Literature and Literacy Criticism Critical Reading Practice Exercises Set 3 (page 2)
Literature and Literacy Criticism Critical Reading
Questions 1–8 are based on the following passage.
In this excerpt from Susan Glaspell's one-act play Trifles, Mrs. and Mrs. Peters make an important discovery in Mrs. Wright's home as their husbands try to determine who strangled Mr. Wright.
MRS. PETERS: Well, I must get these things wrapped up. They may be through sooner than we think. [Putting apron and other things together.] I wonder where I can find a piece of paper, and string.
MRS. HALE: In that cupboard, maybe.
MRS. PETERS [looking in cupboard]: Why, here's a birdcage. [Holds it up.] Did she have a bird, Mrs. Hale?
MRS. HALE: Why, I don't know whether she did or not—I've not been here for so long. There was a man around last year selling canaries cheap, but I don't know as she took one; maybe she did. She used to sing real pretty herself.
MRS. PETERS [glancing around]: Seems funny to think of a bird here. But she must have had one, or why would she have a cage? I wonder what happened to it.
MRS. HALE: I s'pose maybe the cat got it.
MRS. PETERS: No, she didn't have a cat. She's got that feeling some people have about cats—being afraid of them. My cat got in her room and she was real upset and asked me to take it out.
MRS. HALE: My sister Bessie was like that. Queer, ain't it?
MRS. PETERS [examining the cage]: Why, look at this door. It's broke. One hinge is pulled apart.
MRS. HALE [looking too]: Looks as if someone must have been rough with it.
MRS. PETERS: Why, yes.
[She brings the cage forward and puts it on the table.]
MRS. HALE: I wish if they're going to find any evidence they'd be about it. I don't like this place.
MRS. PETERS: But I'm awful glad you came with me, Mrs. Hale. It would be lonesome for me sitting here alone.
MRS. HALE: It would, wouldn't it? [Dropping her sewing.] But I tell you what I do wish, Mrs. Peters. I wish I had come over sometimes when she was here. I—[looking around the room]—wish I had.
MRS. PETERS: But of course you were awful busy, Mrs. Hale—your house and your children.
MRS. HALE: I could've come. I stayed away because it weren't cheerful—and that's why I ought to have come. I—I've never liked this place. Maybe because it's down in a hollow and you don't see the road. I dunno what it is but it's a lonesome place and always was. I wish I had come over to see Minnie Foster sometimes. I can see now—
[Shakes her head.]
MRS. PETERS: Well, you mustn't reproach yourself, Mrs. Hale. Somehow we just don't see how it is with other folks until—something comes up.
MRS. HALE: Not having children makes less work—but it makes a quiet house, and Wright out to work all day, and no company when he did come in. Did you know John Wright, Mrs. Peters?
MRS. PETERS: Not to know him; I've seen him in town. They say he was a good man.
MRS. HALE: Yes—good; he didn't drink, and kept his word as well as most, I guess, and paid his debts. But he was a hard man, Mrs. Peters. Just to pass the time of day with him—[shivers]. Like a raw wind that gets to the bone. [Pauses, her eye falling on the cage.] I should think she would'a wanted a bird. But what do you suppose went with it?
MRS. PETERS: I don't know, unless it got sick and died.
[She reaches over and swings the broken door, swings it again. Both women watch it.]
MRS. HALE: You weren't raised round here, were you? [MRS. PETERS shakes her head.] You didn't know—her?
MRS. PETERS: Not till they brought her yesterday.
MRS. HALE: She—come to think of it, she was kind of like a bird herself—real sweet and pretty, but kind of timid and—fluttery. How—she—did—change. [Silence; then as if struck by a happy thought and relieved to get back to every day things.] Tell you what, Mrs. Peters, why don't you take the quilt in with you? It might take up her mind.
MRS. PETERS: Why, I think that's a real nice idea, Mrs. Hale. There couldn't possibly be any objection to it, could there? Now, just what would I take? I wonder if her patches are in here—and her things.
[They look in the sewing basket.]
MRS. HALE: Here's some red. I expect this has got sewing things in it. [Brings out a fancy box.] What a pretty box. Looks like something somebody would give you. Maybe her scissors are in here. [Opens box. Suddenly puts her hand to her nose.] Why—[MRS. PETERS bends nearer, then turns her face away.] There's something wrapped in this piece of silk.
MRS. PETERS [lifting the silk]: Why this isn't her scissors.
MRS. HALE [lifting the silk]: Oh, Mrs. Peters—it's—
[MRS. PETERS bends closer.]
MRS. PETERS: It's the bird.
MRS. HALE [jumping up]: But, Mrs. Peters—look at it! Its neck! Look at its neck! It's all—to the other side.
MRS. PETERS: Somebody—wrung—its—neck.
[Their eyes meet. A look of growing comprehension, of horror. Steps are heard outside. MRS. HALE slips box under quilt pieces, and sinks into her chair. Enter SHERIFF and COUNTY ATTORNEY HALE. MRS. PETERS rises.]
- Based on the passage, the reader can conclude that
- Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale are old friends.
- Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale both know Mrs. Wright very well.
- Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale don't know each other very well.
- Neither Mrs. Peters nor Mrs. Hale like Mrs. Wright.
- Neither Mrs. Peters nor Mrs. Hale have children.
- Mrs. Hale says she wishes she had come to Mrs. Wright's house (lines 29–31 and 37–39) because
- she realizes that Mrs. Wright must have been lonely.
- she enjoyed Mr. Wright's company.
- she always felt at home in the Wright's house.
- she realizes how important it is to keep good relationships with one's neighbors.
- she had a lot in common with Mrs. Wright.
- According to Mrs. Hale, what sort of man was Mr. Wright?
- gentle and loving
- violent and abusive
- honest and dependable
- quiet and cold
- a strict disciplinarian
- In lines 60–62, Mrs. Hale suggests that Mrs. Wright
- had become even more like a bird than before.
- had grown bitter and unhappy over the years.
- was too shy to maintain an intimate friendship.
- must have taken excellent care of her bird.
- was always singing and flitting about.
- The phrase take up her mind in line 64 means
- worry her.
- make her angry.
- refresh her memory.
- keep her busy.
- make her think.
- It can be inferred that Mrs. Wright0
- got the bird as a present for her husband.
- was forced into marrying Mr. Wright.
- loved the bird because it reminded her of how she used to be.
- had a pet bird as a little girl.
- fought often with Mr. Wright.
- When the women share a look of growing comprehension, of horror (line 83), they realize that
- Mrs. Wright killed the bird.
- Mr. Wright killed the bird, and Mrs. Wright killed him.
- they would get in trouble if the sheriff found out they were looking around in the kitchen.
- there's a secret message hidden in the quilt.
- they might be Mrs. Wright's next victims.
- The stage directions in lines 83–86 suggest that
- the women are mistaken in their conclusion.
- the women will tell the men what they found.
- the women will confront Mrs. Wright.
- the women will keep their discovery a secret.
- the men had been eavesdropping on the women.
Questions 9–17 are based on the following passages.
In Passage 1, an excerpt from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein explains his motive for creating his creature. In Passage 2, an excerpt from H.G.Wells' 1896 novel The Island of Dr. Moreau, Dr. Moreau explains to the narrator why he has been performing experiments on animals to transform them into humans.
I see by your eagerness, and the wonder and hope which your eyes express, my friend, that you expect to be informed of the secret with which I am acquainted; that cannot be: listen patiently until the end of my story, and you will easily perceive why I am reserved upon that subject. I will not lead you on, unguarded and ardent as I then was, to your destruction and infallible misery. Learn from me, if not by my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge, and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow.
When I found so astonishing a power placed within my hands, I hesitated a long time concerning the manner in which I should employ it. Although I possessed the capacity of bestowing animation, yet to prepare a frame for the reception of it, with all its intricacies of fibers, muscles, and veins, still remained a work of inconceivable difficulty and labour. I doubted at first whether I should attempt the creation of a being like myself, or one of simpler organization; but my imagination was too much exalted by my first success to permit me to doubt of my ability to give life to an animal as complex and wonderful as man. The materials at present within my command hardly appeared adequate to so arduous an undertaking; but I doubted not that I should ultimately succeed. I prepared myself for a multitude of reverses; my operations might be incessantly baffled, and at last my work be imperfect: yet, when I considered the improvement which every day takes place in science and mechanics, I was encouraged to hope my present attempts would at least lay the foundations of future success. Nor could I consider the magnitude and complexity of my plan as any argument of its impracticability. It was with these feelings that I began the creation of my human being. As the minuteness of the parts formed a great hindrance to my speed, I resolved, contrary to my first intention, to make the being of a gigantic stature; that is to say, about eight feet in height, and proportionably large. After having formed this determination, and having spent some months in successfully collecting and arranging my materials, I began.
No one can conceive the variety of feelings which bore me onwards, like a hurricane, in the first enthusiasm of success. Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world. A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me. No father could claim the gratitude of his child so completely as I should deserve theirs. Pursuing these reflections, I thought, that if I could bestow animation upon lifeless matter, I might in process of time (although I now found it impossible) renew life where death had apparently devoted the body to corruption.
These thoughts supported my spirits, while I pursued my undertaking with unremitting ardour. My cheek had grown pale with study, and my person had become emaciated with confinement. Sometimes, on the very brink of certainty, I failed; yet still I clung to the hope which the next day or the next hour might realize. One secret which I alone possessed was the hope to which I had dedicated myself; and the moon gazed on my midnight labors, while, with unrelaxed and breathless eagerness, I pursued nature to her hiding-places. Who shall conceive the horrors of my secret toil, as I dabbled among the unhallowed damps of the grave, or tortured the living animal to animate the lifeless clay? My limbs now tremble, and my eyes swim with the remembrance; but then a resistless, and almost frantic, impulse urged me forward; I seemed to have lost all soul or sensation but for this one pursuit.
"Yes. These creatures you have seen are animals carven and wrought into new shapes. To that—to the study of the plasticity of living forms—my life has been devoted. I have studied for years, gaining in knowledge as I go. I see you look horrified, and yet I am telling you nothing new. It all lay in the surface of practical anatomy years ago, but no one had the temerity to touch it. It's not simply the outward form of an animal I can change. The physiology, the chemical rhythm of the creature, may also be made to undergo an enduring modification, of which vaccination and other methods of inoculation with living or dead matter are examples that will, no doubt, be familiar to you.
"A similar operation is the transfusion of blood, with which subject indeed I began. These are all familiar cases. Less so, and probably far more extensive, were the operations of those medieval practitioners who made dwarfs and beggar cripples and show-monsters; some vestiges of whose art still remain in the preliminary manipulation of the young mountebank or contortionist. Victor Hugo gives an account of them in L'Homme qui Rit. . . . But perhaps my meaning grows plain now. You begin to see that it is a possible thing to transplant tissue from one part of an animal to another, or from one animal to another, to alter its chemical reactions and methods of growth, to modify the articulations of its limbs, and indeed to change it in its most intimate structure?
"And yet this extraordinary branch of knowledge has never been sought as an end, and systematically, by modern investigators, until I took it up! Some such things have been hit upon in the last resort of surgery; most of the kindred evidence that will recur to your mind has been demonstrated, as it were, by accident—by tyrants, by criminals, by the breeders of horses and dogs, by all kinds of untrained clumsyhanded men working for their own immediate ends. I was the first man to take up this question armed with antiseptic surgery, and with a really scientific knowledge of the laws of growth.
"Yet one would imagine it must have been practiced in secret before. Such creatures as Siamese Twins . . . . And in the vaults of the Inquisition. No doubt their chief aim was artistic torture, but some, at least, of the inquisitors must have had a touch of scientific curiosity . . . ."
"But," said I. "These things—these animals talk!"
He said that was so, and proceeded to point out that the possibilities of vivisection do not stop at a mere physical metamorphosis. A pig may be educated. The mental structure is even less determinate than the bodily. In our growing science of hypnotism we find the promise of a possibility of replacing old inherent instincts by new suggestions, grafting upon or replacing the inherited fixed ideas. [ . . . ]
But I asked him why he had taken the human form as a model. There seemed to me then, and there still seems to me now, a strange wickedness in that choice.
He confessed that he had chosen that form by chance.
"I might just as well have worked to form sheep into llamas, and llamas into sheep. I suppose there is something in the human form that appeals to the artistic turn of mind more powerfully than any animal shape can. But I've not confined myself to man-making. Once or twice . . . ." He was silent, for a minute perhaps. "These years! How they have slipped by! And here I have wasted a day saving your life, and am now wasting an hour explaining myself!"
"But," said I, "I still do not understand. Where is your justification for inflicting all this pain? The only thing that could excuse vivisection to me would be some application—"
"Precisely," said he. "But you see I am differently constituted. We are on different platforms. You are a materialist."
"I am not a materialist," I began hotly.
"In my view—in my view. For it is just this question of pain that parts us. So long as visible or audible pain turns you sick, so long as your own pain drives you, so long as pain underlies your propositions about sin, so long, I tell you, you are an animal, thinking a little less obscurely what an animal feels. This pain—"
I gave an impatient shrug at such sophistry.
"Oh! But it is such a little thing. A mind truly open to what science has to teach must see that it is a little thing."
- In the first paragraph of Passage 1 (lines 1–10), Frankenstein reveals that the purpose of his tale is to
- entertain the reader.
- explain a scientific principle.
- teach a moral lesson.
- share the secret of his research.
- reveal his true nature.
- The word baffled in line 23 means
- During the creation process, Frankenstein could best be described as
- From Passage 2, it can be inferred that Dr. Moreau is what sort of scientist?
- calculating and systematic
- careless, haphazard
- famous, renowned
- These things that the narrator refers to in Passage 2, line 35 are
- Siamese twins.
- creatures Moreau created.
- tyrants and criminals.
- From the passage, it can be inferred that Dr. Moreau
- does not inflict pain upon animals when he experiments on them.
- has caused great pain to the creatures he has experimented on.
- is unable to experience physical pain.
- is searching for a way to eliminate physical pain.
- has learned to feel what an animal feels.
- Based on the information in the passages, Dr. Moreau is like Victor Frankenstein in that he also
- used dead bodies in his experiments.
- wanted his creations to worship him.
- made remarkable discoveries.
- kept his experiment a secret from everyone.
- had a specific justification for his pursuit of knowledge.
- Frankenstein would be most upset by Dr. Moreau's
- indifference to suffering.
- great achievements.
- education of animals.
- choice of the human form.
- Which of the following best expresses Frankenstein's and Moreau's attitudes toward science?
- Both believe science can be dangerous.
- Frankenstein believes science should have a tangible application; Moreau believes scientific knowledge should be sought for its own sake.
- Frankenstein believes scientists should not harm living creatures in an experiment; Moreau believes it is acceptable to inflict pain on other creatures.
- Both men believe scientists should justify their work.
- Both men believe the greatest discoveries often take place in secrecy.
- c. The women refer to each other as "Mrs.", and their conversation reveals that they don't know much about each other. Mrs. Hale, for example, asks Mrs. Peters if she knew Mr. Wright line 46) and if she were raised round here (line 58).
- a. Mrs. Peters says It would be lonesome for me sitting here alone (lines 27–28)—to which Mrs. Hale replies, It would, wouldn't it? and then expresses her wish that she'd come to see Mrs. Wright. She says it's a lonesome place and always was in line 37 and then says I can see now—(lines 38–39) suggesting that she can understand now how Mrs. Wright must have felt.
- d. Mrs. Hale describes Mr. Wright as a hard man who was like a raw wind that gets to the bone (lines 51–52). Mrs. Wright's loneliness would be deepened by living with a man who was quiet and cold.
- b. The punctuation here—the dashes between each word—suggest that Mrs. Wright changed from the sweet, fluttery woman she was to a bitter, unhappy person over the years. The emphasis on her loneliness and the dead husband and bird add to this impression.
- d. The women decide to take the quilt to Mrs. Wright to keep her busy; it would give her something to do, something familiar and comforting
- c. Because her house was so lonely, Mrs. Wright would have wanted the company of a pet—and a pet that shared some qualities with her (or with her younger self) would have been particularly appealing. She would have liked the bird's singing to ease the quiet in the house, and she also used to sing real pretty herself (line 10) and would have felt a real connection with the bird.
- b. The clues in the passage—the violently broken bird cage, the dead bird lovingly wrapped in silk and put in a pretty box, the description of John Wright as a hard and cold man—suggest that he killed the bird and that Mrs. Wright in turn killed him for destroying her companion.
- d. The fact that Mrs. Hale slips box under quilt pieces suggests that she will not share her discovery with the men.
- c. Frankenstein asks his listener to [l]earn from me [ . . . ] how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge (lines 6–8). He is telling his tale as a warning and does not want to lead his listener into the same kind of destruction and infallible misery (line 6).
- a. The context reveals that Frankenstein was prepared for a multitude of reverses or setbacks that would hinder his operations.
- e. Frankenstein describes himself as pursuing his undertaking with unremitting ardour and that his cheek had grown pale with study, and [his] person had become emaciated with confinement (lines 45–47). He also says that a resistless, and almost frantic, impulse urged me forward; I seemed to have lost all soul or sensation but for this one pursuit (lines 56–58). These are the marks of a man obsessed.
- b. Moreau states in lines 22–24 that this extraordinary branch of knowledge has never been sought as an end, [ . . . ] until I took it up!, and in lines 28–30, he states that he was the first man to take up this question armed with antiseptic surgery, and with a really scientific knowledge of the laws of growth. This, and the detail with which he explains the background of his investigations, reveal that he is a calculating and systematic scientist. (Although he confesses that he chose the human form by chance (line 45), it is likely that Moreau did not just happen upon this choice but that he found the human form, as he later states, more appealing to the artistic turn of mind [ . . . ] than any animal shape (lines 48–49).
- d. Right after he says these things, the narrator says these animals to clarify that he is referring to the creatures that Moreau created. An additional context clue is provided by Moreau's response, in which he explains how animals may be educated so that they may talk.
- b. The narrator asks Moreau to justify all this pain (line 54), implying that he has inflicted great pain on the animals he has used in his experiments.
- c. Both men make remarkable discoveries in their fields; in the other aspects the men are different. Dr. Moreau uses live animals to change their form, and there is no evidence in the passage that he wants his creatures to worship him or that he has kept his experiment a secret (though these facts are evident in other passages in the book). Passage 2 also suggests that Moreau did not have a specific application or justification for his work; he responds to the narrator's request for a justification by philosophizing about pain.
- a. Frankenstein confesses that he was horrified by the torture of living animals that that he trembled just remembering the pain he inflicted (lines 52–55). He also characterizes himself as having lost all soul or sensation (line 57) in his quest. In addition, he is telling this tale as a warning. Thus it is likely that he would be most offended by Moreau's indifference to the suffering of other creatures.
- b. In lines 29–35, Frankenstein cites specific goals for his pursuit of knowledge: he wanted to pour a torrent of light into our dark world by making important new discoveries; he wanted to create a new species that would bless [him] as its creator and source; and he wanted to renew life. Moreau, on the other hand, does not offer any application or justification; he seems motivated only by the acquisition of knowledge. He states that he has devoted his life to the study of the plasticity of living forms (lines 2–3) and seems more interested in what science has to teach (lines 65–66) than in what can be done with that knowledge. This is reinforced by the fact that he does not offer a justification for his experiments.
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
- Literature and Literacy Criticism Critical Reading Practice Exercises Set 3 You are here
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