Tuesday, October 10, 2017

"How to Find a Good Quote"

An excerpt from a handout for 10th-grade essay revisions that I'll probably need to redact. But I never post, so here you go. 

So how do you find a good quote?

Look to a section of the novel covered by your topic sentence. Find the major event of the passage. Good. Don’t quote any line that says something like, “And then she suddenly saw it all clearly.” You’re not writing about that junk. Now look before and after the major plot points to see how the author is adding nuanced touches to that big event.

o   For instance. My dad and I were at his college’s cafeteria. This is where he went to night school, not where he worked. I’m sitting with him, and I’m maybe 10 at the time, it’s 1995, and I’m having a dinner with him after one of his classes. A few tables over, a couple of goons, just screwball guys are throwing lit matches at each other. Why they are doing this in a cafeteria on a Tuesday night, I do not know. Anyhow, long story short, my dad interrupts our dinner hangout to, uh, scream at these two dudes about how they have no manners, no respect for shared property, and I do believe he also told them to get the cuss out of the building if that’s how they were going to act. This was a full cafeteria. The two guys left and absolutely everyone stared at my dad. But he sat right back down and said, Let’s go get some chocolate milk.

§  Clearly this is a story about my dad yelling at strangers. But what can we say about that other than that he did it. We could speculate as to his reasons, but the ambiguous detail that sticks with me is the milk. It could mean a number of things. And it happened right after what we've been calling in class the Michael Bay explosion scene. It might mean he was embarrassed and wanted to put a bow on the night by getting me a chocolate milk. Fine, that works. That's what I'd do, too. Part of me wonders if he wasn’t embarrassed at all, and he was ready to give his son, or whoever he was with, his calm attention. The ambiguity of this event makes it worth our thought.

·      In short, my friends, we are looking for the chocolate milk.