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

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

Example Questions

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

Passage adapted from Edna St. Vincent Millay's "Spring" (1921).

To what purpose, April, do you return again?

Beauty is not enough.

You can no longer quiet me with the redness 

Of leaves opening stickily.

I know what I know.  5

The sun is hot on my neck as I observe

The spikes of the crocus.

The smell of the earth is good.

It is apparent that there is no death.

But what does that signify?  10

Not only under the ground are the brains of men

Eaten by maggots.

Life in itself

Is nothing,

An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.  15

It is not enough that yearly, down this hill, 

April

Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.

Which of these options accurately reflects the relationship between seasonal re-birth and death in the poem?

Possible Answers:

Beauty and the apparent rebirth of nature in springtime do not make up for the ultimate reality of death

Life is short, and so it is important to live fully and seize the day

The rebirth of nature during springtime proves that life ultimately overcomes death

Immortality is found through union with nature

Correct answer:

Beauty and the apparent rebirth of nature in springtime do not make up for the ultimate reality of death

Explanation:

The central message of the poem is reliant on the interrelation of the two themes mentioned in the question "seasonal re-birth and death." Seasonal re-birth is a common trope in poetry, notably in pastoral poetry, and death is obviously a dominant force towards which are all inexorably progressing each day, and as such is a common subject of poetic verse.

In typical pastoral poetry, springtime and the seasonal re-birth it brings are treated as exclusively positive, regenerative forces. The imagery of spring is rarely associated directly with death, that is usually reserved for winter poems. This poem goes against this trope, asserting that the sense of new life that is associated with springtime is ultimately an illusion, and that death is certain.

As the poem states, the coming of springtime "is not enough" to compensate for impending death.

The message of the poem is not that one should "seize the day" or that life is meaningful and precious, because life is ultimately considered to be nothing (see 13-15), regardless of how it is lived. It cannot be said that the rebirth of spring proves that life overcomes death, because the writer gives concrete evidence of the finality of death in lines 11-12. For the same reason, there is little support for the idea of immortality in the poem.

Outside of seeing the specific textual evidence directly supporting the correct answer, you could have selected it based on an accurate understanding of the overall tone and language of the poem. This is a negative, dark poem, not a hopeful or inspiring one. A thorough, accurate reading of the literal content of this poem was enough to answer this question accurately, as was a closer reading of the imagery.

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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