Common Core: 8th Grade English Language Arts : Determine Figurative and Connotative Word Meanings and Analyze Effects of Word Choice, Including Allusions and Analogies: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.8.4

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Example Question #1 : Determine Figurative And Connotative Word Meanings And Analyze Effects Of Word Choice, Including Allusions And Analogies: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Rl.8.4

Adapted from Pinocchio by Carl Collodi (1883)

There was once upon a time a piece of wood in the shop of an old carpenter named Master Antonio. Everybody, however, called him Master Cherry, on account of the end of his nose, which was always as red and polished as a ripe cherry.

No sooner had Master Cherry set eyes on the piece of wood than his face beamed with delight, and, rubbing his hands together with satisfaction, he said softly to himself:

"This wood has come at the right moment; it will just do to make the leg of a little table."

He immediately took a sharp axe with which to remove the bark and the rough surface, but just as he was going to give the first stroke he heard a very small voice say imploringly, "Do not strike me so hard!"

He turned his terrified eyes all around the room to try and discover where the little voice could possibly have come from, but he saw nobody! He looked under the bench—nobody; he looked into a cupboard that was always shut—nobody; he looked into a basket of shavings and sawdust—nobody; he even opened the door of the shop and gave a glance into the street—and still nobody. Who, then, could it be?

"I see how it is," he said, laughing and scratching his wig, "evidently that little voice was all my imagination. Let us set to work again."

And, taking up the axe, he struck a tremendous blow on the piece of wood.

"Oh! oh! you have hurt me!" cried the same little voice dolefully.

This time Master Cherry was petrified. His eyes started out of his head with fright, his mouth remained open, and his tongue hung out almost to the end of his chin, like a mask on a fountain. As soon as he had recovered the use of his speech he began to say, stuttering and trembling with fear:

"But where on earth can that little voice have come from that said 'Oh! oh!'? Is it possible that this piece of wood can have learned to cry and to lament like a child? I cannot believe it. This piece of wood is nothing but a log for fuel like all the others, and thrown on the fire it would about suffice to boil a saucepan of beans. How then? Can anyone be hidden inside it? If anyone is hidden inside, so much the worse for him. I will settle him at once."

So saying, he seized the poor piece of wood and commenced beating it without mercy against the walls of the room.

Then he stopped to listen if he could hear any little voice lamenting. He waited two minutes—nothing; five minutes—nothing; ten minutes—still nothing!

"I see how it is," he then said, forcing himself to laugh, and pushing up his wig; "evidently the little voice that said 'Oh! oh!' was all my imagination! Let us set to work again."

Putting the axe aside, he took his plane, to plane and polish the bit of wood; but whilst he was running it up and down he heard the same little voice say, laughing:

"Stop! you are tickling me all over!"

This time poor Master Cherry fell down as if he had been struck by lightning. When he at last opened his eyes he found himself seated on the floor.

His face was changed, even the end of his nose, instead of being crimson, as it was nearly always, had become blue from fright.

 

Based on the text, what does "petrified" mean?

Possible Answers:

To be worried

To be scared

To be happy 

To be tired

Correct answer:

To be scared

Explanation:

To answer this question, we can look at context clues from the surrounding sentences where the word "petrified" is located: 

"This time Master Cherry was petrified. His eyes started out of his head with fright, his mouth remained open, and his tongue hung out almost to the end of his chin, like a mask on a fountain. As soon as he had recovered the use of his speech he began to say, stuttering and trembling with fear:"

Based on these sentences from the passages, we can infer that "petrified" means to be scared. 

Example Question #1 : Determine Figurative And Connotative Word Meanings And Analyze Effects Of Word Choice, Including Allusions And Analogies: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Rl.8.4

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. At first we thought it was the want of company of his own kind that made him ask this question, but at last we began to see he was desirous to avoid them. When a seaman did put up at the Admiral Benbow (as now and then some did, making by the coast road for Bristol) he would look in at him through the curtained door before he entered the parlor; and he was always sure to be as silent as a mouse when any such was present. For me, at least, there was no secret about the matter, for I was, in a way, a sharer in his alarms. He had taken me aside one day and promised me a silver fourpenny on the first of every month if I would only keep my "weather-eye open for a seafaring man with one leg" and let him know the moment he appeared. Often enough when the first of the month came round and I applied to him for my wage, he would only blow through his nose at me and stare me down, but before the week was out he was sure to think better of it, bring me my four-penny piece, and repeat his orders to look out for "the seafaring man with one leg.”

How that personage haunted my dreams, I need scarcely tell you. I would see him in a thousand forms, and with a thousand diabolical expressions. Now the leg would be cut off at the knee, now at the hip; now he was a monstrous kind of a creature who had never had but the one leg, and that in the middle of his body. To see him leap and run and pursue me over hedge and ditch was the worst of nightmares. And altogether I paid pretty dear for my monthly fourpenny piece, in the shape of these abominable fancies.

But though I was so terrified by the idea of the seafaring man with one leg, I was far less afraid of the captain himself 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.

The man in the passage asks the writer if he will “keep [his] ‘weather-eye open for a seafaring man with one leg.’” Which of the following most accurately restates the meaning of “keep his weather eye open for” in this phrase?

Possible Answers:

Be on the watch for

Pay attention to the weather for

Be suspicious of

Leave a window open for

Do a favor for

Correct answer:

Be on the watch for

Explanation:

To “keep a weather-eye open” for something means to look out carefully for that thing or person, or in other words, to be on the watch for him, her, or it. “Pay attention to the weather for” doesn’t make sense in the passage. “Do a favor for” and “be suspicious of” might seem like potentially correct answers, but since the man with the wooden leg isn’t actually a character in the same location as the man described in the passage and the narrator, neither of these answer choices make sense. If you thought that a “weather-eye” was a type of window, you may have chosen “leave a window open for,” but again, this makes no sense in the context of the passage.

Example Question #2 : Determine Figurative And Connotative Word Meanings And Analyze Effects Of Word Choice, Including Allusions And Analogies: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Rl.8.4

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 best describes the effect of the author's use of the word "immolation" at the end of the second paragraph?

Possible Answers:

It adds suspense to the story because it suggests that the narrator might want to hurt or kill Fortunato for his insult.

It makes the narrator's motivations ambiguous, as it's a weak word, so readers are not sure how the narrator wants to take his revenge: by hurting Fortunato, embarrassing him publicly, insulting him, etc.

It suggests that the narrator isn't seeking revenge against Fortunato, but working with him to seek revenge against someone else who wronged them both.

It specifically foreshadows the introduction of the amontillado as a major plot point.

It adds key evidence that explains how Fortunato insulted the narrator and prompted him to seek revenge.

Correct answer:

It adds suspense to the story because it suggests that the narrator might want to hurt or kill Fortunato for his insult.

Explanation:

Let's consider where the word "immolation" appears in the passage. It shows up at the end of the second paragraph, after the narrator has declared to the reader that he is seeking revenge against Fortunato, but doesn't want Fortunato to realize this before he can take his revenge.

"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 immolation."

The footnotes tell us that "immolation" means utter destruction, esp. that of a sacrificial victim by being burned. This is a very strong word, so we can ignore the answer choice that claims it's a weak one. It doesn't tell us anything about how Fortunato insulted the narrator and prompted him to seek revenge, nor does it suggest that the two characters are actually working together to seek revenge against a third character. It has nothing to do with amontillado, so it's not foreshadowing the introduction of amontillado as a specific plot point. The best answer is "It adds suspense to the story because it suggests that the narrator might want to hurt or kill Fortunato for his insult."

Example Question #3 : Determine Figurative And Connotative Word Meanings And Analyze Effects Of Word Choice, Including Allusions And Analogies: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Rl.8.4

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.

The author’s use of the word “moist” in line 7 is notable because unlike other words in the poem, “moist” __________.

Possible Answers:

strongly evokes a physical sensation

has to do with discomfort and boredom

has a meaning that is completely abstract

is usually used to discuss man-made things instead of nature

rhymes with another word in the poem

Correct answer:

strongly evokes a physical sensation

Explanation:

This question asks us to take a look at one specific word in the poem and think about what distinguishes it from the poem's other words. First of all, let's consider what "moist" means: damp or slightly wet. What might you describe as moist? Here are a few examples: a damp washcloth, a sponge that has been used with water, a dense type of cake—and the air, if it's really humid. How does "moist" set itself apart from the rest of the words in the passage? A quick skim of the poem reveals that none of its other words rhyme with "moist," so we can ignore the answer choice "rhymes with another word in the poem." The word can be used to describe natural things (e.g. air) or man-made things (e.g. cake, a sponge), so "is usually used to discuss man-made things instead of nature" isn't correct either. While you could potentially be uncomfortable in "moist" air, the narrator doesn't seem to be. The poem doesn't give us any clues that he or she is uncomfortable outside. Thus, "has to do with discomfort and boredom" isn't the correct answer. This leaves us with "has a meaning that is completely abstract" and "strongly evokes a physical sensation." To answer the question correctly, you have to understand what is meant by "abstract." "Abstract" is the opposite of "concrete"—whereas concrete things are existing things that you can see and touch, abstract things are ideas. "Moist" has to do with a concrete thing, water, so it's not "abstract" in comparison to the rest of the poem's words. The correct answer is that "moist" "strongly evokes a physical sensation." The idea of dampness has to do with the sense of touch. The earlier parts of the poem all have to do with abstract ideas regarding math and astronomy. As a result, the poet doesn't use very many sensory words at all. "Moist" sticks out in comparison to the rest of the poem because it's one of the few times he uses a sensory word.

Example Question #4 : Determine Figurative And Connotative Word Meanings And Analyze Effects Of Word Choice, Including Allusions And Analogies: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Rl.8.4

Adapted from The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (1908)

'Do you mean to tell me,' shouted the Rat, thumping with his little fist upon the table, 'that you've heard nothing about the Stoats and Weasels?’

‘What, the Wild Wooders?' cried Toad, trembling in every limb. 'No, not a word! What have they been doing?’

'—And how they've been and taken Toad Hall?' continued the Rat.

Toad leaned his elbows on the table, and his chin on his paws; and a large tear welled up in each of his eyes, overflowed and splashed on the table, plop! plop!

'The Wild Wooders have been living in Toad Hall ever since you—got—into that—that—trouble of yours,' continued the Rat; 'and going on simply anyhow! Lying in bed half the day, and breakfast at all hours, and the place in such a mess (I'm told) it's not fit to be seen! Eating your grub, and drinking your drink, and making bad jokes about you, and singing vulgar songs, about—well, about prisons and magistrates, and policemen; horrid personal songs, with no humor in them. And they're telling the tradespeople and everybody that they've come to stay for good.’

. . . 

Such a tremendous noise was going on in the banqueting-hall that there was little danger of their being overheard. The Badger said, 'Now, boys, all together!' and the four of them put their shoulders to the trap-door and heaved it back. Hoisting each other up, they found themselves standing in the pantry, with only a door between them and the banqueting-hall, where their unconscious enemies were carousing.

The noise, as they emerged from the passage, was simply deafening. At last, as the cheering and hammering slowly subsided, a voice could be made out saying, 'Well, I do not propose to detain you much longer'—(great applause)—'but before I resume my seat'—(renewed cheering)—'I should like to say one word about our kind host, Mr. Toad. We all know Toad!'—(great laughter)—'GOOD Toad, MODEST Toad, HONEST Toad!' (shrieks of merriment).

'Only just let me get at him!' muttered Toad, grinding his teeth.

'Hold hard a minute!' said the Badger, restraining him with difficulty. 'Get ready, all of you!'

'—Let me sing you a little song,' went on the voice, 'which I have composed on the subject of Toad'—(prolonged applause).

The Badger drew himself up, took a firm grip of his stick with both paws, glanced round at his comrades, and cried—

'The hour is come! Follow me!’

And flung the door open wide.

My!

What a squealing and a squeaking and a screeching filled the air!

Well might the terrified weasels dive under the tables and spring madly up at the windows! Well might the ferrets rush wildly for the fireplace and get hopelessly jammed in the chimney! Well might tables and chairs be upset, and glass and china be sent crashing on the floor, in the panic of that terrible moment when the four Heroes strode wrathfully into the room! The mighty Badger, his whiskers bristling, his great cudgel whistling through the air; Mole, black and grim, brandishing his stick and shouting his awful war-cry, 'A Mole! A Mole!' Rat; desperate and determined, his belt bulging with weapons of every age and every variety; Toad, frenzied with excitement and injured pride, swollen to twice his ordinary size, leaping into the air and emitting Toad-whoops that chilled them to the marrow! He went straight for the Chief Weasel. They were but four in all, but to the panic-stricken weasels the hall seemed full of monstrous animals, grey, black, brown and yellow, whooping and flourishing enormous cudgels; and they broke and fled with squeals of terror and dismay, this way and that, through the windows, up the chimney, anywhere to get out of reach of those terrible sticks.

The affair was soon over. Up and down, the whole length of the hall, strode the four Friends, whacking with their sticks at every head that showed itself; and in five minutes the room was cleared. Through the broken windows the shrieks of terrified weasels escaping across the lawn were borne faintly to their ears; on the floor lay prostrate some dozen or so of the enemy, on whom the Mole was busily engaged in fitting handcuffs. The Badger, resting from his labors, leant on his stick and wiped his honest brow.

The author’s repetition of the phrase “Well might” at the beginning of three adjacent sentences in a row helps add __________ to the story.

Possible Answers:

drawn-out suspense

a casual, conversational tone

humor

dramatic and poetic impact

confusion

Correct answer:

dramatic and poetic impact

Explanation:

The author’s repetition of “Well might” at the start of three sentences that appear one after another slows down the story and focuses on a single moment. This doesn’t add humor or confusion to the story, and it certainly doesn’t make the tone casual or conversational: if anything, it makes the tone formal and poetic. Suspense isn’t added because we are being told exactly what is going on when this description appears, and there are no surprises to what we expect. The best answer is that the repetition adds “dramatic and poetic impact.” It adds a dramatic pause that allows the author to describe the moment in different ways, and the repetition also creates a poetic effect that the audience can notice.

Example Question #1 : Determine Figurative And Connotative Word Meanings And Analyze Effects Of Word Choice, Including Allusions And Analogies: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Rl.8.4

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.

The author starts each of the first four lines of the poem with “when.” Which of the following effects does this have?

Possible Answers:

It makes the lines seem similar and leaves the reader waiting for the narrator’s sentence to be completed.

It informs the reader that the subject of the astronomy lecture has to do with time in some way.

It makes the lines seem related even though they are talking about four very different things.

It suggests that the narrator would rather listen to the astronomer than look at the stars.

It reveals for certain that the narrator has seen the astronomer speak on four different occasions.

Correct answer:

It makes the lines seem similar and leaves the reader waiting for the narrator’s sentence to be completed.

Explanation:

Let's consider the lines of the poem to which this question is referring:

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 . . . 

What's going on here? The narrator is telling us how he interacted with an astronomer. What do you notice about the poet's use of "when"? This part of the poem leaves you asking "What happened after you 'heard the learn'd astronomer'?" Altogether, these lines form an incomplete sentence, leaving the reader waiting to hear what happened "when [the narrator] heard the learn'd astronomer." All of the lines are also a bit similar in content, and the repeated use of "when" brings attention to this.

The lines aren't talking about very different things, and the repetition of when doesn't suggest that the narrator would rather listen to the astronomer than look at the stars. It doesn't with certainty tell us that the narrator listened to the astronomer on four different occasions; it seems to be just one occasion during which all of the first four lines' events took place. Finally, the repetition of "when" doesn't mean that the astronomer's lecture necessarily has to do with time. The correct answer is that the repeated use of "when" "makes the lines seem similar and leaves the reader waiting for the narrator’s sentence to be completed."

All Common Core: 8th Grade English Language Arts Resources

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