Finding Quotes: From Collection to Recollection

How to find quotes

When studying a written or visual text, it is important to find a selection of effective quotes from it. Especially when they need to be used in both essays and exams as a way of providing evidence of your arguments. Providing effective quotes demonstrates that you are familiar with the text, its key themes, and can provide examples from it to give evidence of your central argument. Students often struggle with finding effective quotes to illustrate their points. However, by following a few simple, straightforward strategies, you will be able to find and remember great quotes that develop your argument, provide evidence for your analysis, and demonstrate a thorough understanding of the key themes of the text. Here are some effective strategies for collecting and recollecting effective quotes.

Establish What You Are Looking For First

Students often struggle with finding relevant quotes pertaining to their argument. This is because they do not establish early on what it is they are looking for. Without being aware of what you are seeking out, you run the risk of inserting irrelevant quotes into your analysis. Which at best will not strengthen your argument, and at worst, provide evidence of the contrary point you are arguing.

For example, if you were studying the book Gone Girl (written by Gillian Flynn), some of the points you might argue in your essay could concern manipulation, deception, love versus duty, revenge, and insanity. By analysing the character of Amy, the central antagonist, you would be in an effective position to explore these themes. You would want to develop a great prompt to help you find some effective quotes which prove your argument.

A good prompt could be:
“Amy’s actions throughout the story show us how holding onto hatred and enacting revenge can lead to insanity”.
When using this prompt, you would want to find some quotes relating to insanity, hatred, and revenge and how it impacts characters.

Some effective quotes that you could choose from the novel to develop your argument could include:

Theme: Hatred/insanity “Amy’s basically exploiting the sociopath’s most reliable maxim. The bigger the lie, the more they believe it.”

Theme: Insanity/disconnect from reality “I don’t feel like Nick’s wife. I don’t feel like a person at all: I am something to be loaded and unloaded, like a sofa or a cuckoo clock. I am something to be tossed into a junkyard, thrown into the river, if necessary. I don’t feel real anymore.”

Theme: Manipulation “It’s so strange to think: A year ago today, I was undoing my husband. Now I am almost done reassembling him.”

By clearly establishing what you are looking for, you are in an effective position to find it. For example, if one of your close friends was looking for something and asked you to help them find it, how would you start the search? First, you would want to ask them several questions about what they are looking for, so you will recognise it when you see it. The same goes with collecting and recollecting effective quotes. By clearly establishing what you are looking for, you will be in the best position to find it.

Say Quotes Out Loud

A strange thing about reading texts and watching movies is that often what you think you are reading and taking in, is not what is actually printed on the page, or spoken in the movie. The inner-most character thoughts, ideas, and explanations can often be hidden behind double-meanings, puns, wordplay, and confusing text. A good strategy for uncovering the actual meaning of a quote, and in the process recollecting it, is to say it out loud. Like in real life, characters in fiction can often be sarcastic, make pointed remarks, backhanded compliments, and so on. By saying your chosen quotes out loud, you are contextualising the scene, which helps you understand the relevance of the quote best and pick up all its nuances.

For example, in Hogfather by Terry Pratchett, one character ‘reassures’ another character of their safety by promising them:

“Don’t worry — I’m on your side. A violent death is the last thing that’ll happen to you.”

Does this quote sound reassuring to you, as it appears that one character is promising another that they are safe from harm? If so, try saying it aloud, and emphasise the word last. What initially seemed like a promise now becomes a thinly veiled threat.

In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, a prophecy foretells that “no man of woman born” will overthrow a central character. The character interprets this statement as “no one can overthrow me”, but did the prophecy say that? It specifically said “no man of woman born”, which we find out specifically does not mean no one at all.

Say the quotes out loud. Try to put yourself in the shoes of the characters reciting the lines. This will both help you to understand the quotes better, and to recollect them.

Find At Least One Relevant Quote For Every Central Character

When analysing a text, you will often discuss several different characters, and how they drive the plot and/or themes. That is why it is crucial to find engaging, relevant quotes related to each character you are analysing.

It is worth noting that the quote does not need to be spoken directly by the character themselves. It is equally effective to find a great quote about a particular character, which is spoken by a different character, as they discuss that person. This allows you to get an insight into how other people in the story view them, and what their ‘reputation’ is.

For example, in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Romeo’s close friend, Mercutio, has this to say about Romeo’s ‘love’ for Juliet, which he perceives as mere infatuation:

If love be blind, love cannot hit the mark.”

Say the quote out loud. It comes across as sarcastic and dismissive of Romeo’s feelings towards Juliet, claiming they miss ‘the mark’. A quote such as this is effective when analysing the character of Romeo. It shows us how others perceive him and his actions, in contrast to how Romeo himself views them. 

Once you have established what kind of quote you are looking for, you can use some of these strategies to find effective, relevant quotes throughout your texts. By saying the quotes out loud, you will be in a better position to contextualise them and, in the process, recollect them.

Contact Us To Book A One-On-One Session

If the above sounds too good to forget, then please remember to contact Evergreen Tutoring Services for more information. To get the balling rolling and book a one-on-one session with a skilled English specialist, who will be able to work with you across this whole process, and help you to develop effective strategies for finding and remembering amazing, relevant quotes. You already have your collection of texts, so let’s get started on recollection.

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