- Slides: 10
Using Textual Evidence Effectively in a Literary Essay
Step 1: Choose evidence that proves your point. §What words from the book that makes you think like you do?
Step 2: Introduce the evidence: § Set the stage—describe the action at the point at which the quote occurs. § Occasionally, use phrases like early in the book, toward the end, in the final scene. § If it is a quote, explain who is speaking and if necessary, under what circumstances. Is it a character or the narrator? § Do not use the words “quote” or “quotation” in your essay. Do not use phrases such as, “In the book…”
Step 3: Using the Evidence Quotes § Copy it exactly as written in the book. Place quotation marks at the beginning and end of the quoted text. § Put the page number in parenthesis after the last quotation marks but before the punctuation. § You rarely need to include a quote within a quote—quoting both the narrator and the dialogue—unless you are commenting on the narrator’s style. Introduce the quote adequately and this won’t be necessary. § Use ellipses (…) to indicate missing material. Missing material can be at the beginning, middle, or end of the quote. § Use brackets to indicate any additions or changes you have made to aid smoothness, such as identifying a pronoun.
Example of using a quote as evidence: Dolphus Raymond tries to explain to Scout why Dill became so upset during the cross-examination of Tom. Dolphus says, "Things haven't caught up with that one's instinct yet. Let him get a little older and he won't get sick and cry. Maybe things'll strike him as being-- not quite right, say, but he won't cry, not when he gets a few years on him” (pg). Raymond tells Scout that the more familiar kids are with racism, the less it affects them. He shows here that kids, and adults, know it’s wrong at first, but forget as they get used to it. This indicates that people are really good at heart, but become victims of their environment.
Step 3: Using Evidence Paraphrase/Indirect Quote § Say in your own words what the character said. Be sure to introduce who is speaking. § Use verbs like “believes, ” “claims, ” “indicates, ” “thinks, ” “exclaims, ” “declares. ” § Use some of the exact words from the text, but not all of them. § Indicate the page number in parenthesis before the period.
Example of paraphrasing as evidence: Jem declared that Scout was acting so much like a girl that it was mortifying (pg). This assertion of Jem’s indicates that Scout is changing, and maturing, as she grows older and starts taking on female characteristics. At this point in the story, Jem reveals that he still has the same expectations of Scout that he had of her before, and that his understanding of how girls and boys behave hasn’t yet matured.
Step 3: Using the Evidence Textual References §Use specific names, places, details whenever possible. Tom Robinson was killed. Tom Robinson was shot 17 times. Atticus shot the dog. Atticus shot Tim Johnson, the rabid dog.
Step 4: Analyzing/Explaining the Quote § Tell the reader what that evidence proves and explain your reasoning. Think like a lawyer— the fingerprint as evidence isn’t enough, you have to explain that the fingerprint proves the intruder was in the house. § Try reading the quote to yourself and ask, “So what? ” Be sure the quote actually supports the point you are trying to make, and that you have shown how the quote relates to your argument. § Words or phrases in this part should connect to the topic sentence and thesis.
Ms. Gates, Scout’s third grade teacher, is biased against black people but doesn’t seem to realize it. During one school day Cecil Jacobs, Scout’s friend, tells the class how Hitler was persecuting the Jews. Ms. Gates explains to her class that “Over here we don’t believe in persecuting anybody. Persecution comes from people who are prejudiced” (pg). Ms. Gates demonstrates that she understands what prejudice is. However, later that night Scout asks Jem why Ms. Gates says people in America aren’t prejudiced when she talks about Hitler and the Jews. Scout recognizes Ms. Gates’ hypocrisy when she reveals, “I heard her say it’s time somebody taught ‘em a lesson, they were getting’ way above themselves, an’ the next thing they think they can do is marry us. Jem, how can you hate Hitler so bad an’ then turn around and be ugly about folks right at home? ” (pg). The author suggests that Ms. Gates doesn’t recognize that she is prejudiced or that the persecution of the Jews is similar to the persecution of African-Americans in the United States.