Common Core: 11th Grade English Language Arts : Common Core: 11th Grade English Language Arts

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for Common Core: 11th Grade English Language Arts

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Example Question #1 : Common Core: 11th Grade English Language Arts

Passage adapted from Othello by William Shakespeare (1604)

 IAGO: Three great ones of the city,                                                  

In personal suit to make me his lieutenant,

Off-capp'd to him: and, by the faith of man,

I know my price, I am worth no worse a place:

But he; as loving his own pride and purposes,                   5

Evades them, with a bombast circumstance

Horribly stuff'd with epithets of war;

And, in conclusion,

Nonsuits my mediators; for, 'Certes,' says he,

'I have already chose my officer.'                                     10

And what was he?

Forsooth, a great arithmetician,

One Michael Cassio, a Florentine,

A fellow almost damn'd in a fair wife;

That never set a squadron in the field,                            15

Nor the division of a battle knows

More than a spinster; unless the bookish theoric,

Wherein the toga’d consuls can propose

As masterly as he: mere prattle, without practise,

Is all his soldiership. But he, sir, had the election:            20

And I, of whom his eyes had seen the proof

At Rhodes, at Cyprus and on other grounds

Christian and heathen, must be be-lee'd and calm'd

By debitor and creditor: this counter-caster,

He, in good time, must his lieutenant be,                        25

And I—God bless the mark!—his Moorship's ancient.

From the language of the passage, which of the following is a reasonable inference to draw about the speaker?

Possible Answers:

He is near retirement

He is well-educated

He is older than Michael Cassio

He is young, but unduly experience and accomplished for a soldier his age

Correct answer:

He is older than Michael Cassio

Explanation:

The key here is to look at the overall tone and language of Iago's speech, as well as the limitations placed on your inferences by the literal content of what he's saying. Iago certainly emphasizes his experience and refers to himself as Othello's "ancient," so the answer choice characterizing him as "young" can be eliminated. About that "ancient," Iago is not literally calling himself ancient, but rather is characterizing him as a part of Othello's past, since he has named Cassio his lieutenant (it's more like he's saying that he's old news, as opposed to an old man). Iago actively uses Cassio's education as a way to denigrate him, so it is not reasonable to infer that Iago himself is highly educated. Ultimately, although he never states it, the most reasonable inference to make here is that Iago is older than Michael Cassio. Iago's emphasis on Cassio's lack of experience and his own long, hard won experience, makes the inference that Iago is older than Cassio a reasonable, if not directly stated, inference.

Example Question #2 : Common Core: 11th Grade English Language Arts

Passage adapted from "Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street" by Herman Melville (1853)

I am a rather elderly man. The nature of my avocations for the last thirty years has brought me into more than ordinary contact with what would seem an interesting and somewhat singular set of men, of whom as yet nothing that I know of has ever been written—I mean the law-copyists or scriveners. I have known very many of them, professionally and privately, and if I pleased, could relate divers histories, at which good-natured gentlemen might smile, and sentimental souls might weep. But I waive the biographies of all other scriveners for a few passages in the life of Bartleby, who was a scrivener of the strangest I ever saw or heard of. While of other law-copyists I might write the complete life, of Bartleby nothing of that sort can be done. I believe that no materials exist for a full and satisfactory biography of this man. It is an irreparable loss to literature. Bartleby was one of those beings of whom nothing is ascertainable, except from the original sources, and in his case those are very small. What my own astonished eyes saw of Bartleby, that is all I know of him, except, indeed, one vague report which will appear in the sequel.

Ere introducing the scrivener, as he first appeared to me, it is fit I make some mention of myself, my employees, my business, my chambers, and general surroundings; because some such description is indispensable to an adequate understanding of the chief character about to be presented. 

Imprimis: I am a man who, from his youth upwards, has been filled with a profound conviction that the easiest way of life is the best. Hence, though I belong to a profession proverbially energetic and nervous, even to turbulence, at times, yet nothing of that sort have I ever suffered to invade my peace. I am one of those unambitious lawyers who never addresses a jury, or in any way draws down public applause; but in the cool tranquility of a snug retreat, do a snug business among rich men's bonds and mortgages and title-deeds. All who know me, consider me an eminently safe man. The late John Jacob Astor, a personage little given to poetic enthusiasm, had no hesitation in pronouncing my first grand point to be prudence; my next, method. I do not speak it in vanity, but simply record the fact, that I was not unemployed in my profession by the late John Jacob Astor; a name which, I admit, I love to repeat, for it hath a rounded and orbicular sound to it, and rings like unto bullion. I will freely add, that I was not insensible to the late John Jacob Astor's good opinion.

From the content of the passage, the reader can infer that Bartleby is ______________.

Possible Answers:

a doctor

None of the other answers can be inferred from the content of the passage

an accountant

a young man

Correct answer:

None of the other answers can be inferred from the content of the passage

Explanation:

The passage provides no additional information about Bartleby, except that he was an odd scrivener who we know little about beyond what the narrator implies. The passage deliberately keeps information about Bartleby scant, and spends a good deal of time discussing his work as a scrivener, which is defined within the passage as a "law copyist," a clerical position. It is extremely unlikely that Bartleby would have a clerical job, and on the side be working in any of the other professions referenced. While the text does not specifically preclude Bartleby's youth, it also does not make any direct reference to his age. In order to choose an answer to this question one must be able to find specific content in the text that could be directly tied to the inference.

Example Question #1 : Find And Analyze Two Or More Themes; Objective Summary Of The Text: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Rl.11 12.2

Passage adapted from "Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street" by Herman Melville (1853)

I am a rather elderly man. The nature of my avocations for the last thirty years has brought me into more than ordinary contact with what would seem an interesting and somewhat singular set of men, of whom as yet nothing that I know of has ever been written—I mean the law-copyists or scriveners. I have known very many of them, professionally and privately, and if I pleased, could relate divers histories, at which good-natured gentlemen might smile, and sentimental souls might weep. But I waive the biographies of all other scriveners for a few passages in the life of Bartleby, who was a scrivener of the strangest I ever saw or heard of. While of other law-copyists I might write the complete life, of Bartleby nothing of that sort can be done. I believe that no materials exist for a full and satisfactory biography of this man. It is an irreparable loss to literature. Bartleby was one of those beings of whom nothing is ascertainable, except from the original sources, and in his case those are very small. What my own astonished eyes saw of Bartleby, that is all I know of him, except, indeed, one vague report which will appear in the sequel.

Ere introducing the scrivener, as he first appeared to me, it is fit I make some mention of myself, my employees, my business, my chambers, and general surroundings; because some such description is indispensable to an adequate understanding of the chief character about to be presented. 

Imprimis: I am a man who, from his youth upwards, has been filled with a profound conviction that the easiest way of life is the best. Hence, though I belong to a profession proverbially energetic and nervous, even to turbulence, at times, yet nothing of that sort have I ever suffered to invade my peace. I am one of those unambitious lawyers who never addresses a jury, or in any way draws down public applause; but in the cool tranquility of a snug retreat, do a snug business among rich men's bonds and mortgages and title-deeds. All who know me, consider me an eminently safe man. The late John Jacob Astor, a personage little given to poetic enthusiasm, had no hesitation in pronouncing my first grand point to be prudence; my next, method. I do not speak it in vanity, but simply record the fact, that I was not unemployed in my profession by the late John Jacob Astor; a name which, I admit, I love to repeat, for it hath a rounded and orbicular sound to it, and rings like unto bullion. I will freely add, that I was not insensible to the late John Jacob Astor's good opinion.

What theme is established in the third paragraph?

Possible Answers:

Justice and its complex relationship to social class

Social class and its tense relationship with the professional world of lawyers

Passion and its direct relationship to professional failure

Caution and its relationship to ambition

Correct answer:

Caution and its relationship to ambition

Explanation:

The third paragraph sees a turn, from a discussion of storytelling in general and Bartleby the scrivener in particular, to a broader, more personal (for the narrator) discussion of the narrator's "profound conviction that the easiest way of life is the best," and the ways in which this conviction has put him into direct contrast with most of his "energetic and nervous" profession. The narrator directly frames himself as an "eminently safe man," asserting that safety, or caution, is his first priority. The narrator goes to great lengths to frame himself as a cautious person, in contrast to other more passionate and possibly ambitious lawyers. But, the introduction of the figure of John Jacob Astor, reveals that the narrator is, in fact, quite ambitious and vain, not only about his cautious nature but his professional accomplishments as well. "Social class and its tense relationship with the professional world of lawyers" is a tempting option, except that there is no "tension" obvious in the narrator's description of this relationship, he unambiguously seems to feel proud of it. Since he has bragged about both is lack of passion and his professional success, we can eliminate the option that frames a lack of passion as leading to failure. In spite of the narrator's profession there is literally no mention of justice anywhere in the passage.

The only answer that accurately reflects the theme introduced in the paragraph is "caution and its relationship to ambition." Important to note here is that this is an answer that, in addition to mentioning the two main ideas introduced here, makes no ambitious claims about the relationship between these ideas, merely that such a relationship exists.

Example Question #3 : Common Core: 11th Grade English Language Arts

Passage adapted from "Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street" by Herman Melville (1853)

I am a rather elderly man. The nature of my avocations for the last thirty years has brought me into more than ordinary contact with what would seem an interesting and somewhat singular set of men, of whom as yet nothing that I know of has ever been written—I mean the law-copyists or scriveners. I have known very many of them, professionally and privately, and if I pleased, could relate divers histories, at which good-natured gentlemen might smile, and sentimental souls might weep. But I waive the biographies of all other scriveners for a few passages in the life of Bartleby, who was a scrivener of the strangest I ever saw or heard of. While of other law-copyists I might write the complete life, of Bartleby nothing of that sort can be done. I believe that no materials exist for a full and satisfactory biography of this man. It is an irreparable loss to literature. Bartleby was one of those beings of whom nothing is ascertainable, except from the original sources, and in his case those are very small. What my own astonished eyes saw of Bartleby, that is all I know of him, except, indeed, one vague report which will appear in the sequel.

Ere introducing the scrivener, as he first appeared to me, it is fit I make some mention of myself, my employees, my business, my chambers, and general surroundings; because some such description is indispensable to an adequate understanding of the chief character about to be presented. 

Imprimis: I am a man who, from his youth upwards, has been filled with a profound conviction that the easiest way of life is the best. Hence, though I belong to a profession proverbially energetic and nervous, even to turbulence, at times, yet nothing of that sort have I ever suffered to invade my peace. I am one of those unambitious lawyers who never addresses a jury, or in any way draws down public applause; but in the cool tranquility of a snug retreat, do a snug business among rich men's bonds and mortgages and title-deeds. All who know me, consider me an eminently safe man. The late John Jacob Astor, a personage little given to poetic enthusiasm, had no hesitation in pronouncing my first grand point to be prudence; my next, method. I do not speak it in vanity, but simply record the fact, that I was not unemployed in my profession by the late John Jacob Astor; a name which, I admit, I love to repeat, for it hath a rounded and orbicular sound to it, and rings like unto bullion. I will freely add, that I was not insensible to the late John Jacob Astor's good opinion.

What is the main effect of the author's choice of a first-person narrator?

Possible Answers:

It frames the narrator's perspective as objective

It allows the text to focus on Bartleby while keeping Bartleby's inner life opaque to the reader

It creates a sudden shift at the end of the passage where the reader realizes that the passage has been focused on Bartleby all along

It focuses the reader's main attention on the narrator

Correct answer:

It allows the text to focus on Bartleby while keeping Bartleby's inner life opaque to the reader

Explanation:

First person narration can often emphasize the perspective and narrative importance of the character whose perspective is directly communicated to the reader. This is not always the case, however. In this passage, we learn a lot of about the narrator (his age, his work, his interest in literature), but we learn all of these details in order to focus and contextualize our understanding of the main focus of the passage: Bartleby. Specifically, the choice of a first person narrator who is external to the main character allows the narration to focus on a character, while keeping that character's background and inner emotional life totally opaque to the reader, shrouding the relevant character in mystery, while also allowing the passage to focus on them. There is no indication in the passage that the narrator's perspective is objective, indeed he spends a good deal of time contextualizing (and thus personalizing) his own unique perspective, making no claims to objectivity. There is not a sudden turn in the focus on Bartleby, as the focus is squarely placed on Bartleby from the first mention of his name midway through the first passage.

Example Question #4 : Common Core: 11th Grade English Language Arts

Passage adapted from "Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street" by Herman Melville (1853)

I am a rather elderly man. The nature of my avocations for the last thirty years has brought me into more than ordinary contact with what would seem an interesting and somewhat singular set of men, of whom as yet nothing that I know of has ever been written—I mean the law-copyists or scriveners. I have known very many of them, professionally and privately, and if I pleased, could relate divers histories, at which good-natured gentlemen might smile, and sentimental souls might weep. But I waive the biographies of all other scriveners for a few passages in the life of Bartleby, who was a scrivener of the strangest I ever saw or heard of. While of other law-copyists I might write the complete life, of Bartleby nothing of that sort can be done. I believe that no materials exist for a full and satisfactory biography of this man. It is an irreparable loss to literature. Bartleby was one of those beings of whom nothing is ascertainable, except from the original sources, and in his case those are very small. What my own astonished eyes saw of Bartleby, that is all I know of him, except, indeed, one vague report which will appear in the sequel.

Ere introducing the scrivener, as he first appeared to me, it is fit I make some mention of myself, my employees, my business, my chambers, and general surroundings; because some such description is indispensable to an adequate understanding of the chief character about to be presented. 

Imprimis: I am a man who, from his youth upwards, has been filled with a profound conviction that the easiest way of life is the best. Hence, though I belong to a profession proverbially energetic and nervous, even to turbulence, at times, yet nothing of that sort have I ever suffered to invade my peace. I am one of those unambitious lawyers who never addresses a jury, or in any way draws down public applause; but in the cool tranquility of a snug retreat, do a snug business among rich men's bonds and mortgages and title-deeds. All who know me, consider me an eminently safe man. The late John Jacob Astor, a personage little given to poetic enthusiasm, had no hesitation in pronouncing my first grand point to be prudence; my next, method. I do not speak it in vanity, but simply record the fact, that I was not unemployed in my profession by the late John Jacob Astor; a name which, I admit, I love to repeat, for it hath a rounded and orbicular sound to it, and rings like unto bullion. I will freely add, that I was not insensible to the late John Jacob Astor's good opinion.

What is the effect of the choice of the highlighted word "astonished"?

Possible Answers:

By modifying the word "eyes" it creates an instance of onomatopoeia

None of these

By modifying the word "eyes" it creates an instance of personification in the text

In contrast with the use of "vague" later in the same sentence, it creates an instance of hyperbole

Correct answer:

By modifying the word "eyes" it creates an instance of personification in the text

Explanation:

This question tests the test writer's ability to figure out the role of a single word in the formation of a literary device. So, the first step should be to establish the meaning of each of the literary devices named in our answer options. "Personification" occurs when a non-human object or idea has a human emotion or action ascribed to it. "Hyperbole" is extreme exaggeration for literary effect. "Onomatopoeia" refers to words whose sound mirrors their meaning (eg."bang"). Since onomatopoeia is a word that does not require pairing with another word for its effect, we can immediately eliminate this answer choice, which references the pairing of the highlighted word with "eyes." Hyperbole is a tempting option, since "astonished" is a strong word that will often be used to exaggerate; however, this answer option hinges on "astonished" being paired with "vague" later in the sentence, but "vague" is used in a different clause, and is referencing a "report" rather than the author's own impression. This leaves either the option that none of the answer choices is correct, or that the pairing of "eyes" with "astonished" creates a personification...which it does! While "eyes" are a part of the human body, they are not themselves capable of feeling "astonished," which is an emotion. This word pairing could also be argued to be a synecdoche (a part standing for a whole), but this does not preclude the pairing also forming a personification. Eyes, after all, are an object incapable of feeling, so to describe them as astonished is, indeed, an instance of personification.

Example Question #5 : Common Core: 11th Grade English Language Arts

Passage adapted from Othello by William Shakespeare (1604)

 IAGO: Three great ones of the city,                                                  

In personal suit to make me his lieutenant,

Off-capp'd to him: and, by the faith of man,

I know my price, I am worth no worse a place:

But he; as loving his own pride and purposes,                   5

Evades them, with a bombast circumstance

Horribly stuff'd with epithets of war;

And, in conclusion,

Nonsuits my mediators; for, 'Certes,' says he,

'I have already chose my officer.'                                     10

And what was he?

Forsooth, a great arithmetician,

One Michael Cassio, a Florentine,

A fellow almost damn'd in a fair wife;

That never set a squadron in the field,                            15

Nor the division of a battle knows

More than a spinster; unless the bookish theoric,

Wherein the toga’d consuls can propose

As masterly as he: mere prattle, without practise,

Is all his soldiership. But he, sir, had the election:            20

And I, of whom his eyes had seen the proof

At Rhodes, at Cyprus and on other grounds

Christian and heathen, must be be-lee'd and calm'd

By debitor and creditor: this counter-caster,

He, in good time, must his lieutenant be,                        25

And I—God bless the mark!—his Moorship's ancient.

The speaker compares Michael Cassio to “the bookish theoric” in order to demonstrate __________.

Possible Answers:

that he favors action over thought

that he is considering becoming a professor

that he will be successful as a Lieutenant

that he is not adequately trained as a soldier

Correct answer:

that he is not adequately trained as a soldier

Explanation:

Iago compares Cassio to “the bookish theoric” to demonstrate that Cassio is not adequately trained as a soldier. Iago is incensed that Cassio has been selected over him for a military promotion. This outrage is heightened by Iago’s observation that Cassio is unqualified to be a soldier, while he (in his own opinion) is qualified both in terms of his skill and experience. There is no mention that Cassio might be considering a career in academia, or that he has a passion for learning. Instead, the speaker emphasizes Cassio’s thoughtful disposition in order to discredit him as a soldier.

Example Question #6 : Common Core: 11th Grade English Language Arts

Passage adapted from "Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street" by Herman Melville (1853)

I am a rather elderly man. The nature of my avocations for the last thirty years has brought me into more than ordinary contact with what would seem an interesting and somewhat singular set of men, of whom as yet nothing that I know of has ever been written—I mean the law-copyists or scriveners. I have known very many of them, professionally and privately, and if I pleased, could relate divers histories, at which good-natured gentlemen might smile, and sentimental souls might weep. But I waive the biographies of all other scriveners for a few passages in the life of Bartleby, who was a scrivener of the strangest I ever saw or heard of. While of other law-copyists I might write the complete life, of Bartleby nothing of that sort can be done. I believe that no materials exist for a full and satisfactory biography of this man. It is an irreparable loss to literature. Bartleby was one of those beings of whom nothing is ascertainable, except from the original sources, and in his case those are very small. What my own astonished eyes saw of Bartleby, that is all I know of him, except, indeed, one vague report which will appear in the sequel.

Ere introducing the scrivener, as he first appeared to me, it is fit I make some mention of myself, my employees, my business, my chambers, and general surroundings; because some such description is indispensable to an adequate understanding of the chief character about to be presented. 

Imprimis: I am a man who, from his youth upwards, has been filled with a profound conviction that the easiest way of life is the best. Hence, though I belong to a profession proverbially energetic and nervous, even to turbulence, at times, yet nothing of that sort have I ever suffered to invade my peace. I am one of those unambitious lawyers who never addresses a jury, or in any way draws down public applause; but in the cool tranquility of a snug retreat, do a snug business among rich men's bonds and mortgages and title-deeds. All who know me, consider me an eminently safe man. The late John Jacob Astor, a personage little given to poetic enthusiasm, had no hesitation in pronouncing my first grand point to be prudence; my next, method. I do not speak it in vanity, but simply record the fact, that I was not unemployed in my profession by the late John Jacob Astor; a name which, I admit, I love to repeat, for it hath a rounded and orbicular sound to it, and rings like unto bullion. I will freely add, that I was not insensible to the late John Jacob Astor's good opinion.

The underlined portion of the passage is intended to inform the reader that the narrator ____________________.

Possible Answers:

was unemployed due to his lack of ambition and risk-taking

was fired by John Jacob Astor

refused to work for John Jacob Astor

has been employed by John Jacob Astor

Correct answer:

has been employed by John Jacob Astor

Explanation:

The key phrase in this highlighted portion of the passage is "not unemployed." Since "unemployed" is a negative, placing a negative in front of it creates a double negative, rendering the meaning of this phrase positive. "Not unemployed" means employed. This literary device is known as "litotes," and is often used in older canon works of literature (notably Geoffrey Chaucer).

Example Question #7 : Common Core: 11th Grade English Language Arts

Passage adapted from "Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street" by Herman Melville (1853)

I am a rather elderly man. The nature of my avocations for the last thirty years has brought me into more than ordinary contact with what would seem an interesting and somewhat singular set of men, of whom as yet nothing that I know of has ever been written—I mean the law-copyists or scriveners. I have known very many of them, professionally and privately, and if I pleased, could relate divers histories, at which good-natured gentlemen might smile, and sentimental souls might weep. But I waive the biographies of all other scriveners for a few passages in the life of Bartleby, who was a scrivener of the strangest I ever saw or heard of. While of other law-copyists I might write the complete life, of Bartleby nothing of that sort can be done. I believe that no materials exist for a full and satisfactory biography of this man. It is an irreparable loss to literature. Bartleby was one of those beings of whom nothing is ascertainable, except from the original sources, and in his case those are very small. What my own astonished eyes saw of Bartleby, that is all I know of him, except, indeed, one vague report which will appear in the sequel.

Ere introducing the scrivener, as he first appeared to me, it is fit I make some mention of myself, my employees, my business, my chambers, and general surroundings; because some such description is indispensable to an adequate understanding of the chief character about to be presented.

Imprimis: I am a man who, from his youth upwards, has been filled with a profound conviction that the easiest way of life is the best. Hence, though I belong to a profession proverbially energetic and nervous, even to turbulence, at times, yet nothing of that sort have I ever suffered to invade my peace. I am one of those unambitious lawyers who never addresses a jury, or in any way draws down public applause; but in the cool tranquility of a snug retreat, do a snug business among rich men's bonds and mortgages and title-deeds. All who know me, consider me an eminently safe man. The late John Jacob Astor, a personage little given to poetic enthusiasm, had no hesitation in pronouncing my first grand point to be prudence; my next, method. I do not speak it in vanity, but simply record the fact, that I was not unemployed in my profession by the late John Jacob Astor; a name which, I admit, I love to repeat, for it hath a rounded and orbicular sound to it, and rings like unto bullion. I will freely add, that I was not insensible to the late John Jacob Astor's good opinion.

Which is the narrative effect of the highlighted portion of the passage?

Possible Answers:

It introduces the unreliability of memory as a main theme in the passage

It shifts the focus from exposition to plot development

It foregrounds storytelling itself as a main theme in the passage

It signals that the narrator himself, and not Bartleby, is the primary focus on the passage

Correct answer:

It foregrounds storytelling itself as a main theme in the passage

Explanation:

We can start to answer this question by first eliminating two answers that clearly do no reflect the narrative effect of the highlighted passage. Firstly, since the highlighted passage is simply describing and explaining the narrator's style choices in terms of their efficacy in describing Bartleby as a subject, it is not reasonable to say that this passage "signals that the narrator himself, and not Bartleby, is the primary focus of the passage." Secondly, there is no shift from exposition to direct plot development in this passage, and this section of text is itself expositional in nature, making this choice similarly incorrect. So, we are left with two possible options: either the highlighted selection emphasizes storytelling as a main theme in the passage or it introduces the unreliability of memory as a similar such theme. Since the highlighted passage does not even mention memory, and directly describes the narrator's storytelling methods, the correct answer reflects storytelling itself as a main theme in the passage.

Example Question #8 : Common Core: 11th Grade English Language Arts

Passage adapted from "Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street" by Herman Melville (1853)

I am a rather elderly man. The nature of my avocations for the last thirty years has brought me into more than ordinary contact with what would seem an interesting and somewhat singular set of men, of whom as yet nothing that I know of has ever been written—I mean the law-copyists or scriveners. I have known very many of them, professionally and privately, and if I pleased, could relate divers histories, at which good-natured gentlemen might smile, and sentimental souls might weep. But I waive the biographies of all other scriveners for a few passages in the life of Bartleby, who was a scrivener of the strangest I ever saw or heard of. While of other law-copyists I might write the complete life, of Bartleby nothing of that sort can be done. I believe that no materials exist for a full and satisfactory biography of this man. It is an irreparable loss to literature. Bartleby was one of those beings of whom nothing is ascertainable, except from the original sources, and in his case those are very small. What my own astonished eyes saw of Bartleby, that is all I know of him, except, indeed, one vague report which will appear in the sequel.

Ere introducing the scrivener, as he first appeared to me, it is fit I make some mention of myself, my employees, my business, my chambers, and general surroundings; because some such description is indispensable to an adequate understanding of the chief character about to be presented. 

Imprimis: I am a man who, from his youth upwards, has been filled with a profound conviction that the easiest way of life is the best. Hence, though I belong to a profession proverbially energetic and nervous, even to turbulence, at times, yet nothing of that sort have I ever suffered to invade my peace. I am one of those unambitious lawyers who never addresses a jury, or in any way draws down public applause; but in the cool tranquility of a snug retreat, do a snug business among rich men's bonds and mortgages and title-deeds. All who know me, consider me an eminently safe man. The late John Jacob Astor, a personage little given to poetic enthusiasm, had no hesitation in pronouncing my first grand point to be prudence; my next, method. I do not speak it in vanity, but simply record the fact, that I was not unemployed in my profession by the late John Jacob Astor; a name which, I admit, I love to repeat, for it hath a rounded and orbicular sound to it, and rings like unto bullion. I will freely add, that I was not insensible to the late John Jacob Astor's good opinion.

The narrator's "profound conviction that the easiest way of life is the best" is in direct contrast to the principles and actions of which notable character of American letters?

Possible Answers:

Huckleberry Finn from Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn

Nick Carraway from The Great Gatsby

Captain Ahab from Moby Dick

Hester Prynne from The Scarlet Letter

Correct answer:

Captain Ahab from Moby Dick

Explanation:

This question interrogates the test taker's knowledge of canon literature and characters. Note that you do NOT need to have read each of these books in order to answer this question, having even a cursory, summary knowledge of these canon books, or even the archetypes they spawned would be sufficient. Note also that you are looking for the best answer. You may have leftover questions about whether a character somewhat contrasts with this ethos, but you should really be looking for a clear, obvious contrast. In this spirit, the answer here is Captain Ahab, from Melville's most famous novel Moby Dick or The Whale. Even if you just knew anecdotally about this novel, or were familiar with the plot, which concerns Ahab's dogged, doomed quest to kill his white whale, you would know that Ahab, as a figure in American Literature, represents a total opposition from the conviction that the easiest way is the best, since he chooses an obsessive plot against any notion of even reasonable caution or leisure.

Example Question #9 : Common Core: 11th Grade English Language Arts

Passage adapted from Othello by William Shakespeare (1604)

 IAGO: Three great ones of the city,                                                  

In personal suit to make me his lieutenant,

Off-capp'd to him: and, by the faith of man,

I know my price, I am worth no worse a place:

But he; as loving his own pride and purposes,                   5

Evades them, with a bombast circumstance

Horribly stuff'd with epithets of war;

And, in conclusion,

Nonsuits my mediators; for, 'Certes,' says he,

'I have already chose my officer.'                                     10

And what was he?

Forsooth, a great arithmetician,

One Michael Cassio, a Florentine,

A fellow almost damn'd in a fair wife;

That never set a squadron in the field,                       15

Nor the division of a battle knows

More than a spinster; unless the bookish theoric,

Wherein the toga’d consuls can propose

As masterly as he: mere prattle, without practise,

Is all his soldiership. But he, sir, had the election:         20

And I, of whom his eyes had seen the proof

At Rhodes, at Cyprus and on other grounds

Christian and heathen, must be be-lee'd and calm'd

By debitor and creditor: this counter-caster,

He, in good time, must his lieutenant be,                         25

And I—God bless the mark!—his Moorship's ancient.

The speaker’s attitude toward Michael Cassio in the bolded and underlined lines can best be described as __________.

Possible Answers:

envious and indignant

resentful but calm

aggrieved and detached

reverent and admiring

Correct answer:

envious and indignant

Explanation:

The correct answer is “envious and indignant.” The speaker (Iago) makes it clear that he has not been chosen for a position in the military, and that Cassio has been selected instead. Iago is not merely upset and angry; he is envious of  Cassio’s success, and wishes it for himself. Moreover, Iago notes that Cassio has little actual military experience, and is indignant about this fact, deriding Cassio for his book-learning (Cassio is “a great arithmetician” rather than a great soldier). Iago is certainly aggrieved and resentful, but he is neither detached nor calm.

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