Explicate the Quote

Essay Section: Supporting Evidence (Quotes)

“Tell me the truth!” You can hear your mother saying these words, or even Tom Cruise saying the equivalent of this to Jack Nicholson. When your mother says these words, she wants you to tell her the whole truth. Don’t leave anything out, regardless of if you believe it is vital to the story or just some small bit of nothing. She wants you to let her decide before she hands down your punishment.

With this in mind, “Explicate the Quote” means tell the “whole” truth. Don’t leave anything out; but also don’t leave anything implied. In the following sample excerpt, the student doesn’t explicate the indented quote. Instead, within the analysis, the student just incorporates a quote and begins in the next paragraph discussing some other issue in De Quincey’s work about the Malay.

When you receive an assignment that involves analyzing a work of literature, everything in that work is already implied. The work is full of implications and inferences, connotations and denotations. Your job, as the writer, is to bring what’s hidden to light so we, as the other readers, can see the hidden. Unless you help us to understand the hidden textual meanings of the author’s work, we won’t know anything about what the author stands for, his motivations for writing the piece, and his purpose.

Leave nothing implied during the process of analysis. Explicate the quote.  Make it plain for us, the readers, to understand. Only after this can you move forward into discussing other ideas and messages evoked from the text.

Sample Excerpt

De Quincey now through the opium is having nightmarish dreams.  He refers to the Malay as a fearful enemy (456).  He asserts that if he should ever have to leave England and live in China, among their manners and modes of life and scenery, he shall go mad (456).  In this dream, his journey of prejudice leads him to make several more references to the Chinese (Oriental):

A young Chinese seems to me an antediluvian man renewed . . . man is a weed in those regions (Asia) . . . I am terrified by the modes of life, by the manner  . .  . and want of sympathy placed between us by feelings deeper than I can analyze.  I could sooner live with lunatics or brute animals. . . . (456)

De Quincey resolves his nightmares by offering the reader a slight abstraction of the Oriental dreams.  Before, the dreams had been moral and spiritual terrors, but now the main agents were ugly birds, or snakes or crocodiles, especially the last; “The cursed crocodile became to me the object of more horror than almost all the rest” (457).

Figure 29: Essay Excerpt on De Quincey, “Confessions of an English Opium-Eater,” Thomas De Quincey


1) What does “antediluvian” mean? Of what “modes of life” is De Quincey terrified?

2) What is the manner of sympathy? What is the want of sympathy? What is the difference between the two?

3) Why does De Quincey want to live with lunatics or brute animals.


In the space after the quote, analyze the quote before moving forward into other discussions of De Quincey’s work.

Develop a line-by-line analysis of the quote. Note the structure of the sentences and the author’s attitude.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.


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