STAAR EOC Test: Reading : Purpose and effect of specific words and phrases

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for STAAR EOC Test: Reading

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Purpose And Effect Of Specific Words And Phrases

Adapted from “Solitary Death, make me thine own” in Underneath the Bough: A Book of Verses by Michael Field (pseudonym of Katherine Bradley and Edith Cooper) (1893)

Solitary Death, make me thine own,

And let us wander the bare fields together;

          Yea, thou and I alone

Roving in unembittered unison forever.

 

I will not harry thy treasure-graves,

I do not ask thy still hands a lover;

            My heart within me craves

To travel till we twain Time’s wilderness discover.

 

To sojourn with thee my soul was bred,

And I, the courtly sights of life refusing,

            To the wide shadows fled,

And mused upon thee often as I fell a-musing.

 

Escaped from chaos, thy mother Night,

In her maiden breast a burthen that awed her,

           By cavern waters white

Drew thee her first-born, her unfathered off-spring toward her.

 

On dewey plats, near twilight dingle,

She oft, to still thee from men’s sobs and curses

           In thine ears a-tingle,

Pours her cool charms, her weird, reviving chaunt rehearses.

 

Though mortals menace thee or elude,

And from thy confines break in swift transgression.

            Thou for thyself art sued

Of me, I claim thy cloudy purlieus my possession.

 

To a long freshwater, where the sea

Stirs the silver flux of the reeds and willows,

            Come thou, and beckon me

To lie in the lull of the sand-sequestered billows:

 

Then take the life I have called my own

And to the liquid universe deliver;

            Loosening my spirit’s zone,

Wrap round me as thy limbs the wind, the light, the river.

In the context in which it appears, the use of the underlined and bolded word “unembittered” serves what purpose?

Possible Answers:

It helps alert the reader to the speaker’s status as an immortal observer of “solitary death” rather than a being who is subject to it

It helps alert the reader to a pre-existing negative relationship between the speaker and the personified “solitary death” that will be explored later in the poem

It helps alert the reader to the unconventionally positive characterization of “solitary death” in the rest of the poem

By being used in the phrase “roving in unembittered unison,” it hints at the romantic relationship between the speaker and the personified “solitary death” discussed throughout the rest of the poem

By being addressed to “solitary death,” “unembittered” creates irony and sets the reader up to view the personified “solitary death” negatively throughout the rest of the poem

Correct answer:

It helps alert the reader to the unconventionally positive characterization of “solitary death” in the rest of the poem

Explanation:

Here, “unembittered” works as a signpost alerting the reader of the poem's characterization of death as a companion instead using a more conventional negative characterization. As such, “unembittered” is intended to be read sincerely, rather than ironically. The relationship between death and the speaker is specifically not characterized as romantic. The speaker is not presented as an immortal observer of death, but an invested and curious potential participant.

Example Question #2 : Purpose And Effect Of Specific Words And Phrases

Adapted from “Solitary Death, make me thine own” in Underneath the Bough: A Book of Verses by Michael Field (pseudonym of Katherine Bradley and Edith Cooper) (1893)

Solitary Death, make me thine own,

And let us wander the bare fields together;

          Yea, thou and I alone

Roving in unembittered unison forever.

 

I will not harry thy treasure-graves,

I do not ask thy still hands a lover;

            My heart within me craves

To travel till we twain Time’s wilderness discover.

 

To sojourn with thee my soul was bred,

And I, the courtly sights of life refusing,

            To the wide shadows fled,

And mused upon thee often as I fell a-musing.

 

Escaped from chaos, thy mother Night,

In her maiden breast a burthen that awed her,

           By cavern waters white

Drew thee her first-born, her unfathered off-spring toward her.

 

On dewey plats, near twilight dingle,

She oft, to still thee from men’s sobs and curses

           In thine ears a-tingle,

Pours her cool charms, her weird, reviving chaunt rehearses.

 

Though mortals menace thee or elude,

And from thy confines break in swift transgression.

            Thou for thyself art sued

Of me, I claim thy cloudy purlieus my possession.

 

To a long freshwater, where the sea

Stirs the silver flux of the reeds and willows,

            Come thou, and beckon me

To lie in the lull of the sand-sequestered billows:

 

Then take the life I have called my own

And to the liquid universe deliver;

            Loosening my spirit’s zone,

Wrap round me as thy limbs the wind, the light, the river.

In context of the passage overall, the use of the underlined and bolded phrase “have called” in the last stanza serves what purpose?

Possible Answers:

The use of “have called” in reference to “this life” suggests that the speaker is, in fact, dead, and that the poem is addressed from beyond the grave

In reference to “this life,” the “have called my own” construction suggests that the speaker’s sense of a rigid, personally defined self is illusory in the face a fluid and “liquid universe”

The use of “have called” in reference to “this life” reveals that the speaker is actually speaking on behalf of Death, not to it. This revelation functions as the climax of the poem

The use of “have called” suggests that the speaker has been deceptive in the past, and alerts the reader, for the first time, that the speaker may be unreliable in his or her statements

In reference to “this life,” the “have called my own” construction suggests that the speaker is not ready to die, and actively resents death’s power to override his or her will

Correct answer:

In reference to “this life,” the “have called my own” construction suggests that the speaker’s sense of a rigid, personally defined self is illusory in the face a fluid and “liquid universe”

Explanation:

The element in this construction is “called,” by saying that s/he has merely “called” his or her life his or her own the speaker is suggesting that this is not actually the case. This strongly defined sense of self is overridden by the poem's focus on the abstract aspects of death, and the “liquid universe.”

The use of “called” brings into question only the speaker’s accuracy in having “called this life [his or her] own”, not his or her reliability as a speaker in the poem overall; it does not suggest that he or she is already dead, nor does it call into question Death’s power to end his or her life. 

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