Common Core: 12th Grade English Language Arts : Find and analyze two or more themes; objective summary of the text: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.2

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for Common Core: 12th Grade English Language Arts

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All Common Core: 12th Grade English Language Arts Resources

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Find And Analyze Two Or More Themes; Objective Summary Of The Text: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Ri.11 12.2

Adapted from “On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings” (1900) by William James

Some years ago, while journeying in the mountains of North Carolina, I passed by a large number of 'coves,' as they call them there, or heads of small valleys between the hills, which had been newly cleared and planted. The impression on my mind was one of unmitigated squalor. The settler had in every case cut down the more manageable trees, and left their charred stumps standing. The larger trees he had girdled and killed, in order that their foliage should not cast a shade. He had then built a log cabin, plastering its chinks with clay, and had set up a tall zigzag rail fence around the scene of his havoc, to keep the pigs and cattle out. Finally, he had irregularly planted the intervals between the stumps and trees with Indian corn, which grew among the chips; and there he dwelt with his wife and babes--an axe, a gun, a few utensils, and some pigs and chickens feeding in the woods, being the sum total of his possessions.

The forest had been destroyed; and what had 'improved' it out of existence was hideous, a sort of ulcer, without a single element of artificial grace to make up for the loss of Nature's beauty. Ugly, indeed, seemed the life of the squatter, scudding, as the sailors say, under bare poles, beginning again away back where our first ancestors started, and by hardly a single item the better off for all the achievements of the intervening generations.

“Talk about going back to nature!” I said to myself, oppressed by the dreariness, as I drove by. Talk of a country life for one's old age and for one's children! Never thus, with nothing but the bare ground and one's bare hands to fight the battle! Never, without the best spoils of culture woven in! The beauties and commodities gained by the centuries are sacred. They are our heritage and birthright. No modern person ought to be willing to live a day in such a state of rudimentariness and denudation.

Then I said to the mountaineer who was driving me, "What sort of people are they who have to make these new clearings?" "All of us," he replied. "Why, we ain't happy here, unless we are getting one of these coves under cultivation." I instantly felt that I had been losing the whole inward significance of the situation. Because to me the clearings spoke of naught but denudation, I thought that to those whose sturdy arms and obedient axes had made them they could tell no other story. But, when they looked on the hideous stumps, what they thought of was personal victory. The chips, the girdled trees, and the vile split rails spoke of honest sweat, persistent toil and final reward. The cabin was a warrant of safety for self and wife and babes. In short, the clearing, which to me was a mere ugly picture on the retina, was to them a symbol redolent with moral memories and sang a very pæan of duty, struggle, and success.

I had been as blind to the peculiar ideality of their conditions as they certainly would also have been to the ideality of mine, had they had a peep at my strange indoor academic ways of life at Cambridge.

The key tension present in the text is between ________________.

Possible Answers:

the perspectives of the speaker and the the residents of the mountains

old age and youth

modernity and pastoralism

rich and poor people

Correct answer:

the perspectives of the speaker and the the residents of the mountains


Here, you are being asked to identify two major themes in the passage, and to understand the way in which they interact over the course of the text, namely, that they form an overriding contrast or tension.

While the speaker spends the vast majority of the passage talking about the ways in which the "forest had been destroyed" and replaced with "artificial grace to make up for the loss Nature's beauty," the title of the piece provides a useful hint that the focus here is on human senses and thinking, and the "blindnesses" inherent to these processes. The speaker conveys his strong convictions about what has been done to the natural landscape he sees in order to convey his opinion on the matter fully, for the express purpose of contrasting his perspective with that of the locals. The answer here is to be found in the conclusion, which does not focus on what has literally been done to "the clearing," but rather on the difference between these two primary perspectives, what to the speaker "was a mere ugly picture on the retina, was to them a symbol redolent with moral memories and sang a very pæan of duty, struggle, and success."

Example Question #2 : Find And Analyze Two Or More Themes; Objective Summary Of The Text: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Ri.11 12.2

Adapted from “Geographical Evolution” by Archibald Geikie (1879)

In the quaint preface to his Navigations and Voyages of the English Nation, Hakluyt calls geography and chronology "the sunne and moone, the right eye and the left of all history." The position thus claimed for geography three hundred years ago by the great English chronicler was not accorded by his successors, and has hardly been admitted even now. The functions of the geographer and the traveller, popularly assumed to be identical, have been supposed to consist in descriptions of foreign countries, their climate, productions, and inhabitants, bristling on the one hand with dry statistics, and relieved on the other by as copious an introduction as may be of stirring adventure and personal anecdote. There has indeed been much to justify this popular assumption. It was not until the key-note of its future progress was struck by Karl Ritter, within the present century, that geography advanced beyond the domain of travellers' tales and desultory observation into that of orderly, methodical, scientific progress. This branch of inquiry, however, is now no longer the pursuit of mere numerical statistics, nor the chronicle of marvelous and often questionable adventures by flood and fell. It seeks to present a luminous picture of the earth's surface, its various forms of configuration, its continents, islands, and oceans, its mountains, valleys, and plains, its rivers and lakes, its climates, plants, and animals. It thus endeavours to produce a picture which shall not be one of mere topographical detail. It ever looks for a connection between scattered facts, tries to ascertain the relations which subsist between the different parts of the globe, their reactions on each other and the function of each in the general economy of the whole. Modern geography studies the distribution of vegetable and animal life over the earth's surface, with the action and reaction between it and the surrounding inorganic world. It traces how man, alike unconsciously and knowingly, has changed the face of nature, and how, on the other hand, the conditions of his geographical environment have moulded his own progress.

With these broad aims geography comes frankly for assistance to many different branches of science. It does not, however, claim in any measure to occupy their domain. It brings to the consideration of their problems a central human interest in which these sciences are sometimes apt to be deficient; for it demands first of all to know how the problems to be solved bear upon the position and history of man and of this marvelously-ordered world wherein he finds himself undisputed lord. Geography freely borrows from meteorology, physics, chemistry, geology, zoology, and botany; but the debt is not all on one side. Save for the impetus derived from geographical research, many of these sciences would not be in their present advanced condition. They gain in vast augmentation of facts, and may cheerfully lend their aid in correlating these for geographical requirements.

In no respect does modern geography stand out more prominently than in the increased precision and fullness of its work. It has fitted out exploratory expeditions, and in so doing has been careful to see them provided with the instruments and apparatus necessary to enable them to contribute accurate and definite results. It has guided and fostered research, and has been eager to show a generous appreciation of the labours of those by whom our knowledge of the earth has been extended. Human courage and endurance are not less enthusiastically applauded than they once were; but they must be united to no common powers of observation before they will now raise a traveller to the highest rank. When we read a volume of recent travel, while warmly appreciating the spirit of adventure, fertility of resource, presence of mind, and other moral qualities of its author, we instinctively ask ourselves, as we close its pages, what is the sum of its additions to our knowledge of the earth? From the geographical point of view - and it is to this point alone that these remarks apply - we must rank an explorer according to his success in widening our knowledge and enlarging our views regarding the aspects of nature.

The demands of modern geography are thus becoming every year more exacting. It requires more training in its explorers abroad, more knowledge on the part of its readers at home. The days are drawing to a close when one can gain undying geographical renown by struggling against man and beast, fever and hunger and drought, across some savage and previously unknown region, even though little can be shown as the outcome of the journey. All honour to the pioneers by whom this first exploratory work has been so nobly done! They will be succeeded by a race that will find its laurels more difficult to win - a race from which more will be expected, and which will need to make up in the variety, amount, and value of its detail, what it lacks in the freshness of first glimpses into new lands.

The primary contrast made in this text is the one between _______________ and _________________.

Possible Answers:

geography . . . other hard sciences, like chemistry

old ways of doing geography . . . modern geography

geography . . . travel journalism

topographical mapping practices . . . scientific measurement of geographical features

Correct answer:

old ways of doing geography . . . modern geography


The key term in the question text here was "primary." There are numerous contrasts made throughout the text, but this question is asking you to isolate the main contrast. A good, if not infallible, indicator of contrast's overall importance in a text is the amount of writing devoted to it. Right away, we can see that "topographical mapping," while briefly discussed is hardly a primary theme, nor part of a particularly important contrast. "Geography and travel journalism" is a tempting choice, since this contrast is important, especially to the argument made in the first paragraph. But is it the most important? In assessing the primary contrast at play in a text, it is often helpful to look for broader themes, by being so literal in its reference to a contrast this answer choice limits itself, and makes it less likely to reflect the primary contrast.

Fundamentally, this text is about the old and the new ways of doing geography. The entire purpose of opening with a discussion of the old ways of doing geography is to introduce an overriding contrast with the new ways outlined later. This fundamental thematic contrast thus serves a vital rhetorical function, and forms the primary contrast at play in the text.

Example Question #3 : Find And Analyze Two Or More Themes; Objective Summary Of The Text: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Ri.11 12.2

Adapted from Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke (1790)

In the famous statute called the Declaration of Right, the two houses utter not a syllable of “a right to frame a government for themselves.” You will see that their whole care was to secure the religion, laws, and liberties that had been long possessed and had been lately endangered. They state “in the first place” to do “as their ancestors in like cases have usually done for vindicating their ancient rights and liberties, to declare;”—and then they pray the king and queen, “that it may be declared and enacted, that all and singular the rights and liberties asserted and declared are the true ancient and indubitable rights and liberties of the people of this kingdom.”

You will observe that from the Magna Carta to the Declaration of Right, it has been the uniform policy of our constitution to claim and assert our liberties as an entailed inheritance derived to us from our forefathers and to be transmitted to our posterity; as an estate specially belonging to the people of this kingdom, without any reference whatever to any other more general or prior right. By this means, our constitution preserves a unity in so great a diversity of its parts. We have an inheritable crown; an inheritable peerage; and a House of Commons and a people inheriting privileges, franchises, and liberties from a long line of ancestors.

This policy appears to me to be the result of profound reflection, or rather the happy effect of following nature, which is wisdom without reflection and above it. A spirit of innovation is generally the result of a selfish temper and confined views. People will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors. Besides, the people of England well know, that the idea of inheritance furnishes a sure principle of conservation, and a sure principle of transmission; without at all excluding a principle of improvement. It leaves acquisition free; but it secures what it acquires. Whatever advantages are obtained by a state proceeding on these maxims are locked fast as in a sort of family settlement, grasped as in a kind of mortmain forever. By a constitutional policy working after the pattern of nature, we receive, we hold, we transmit our government and our privileges in the same manner in which we enjoy and transmit our property and our lives. The institutions of policy, the goods of fortune, the gifts of providence, are handed down to us and from us in the same course and order. Our political system is placed in a just correspondence and symmetry with the mode of existence decreed to a permanent body composed of transitory parts; wherein the whole, at one time, is never old, or middle-aged, or young, but, in a condition of unchangeable constancy, moves on through the varied tenor of perpetual decay, fall, renovation, and progression. Thus, by preserving the method of nature in the conduct of the state, in what we improve, we are never wholly new; in what we retain, we are never wholly obsolete. By adhering in this manner and on those principles to our forefathers, we are guided not by the superstition of antiquarians, but by the spirit of philosophic analogy. In this choice of inheritance, we have given to our frame of polity the image of a relation in blood; binding up the constitution of our country with our dearest domestic ties; adopting our fundamental laws into the bosom of our family affections; keeping inseparable, and cherishing with the warmth of all their combined and mutually reflected charities, our state, our hearths, our sepulchers, and our altars.

Through the same plan of a conformity to nature in our artificial institutions and by calling in the aid of her unerring and powerful instincts to fortify the fallible and feeble contrivances of our reason, we have derived several other, and those no small benefits, from considering our liberties in the light of an inheritance. Always acting as if in the presence of canonized forefathers, the spirit of freedom, leading in itself to misrule and excess, is tempered with an awful gravity. This idea of a liberal descent inspires us with a sense of habitual, native dignity. By this means our liberty becomes a noble freedom. It carries an imposing and majestic aspect. It has a pedigree and illustrating ancestors. It has its bearings and its ensigns armorial. It has its gallery of portraits; its monumental inscriptions; its records, evidences, and titles. All your sophisters cannot produce anything better adapted to preserve a rational freedom than the course that we have pursued, who have chosen our nature rather than our speculations, our breasts rather than our inventions, for the great conservatories and magazines of our rights and privileges.

How is "inheritance" characterized in the bolded and underlined passage

Possible Answers:

A fundamental principle of the British political system that has been adopted by choice

A fundamental, irresistible principle of the British political system that has been passively carried through by legislators

An important intellectual principle that needs to be incorporated into the fundamental structure of the British political system.  

A longstanding, regressive aspect of a political system in desperate need of change

Correct answer:

A fundamental principle of the British political system that has been adopted by choice


This question asks you to analyze and provide summary analysis of a particular section of the text as it relates to a major theme of the work.

In the excerpt, "inheritance" is characterized as a fundamental principle of the British political system, incorporated actively and by "choice."

The author asserts that this choice has already been made and had huge influence, not that it "needs" to begin to be incorporated. The author characterizes this system in a positive way; he does figure it as a regressive system in need of change.

The author specifically figures the incorporation of this system as "a choice," not as an irresistible force (he wouldn't need to argue for an irresistible force; it would be irresistible!).

All Common Core: 12th Grade English Language Arts Resources

2 Diagnostic Tests 36 Practice Tests Question of the Day Flashcards Learn by Concept
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