Literature and Literacy Criticism Critical Reading Practice Exercises Set 2 (page 2)
Literature and Literacy Criticism Critical Reading
Questions 1–8 are based on the following passage.
In this passage, written in 1925, writer Edith Wharton distinguishes between subjects suitable for short stories and those suitable for novels.
It is sometimes said that a "good subject" for a short story should always be capable of being expanded into a novel.
The principle may be defendable in special cases; but it is certainly a misleading one on which to build any general theory. Every "subject" (in the novelist's sense of the term) must necessarily contain within itself its own dimensions; and one of the fiction-writer's essential gifts is that of discerning whether the subject which presents itself to him, asking for incarnation, is suited to the proportions of a short story or of a novel. If it appears to be adapted to both the chances are that it is inadequate to either.
It would be a great mistake, however, to try to base a hard-and-fast theory on the denial of the rule as on its assertion. Instances of short stories made out of subjects that could have been expanded into a novel, and that are yet typical short stories and not mere stunted novels, will occur to everyone. General rules in art are useful chiefly as a lamp in a mine, or a handrail down a black stairway; they are necessary for the sake of the guidance they give, but it is a mistake, once they are formulated, to be too much in awe of them.
There are at least two reasons why a subject should find expression in novel-form rather than as a tale; but neither is based on the number of what may be conveniently called incidents, or external happenings, which the narrative contains. There are novels of action which might be condensed into short stories without the loss of their distinguishing qualities. The marks of the subject requiring a longer development are, first, the gradual unfolding of the inner life of its characters, and secondly the need of producing in the reader's mind the sense of the lapse of time. Outward events of the most varied and exciting nature may without loss of probability be crowded into a few hours, but moral dramas usually have their roots deep in the soul, their rise far back in time; and the suddenest-seeming clash in which they culminate should be led up to step by step if it is to explain and justify itself.
There are cases, indeed, when the short story may make use of the moral drama at its culmination. If the incident dealt with be one which a single retrospective flash sufficiently lights up, it is qualified for use as a short story; but if the subject be so complex, and its successive phases so interesting, as to justify elaboration, the lapse of time must necessarily be suggested, and the novel-form becomes appropriate.
The effect of compactness and instantaneity sought in the short story is attained mainly by the observance of two "unities"—the old traditional one of time, and that other, more modern and complex, which requires that any rapidly enacted episode shall be seen through only one pair of eyes . . . .
One thing more is needful for the ultimate effect of probability; and that is, never let the character who serves as reflector record anything not naturally within his register. It should be the storyteller's first care to choose this reflecting mind deliberately, as one would choose a building-site, or decide upon the orientation of one's house, and when this is done, to live inside the mind chosen, trying to feel, see and react exactly as the latter would, no more, no less, and, above all, no otherwise. Only thus can the writer avoid attributing incongruities of thought and metaphor to his chosen interpreter.
- In the opening sentence (lines 1–2), the author
- states her main idea.
- states the idea she will disprove.
- presents an example of the point she will prove.
- presents an anecdote to capture the reader's attention.
- presents evidence for her thesis.
- The author's main purpose in this passage is to
- provide guidelines for choosing the narrator in a novel.
- provide tips for making short stories and novels more realistic.
- debunk several myths about writing novels.
- explain why some tales are better for novels than short stories.
- provide strategies for writers to develop ideas for short stories and novels.
- The author believes that rules for writing
- should always be strictly adhered to.
- should only be general guidelines.
- should be revised regularly.
- are just good common sense.
- are too theoretical.
- In lines 15–18 the author uses
- According to the author, which factor(s) determine whether a subject is suitable for a novel instead of a short story?
- the number of incidents in the story
- the need to show the development of the character(s)
- the need to reflect the passage of time
- I only
- I and II only
- II and III only
- I and III only
- all of the above
- In lines 32–37, the author
- contradicts the rule established in the previous paragraph.
- clarifies the rule established in the previous paragraph.
- shows an example of the rule established in the previous paragraph.
- justifies the rule established in the previous paragraph.
- provides a new rule.
- According to the author, two defining characteristics of a short story are
- complexity and probability.
- moral dilemmas and sudden clashes.
- retrospection and justification.
- metaphor and congruity.
- limited time and point of view.
- In line 46, this reflecting mind refers to
- the author.
- the narrator.
- the reader.
- a story's translator.
- a story's editor.
Questions 9–17 are based on the following passage.
This excerpt is from the final scene of the play George Bernard Shaw's 1916 play Pygmalion, when Professor Higgins learns just how well he taught Liza.
HIGGINS: If you're going to be a lady, you'll have to give up feeling neglected if the men you know don't spend half their time sniveling over you and the other half giving you black eyes. If you can't stand the coldness of my sort of life, and the strain of it, go back to the gutter. Work 'til you are more a brute than a human being; and then cuddle and squabble and drink 'til you fall asleep. Oh, it's a fine life, the life of the gutter. It's real: it's warm: it's violent: you can feel it through the thickest skin: you can taste it and smell it without any training or any work. Not like Science and Literature and Classical Music and Philosophy and Art. You find me cold, unfeeling, selfish, don't you? Very well: be off with you to the sort of people you like. Marry some sentimental hog or other with lots of money, and a thick pair of lips to kiss you with and a thick pair of boots to kick you with. If you can't appreciate what you've got, you'd better get what you can appreciate.
LIZA (desperate): Oh, you are a cruel tyrant. I can't talk to you: you turn everything against me: I'm always in the wrong. But you know very well all the time that you're nothing but a bully. You know I can't go back to the gutter, as you call it, and that I have no real friends in the world but you and the Colonel. You know well I couldn't bear to live with a low common man after you two; and it's wicked and cruel of you to insult me by pretending I could. You think I must go back to Wimpole Street because I have nowhere else to go but father's. But don't you be too sure that you have me under your feet to be trampled on and talked down. I'll marry Freddy, I will, as soon as he's able to support me.
HIGGINS (sitting down beside her): Rubbish! You shall marry an ambassador. You shall marry the Governor-General of India or the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, or somebody who wants a deputyqueen. I'm not going to have my masterpiece thrown away on Freddy.
LIZA: You think I like you to say that. But I haven't forgot what you said a minute ago; and I won't be coaxed round as if I was a baby or a puppy. If I can't have kindness, I'll have independence.
HIGGINS: Independence? That's middle class blasphemy. We are all dependent on one another, every soul of us on earth.
LIZA (rising determinedly): I'll let you see whether I'm dependent on you. If you can preach, I can teach. I'll go and be a teacher.
HIGGINS: What'll you teach, in heaven's name?
LIZA: What you taught me. I'll teach phonetics.
HIGGINS: Ha! ha! ha!
LIZA: I'll offer myself as an assistant to Professor Nepean.
HIGGINS (rising in a fury): What! That impostor! that humbug! that toadying ignoramus! Teach him my methods! my discoveries! You take one step in his direction and I'll wring your neck. (He lays hands on her.) Do you hear?
LIZA (defiantly resistant): Wring away. What do I care? I knew you'd strike me some day. (He lets her go, stamping with rage at having forgotten himself, and recoils so hastily that he stumbles back into his seat on the ottoman.) Aha! Now I know how to deal with you. What a fool I was not to think of it before! You can't take away the knowledge you gave me. You said I had a finer ear than you. And I can be civil and kind to people, which is more than you can. Aha! That's done you, Henry Higgins, it has. Now I don't care that (snapping her fingers) for your bullying and your big talk. I'll advertise it in the papers that your duchess is only a flower girl that you taught, and that she'll teach anybody to be a duchess just the same in six months for a thousand guineas. Oh, when I think of myself crawling under your feet and being trampled on and called names, when all the time I had only to lift up my finger to be as good as you, I could just kick myself.
- In lines 1–15, Higgins contrasts the life of the gutter with his sort of life, which is best described as
- the life of an ambassador.
- the life of the rich and famous.
- the life of a tyrant.
- the life of a scholar.
- the life of the working class.
- Wimpole Street (line 23) is most likely
- a fashionable area.
- where Professor Nepean resides.
- where Higgins teaches.
- where Freddy lives.
- where Liza grew up.
- Liza wants Higgins to
- appreciate her work.
- help her find a suitable husband.
- marry her.
- teach her everything he knows.
- treat her with more respect.
- The word common in line 21 means
- shared by two or more.
- In lines 43–46, Higgins proves that
- he is a bully.
- Liza can't teach with Professor Nepean.
- Professor Nepean is a fake.
- he and Liza depend upon each other.
- he knows better than Liza.
- Higgins' use of the word masterpiece in line 30 implies that
- he is an artist.
- he thinks Liza is very beautiful.
- he thinks of Liza as his creation.
- he is in love with Liza.
- Liza is his servant.
- Which of the following best describes what Higgins has taught Liza?
- the history of the English language.
- how to speak and act like someone from the upper class.
- how to be independent of others.
- how to understand literature and philosophy.
- how to appreciate scholarly work.
- In lines 37–61, the main reason Higgins is so upset is because
- Liza threatens to teach his methods to others.
- he realizes he has been a bad teacher.
- he realizes he is as abusive as someone from the gutter.
- he realizes he cannot control Liza.
- he realizes Liza does not love him anymore.
- The passage implies that Liza's most significant transformation in the play is from
- lower class to upper class.
- ignorant to educated.
- oppressed to empowered.
- single to married.
- cold to compassionate.
Questions 18–25 are based on the following passage.
In this excerpt from Charlotte Bronte's novel Jane Eyre, the narrator decides to leave Lowood, the boarding school where she has lived for eight years.
Miss Temple, through all changes, had thus far continued superintendent of the seminary; to her instruction I owed the best part of my acquirements; her friendship and society had been my continual solace: she had stood me in the stead of mother, governess, and, latterly, companion. At this period she married, removed with her husband (a clergyman, an excellent man, almost worthy of such a wife) to a distant county, and consequently was lost to me.
From the day she left I was no longer the same: with her was gone every settled feeling, every association that had made Lowood in some degree a home to me. I had imbibed from her something of her nature and much of her habits: more harmonious thoughts: what seemed better- regulated feelings had become inmates of my mind. I had given in allegiance to duty and order; I was quiet; I believed I was content: to the eyes of others, usually even to my own, I appeared a disciplined and subdued character.
But destiny, in the shape of the Rev. Mr. Nasmyth, came between me and Miss Temple: I saw her in her traveling dress step into a post-chaise, shortly after the marriage ceremony; I watched the chaise mount the hill and disappear beyond its brow; and then retired to my own room, and there spent in solitude the greatest part of the half-holiday granted in honor of the occasion.
I walked about the chamber most of the time. I imagined myself only to be regretting my loss, and thinking how to repair it; but when my reflections concluded, and I looked up and found that the afternoon was gone, and evening far advanced, another discovery dawned on me, namely, that in the interval I had undergone a transforming process; that my mind had put off all it had borrowed of Miss Temple—or rather that she had taken with her the serene atmosphere I had been breathing in her vicinity—and that now I was left in my natural element, and beginning to feel the stirring of old emotions. It did not seem as if a prop were withdrawn, but rather as if a motive were gone; it was not the power to be tranquil which had failed me, but the reason for tranquility was no more. My world had for some years been in Lowood: my experience had been of its rules and systems; now I remembered that the real world was wide, and that a varied field of hopes and fears, of sensations and excitements, awaited those who had courage to go forth into its expanse, to seek real knowledge of life amidst its perils.
I went to my window, opened it, and looked out. There were the two wings of the building; there was the garden; there were the skirts of Lowood; there was the hilly horizon. My eye passed all other objects to rest on those most remote, the blue peaks: it was those I longed to surmount; all within their boundary of rock and heath seemed prisonground, exile limits. I traced the white road winding round the base of one mountain, and vanishing in a gorge between two: how I longed to follow it further! I recalled the time when I had traveled that very road in a coach; I remembered descending that hill at twilight: an age seemed to have elapsed since the day which brought me first to Lowood, and I had never quitted it since. My vacations had all been spent at school: Mrs. Reed had never sent for me to Gateshead; neither she nor any of her family had ever been to visit me. I had had no communication by letter or message with the outer world: school-rules, school-duties, school-habits and notions, and voices, and faces, and phrases, and costumes, and preferences, and antipathies: such was what I knew of existence. And now I felt that it was not enough: I tired of the routine of eight years in one afternoon. I desired liberty; for liberty I gasped; for liberty I uttered a prayer; it seemed scattered on the wind then faintly blowing. I abandoned it and framed a humbler supplication; for change, stimulus: that petition, too, seemed swept off into vague space: "Then," I cried, half desperate, "grant me at least a new servitude!"
- Miss Temple was the narrator's
- I only
- II only
- III only
- I and II
- all of the above
- While Miss Temple was at Lowood, the narrator
- was calm and content.
- was often alone.
- had frequent disciplinary problems.
- longed to leave Lowood.
- felt as if she were in a prison.
- The word inmates in line 12 means
- Mrs. Reed (line 49) is most likely
- the narrator's mother.
- the head mistress of Lowood.
- the narrator's former guardian.
- the narrator's friend.
- a fellow student at Lowood.
- It can be inferred from the passage that life at Lowood was
- very unconventional and modern.
- very structured and isolated.
- harsh and demeaning.
- liberal and carefree.
- urban and sophisticated.
- After Miss Temple's wedding, the narrator
- realizes she wants to experience the world.
- decides that she must get married.
- realizes she can never leave Lowood.
- decides to return to her family at Gateshead.
- determines to follow Miss Temple.
- The passage suggests that the narrator
- will soon return to Lowood.
- was sent to Lowood by mistake.
- is entirely dependent upon Miss Temple.
- has run away from Lowood before.
- is naturally curious and rebellious.
- In lines 60–66, the narrator reduces her petition to simply a new servitude because she
- doesn't believe in prayer.
- is not in a free country.
- has been offered a position as a servant.
- knows so little of the real world.
- has been treated like a slave at Lowood.
- b. In lines 3–4, Wharton makes it clear that she will be refuting the statement in the first two lines: but it is certainly a misleading [premise] on which to build any general theory. In lines 8–9, she states that a subject is suited to a short story or a novel, and in lines 9–10, if it appears to be adapted to both the chances are that it is inadequate in either. This firmly refutes the opening statement.
- d. After making it clear that subjects are not equally suitable for short stories and novels, Wharton explains what makes a particular subject suitable for the novel form (paragraphs 4 and 5) and how the elements of time and length are different in the short story (paragraph 6).
- b. In lines 15–18, Wharton writes that rules in art are useful mainly for the sake of the guidance they give, but it is a mistake [ . . . ] to be too much in awe of them. Thus, they should be used only as a general guide.
- a. Wharton compares general rules in art to both a lamp in a mine and a handrail down a black stairwell.
- c. In paragraph 4, Wharton states the two chief reasons a subject should find expression in novel-form: first, the gradual unfolding of the inner life of its characters and second the need of producing in the reader's mind the sense of the lapse of time (lines 25–27).
- b. Wharton uses this paragraph to clarify the "rules" she established in the previous paragraph by describing more specifically that if a subject can be dealt with in a single retrospective flash it is suitable for a short story while those that justify elaboration or need to suggest the lapse of time require the novel form.
- e. In lines 39–42, Wharton writes that short stories observe two 'unities': that of time, which is limited to achieve the effect of compactness and instantaneity, and that of point of view, telling the story through only one pair of eyes.
- b. This paragraph expands on the final idea of the previous paragraph, that of the limited point of view. In line 44, Wharton refers to the character who serves as reflector—thus in line 46, this reflecting mind is that same person, the one who tells the story.
- d. As the introduction states, Higgins is a professor, and he contrasts the life of the gutter with Science and Literature and Classical Music and Philosophy and Art (lines 9–10). Thus, his life is best described as the life of a scholar.
- e. The answer to this question is found in Liza's statement in lines 22–24: You think I must go back to Wimpole Street because I have nowhere else to go but father's. This statement indicates that Wimpole Street is probably where Liza grew up.
- e. Liza's reply to Higgins suggests that she wants more respect. She criticizes him for always turning everything against her, bullying her, and insulting her. She tells him not to be too sure that you have me under your feet to be trampled on and talked down (lines 24-25). learly he does not treat her with respect, and as her actions in the rest of the excerpt reveal, she is determined to get it.
- b. Liza is from the gutter, but she can't go back there after being with Higgins and living the life of the scholar, a refined, educated, upper-class life. Thus the best definition of common here is unrefined.
- a. In these lines Higgins threatens Liza and lays hands on her, thus proving that he is a bully.
- c. Higgins refers to Liza as my masterpiece, indicating that he thinks of Liza as his creation—that he made her what she is today.
- b. The excerpt opens with Higgins telling Liza "If you're going to be a lady" and comparing her past—the life of the gutter—with her present—a cultured life of literature and art. We also know that Higgins taught Liza phonetics (line 40) and that Liza was once only a flower girl but is now a duchess (lines 55–56). Thus, we can conclude that Higgins taught Liza how to speak and act like someone from the upper class.
- d. Higgins realizes that Liza—with the knowledge that he gave her—now has the power to stand up to him, that she will not just let herself be trampled on and called names (line 59). He realizes that she has other options and she is indifferent to his bullying and big talk (line 55).
- c. Liza's final lines express her joy at realizing that she has the power to change her situation and that she is not Higgins' inferior but his equal; she can't believe that all the time I had only to lift up my finger to be as good as you (lines 59–60). She realizes that she can be an assistant to someone else, that she doesn't have to be dependent on Higgins.
- d. In the first few lines, the narrator states that Miss Temple was the superintendent of the seminary and that she received both instruction and friendship from Miss Temple, who was also like a mother to her she had stood me in the stead of mother.
- a. The narrator states that with Miss Temple, I had given in allegiance to duty and order; I was quiet; I believed I was content (lines 12–13).
- d. The context here suggests existence or habitation, not captivity or illness.
- c. We can assume that the narrator would go home during vacations, but she spent all of her vacations at school because Mrs. Reed had never sent for me to Gateshead (lines 50–51). Thus we can infer that Mrs. Reed was her guardian, the one who sent the narrator to Lowood in the first place.
- b. The narrator describes her experience with school-rules and school-duties (line 53) and how she tired of the routine (line 56) after Miss Temple left. She also contrasts Lowood with the real world of hopes and fears, of sensations and excitements (lines 35–36) and that the view from her window seemed a prison-ground, exile limits (line 44). Thus, it can be inferred that Lowood is both a structured and isolated place.
- a. The narrator states in lines 26–27 that she had undergone a transforming process and that now she again felt the stirring of old emotions (line 30) and remembered that the real world was wide and awaited those who had courage to go forth (lines 36–37). She also looks at the road from Lowood and states how [she] longed to follow it further! More importantly, she repeats her desire for liberty and prays for a new servitude—something beyond Lowood.
- e. In lines 13–15, the narrator states that with Miss Temple at Lowood, she believed she was content, that to the eyes of others, usually even to my own, I appeared a disciplined and subdued character. This suggests that in her natural element (lines 29–30) she is not so disciplined or subdued. Her desire for freedom and to explore the world are also evident in this passage; she longs to follow the road that leads away from Lowood (line 46) and she is half desperate in her cry for something new, something beyond Lowood and the rules and systems she tired of [ . . . ] in one afternoon (line 56).
- d. Because Lowood had been the narrator's home for eight years and all she knew of existence was school rules, duties, habits, faces, etc. (lines 53–55)—because she had had no communication [ . . . ] with the outer world (lines 52–53), it is likely that she feels her initial prayers were unrealistic. At least a new servitude would provide some familiar territory, and it therefore seems more realistic and attainable than liberty or change.
For more practice on literature and literacy critical reading questions, review:
- Literature and Literacy Criticism Critical Reading Practice Exercises Set 1
- Literature and Literacy Criticism Critical Reading Practice Exercises Set 2 You are here
- Literature and Literacy Criticism Critical Reading Practice Exercises Set 3
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