Assuming Causes and Predicting Effects Help (page 2)
Introduction to Causes
Have you ever regretted just "telling it like it is"? Many times, you can't come right out and say what you'd like, but like writers, you can get your ideas across through implication or inference.
This lesson focuses on two specific types of implication: reading between the lines to determine cause and reading between the lines to predict effects.
In case you need a reminder: A cause is the person or thing that makes something happen or produces an effect. An effect is the change that occurs as a result of some action or cause. Cause tells us why something happened; effect tells us what happened after a cause (or series of causes).
Determining Implied Causes
In order to see how to determine causes that are implied rather than stated, look at the following brief fictional passage. Read the passage carefully and actively. After you make your observations, see if you can use the writer's clues to determine why the characters are fighting.
Anne sat with her feet up on the couch, drinking a soda. She heard footsteps by the front door. Brenda was right on time, as usual. Never a minute early or late—for her, everything was very exact.
Anne placed her feet on the floor, reached for the remote, and turned off the television. She knew Brenda would demand her complete attention. She knew Brenda would hang up her coat in the closet by the door (third hanger from the left) and then head to the kitchen for her daily inspection (exactly seven steps). She knew this because they had been roommates for six months. Taking a deep breath, she thought about what she would say to Brenda. She waited and watched from her spot on the couch.
A moment later, Brenda stepped into the kitchen and surveyed the scene. Anne watched her expression, watched her eyes focus on the sink, and watched her face harden when she saw the dishes piled high. Pointing to the dishes, Brenda said disappointedly, "I don't believe what I'm seeing. I thought we agreed to share the responsibilities. I thought it was your turn to clean the kitchen this week?"
"I haven't gotten to them yet," Anne replied. "I've been really busy. Relax. I've got all night." She walked into the kitchen and added her empty glass to the top of the pile.
Brenda fumed. "You know I'm having company tonight! Somehow I thought you would have done your share in the kitchen. If we want to remain roommates, things have to change. "
The phone rang, and Anne darted to answer it. Brenda said in the background, "Tell them to call back; we need to settle this now. I told you I'm having company soon."
Anne ignored Brenda's comment and continued to engage in conversation with a good friend of hers. "Did I ever tell you about the time when …"
Look carefully at the dialogue between these two characters. What do they say to each other? How is it said? What other clues from the author can you find in this passage to help you understand the cause of their conflict? List your observations.
Determining Implied Causes Practice and Answers
- Why does Brenda get angry?
- because Anne is unfriendly
- because she had a bad day at work
- because Anne didn't do the dishes
- because Anne is lazy
- Why didn't Anne do the dishes?
- She had just arrived home.
- She wanted to start a fight.
- She was too lazy.
- She wants Brenda to get a new roommate.
- What does Anne do that shows she doesn't intend to shoulder her share of the responsibilities?
- She turns off the television.
- She begins to wash the dishes in the sink.
- She always helps around the house.
- She talks on the phone with a good friend.
- c. Brenda's face "hardens" with anger when she sees the dishes in the sink. You can tell she expects the kitchen to be clean when she comes home. Anne waits for Brenda to begin her "daily inspection," and when she walks in, she looks around the kitchen as if she's inspecting it. Then she sees the dishes and her face hardens. She asks why the dishes are still in the sink. Further, she reminds Anne about the company she is expecting.
- b. You can tell Anne is not worried about Brenda's reaction because she is watching television instead of cleaning the kitchen. She knows Brenda is going to check the kitchen and that Brenda is going to be mad about the dishes when she sees them. As Anne waits, she thinks about what she is going to say to Brenda.
- d. Anne's actions speak loudly. She answers the phone and discontinues a conversation that is important if the two of them intend to remain roommates.
TIP: Remember, in some stories the effect can be witnessed before the cause, while in other stories the cause is presented before the reader witnesses its effects.
- Effect followed by cause: A withering natural landscape that has been badly damaged by environmental toxins is vividly described before the cause of the devastation is explained.
- Effect followed by cause: A shattered window is discovered before the details about the cause of the breakage are revealed.
- Cause followed by effect: A professor discovers that her student has been cheating on exams and fi les a disciplinary complaint the next day.
- Cause followed by effect: A person starts eating extra portions of fast food and has to purchase larger pants to accommodate an expanding waistline.
Finding Implied Effects
Just as writers can imply cause, they can also suggest effects. In the practice passage you just read, Anne clearly had a specific goal. She purposely decided not to do the dishes in an act of rebellion. Why? You know a little bit about Anne and Brenda from the passage. Use that knowledge to answer the following question. What do you think Anne was hoping to achieve? What effect do you think she was looking for?
- Brenda would do the dishes herself for once.
- Brenda would get herself a new roommate.
- Brenda would stop being so neat and so regimented.
How can you tell that number 3 is the best answer? You have to look carefully at the passage. Anne says, "Relax. I've got all night." But Brenda has her own priorities. She says she is expecting company. Anne responds by ignoring her and turning to a phone conversation.
The passage doesn't directly say so, but from these clues, you can conclude that Anne's personality is more relaxed than Brenda's. That's why she didn't do the dishes and that's also why she gladly took a phone call.
But will she get the effect she hoped for? Take another look at the passage, paying close attention to the end. What do you think? Will Anne get her wish? Will Brenda change her ways? Why do you think so?
Most likely, Anne won't get her wish. How can you tell? The end of the passage offers a strong clue. Brenda clearly wants to resolve the situation, but she can't compete with the telephone and probably not with Anne's relaxed personality.
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