Common Core: 7th Grade English Language Arts : Analyze How Story Elements Interact: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.7.3

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Example Question #10 : Common Core: 7th Grade English Language Arts

Adapted from White Fang by Jack London (1906)

Dark spruce forest frowned on either side the frozen waterway. The trees had been stripped by a recent wind of their white covering of frost, and they seemed to lean toward each other, black and ominous, in the fading light. A vast silence reigned over the land. The land itself was a desolation, lifeless, without movement, so lone and cold that the spirit of it was not even that of sadness. There was a hint in it of laughter, but of a laughter more terrible than any sadness -- a laughter that was mirthless as the smile of the Sphinx, a laughter cold as the frost and partaking of the grimness of infallibility. It was the masterful and incommunicable wisdom of eternity laughing at the futility of life and the effort of life. It was the Wild, the savage, frozen-hearted Northland Wild.

But there was life, abroad in the land and defiant. Down the frozen waterway toiled a string of wolfish dogs. Their bristly fur was rimed with frost. Their breath froze in the air as it left their mouths, spouting forth in spumes of vapor that settled upon the hair of their bodies and formed into crystals of frost. Leather harness was on the dogs, and leather traces attached them to a sled which dragged along behind. On the sled, securely lashed, was a long and narrow oblong box. There were other things on the sled -- blankets, an axe, and a coffee-pot and frying-pan; but prominent, occupying most of the space, was the long and narrow oblong box.

In advance of the dogs, on wide snowshoes, toiled a man. At the rear of the sled toiled a second man. On the sled, in the box, lay a third man whose toil was over, -- a man whom the Wild had conquered and beaten down until he would never move nor struggle again.

But at front and rear, unawed and indomitable, toiled the two men who were not yet dead. Their bodies were covered with fur and soft-tanned leather. Eyelashes and cheeks and lips were so coated with the crystals from their frozen breath that their faces were not discernible. This gave them the seeming of ghostly masques, undertakers in a spectral world at the funeral of some ghost. But under it all they were men, penetrating the land of desolation and mockery and silence, puny adventurers bent on colossal adventure, pitting themselves against the might of a world as remote and alien and pulseless as the abysses of space.

They travelled on without speech, saving their breath for the work of their bodies. On every side was the silence, pressing upon them with a tangible presence.

The pale light of the short sunless day was beginning to fade, when a faint far cry arose on the still air. It soared upward with a swift rush, till it reached its topmost note, where it persisted, palpitant and tense, and then slowly died away. It might have been a lost soul wailing, had it not been invested with a certain sad fierceness and hungry eagerness.

A second cry arose, piercing the silence with needlelike shrillness. Both men located the sound. It was to the rear, somewhere in the snow expanse they had just traversed. A third and answering cry arose, also to the rear and to the left of the second cry.

"They're after us, Bill," said the man at the front.

"Meat is scarce," answered his comrade. "I ain't seen a rabbit sign for days.”

At the fall of darkness they swung the dogs into a cluster of spruce trees on the edge of the waterway and made a camp. The coffin, at the side of the fire, served for seat and table. The wolf-dogs, clustered on the far side of the fire, snarled and bickered among themselves, but evinced no inclination to stray off into the darkness.

- - -

"Henry," said Bill, munching with deliberation the beans he was eating, "How many dogs 've we got, Henry?"

"Six."

"Well, Henry . . ." Bill stopped for a moment, in order that his words might gain greater significance. "As I was sayin', Henry, we've got six dogs. I took six fish out of the bag. I gave one fish to each dog, an', Henry, I was one fish short."

"You counted wrong."

"We've got six dogs," the other reiterated dispassionately. "took out six fish. One Ear didn't get no fish. I come back to the bag afterward an' got 'm his fish."

"We've only got six dogs," Henry said.

"Henry," Bill went on, "I won't say they was all dogs, but there was seven of 'm that got fish."

Henry stopped eating to glance across the fire and count the dogs.

"There's only six now," he said.

"I saw the other one run off across the snow," Bill announced with cool positiveness. "I saw seven.”

Bill opened his mouth to speak, but changed his mind. Instead, he pointed toward the wall of darkness that pressed about them from every side. There was no suggestion of form in the utter blackness; only could be seen a pair of eyes gleaming like live coals. Henry indicated with his head a second pair, and a third. A circle of the gleaming eyes had drawn about their camp.

Which of the following is NOT true?

Possible Answers:

Because of the story’s setting, one man has already died.

Because of the story’s setting, the men are lost.

Because of the story’s setting, the men are in danger of being eaten by wild animals.

Because of the story’s setting, the men don’t often speak while traveling.

Because of the story’s setting, the men are in danger of freezing to death if they are not careful.

Correct answer:

Because of the story’s setting, the men are lost.

Explanation:

The setting plays a major role in this passage. The author begins the passage with a long, formal description of the environment before introducing the two main characters, whom you initially can't tell apart. Which of the listed effects does the setting directly have on the plot of the story, though? To find the answer choice that is not true, you may want to consider each of them. If you can identify four of them that are certainly true based on textual evidence, you'll have indirectly located the one that is not.

"Because of the story’s setting, the men don’t often speak while traveling." - This is true, and we have direct evidence for this cause-effect relationship because the passage states, "They travelled on without speech, saving their breath for the work of their bodies."

"Because of the story’s setting, the men are in danger of being eaten by wild animals." - This is also true; the brief conversation that Bill and Henry have while they travel tells us that they are being followed by hungry wild animals.

"Because of the story’s setting, the men are in danger of freezing to death if they are not careful." - This is also true; the descriptions of the frigidity of the environment plus lines like "Eyelashes and cheeks and lips were so coated with the crystals from their frozen breath that their faces were not discernible" tell us that the men could easily freeze to death if they are not careful.

"Because of the story’s setting, one man has already died." - This is also correct, based on what the narrator tells us. He most directly discusses the third man who has died in the third paragraph when the narrator states, "On the sled, in the box, lay a third man whose toil was over, -- a man whom the Wild had conquered and beaten down until he would never move nor struggle again." The narrator describes the environment as "the Wild" at the end of the first paragraph, so here, he is attributing the third man's death to the environment directly.

The correct answer, then, must be "Because of the story’s setting, the men are lost." This is not a true statement, so it is the correct answer. We are never given any indication that the men are lost, just that traveling is difficult.

All Common Core: 7th Grade English Language Arts Resources

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