With reference to Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, discuss how to use direct quotes, especially when a question mark is used.   

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The use of quotation marks can be confusing sometimes. For instance, if you are reading a book printed in, for instance, England, you might find a single quote when a conversation is presented. The British style looks like the following:

His mother looked at the child intently and asked, 'What exactly did you say to the teacher?'

Note the use of "single" quotes (or quotation marks). When using the American style of punctuation for conversation, "double" quotes are used.

His mother looked at the child intently and asked, "What exactly did you say to the teacher?"

There are several commonalities of which to be aware. First, in most cases, the end punctuation to the sentence (period, exclamation point or question mark) is contained within the quotation marks. (See both samples above.) If there were an exclamation point or a period at the end of the quotation, it would also be placed before the end quotation mark.

Second, there should always be a comma preceding (coming before) the beginning of the quote. (See comma bolded above.)

Third, also notice that when the quotation marks are used at the beginning of a sentence, the first word after the opening quotation mark is capitalized. (See bolded examples above.)

It also can be confusing to know how to quote a quote within another quote. Since you specifically have asked about Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, notice the quote within the quotation marks used in this conversation. Beatty starts speaking, but the first thing he says is a quote. Since he is speaking, quotation marks are also needed to indicate that he is conversing with someone else:

"'Who are a little wise, the best fools be.' Welcome back, Montag. I hope you'll be staying with us now that your fever is done and your sickness over. Sit in for a hand of poker?"

In this quote, notice that Beatty is quoting John Donne's poem "The Triple Fool." (Ironic in that books are banned in this society.) Second, he is also asking Montag a question, so the question mark is inside the end quotation mark.

With the American style, you should punctuate questions as listed above if it is a quotation that is a question.

However, if you are asking a question about a quoted statement, then the question mark is not included within the quotation mark. See the general example below:

Does Dr. Lim always say to her students, "You must work harder"?

Make note that the quotation itself ("You must work harder") does not ask a question. Therefore, it would be inaccurate (and confusing) to include the question mark within the quotation marks.

Here are some more examples from the book using question marks.

"What's going on?" Montag had rarely seen that many house lights.

In this case, Montag is asking a question. The question mark goes inside the quotation marks because he is not making a statement, but asking a question.

However, if Mildred were thinking about a statement Clarisse had made, it would look like this:

Mildred wondered, did Clarisse say, "You're not in love with anyone"?

With this example, Mildred is wondering but not speaking out loud, so quotation marks are only used around Clarisse's original statement. The question mark is connected to Mildred's question, not to Clarisse's statement.

However, if Mildred had been speaking, note that double and single quotation marks are used—but the question mark is still not attached to Clarisse's statement.

Mildred asked, "Did Clarisse McClendon say, 'You're not in love with anyone'?"

If a quotation is a question, then the question mark goes inside the last quotation mark. However, if someone is asking about a statement someone made (and that statement is not a question), then the question mark goes outside of the quotation marks attached to the statement that is being referred to.

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Fahrenheit 451

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