Common Core: 9th Grade English Language Arts : Analyze How Textual Structure, Order of Events, and Timelines Create Meaning: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.9-10.5

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Example Question #7 : Common Core: 9th Grade English Language Arts

Adapted from Hung Lou Meng, Book I; or, The Dream of the Red Chamber: A Chinese Novel by Cao Xueqin, (c.1716–1763) (trans. H. Bencraft Joly, 1892–93)

[At this point in the novel, Tai-yü has left her father’s house and traveled to go live with her grandmother.]

Lin Tai-yü had often heard her mother recount how different was her grandmother's house from that of other people's; and having seen for herself how [extravagant] were already the attendants of the three grades, (sent to wait upon her,) in attire, in their fare, in all their articles of use, "how much more," she thought to herself, "now that I am going to her home, must I be careful at every step, and circumspect at every moment! Nor must I utter one word too many, nor make one step more than is proper, for fear lest I should be ridiculed by any of them!”

. . .

An entrance hall stood in the center, in the middle of which was a door-screen of Ta Li marble, set in an ebony frame. In the [courtyard] were five parlors, the frieze of the ceiling of which was all carved, and the pillars ornamented. In the side-rooms were suspended cages, full of parrots of every color, thrushes, and birds of every description.

Three or four [waiting maids] forthwith vied with each other in raising the door curtain, while at the same time was heard some one announce: "Miss Lin has arrived."

No sooner had she entered the room, than she espied two servants supporting a venerable lady, with silver-white hair, coming forward to greet her. Convinced that this lady must be her grandmother, she was about to prostrate herself and pay her obeisance, when she was quickly clasped in the arms of her grandmother, who held her close against her bosom; and as she called her "My liver! My flesh!" (My love! My darling!) she began to sob aloud.

The bystanders too, at once, without one exception, melted into tears; and Tai-yü herself found some difficulty in restraining her sobs. Little by little the whole party succeeded in consoling her, and Tai-yü at length paid her obeisance to her grandmother. Her ladyship thereupon pointed them out one by one to Tai-yü. "This," she said, "is the wife of your uncle, your mother's elder brother; this is the wife of your uncle, her second brother; and this is your eldest sister-in-law Chu, the wife of your senior cousin Chu."

Tai-yü bowed to each one of them with folded arms.

"Ask the young ladies in," dowager lady Chia went on to say. "Tell them a guest from afar has just arrived, one who comes for the first time; and that they may not go to their lessons."

Not long after three nurses and five or six waiting-maids were seen ushering in three young ladies. In their head ornaments, jewelry, and dress, the get-up of the three young ladies was identical.

Tai-yü speedily rose to greet them and to exchange salutations. After they had made each other's acquaintance, they all took a seat, whereupon the servants brought the tea. Their conversation was confined to Tai-yü's mother—how she had fallen ill, what doctors had attended her, what medicines had been given her, and how she had been buried and mourned. Dowager lady Chia was naturally again in great anguish.

"Of all my daughters," she remarked, "your mother was the one I loved best, and now in a twinkle, she has passed away, before me too, and I've not been able to so much as see her face. How can this not make my heart sore-stricken?"

And as she gave vent to these feelings, she took Tai-yü's hand in hers, and again gave way to sobs, and it was only after the members of the family had quickly made use of much exhortation and coaxing that they succeeded, little by little, in stopping her tears.

They all perceived that Tai-yü, despite her youthful years and appearance, was ladylike in her deportment and address, and that though with her delicate figure and countenance, she seemed as if unable to bear the very weight of her clothes, she possessed, however, a certain captivating air. And as they readily noticed the symptoms of a weak constitution, they went on in consequence to make inquiries as to what medicines she ordinarily took, and how it was that her complaint had not been cured.

Hardly had she finished [replying], when a sound of laughter was heard from the back courtyard. "Here I am too late!" the voice said, "and not in time to receive the distant visitor!"

"Every one of all these people," reflected Tai-yü, "holds her peace and suppresses the very breath of her mouth; and who, I wonder, is this coming in this reckless and rude manner?"

The attire of this person bore no similarity to that of the young ladies. In all her splendor and luster, she looked like a fairy or a goddess. On her person, she wore a tight-sleeved jacket, of dark red flowered satin, covered with hundreds of butterflies, embroidered in gold, interspersed with flowers. Her stature was elegant; her figure graceful; her powdered face like dawning spring, majestic, yet not haughty.

Tai-yü eagerly rose and greeted her. She was just at a loss how to address her, when all her cousins informed Tai-yü, that this was her sister-in-law Lien.

Tai-yü lost no time in returning her smile and saluting her with all propriety, addressing her as "my sister-in-law." [Lien] laid hold of Tai-yü's hand, and minutely scrutinized her, for a while, from head to foot, after which she led her back next to dowager lady Chia, where they both took a seat.

What can we infer from the content and placement of the underlined paragraph in the context of the entire passage?

Possible Answers:

Tai-yü’s grandmother was poor for most of her life, but recently and suddenly became very wealthy.

Each resident owns exactly one caged bird.

This story takes place in an environment in which it is often cold and inhospitable outdoors, forcing people to remain inside.

This is likely the first time that this setting has been introduced in the story.

Correct answer:

This is likely the first time that this setting has been introduced in the story.

Explanation:

The underlined paragraph is the second paragraph in the passage. In the paragraph that precedes it, the audience is informed about Tai-yü's concern that she will make some sort of social misstep while living at her grandmother's residence. Then, a paragraph break occurs, and the underlined paragraph begins the next section of the text:

An entrance hall stood in the center, in the middle of which was a door-screen of Ta Li marble, set in an ebony frame. In the [courtyard] were five parlors, the frieze of the ceiling of which was all carved, and the pillars ornamented. In the side-rooms were suspended cages, full of parrots of every color, thrushes, and birds of every description.

The underlined paragraph provides visual detail about the setting in which the rest of the passage takes place. It mentions several things that are opulent and we can infer would cost a lot of money: a door-screen made of marble and ebony; many parlors with carved ceilings and ornamented pillars, and pet birds. 

Nothing about this description allows us to infer that each resident owns exactly one caged bird. While multiple people seem to live at this location, the birds are described in general terms: we don't learn of an exact number of them that we could associate with an exact number of residents, and nothing is mentioned to make this connection without data. It's also not reasonable to infer that the story's location is one where the weather forces people to remain inside, since we are told that the area includes a "courtyard," which is an outdoor area. We also don't learn anything that would support the idea that Tai-yü's grandmother suddenly became very wealthy. While the descriptions of items we can infer are expensive suggest that she is wealthy at the time the passage's events take place, we don't learn anything about her past, so we can't claim that she suddenly became very wealthy; she may have been wealthy all her life.

The only remaining answer choice is the correct one: "This is likely the first time that this setting has been introduced in the story." The paragraph consists of extensive description of the setting, and this description would not be necessary if the reader were already familiar with the details of the location. Furthermore, we know that this is the first time that Tai-yü is visiting this location, and the passage begins by focusing on her as the main character.

 

Example Question #8 : Common Core: 9th Grade English Language Arts

Adapted from Hung Lou Meng, Book I; or, The Dream of the Red Chamber: A Chinese Novel by Cao Xueqin, (c.1716–1763) (trans. H. Bencraft Joly, 1892–93)

[At this point in the novel, Tai-yü has left her father’s house and traveled to go live with her grandmother.]

Lin Tai-yü had often heard her mother recount how different was her grandmother's house from that of other people's; and having seen for herself how [extravagant] were already the attendants of the three grades, (sent to wait upon her,) in attire, in their fare, in all their articles of use, "how much more," she thought to herself, "now that I am going to her home, must I be careful at every step, and circumspect at every moment! Nor must I utter one word too many, nor make one step more than is proper, for fear lest I should be ridiculed by any of them!”

. . .

An entrance hall stood in the center, in the middle of which was a door-screen of Ta Li marble, set in an ebony frame. In the [courtyard] were five parlors, the frieze of the ceiling of which was all carved, and the pillars ornamented. In the side-rooms were suspended cages, full of parrots of every color, thrushes, and birds of every description.

Three or four [waiting maids] forthwith vied with each other in raising the door curtain, while at the same time was heard some one announce: "Miss Lin has arrived."

No sooner had she entered the room, than she espied two servants supporting a venerable lady, with silver-white hair, coming forward to greet her. Convinced that this lady must be her grandmother, she was about to prostrate herself and pay her obeisance, when she was quickly clasped in the arms of her grandmother, who held her close against her bosom; and as she called her "My liver! My flesh!" (My love! My darling!) she began to sob aloud.

The bystanders too, at once, without one exception, melted into tears; and Tai-yü herself found some difficulty in restraining her sobs. Little by little the whole party succeeded in consoling her, and Tai-yü at length paid her obeisance to her grandmother. Her ladyship thereupon pointed them out one by one to Tai-yü. "This," she said, "is the wife of your uncle, your mother's elder brother; this is the wife of your uncle, her second brother; and this is your eldest sister-in-law Chu, the wife of your senior cousin Chu."

Tai-yü bowed to each one of them with folded arms.

"Ask the young ladies in," dowager lady Chia went on to say. "Tell them a guest from afar has just arrived, one who comes for the first time; and that they may not go to their lessons."

Not long after three nurses and five or six waiting-maids were seen ushering in three young ladies. In their head ornaments, jewelry, and dress, the get-up of the three young ladies was identical.

Tai-yü speedily rose to greet them and to exchange salutations. After they had made each other's acquaintance, they all took a seat, whereupon the servants brought the tea. Their conversation was confined to Tai-yü's mother—how she had fallen ill, what doctors had attended her, what medicines had been given her, and how she had been buried and mourned. Dowager lady Chia was naturally again in great anguish.

"Of all my daughters," she remarked, "your mother was the one I loved best, and now in a twinkle, she has passed away, before me too, and I've not been able to so much as see her face. How can this not make my heart sore-stricken?"

And as she gave vent to these feelings, she took Tai-yü's hand in hers, and again gave way to sobs, and it was only after the members of the family had quickly made use of much exhortation and coaxing that they succeeded, little by little, in stopping her tears.

They all perceived that Tai-yü, despite her youthful years and appearance, was ladylike in her deportment and address, and that though with her delicate figure and countenance, she seemed as if unable to bear the very weight of her clothes, she possessed, however, a certain captivating air. And as they readily noticed the symptoms of a weak constitution, they went on in consequence to make inquiries as to what medicines she ordinarily took, and how it was that her complaint had not been cured.

Hardly had she finished [replying], when a sound of laughter was heard from the back courtyard. "Here I am too late!" the voice said, "and not in time to receive the distant visitor!"

"Every one of all these people," reflected Tai-yü, "holds her peace and suppresses the very breath of her mouth; and who, I wonder, is this coming in this reckless and rude manner?"

The attire of this person bore no similarity to that of the young ladies. In all her splendor and luster, she looked like a fairy or a goddess. On her person, she wore a tight-sleeved jacket, of dark red flowered satin, covered with hundreds of butterflies, embroidered in gold, interspersed with flowers. Her stature was elegant; her figure graceful; her powdered face like dawning spring, majestic, yet not haughty.

Tai-yü eagerly rose and greeted her. She was just at a loss how to address her, when all her cousins informed Tai-yü, that this was her sister-in-law Lien.

Tai-yü lost no time in returning her smile and saluting her with all propriety, addressing her as "my sister-in-law." [Lien] laid hold of Tai-yü's hand, and minutely scrutinized her, for a while, from head to foot, after which she led her back next to dowager lady Chia, where they both took a seat.

The first paragraph has which of the following effects on the rest of the passage?

Possible Answers:

It emphasizes how Tai-yü initially assumes that her grandmother's house will be similar to her mother's.

It allows the reader to infer that Tai-yü is only pretending to be the granddaughter of the woman she is going to visit and is not actually related to her.

It suggests that Tai-yü has never before been in a formal social situation that demands good manners, and that she is not aware that her behavior will be judged.

It adds tension by informing the audience that Tai-yü is afraid of embarrassing herself at her grandmother's residence before she arrives there.

Correct answer:

It adds tension by informing the audience that Tai-yü is afraid of embarrassing herself at her grandmother's residence before she arrives there.

Explanation:

In the first paragraph, we learn that Tai-yü is expecting her grandmother's house to be very different from any house in which she's lived. Seeing how extravagant her grandmother's attendants are prompts Tai-yü to worry about making a social mistake and embarrassing herself in this new milieu. After this paragraph, there is a paragraph break, and then the rest of the paragraph begins. Tai-yü's grandmother's house is described, and then her entrance is announced. 

The first paragraph works in a specific way to influence how readers understand the rest of the material that follows after the paragraph break. It does not "[emphasize] how Tai-yü initially assumes that her grandmother's house will be similar to her mother's." We learn that Tai-yü assumes the opposite: that her grandmother's house will be very different from other people's. Furthermore, it does not "[suggest] that Tai-yü has never before been in a formal social situation that demands good manners, and that she is not aware that her behavior will be judged." She is very aware that her behavior will be judged, to the point where she is concerned about making a social error. Finally, it does not "[allow] the reader to infer that Tai-yü is only pretending to be the granddaughter of the woman she is going to visit and is not actually related to her." Nothing in the passage suggests that this is the case.

The correct answer is that the first paragraph "adds tension by informing the audience that Tai-yü is afraid of embarrassing herself at her grandmother's residence before she arrives there." The placement of the paragraph as the first one in the passage allows the reader to understand how Tai-yü is feeling about traveling to live with her grandmother. This insight into her thoughts and feelings in the first paragraph adds another layer of interpretation to the rest of the passage: the reader understands that as Tai-yü interacts with her grandmother and relatives, she is nervous about embarrassing herself.

All Common Core: 9th Grade English Language Arts Resources

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