Common Core: 10th Grade English Language Arts : Analyze How Textual Structure, Order of Events, and Timelines Create Meaning: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.9-10.5

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for Common Core: 10th Grade English Language Arts

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All Common Core: 10th Grade English Language Arts Resources

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Example Questions

Example Question #5 : Reading: Literature

Passage adapted from Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1798)

There passed a weary time. Each throat
Was parched, and glazed each eye.
A weary time! a weary time!
How glazed each weary eye,
When looking westward, I beheld
A something in the sky.

At first it seemed a little speck,
And then it seemed a mist:
It moved and moved, and took at last
A certain shape, I wist.

A speck, a mist, a shape, I wist!
And still it neared and neared:
As if it dodged a water-sprite,
It plunged and tacked and veered.

With throats unslaked, with black lips baked,
We could not laugh nor wail;
Through utter drought all dumb we stood!
I bit my arm, I sucked the blood,
And cried, A sail! a sail!

With throats unslaked, with black lips baked,
Agape they heard me call:
Gramercy! they for joy did grin,
And all at once their breath drew in,
As they were drinking all.

See! see! (I cried) she tacks no more!
Hither to work us weal;
Without a breeze, without a tide,
She steadies with upright keel!

The western wave was all a-flame
The day was well nigh done!
Almost upon the western wave
Rested the broad bright Sun;
When that strange shape drove suddenly
Betwixt us and the Sun.

And straight the Sun was flecked with bars,
(Heaven's Mother send us grace!)
As if through a dungeon-grate he peered,
With broad and burning face.

Alas! (thought I, and my heart beat loud)
How fast she nears and nears!
Are those her sails that glance in the Sun,
Like restless gossameres!

Are those her ribs through which the Sun
Did peer, as through a grate?
And is that Woman all her crew?
Is that a DEATH? and are there two?
Is DEATH that woman's mate?

Her lips were red, her looks were free,
Her locks were yellow as gold:
Her skin was as white as leprosy,
The Night-Mare LIFE-IN-DEATH was she,
Who thicks man's blood with cold.

The naked hulk alongside came,
And the twain were casting dice;
"The game is done! I've won! I've won!"
Quoth she, and whistles thrice.

The Sun's rim dips; the stars rush out:
At one stride comes the dark;
With far-heard whisper, o'er the sea.
Off shot the spectre-bark.

Introducing the figure of "LIFE IN DEATH" as a far-off "speck" the author _____________.

Possible Answers:

builds narrative tension

None of these

creates dramatic irony

begins the passage in media res

Correct answer:

builds narrative tension


The given in this question is that the figure of "LIFE IN DEATH" is first identified as a far-off "speck," before gradually coming into the full view of the crew. Before we jump too far into this question, let's make sure we understand all of the terms used in our potential answer choices.

To begin a narrative "in media res" is to start that narrative in the middle of the action, with no exposition. An example of an in media res opening is: "A shot rang out. The door slammed. A girl screamed." We don't know which girl, nor even which door, but already we've heard a shot!

Dramatic irony occurs when the audience is aware of something that the characters are not. Thus, when we watch the characters acting obliviously to knowledge we, the audience, have it creates dramatic irony. For instance, if one knows that Romeo and Juliet are doomed to die at the end of the play, all of their actions throughout the play create dramatic irony, as they are acting without that knowledge.

Narrative tension can be roughly defined as suspense. It is tension created by the withholding of information from the audience.

The passage does NOT begin in media res, as the very first thing that happens is waiting ("pass[ing] a weary time")! Nor is dramatic irony created, as the audience is equally in the dark about what the far-off speck is as are the characters. So, the question we must settle now is simple. Does starting the figure of "LIFE IN DEATH" as an obscure far-away object that must be guessed at before finally being revealed create narrative tension, or not?

The answer is that it does. Because the object is obscure to the narrator, the other characters, and the audience, a feeling of suspense is created as we, and the characters, must guess as the object slowly approaches, rather than knowing exactly what the object is the whole time.

Example Question #6 : Reading: Literature

Adapted from Edgar Allen Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym (1838)

Upon my return to the United States a few months ago, after the extraordinary series of adventure in the South Seas and elsewhere, of which an account is given in the following pages, accident threw me into the society of several gentlemen in Richmond, Va., who felt deep interest in all matters relating to the regions I had visited, and who were constantly urging it upon me, as a duty, to give my narrative to the public. I had several reasons, however, for declining to do so, some of which were of a nature altogether private, and concern no person but myself; others not so much so.

One consideration which deterred me was that, having kept no journal during a greater portion of the time in which I was absent, I feared I should not be able to write, from mere memory, a statement so minute and connected as to have the appearance of that truth it would really possess, barring only the natural and unavoidable exaggeration to which all of us are prone when detailing events which have had powerful influence in exciting the imaginative faculties.

Another reason was, that the incidents to be narrated were of a nature so positively marvellous that, unsupported as my assertions must necessarily be (except by the evidence of a single individual, and he a half-breed Indian), I could only hope for belief among my family, and those of my friends who have had reason, through life, to put faith in my veracity-the probability being that the public at large would regard what I should put forth as merely an impudent and ingenious fiction. A distrust in my own abilities as a writer was, nevertheless, one of the principal causes which prevented me from complying with the suggestions of my advisers.

Among those gentlemen in Virginia who expressed the greatest interest in my statement, more particularly in regard to that portion of it which related to the Antarctic Ocean, was Mr. Poe, lately editor of the "Southern Literary Messenger," a monthly magazine, published by Mr. Thomas W. White, in the city of Richmond. He strongly advised me, among others, to prepare at once a full account of what I had seen and undergone, and trust to the shrewdness and common-sense of the public-insisting, with great plausibility, that however roughly, as regards mere authorship, my book should be got up, its very uncouthness, if there were any, would give it all the better chance of being received as truth.

Notwithstanding this representation, I did not make up my mind to do as he suggested. He afterward proposed (finding that I would not stir in the matter) that I should allow him to draw up, in his own words, a narrative of the earlier portion of my adventures, from facts afforded by myself, publishing it in the "Southern Messenger" under the garb of fiction. To this, perceiving no objection, I consented, stipulating only that my real name should be retained. Two numbers of the pretended fiction appeared, consequently, in the "Messenger" for January and February (1837), and, in order that it might certainly be regarded as fiction, the name of Mr. Poe was affixed to the articles in the table of contents of the magazine.

The manner in which this ruse was received has induced me at length to undertake a regular compilation and publication of the adventures in question; for I found that, in spite of the air of fable which had been so ingeniously thrown around that portion of my statement which appeared in the "Messenger" (without altering or distorting a single fact), the public were still not at all disposed to receive it as fable, and several letters were sent to Mr. P.'s address, distinctly expressing a conviction to the contrary. I thence concluded that the facts of my narrative would prove of such a nature as to carry with them sufficient evidence of their own authenticity, and that I had consequently little to fear on the score of popular incredulity.

This exposé being made, it will be seen at once how much of what follows I claim to be my own writing; and it will also be understood that no fact is misrepresented in the first few pages which were written by Mr. Poe. Even to those readers who have not seen the "Messenger," it will be unnecessary to point out where his portion ends and my own commences; the difference in point of style will be readily perceived.


-A.G Pym

What event inspired the narrator to write the passage? 

Possible Answers:

Poe's publication of a fictionalized version of his adventures

The repeated requests of several members of Richmond's high society

Poe's request that he write his adventures for "The Southern Literary Messenger"

His return from sea

Correct answer:

Poe's publication of a fictionalized version of his adventures


This question asks you to accurately understand the order and causal relationship of events described in the passage. Here, you need to display an understanding of the basic chronology of the events described in addition to a nuanced ability to distinguish how this chronology mutually influences the actions of the narrator and other characters.

The first step to answering this question is also the exact same question you should, and naturally will, ask yourself when encountering any text: What happened? The basic events of this story must be ascertained before you can move on to assessing in what order they happened and which events influenced which other events.

The first thing that happened was that the narrator, Arthur Pym, had an "extraordinary series of adventures in the South Seas and elsewhere," about which he was, in spite of his reluctance, encouraged to share with the public in the form of a "memoir." From there, Pym resisted the calls to write down his narrative both out of embarrassment about the quality of his own writing and his concern that the events, to which he was the only witness, would not be believed. Ultimately, Edgar Allen Poe convinced Pym to orally tell him about his adventures, and fictionalized them under his own name. Readers, however, saw through the subterfuge and believed the events recounted. It was at that Pym decided to write down his own version of events.

So, the correct answer is that Poe's publication of a fictionalized version of Pym (the narrator)'s adventures motivated his telling of events in the given passage. 

All Common Core: 10th Grade English Language Arts Resources

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