How to Write Commentary

How to Write Commentary
1st – What is commentary?
Commentary is the thoughts you write after your Concrete Details (quotes). Your commentary
should link the quotes to your thesis or point AND further discuss what this one instance means for the
novel as a whole.
2nd – Why do I need it?
You need it because we (teachers) want to see you take apart the information and make it your
own. Anyone can find a quote that proves Piggy was bullied; however, your discussion of what the
bullying means is all your own. We want to see how deeply you can interpret the instance and how you
can tie it back to your thesis or point.
3rd – What does it look like?
2-3 LONG sentences after each quote
Here’s an example:
Sample Prompt: Discuss the aftermath of Snowball’s banishment from Animal Farm. What were
the lasting effects?
Sample Thesis: Snowball’s banishment from Animal Farm enables Napoleon to become a tyrant.
Concrete detail: Snowball only wanted good things for the animals, such as when he made the
windmill that promised “light in the stalls and [warmth] in winter” (Orwell 54).
Commentary: Had Snowball stayed on the farm, the windmill would have an entirely different
meaning to the animals. Rather than work tirelessly (all for nothing) like they did under Napoleon,
Snowball would have seen that they benefitted from their labor.
Discuss: Is this effective commentary? Why or why not?
4th – How can I get started on writing commentary?
Make a mini-chart for each quote:
What I think
(remember, you can
write this without using
“I think…”)
Use this chart to piece together your commentary.
What this says about the What this says about the
book as a whole
world/a theme
5th – How can I make my commentary strong? What will guarantee a
good grade?
Here are 5 ideas on what to do with a quote:
1) Analyze a word and/or image from the quote. Explain how the word’s denotation and connotation
reveal or reinforce the meaning of the passage. Explain how the image’s sensory details reveal or
reinforce the point the quote illustrates.
Concrete detail: Snowball only wanted good things for the animals, such as when he made the windmill
that promised “light in the stalls and [warmth] in winter” (Orwell 54). **all following examples will
use this quote**
Commentary: Snowball’s guarantee of “warmth” connotates more than just a literal warmth. By having
these luxuries, the animals will also be warmed from within, connected by a common bond, which is
reaping the benefits of their labor. However, Napoleon usurped this “warmth” by robbing them of a
literal warmth, which would of course undermine the figurative “warmth”.
2) Explain how the information in the quote relates to a significant action, characterization or idea from
the text.
Example: Reference back to the 3rd step. Notice how I analyzed the characterization.
3) Sometimes what a quote doesn’t say is more important than its surface details. Explain how the
information the quote lacks relates to a significant action, characterization, or idea from the text.
Commentary: Snowball’s promises reveal how idealistic he is. He is only pointing out the good things
about the windmill. Sometimes people who are too idealistic have trouble seeing the realities of life.
Napoleon does the complete opposite; he only inflicts the harsh realities of life.
4) Discuss the symbolism of an object mentioned in the quotation.
Commentary: The windmill represented far more than just electricity to the animals. It also symbolized
unity as they animals would need to band together and work as one in order to complete a project so
vast. If Snowball had still been around, and let the animals have heating and electricity, the animals
would have been living in a Communist set-up. However, Napoleon taints this.
5) Explain the irony of the quotation.
Commentary: Orwell uses this part of the novel to invoke satire, as it is impossible for animals to build
windmills all on their own. Part of the satire he uses here is to poke fun at leadership styles, considering
Snowball only thought about the positive aspects and is soon banished. He is saying that true
Communism never lasts.