Common Core: 8th Grade English Language Arts : Analyze a Theme’s Development in Relation to a Text’s Elements and Objectively Summarize a Text: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.8.2

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Example Question #1 : Analyze A Theme’s Development In Relation To A Text’s Elements And Objectively Summarize A Text: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Rl.8.2

Adapted from "The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allan Poe (1846)

The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge. You, who so well know the nature of my soul, will not suppose, however, that I gave utterance to a threat. At length I would be avenged; this was a point definitively settled — but the very definitiveness with which it was resolved precluded the idea of risk. I must not only punish but punish with impunity1. A wrong is unredressed2 when retribution overtakes its redresser. It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong.

It must be understood that neither by word nor deed had I given Fortunato cause to doubt my good will. I continued, as was my wont, to smile in his face, and he did not perceive that my smile now was at the thought of his immolation3.

He had a weak point — this Fortunato — although in other regards he was a man to be respected and even feared. He prided himself upon his connoisseurship in wine. Few Italians have the true virtuoso spirit. For the most part their enthusiasm is adopted to suit the time and opportunity, to practice imposture upon the British and Austrian millionaires. In painting and gemmary, Fortunato, like his countrymen, was a quack, but in the matter of old wines he was sincere. In this respect I did not differ from him materially; — I was skillful in the Italian vintages myself, and bought largely whenever I could.

It was about dusk, one evening during the supreme madness of the carnival season, that I encountered my friend. He accosted me with excessive warmth, for he had been drinking much. The man wore motley. He had on a tight-fitting parti-striped dress, and his head was surmounted by the conical cap and bells. I was so pleased to see him that I thought I should never have done wringing his hand.

I said to him — “My dear Fortunato, you are luckily met. How remarkably well you are looking today. But I have received a pipe of what passes for Amontillado, and I have my doubts.”

“How?” said he. “Amontillado? A pipe? Impossible! And in the middle of the carnival!”

“I have my doubts,” I replied; “and I was silly enough to pay the full Amontillado price without consulting you in the matter. You were not to be found, and I was fearful of losing a bargain.”

“Amontillado!”

“I have my doubts.”

“Amontillado!” 

“And I must satisfy them.”

“Amontillado!”

“As you are engaged, I am on my way to Luchresi. If any one has a critical turn it is he. He will tell me ——”

“Luchresi cannot tell Amontillado from Sherry4.”

“And yet some fools will have it that his taste is a match for your own.”

“Come, let us go.”

“Whither?”

“To your vaults.”

 

1. "Impunity," n. immunity from punishment
2. The verb "redress," not directly used in the passage, means to amend or rectify a wrong
3. "Immolation," n. utter destruction, esp. that of a sacrificial victim by being burned
4. "Sherry," n. a type of fortified wine

Which of the following provides the strongest evidence that Fortunato is shocked by and interested in the narrator's purchasing of the amontillado?

Possible Answers:

The narrator states, "In painting and gemmary, Fortunato, like his countrymen, was a quack, but in the matter of old wines he was sincere."

Upon hearing he news, Fortunato immediately asks how the narrator acquired the amontillado.

Fortunato insults Luchresi's knowledge of amontillado.

Fortunato repeats "Amontillado!" three times.

The story takes place during a carnival.

Correct answer:

Fortunato repeats "Amontillado!" three times.

Explanation:

Many of the answer choices to this question present evidence that Fortunato is shocked by and interested in the narrator's amontillado, but we're looking for the strongest piece of evidence. The narrator's statement comes well before Fortunato learns about the narrator having obtained the amontillado, so it's probably not the strongest evidence of his reaction to learning about it. The fact that Fortunato immediately asks how the narrator obtained the amontillado demonstrates his interest, but doesn't really attest to his shock. Fortunato's comment about Luchresi has nothing to do with him being shocked by the news that the narrator has obtained a cask of amontillado, either. The fact that the story takes place during the carnival doesn't attest to Fortunato's particular reaction. The best answer is that Fortunato repeats "Amontillado!" three times; this shows that he is shocked by and interested in the narrator's purchasing of it.

Example Question #2 : Analyze A Theme’s Development In Relation To A Text’s Elements And Objectively Summarize A Text: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Rl.8.2

Adapted from Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (1883)

He was a very silent man by custom. All day he hung round the cove or upon the cliffs with a brass telescope; all evening he sat in a corner of the parlor next the fire and drank rum and water very strong. Mostly he would not speak when spoken to, only look up sudden and fierce and blow through his nose like a fog-horn; and we and the people who came about our house soon learned to let him be. Every day when he came back from his stroll he would ask if any seafaring men had gone by along the road. 

I was far less afraid of the captain than anybody else who knew him. There were nights when he would sometimes sit and sing his wicked, old, wild sea-songs, minding nobody; but sometimes he would call for glasses round and force all the trembling company to listen to his stories or bear a chorus to his singing. His stories were what frightened people worst of all. Dreadful stories they were—about hanging, and walking the plank, and storms at sea, and the Dry Tortugas, and wild deeds and places on the Spanish Main. By his own account he must have lived his life among some of the wickedest men upon the sea, and the language in which he told these stories shocked our plain country people almost as much as the crimes that he described. My father was always saying the inn would be ruined, for people would soon cease coming there to be tyrannized over and put down, and sent shivering to their beds; but I really believe his presence did us good. People were frightened at the time, but on looking back they rather liked it; it was a fine excitement in a quiet country life, and there was even a party of the younger men who pretended to admire him, calling him a "true sea-dog" and a "real old salt" and such like names, and saying there was the sort of man that made England terrible at sea.

Which of the following best summarizes the passage?

Possible Answers:

The captain tells scary stories to a group of guests.

The captain arrives at the narrator's home, an inn.

The narrator describes the mannerisms of the captain and the interactions the narrator has had with him.

The narrator describes his family's inn.

The captain watches the surrounding area for other sailors.

Correct answer:

The narrator describes the mannerisms of the captain and the interactions the narrator has had with him.

Explanation:

In order to summarize the passage, the correct answer choice has to reflect each part of the passage's events. It should somehow specifically relate to each paragraph, not just one of them, and it shouldn't be too general. For example, "The captain tells scary stories to a group of guests." is not correct because it only refers to events that happen in the second paragraph. It says nothing about the first paragraph, so it misses part of the passage and isn't the best summary. "The narrator describes his family's inn" and "The captain arrives at the narrator's home, an inn" simply don't accurately describe what happens in the passage. "The captain watches the surrounding area for other sailors" only describes the last line of the first paragraph. The best answer is "The narrator describes the mannerisms of the captain and the interactions the narrator has had with him." This statement applies to both paragraphs.

Example Question #3 : Analyze A Theme’s Development In Relation To A Text’s Elements And Objectively Summarize A Text: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Rl.8.2

Adapted from “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer” in Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman (1865; 1900)

When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

Which of the following statements best summarizes the theme of this poem?

Possible Answers:

You can appreciate nature without studying it mathematically.

Mathematics is far more interesting than astronomy since it is more abstract.

Astronomers should give more entertaining lectures.

Only by understanding the scientific laws governing the natural world can you truly appreciate nature. 

Everyone should take time to go star-gazing.

Correct answer:

You can appreciate nature without studying it mathematically.

Explanation:

Before we consider the answer choices, let's consider what actually happens in the poem, line by line. Doing this is a good first step in working our way from the specific events that take place to understanding the more abstract general theme of the poem.

The narrator relates how he heard an astronomer talk (Lines 1–4). The poem is a bit repetitive here. Part of the poem takes place in a lecture room, where people applaud the astronomer (Line 4). Then, the narrator becomes "tired and sick" (Line 5) until he goes outside into nature (Lines 6–7) and looks at the stars by himself (Line 8).

What can we make out of that? The narrator doesn't seem to get much out of listening to the astronomer. The astronomer may be very "learn'd"—that is, well-studied—but the narrator seems to prefer looking at the stars on his own than listening to all of the mathematical details about astronomy. 

Now let's look over the answer choices and see which one fits with our observations. "Everyone should take time to go star-gazing" could be the correct answer, but the narrator never urges the reader to do anything; he just recounts his personal experience. "Astronomers should give more entertaining lectures" is another general takeaway that doesn't really fit our observations. A lot more seems to be going on in this poem; the best answer needs to connect what happens in the first part of the poem (the narrator listening to the astronomer) with the second part (the narrator looking at the stars), and neither of the two answer choices we have considered do that. "Mathematics is far more interesting than astronomy since it is more abstract" isn't the case, as this is not what the poem suggests at all. At no point does the narrator contrast mathematics against astronomy. 

This leaves us with "Only by understanding the scientific laws governing the natural world can you truly appreciate nature" and "You can appreciate nature without studying it mathematically." Which of these is the poem arguing? The narrator doesn't seem to rely on anything he learned from the astronomer at the end of the poem; he's just looking up at the stars on his own, without specific mathematical knowledge of them. The best answer is "You can appreciate nature without studying it mathematically," as this reflects the narrator's experience.

All Common Core: 8th Grade English Language Arts Resources

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