Common Core: 10th Grade English Language Arts : Analyze the Point of View of a Work of World Literature: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.9-10.6

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Example Question #1 : Analyze The Point Of View Of A Work Of World Literature: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Rl.9 10.6

Passage adapted from Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift (1726)

About four hours after we began our journey, I awaked by a very ridiculous accident; for the carriage being stopped a while, to adjust something that was out of order, two or three of the young natives had the curiosity to see how I looked when I was asleep; they climbed up into the engine, and advancing very softly to my face, one of them, an officer in the guards, put the sharp end of his half–pike a good way up into my left nostril, which tickled my nose like a straw, and made me sneeze violently; whereupon they stole off unperceived, and it was three weeks before I knew the cause of my waking so suddenly. We made a long march the remaining part of the day, and, rested at night with five hundred guards on each side of me, half with torches, and half with bows and arrows, ready to shoot me if I should offer to stir. The next morning at sun–rise we continued our march, and arrived within two hundred yards of the city gates about noon. The emperor, and all his court, came out to meet us; but his great officers would by no means suffer his majesty to endanger his person by mounting on my body.

At the place where the carriage stopped there stood an ancient temple, esteemed to be the largest in the whole kingdom; which, having been polluted some years before by an unnatural murder, was, according to the zeal of those people, looked upon as profane, and therefore had been applied to common use, and all the ornaments and furniture carried away. In this edifice it was determined I should lodge. The great gate fronting to the north was about four feet high, and almost two feet wide, through which I could easily creep. On each side of the gate was a small window, not above six inches from the ground: into that on the left side, the king's smith conveyed fourscore and eleven chains, like those that hang to a lady's watch in Europe, and almost as large, which were locked to my left leg with six–and–thirty padlocks. Over against this temple, on the other side of the great highway, at twenty feet distance, there was a turret at least five feet high. Here the emperor ascended, with many principal lords of his court, to have an opportunity of viewing me, as I was told, for I could not see them. It was reckoned that above a hundred thousand inhabitants came out of the town upon the same errand; and, in spite of my guards, I believe there could not be fewer than ten thousand at several times, who mounted my body by the help of ladders. But a proclamation was soon issued, to forbid it upon pain of death. When the workmen found it was impossible for me to break loose, they cut all the strings that bound me; whereupon I rose up, with as melancholy a disposition as ever I had in my life. But the noise and astonishment of the people, at seeing me rise and walk, are not to be expressed. The chains that held my left leg were about two yards long, and gave me not only the liberty of walking backwards and forwards in a semicircle, but, being fixed within four inches of the gate, allowed me to creep in, and lie at my full length in the temple.

When I found myself on my feet, I looked about me, and must confess I never beheld a more entertaining prospect. The country around appeared like a continued garden, and the enclosed fields, which were generally forty feet square, resembled so many beds of flowers. These fields were intermingled with woods of half a stang, and the tallest trees, as I could judge, appeared to be seven feet high. I viewed the town on my left hand, which looked like the painted scene of a city in a theatre.

I had been for some hours extremely pressed by the necessities of nature; which was no wonder, it being almost two days since I had last disburdened myself. I was under great difficulties between urgency and shame. The best expedient I could think of, was to creep into my house, which I accordingly did; and shutting the gate after me, I went as far as the length of my chain would suffer, and discharged my body of that uneasy load. But this was the only time I was ever guilty of so uncleanly an action; for which I cannot but hope the candid reader will give some allowance, after he has maturely and impartially considered my case, and the distress I was in. From this time my constant practice was, as soon as I rose, to perform that business in open air, at the full extent of my chain; and due care was taken every morning before company came, that the offensive matter should be carried off in wheel–barrows, by two servants appointed for that purpose. I would not have dwelt so long upon a circumstance that, perhaps, at first sight, may appear not very momentous, if I had not thought it necessary to justify my character, in point of cleanliness, to the world; which, I am told, some of my maligners have been pleased, upon this and other occasions, to call in question.

This passage is written from a _______________ point of view.

Possible Answers:

first person

second person

third person


Correct answer:

first person


This question primarily interrogates your knowledge of the potential narrative points of view and your ability to analyze and apply that knowledge to a text.

The first thing to do here is to define all of the given answer options. A first person point of view is written from the individual perspective of a narrating character, as if they are a person speaking about themselves. "I love biscuits," is an example of this narrative POV.

Second person uses "you" as its primary mode of address. "You love biscuits," being the example. This is by far the least common narrative POV although it has still been used in many works of fiction and poetry (a notable example being Jay McInerney's Bright Lights Big City (1984)).

Third person POV talks about the characters in a story using their names or appropriate pronouns. "Kevin and Christopher both said that they loved biscuits," is our third person example. Now, there are several different kinds of 3rd person narration, among them "omniscient," which refers to a narrative in which the 3rd person narrator has access to the thoughts and perspectives of all characters. For example, "Kevin and Christopher both said that they loved biscuits, but Christopher only did so to make Kelly feel better, and he only did that because he carried guilt from an incident where he accidentally hit his sister with a rock when he was very young." An objective narrator has no access to any character's history or inner life, and a semi-omniscient narrator is one who has total access to only a limited number (usually one) of the character's perspectives. 

Now, let's turn to the passage, keeping a keen out for "I"s and "you"s (remember that first person narrators can also directly address the audience!). Right away we see an "I" ("I awaked"), a structure that re-occurs throughout the text. This is clearly first person narration.

Example Question #1 : Analyze The Point Of View Of A Work Of World Literature: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Rl.9 10.6

Adapted from John Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn" (1819)
Thou still unravish'd bride of quietness, 
       Thou foster-child of silence and slow time, 
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express 
       A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme: 
What leaf-fring'd legend haunts about thy shape 
       Of deities or mortals, or of both, 
               In Tempe or the dales of Arcady? 
       What men or gods are these? What maidens loth? 
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape? 
               What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy? 
Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard 
       Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on; 
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear'd, 
       Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone: 
Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave 
       Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare; 
               Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss, 
Though winning near the goal yet, do not grieve; 
       She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss, 
               For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair! 
Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed 
         Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu; 
And, happy melodist, unwearied, 
         For ever piping songs for ever new; 
More happy love! more happy, happy love! 
         For ever warm and still to be enjoy'd, 
                For ever panting, and for ever young; 
All breathing human passion far above, 
         That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy'd, 
                A burning forehead, and a parching tongue. 
Who are these coming to the sacrifice? 
         To what green altar, O mysterious priest, 
Lead'st thou that heifer lowing at the skies, 
         And all her silken flanks with garlands drest? 
What little town by river or sea shore, 
         Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel, 
                Is emptied of this folk, this pious morn? 
And, little town, thy streets for evermore 
         Will silent be; and not a soul to tell 
                Why thou art desolate, can e'er return. 
O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede 
         Of marble men and maidens overwrought, 
With forest branches and the trodden weed; 
         Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought 
As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral! 
         When old age shall this generation waste, 
                Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe 
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st, 
         "Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all 
               Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."

The bolded and underlined words are, within the logic of the poem, said by whom?

Possible Answers:

The figures painted onto the Urn

The artist who made the Urn.

The author

The Grecian Urn itself

Correct answer:

The figures painted onto the Urn


The section of text in quotation marks is considered direct speech: this means that the words are being specifically said by a figure and quoted by the author or speaker. Quotation marks mean that the phrase in question is not just being said by the narrator but by an actual character, or figures with a point of view.

So, who is talking? The evidence for this is found entirely in the final stanza, so let's restrict our attention to this stanza alone.

Example Question #2 : Analyze The Point Of View Of A Work Of World Literature: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Rl.9 10.6

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

This passage is told from the point of view of _______________.

Possible Answers:

an omniscient narrator

a fictional narrator

the author, Arthur Pym

the author, Edgar Allen Poe

Correct answer:

a fictional narrator


This question is a bit tricky, as it asks you to assess the narrative point of view of an intentionally absurd and confusing passage, in which the author is treated as a character. First up, we know that the passage is written by Edgar Allen Poe, BUT this has no bearing on the narrative point of view of the actual passage. Authors of fiction most often are specifically not writing from their own perspective, even if they are using the first person. Most often a first person fictional narrative will be done from the perspective of a fictional character. The key to solving this question is to understand the difference between an author and a narrator.

A narrator is a figure who, within the logic of the passage, tells the story to the audience. The author is the person who wrote and received credit for writing the overall work in the real world. So, an author uses a narrator to tell a fictional story from a particular point of view. Remember that key distinction, the narrator is a tool that exists within the book written by the author. Narrators don't need to exist in real life, authors do.

So, we know that the author is not "Arthur Pym," purely from the citation at the heading of the passage. Remember, the title is a part of the fictional world of the passage, but the citation of the author is real. The work is called The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, but the author is Edgar Allen Poe. Right away, we can eliminate the option that claims Pym is the author of the work.

Now, we must figure out if Poe is using a narrator's perspective or his own. We can see that the passage uses a first person "I," but then later mentions Edgar Allen Poe by name, in the third person. Aha! We can now see that Poe is both the author and a character talked about by the narrator, but he cannot be the narrator himself. So, let's eliminate that option.

All we have left to do to solve this question is to figure out whether the narrator is omniscient. An omniscient narrator knows everything about a story, and has access to every character's thoughts. Such narrators are almost always third person narrators, and usually do not appear in the actual story. Here, we have a first person narrator who has access only to his own thoughts and opinions. He is, however, a fictional character.

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