’t need the quote to make this point…

Good close reading, including 2+ subquotes for each quote you include:

Holden uses casual diction, with “stupid,” “crazy,” and “some guy,” to contrast something serious, as he “damn near broke [his]… neck.”  The peanut shells themselves are empty and cast away, which mirrors how Holden feels about himself. Holden’s departure is a literal descent as he goes down a staircase, suggesting that he is not “above” everyone like he seemed to think in chapter 1

From My Papa’s Waltz:

The quote: “Mother’s countenance / could not unfrown itself”

Plot Reveal (not a sufficient analysis of the quote): The mother wants to see the good in her husband.

Good close reading, including 2+ subquotes for each quote you include:

Roethke creates an indirect showing of the mom’s anger (“mother” is impersonal, her face is a “countenance” that cannot control itself – all of these create a distance between her emotion and the portrayal of it)


Also, don’t rely on some half-wit website to tell you what quotes are important. You don’t have to pick the right quote – pick ANY quote, as long as you can break it down. As a matter of fact, if your essays are filled with quotes deemed “important” by half-wit websites like Shmoop, you’ll give the impression that you aren’t coming up with your essay topic on your own either…

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