“Explication” is a fancy word for literary analysis, or analyzing and writing about literature…



Provide the author, title, pertinent information, and a very brief summary of the novel you’re analyzing.

In Harper Lee’s 1960 award-winning classic To Kill a Mockingbird

In Harper Lee’s 1960 classic To Kill a Mockingbird, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, 

The context at the opening of your explication should lead into your thesis (the argument you’re going to make).


Always provide background information about the novel so that the reader understands what you’re saying about it. Remind your readers of the novel. Pretend your readers know the novel but haven’t read it in awhile so you need to remind them of what is happening.

When confronted with a rabid dog, Sheriff Heck Tate asks Atticus, known as “One-Shot Finch,” to shoot the animal. Although Atticus resists, Tate insists, “‘Take him, Mr. Finch'” (109).

As Scout awaits the verdict in Robinson’s trial, she likens the tense scene in the courtroom to the unnerving morning when her father was called upon to kill the rabid dog. Scout observes, “I expected Mr. Tate to say any minute, ‘Take him, Mr. Finch'” (240).

Attributive Tags

Introduce quotes with attributive tags and context.

Never introduce quotes with page numbers. “On page 108…” is NOT an attributive tag.

Set up the quote so the reader understands what’s happening in the novel when the quote is given.

Punctuation of Quotes


If it is narration in the novel, it goes in regular double quotation marks ” .

Scout observes, “A deserted, waiting empty street, and the courtroom was packed with people” (240).


If it is dialogue in the novel, it will need both regular double quotation marks ” and single quotation marks ‘ .

As Scout watches, Mr. Tate says, “‘This court will come to order,’ in a voice that range with authority” (240).

Scout thinks, “I shut my eyes. Judge Taylor was polling the jury: ‘Guilty…guilty…guilty…guilty…'” (240).


The page number goes in parentheses at the end of the sentence; the period goes after the parentheses.