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Using the State Curriculum: Reading/ELA, Grade 5

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Clarifications: Each clarification provides an explanation of an indicator/objective to help teachers better understand the skills and/or concepts.

Standard 3.0 Comprehension of Literary Text

Indicator 7. Identify and describe the author's use of language

Objective c. Identify and explain words and phrases that create tone

Clarification

Scrambled Eggs

The tone of a text is the author's attitude toward his or her subject. To determine the author's tone, the reader should look at the author's word choice, grammatical arrangement of words, imagery or vivid details, and use of metaphors.

To begin, first identify the subject. In this passage, Scrambled Eggs, the subject is the court case against the farmer charging him four thousand dollars for ten scrambled eggs.

To track the clues to the author's tone, begin with the second paragraph where the farmer remembers "the few small coins" he owes the innkeeper. This detail is important; the words few and small suggest that the farmer believes that he owes only a small sum of money. However, when the farmer asks about his bill, the innkeeper gives him "a large sheet of paper covered with numbers." The discrepancy between what the farmer believes and what the innkeeper believes is central to the plot of the story and to the tracking of the author's tone. Furthermore, the detail that the amount of payment expected by the innkeeper totals four thousand American dollars only adds to the controversy.

In paragraph four, the farmer thinks this request is "a joke." The word choice of "joke" is now the strongest indicator of the author's tone.

As the story continues, the farmer understands that he will need "a good, honest lawyer." The choice of adjectives is important because the farmer understands he will need a skilled lawyer to defend him against unscrupulous behavior. When a lawyer is found, the lawyer's reaction is outrage, another specific word choice that hearkens to the farmer's first reaction to the situation: a joke.

The next day, the lawyer is late for court and "rushed in" and "tried to catch his breath" to respond to the judge who does not like lateness. A tiny conflict arises here, but the important element is the details about rushing and being out of breath. These details serve to set up the point of the lawyer's case. The lawyer proceeds to explain to the judge that he "was boiling two bushels of corn and planting them in my field this morning." This absurd detail connects to the farmer's initial reaction that the situation of paying four thousand dollars for eggs is a "joke," and further solidifies the author's tone. The lawyer's statement is met with "a roar of laughter" from people in the courtroom. The word choice "roar" speaks to the intensity of the crowd's reaction. The judge addresses the absurdity of the statement by inquiring if the lawyer has "lost your mind" and whether the lawyer believes "cooked corn will grow." The lawyer responds that "if scrambled eggs can turn into chicks" then cooked corn can grow. The images of planting cooked corn and the transformation of scrambled eggs into chicks matches one absurdity to another.

Now the judge understands what is going on and is "outraged" which matches the lawyer's previous outrage that such a case would even go to court. The lawyer wins the case for the farmer. The lawyer is now described as "clever" which becomes an extension of the farmer's need for a "good, honest lawyer."

The author's tone or attitude about the subject of this passage could be described in a number of ways: light-hearted, bemused, comic, humorous, mirthful, playful, etc.

It is the overall absurdity or ridiculous nature of the problem that the farmer and the lawyer recognize immediately which the lawyer ultimately makes the judge realize that creates the tone of this passage. The author makes word choices, uses specific details, and creates certain images that allow a reader to understand his/her attitude toward the subject.

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Resources for Objective 3.A.7.c:
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