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Common Core Standards: ELA

Grades 9-10

Reading RL.9-10.6

RL.9-10.6. Analyze a particular point of view or cultural experience reflected in a work of literature from outside the United States, drawing on a wide reading of world literature.

Cultures vary widely throughout the world, so it’s no surprise that literature does as well. Being able to understand different points of view or cultural experiences within a text gives readers the tools to understand them in real life. (It also guarantees they’ll never run out of reading material!)

Example 1

Sample Activities for Use in Class

1. Examining Texts

Read or have students read (aloud or silently) the following passage:

In a village of La Mancha, the name of which I have no desire to call to mind, there lived not long since one of those gentlemen that keep a lance in the lance-rack, an old buckler, a lean hack, and a greyhound for coursing. An olla of rather more beef than mutton, a salad on most nights, scraps on Saturdays, lentils on Fridays, and a pigeon or so extra on Sundays, made away with three-quarters of his income. The rest of it went in a doublet of fine cloth and velvet breeches and shoes to match for holidays, while on week-days he made a brave figure in his best homespun. He had in his house a housekeeper past forty, a niece under twenty, and a lad for the field and market-place, who used to saddle the hack as well as handle the bill-hook. The age of this gentleman of ours was bordering on fifty; he was of a hardy habit, spare, gaunt-featured, a very early riser and a great sportsman. They will have it his surname was Quixada or Quesada (for here there is some difference of opinion among the authors who write on the subject), although from reasonable conjectures it seems plain that he was called Quexana. This, however, is of but little importance to our tale; it will be enough not to stray a hair's breadth from the truth in the telling of it.

You must know, then, that the above-named gentleman whenever he was at leisure (which was mostly all the year round) gave himself up to reading books of chivalry with such ardour and avidity that he almost entirely neglected the pursuit of his field-sports, and even the management of his property; and to such a pitch did his eagerness and infatuation go that he sold many an acre of tillageland to buy books of chivalry to read, and brought home as many of them as he could get. But of all there were none he liked so well as those of the famous Feliciano de Silva's composition, for their lucidity of style and complicated conceits were as pearls in his sight, particularly when in his reading he came upon courtships and cartels, where he often found passages like "the reason of the unreason with which my reason is afflicted so weakens my reason that with reason I murmur at your beauty;" or again, "the high heavens, that of your divinity divinely fortify you with the stars, render you deserving of the desert your greatness deserves." Over conceits of this sort the poor gentleman lost his wits, and used to lie awake striving to understand them and worm the meaning out of them.

- Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote

Once students have read the passage, discuss it by focusing on temporal and geographical setting, point of view, and similar clues. Questions to discuss may include:

1. Where and when was the passage written? How can you tell? (Possible Answers: Don Quixote was written in Spain in the early seventeenth century and is presumably set in the same place and time. The names of the author and the characters provide the strongest clue as to place. Students may have difficulty setting it in time, but should realize, with help, that the story occurs somewhat after the time of chivalry.)

2. Which words, if you looked them up, might help you better understand this passage? (Possible Answers: “hack,” “buckler,” “chivalry,” “ardour.” Have students look up the words they select and discuss what information the definitions provide and what light they shed on the passage.)

3. Which parts of the passage indicate it belongs to a specific world culture? (Possible Answers: the food, the members of the main character’s household, the mention of keeping a servant, and the authors the main character likes to read all help place this passage in some part of Europe and in the household of someone with at least a little money.)

Example 2

2. Creating Narratives

Once students have had a chance to discuss various pieces of world literature, have them try and construct it themselves. On a printed list or series of index cards, describe several characters who either come from works of world literature or deal with cultural pressures found in other countries. Describe characters in general terms. For instance, characters may be “a young woman who would like to go to college but knows that caring for her parents comes before any other responsibility” or “a boy who wants to be a farmer but is pressed into becoming a soldier to protect his home from marauders.”

Have each student or group of students choose one of the descriptions and write a short story, poem, or skit about the character. The students’ writing should focus on the character’s conflict within the culture or circumstances described, and not on what the student’s own cultural upbringing tells him or her to do in the character’s place. For instance, a story about “a young woman who would like to go to college but knows that caring for her parents comes before any other responsibility” should focus either on how the young woman learns to accept staying home or how she gets an education without abandoning her responsibility to her parents; but it should not be about how “she leaves home and doesn’t worry about her parents” merely because that’s what the student might do. You may wish to give students more information by providing names of nations, regions or ethnic groups, or leave students to work these out on their own.

Quiz 1 Questions

Here's an example of a quiz that could be used to test this standard.

I. Questions 1-10 are based on the following passage:

On the third day of rain they had killed so many crabs inside the house that Pelayo had to cross his drenched courtyard and throw them into the sea, because the newborn child had a temperature all night and they thought it was due to the stench. The world had been sad since Tuesday. Sea and sky were a single ash-gray thing and the sands of the beach, which on March nights glimmered like powdered light, had become a stew of mud and rotten shellfish. The light was so weak at noon that when Pelayo was coming back to the house after throwing away the crabs, it was hard for him to see what it was that was moving and groaning in the rear of the courtyard. He had to go very close to see that it was an old man, a very old man, lying face down in the mud, who, in spite of his tremendous efforts, couldn't get up, impeded by his enormous wings.

Frightened by that nightmare, Pelayo ran to get Elisenda, his wife, who was putting compresses on the sick child, and he took her to the rear of the courtyard. They both looked at the fallen body with a mute stupor. He was dressed like a ragpicker. There were only a few faded hairs left on his bald skull and very few teeth in his mouth, and his pitiful condition of a drenched great-grandfather took away any sense of grandeur he might have had. His huge buzzard wings, dirty and half-plucked were forever entangled in the mud. They looked at him so long and so closely that Pelayo and Elisenda very soon overcame their surprise and in the end found him familiar. Then they dared speak to him, and he answered in an incomprehensible dialect with a strong sailor's voice. That was how they skipped over the inconvenience of the wings and quite intelligently concluded that he was a lonely castaway from some foreign ship wrecked by the storm. And yet, they called in a neighbor woman who knew everything about life and death to see him, and all she needed was one look to show them their mistake.

"He's an angel," she told them. "He must have been coming for the child, but the poor fellow is so old that the rain knocked him down."

- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, “A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings”

  1. Based on the passage, Pelayo and Elisenda most likely live:

    Correct Answer:

    By the sea.

    Answer Explanation:

    • (b) - The passage describes the shore, and the house is close enough to the water that crabs enter it. *correct answer
    • (d) - Possible, but there’s no textual support either way, making (b) the better answer.

  2. Which of the following details from the passage indicates that the family does not have access to state-of-the-art medical care for the baby?

    Correct Answer:

    Elisenda is putting compresses on the baby.

    Answer Explanation:

    (d) - If the baby has a fever, its parents would most likely take it to a doctor or a hospital if they could. The fact that they’re treating the baby’s illness at home indicates they don’t have or can’t get to a doctor or hospital.


  3. The old man’s enormous wings confuse Pelayo at first because:

    Correct Answer:

    All of the above.

  4. Pelayo and Elisenda “skipped over the inconvenience of the wings” and decided the old man was shipwrecked. They most likely came to this conclusion because:

    Correct Answer:

    A shipwreck explained the old man’s presence, his weakness, and his sailor’s accent, all of which were familiar to Pelayo and Elisenda.

    Answer Explanation:

    (a) - If the wings are ignored, this conclusion does make sense, and it’s based on the world the two named characters understand - it’s the wings that make no sense.


  5. The neighbor woman is described as someone who knows “everything about life and death.” Based on this description, it is MOST likely that:

    Correct Answer:

    The community relies on the wisdom of its elders.

    Answer Explanation:

    (c) - Knowing everything about life and death indicates folk wisdom rather than training.


  6. The fact that the neighbor woman immediately identifies the old man as an angel most likely indicates what?

    Correct Answer:

    The neighbor, Pelayo, and Elisenda all believe in angels.

    Answer Explanation:

    (b) - The theory wouldn’t likely come up as “the answer” if everyone thought it impossible; either the woman wouldn’t say it or the two main characters would laugh at it. Instead, everyone accepts it as true, which indicates that they believe it can be true.


  7. If Pelayo and Elisenda believe the old man is an angel, who are they MOST likely to consult about how to treat the angel?

    Correct Answer:

    Their local priest.

    Answer Explanation:

    (d) - Since angels are considered to be divine matter, they are most likely to go to the priest. Also, in a small fishing village, there will most likely be a priest, but not anyone from the other four categories.


  8. The neighbor woman says that the angel was coming for the baby, who had been very ill. Which of the following events would best convince Pelayo and Elisenda that this was true, if it happened next in the story?

    Correct Answer:

    The child does not die, but gets healthy again.

    Answer Explanation:

    (a) - If the angel was coming to carry off the child or the child’s soul but did not succeed because the rain knocked him down, one would expect the child to get better as long as the angel couldn’t get to him.


  9. Pelayo’s first reaction to the angel is that the angel is a “nightmare.” What is the MOST likely reason for this response?

    Correct Answer:

    Pelayo is afraid of the old man because he doesn’t understand what he is or how he got in Pelayo’s yard.

    Answer Explanation:

    (c) - Humans across all cultures are often afraid of things they don’t understand.


  10. The old man is described as having “buzzard wings,” or wings like a vulture. This description implies what about the old man?

    Correct Answer:

    He preys on dead or dying creatures.

    Answer Explanation:

    • (b) - Also, he’s there for the dying child. *correct answer
    • (d) - True, as revealed later in the text, but not necessarily implied by “buzzard.”

Quiz 2 Questions

Here's an example of a quiz that could be used to test this standard.

II. Questions 1-10 are based on the following passage:

Krishna! as I behold, come here to shed
Their common blood, yon concourse of our kin,
My members fail, my tongue dries in my mouth,
A shudder thrills my body, and my hair
Bristles with horror; from my weak hand slips
Gandiv, the goodly bow; a fever burns
My skin to parching; hardly may I stand;
The life within me seems to swim and faint;
Nothing do I foresee save woe and wail!
It is not good, O Keshav! nought of good
Can spring from mutual slaughter! Lo, I hate
Triumph and domination, wealth and ease,
Thus sadly won! Aho! what victory
Can bring delight, Govinda! what rich spoils
Could profit; what rule recompense; what span
Of life itself seem sweet, bought with such blood?
Seeing that these stand here, ready to die,
For whose sake life was fair, and pleasure pleased,
And power grew precious:-grandsires, sires, and sons,
Brothers, and fathers-in-law, and sons-in-law,
Elders and friends! Shall I deal death on these
Even though they seek to slay us? Not one blow,
O Madhusudan! will I strike to gain....

- the Bhagavad Gita, Part I

  1. Based on the passage, the speaker, Arjuna, is MOST likely a:

    Correct Answer:

    soldier

    Answer Explanation:

    (c) - He’s lined up against an army of his kinsmen, whom is his expected to fight.


  2. Arjuna faces the possibility of having to fight his own family, which distresses him. Which of the following details shows Arjuna’s distress?

    Correct Answer:

    He shudders and drops his bow.

    Answer Explanation:

    (a) - Refer to lines 4 – 6.


  3. Arjuna’s distress at having to fight his family and friends indicates that which of the following is true in the culture in which he was raised?

    Correct Answer:

    Respecting your elders and family is more important than anything that might cause a war between you and them.

    Answer Explanation:

    (d) - Arjuna is facing the disconnect between the two rules: “a warrior must fight” and “never raise your hand against your family.”


  4. Which of the following lines indicates that Arjuna believes the war will end badly?

    Correct Answer:

    “Nothing do I foresee save woe and wail!”

  5. Which of the following facts best indicates that Krishna is a good friend of Arjuna?

    Correct Answer:

    Arjuna is telling Krishna that he’s terrified and doesn’t want to fight even though Arjuna knows it’s his duty.

    Answer Explanation:

    (b) - This is not something most people will admit unless they trust the person they’re speaking to, regardless of culture - no one wants to be known as a coward.


  6. Which lines indicate that Arjuna is not afraid he’s going to lose the war?

    Correct Answer:

    “Lo! I hate/ Triumph and domination, wealth and ease/ Thus sadly won!”

    Answer Explanation:

    (e) - He states that he won’t enjoy the things he wins in the war because he had to kill family members to get them. This indicates that he’s not afraid he’s going to lose. Rather, he’s not looking forward to fighting against his family in order to win.


  7. What does the line you chose in Question 6 reveal about how Arjuna really feels about winning the war?

    Correct Answer:

    Even though he will be victorious, the victory will be a sad one since he will have to kill family for it.

  8. In this section of the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna is a god in human form who has agreed to help Arjuna win the war against his family. With this in mind, the passage is MOST likely from the part of the story where:

    Correct Answer:

    Arjuna is seeking divine advice on how to reconcile his duty as a warrior with his duty to his family.

    Answer Explanation:

    (c) - Arjuna knows he has to fight, but can’t bear the idea of fighting his family.


  9. Much of the tension in this passage is based on the fact that Arjuna is dealing with a conflict of dharma, or the idea that each person has a divinely inspired purpose. Here, what two requirements of dharma are conflicting?

    Correct Answer:

    Arjuna’s duty as a warrior to fight and his duty as a relative to avoid harming his family members.

  10. One of the underlying themes of the Bhagavad Gita is that if one does not do one’s duty, or dharma, the results, or karma, will be bad. Here, Arjuna expects bad karma in what specific way?

    Correct Answer:

    He will have wealth and peace, but will never be able to rest easy or enjoy himself because he had to kill family to get these things.

    Answer Explanation:

    (d) - Refer to lines 11 – 16.