from One is One
by Barbara Leonie Picard (chapter 2 part 2)
passage, which was suggested and submitted by Celia in Wollongong, Australia,
should make an excellent assessment quiz for April of Grade Nine -- the
end, in the ideal KISS curriculum, of three years of work on clauses. The
passage is a bit long for an assessment quiz, but it starts rather simply
and then includes some challenging embedded clauses. Additional advantages
are that the clauses are complicated by compound finite verbs, but the
only other complex constructions are two appositives and one gerund (used
as the object of a preposition. Thus, in an assessment of their ability
to untangle complex clause structures, students will not be distracted
by numerous verbals.
The passage is also interesting from the perspective
of syntax and style. Three relatively short main clauses establish Stephen's
arrival at Richley Abbey. These are then followed by a 70-word main
clause that describes Abbot Waldo The average main clause written
by professional writers is approximately twenty words long, so this single-main-clause
sentence is more than three times the average in length, and it is packed
with details, including the word "impressed." It is an impressive sentence
that establishes the Abbot as an impressive and important person. This
sentence is followed by another that consists of two main clauses. In the
first (15 words long), the Abbott receives an explanation from Godfrey,
and in the second he "had received" a gift of gold pieces. This tends to
suggest that the richly impressive Abbot is a man toward whom authority
and material wealth flow. As the son of a vinter who had impressed upon
him respect for "the old noble families," the Abbot appears to invite and
enjoy the respect and gifts that he now receives from these very families.
This is further suggested by an irony in the
final sentence in the selection. It tells us that the Abbot "asked at great
length after the Earl and inquired about the health of the Countess," but
the brevity of the sentence (eighteen words) undercuts the "at great length."
In any text, the number of words devoted to a topic by the writer naturally
implies the relative importance of the topic to the writer. It appears
from this passage that the Abbot's concern and respect for himself is much
more significant than is his concern and respect for others.
The length of some of the sentences makes
this passage a natural candidate for sentence de-combining and combining
exercises. I have created one version of a combining exercise, but you
may want to give students the quiz text and have them decombine it. As
always, class discussion of the various ways in which sentences can be
combined and de-combined should prove very useful in helping students understand
not only sentence structure, but also its stylistic effects.
However you use this exercise, you should
probably prepare the students for some of the vocabulary first. Do the
students know what an abbott is? A vinter? Equanimity?