Analyzing Significant Passages in The Book of Negroes
The short-term goal of analyzing quotations is to spark relevant conversation in class. Discussion is an intrinsic part of the writing process. Your main goal of the passage analysis is to say something relevant that others might not have fully considered or realized. One of the only ways to know what others don’t know is to talk to them. So, if we come every day with short analyses done, then there are many passages and specific ideas that we can potentially discuss.
In order for this to work you need specific quotes with page numbers (so that we can all look at them together in our books), a good sense of the summary of the book so that you can situate the quote in the novel’s narrative, and some general ideas about why the quote matters.
The long-term goal of analyzing quotations is to acquire material for your essay and prepare for the final exam.
Your passage analysis should contain:
I. The passage
First choose three passages per chapter that you find key to a specific meanings or messages of the overall novel, or choose several short passages that are significant for understanding a key symbol, image, character, or theme from the novel. It may be a passage that seems to raise a question, or seems intentionally ambiguous and open to interpretation. A rule of thumb is to try to focus in on just one significant passage (a paragraph, a page, or a single dialogue), or two or three short, key references to the image or character you will discuss. For each sentence of text that you quote, you should be able to discuss it for at least a paragraph of your own writing.
Write out the passage: Before you begin your passage analysis, type out the passage(s) you’re choosing. This should be no longer than half a page. Be sure to include the chapter, and the page number.
II. The context
After the quote, you should make a simple statement about where the quote comes from in the novel, who said it, what comes after it. You are doing this in order to situate the material. Especially note if you think context is important – and why?
III. Your response
Finally, and this is the hardest part, you need to informally explore why this quote matters. You need to ask questions or make a brief argument (or both). Your discussion should interpret the text, whether your analysis is focusing on an image, a motif, a character, the language, or the meaning. To interpret you need to jump off the track of chronological sequence (plot synopsis) — one thing after another—and consider the meaning of particular events or images, etc.
Adapted from: http://moellerlit.weebly.com/uploads/1/0/2/4/10248653/1984_--_passage_analysis_assignments.pdf
READING SCHEDULE FOR THE BOOK OF NEGROES
Dred by Harriet Beecher Stowe