This printable supports Common Core ELA Standard ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1, ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2 and ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3

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Theme in Fiction (Grade 9)

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Theme in Fiction

Down the Old Street

When Ari saw a little girl running after the ice-cream vendor and holding shiny quarters in her sweaty palm, she found herself being charmed by the town all over again. A moment later, Ari saw a young boy whistling and riding an old, rusty bicycle. Ari wondered if these were among the kids she was supposed to speak to later in the afternoon. She waved at the kids in the park across the street and walked down memory lane.

She remembered riding her old bicycle and being stopped by a lanky boy holding familiar-looking yellow sheets of paper. The boy, Jim, had followed her all the way home from school when he had found her loose pages of stories in the cafeteria. Jim was the first person who had read her writing and told her that she should never stop.

As Ari reminisced her past with a lingering smile, she found herself standing in front of a bookstore that seemed very familiar. She remembered the glass door and the rustic posters of the charming, old store and walked inside. The man behind the register was an aging fellow with curious eyes.

"Greetings! Are you Ari Rollings, the famous author?" the man uttered with excitement, adjusting his glasses. "Why, yes. You are the author?just like the picture on my book of the month!"

"Do you remember me, Mr. Dweeb?" Ari asked as she pulled up a chair next to the old man. Ari had recognized the store?it was the first place she had tried to advertise her book. Back then, Mr. Dweeb had dismissed her request to put up her first book in the display case saying that children's literature from young adults was not worth advertising. That rejection had stung Ari's spirit, but she never forgot to keep on writing. She was surprised to see that her newest book had now filled the entire display case in Mr. Dweeb's store. "I guess you don't remember me after all," Ari answered the question herself.

"I'm sure I would remember running into a talented author like you," Mr. Dweeb asserted, offering a cup of coffee to Ari on the house. "I always thought young people wrote the best of children's literature. They remember their childhood well, you know."

"Well, I was only a struggling writer then," Ari replied, holding her newest book entitled Jerry Robbins Saves the World. "But I found inspiration in the most unexpected of places. What made you change your mind about children's literature written by young adults?"

"Why, of course, your books!" Mr. Dweebs responded with a genuine smile.
The author includes the subplot about the kids probably to?
  1. show how Ari was fond of kids and of her own childhood.
  2. use flashback and to reveal the character of Mr. Dweeb.
  3. reveal the theme of unhappy memories of childhood.
  4. foreshadow Ari's struggles and failures in her career.
Why does the author include a bit of a flashback of the author's previous experience with the owner of the bookstore?

How does seeing the kids trigger a flashback for Ari?

Which statement best represents a major theme of this passage?
  1. Anyone can write
  2. Never give up
  3. The joy of childhood
  4. Going back home
An excerpt from "A Sound of Thunder"...

He indicated a metal path that struck off into green wilderness, over streaming swamp, among giant ferns and palms.

"And that," he said, "is the Path, laid by Time Safari for your use,

It floats six inches above the earth. Doesn't touch so much as one grass blade, flower, or tree. It's an anti-gravity metal. Its purpose is to keep you from touching this world of the past in any way. Stay on the Path. Don't go off it. I repeat. Don't go off. For any reason! If you fall off, there's a penalty. And don't shoot any animal we don't okay."

"Why?" asked Eckels.

They sat in the ancient wilderness. Far birds' cries blew on a wind, and the smell of tar and an old salt sea, moist grasses, and flowers the color of blood.

"We don't want to change the Future. We don't belong here in the Past. The government doesn't like us here. We have to pay big graft to keep our franchise. A Time Machine is finicky business. Not knowing it, we might kill an important animal, a small bird, a roach, a flower even, thus destroying an important link in a growing species."

"That's not clear," said Eckels.

"All right," Travis continued, "say we accidentally kill one mouse here. That means all the future families of this one particular mouse are destroyed, right?"


"And all the families of the families of the families of that one mouse! With a stamp of your foot, you annihilate first one, then a dozen, then a thousand, a million, a billion possible mice!"

"So they're dead," said Eckels. "So what?"

"So what?" Travis snorted quietly. "Well, what about the foxes that'll need those mice to survive? For want of ten mice, a fox dies. For want of ten foxes a lion starves. For want of a lion, all manner of insects, vultures, infinite billions of life forms are thrown into chaos and destruction. Eventually it all boils down to this: fifty-nine million years later, a caveman, one of a dozen on the entire world, goes hunting wild boar or saber-toothed tiger for food. But you, friend, have stepped on all the tigers in that region. By stepping on one single mouse. So the caveman starves. And the caveman, please note, is not just any expendable man, no! He is an entire future nation. From his loins would have sprung ten sons. From their loins one hundred sons, and thus onward to a civilization. Destroy this one man, and you destroy a race, a people, an entire history of life. It is comparable to slaying some of Adam's grandchildren. The stomp of your foot, on one mouse, could start an earthquake, the effects of which could shake our earth and destinies down through Time, to their very foundations. With the death of that one caveman, a billion others yet unborn are throttled in the womb. Perhaps Rome never rises on its seven hills. Perhaps Europe is forever a dark forest, and only Asia waxes healthy and teeming. Step on a mouse and you crush the Pyramids. Step on a mouse and you leave your print, like a Grand Canyon, across Eternity. Queen Elizabeth might never be born, Washington might not cross the Delaware, there might never be a United States at all. So be careful. Stay on the Path. Never step off!"

"I see," said Eckels. "Then it wouldn't pay for us even to touch the grass?"

"Correct. Crushing certain plants could add up infinitesimally. A little error here would multiply in sixty million years, all out of proportion. Of course maybe our theory is wrong. Maybe Time can't be changed by us. Or maybe it can be changed only in little subtle ways. A dead mouse here makes an insect imbalance there, a population disproportion later, a bad harvest further on, a depression, mass starvation, and finally, a change in social temperament in far-flung countries. Something much more subtle, like that. Perhaps only a soft breath, a whisper, a hair, pollen on the air, such a slight, slight change that unless you looked close you wouldn't see it. Who knows? Who really can say he knows? We don't know. We're guessing. But until we do know for certain whether our messing around in Time can make a big roar or a little rustle in history, we're being careful. This Machine, this Path, your clothing and bodies, were sterilized, as you know, before the journey. We wear these oxygen helmets so we can't introduce our bacteria into an ancient atmosphere."
The path through the jungle is mainly intended to...
  1. prevent history from changing.
  2. protect the hunters from dinosaurs.
  3. protect the dinosaurs from hunters.
  4. make it easier to walk through the jungle.
The government doesn't like the company hunting in the past. What is it afraid will happen?
  1. It's afraid that they will change something about the past that will alter the future.
  2. It's afraid that they will bring back a dangerous disease
  3. It's afraid that they will try to bring back a live animal.
  4. It's afraid that they will be responsible for any deaths or injuries that occur on the hunts.
In this short story, the moral would be:
  1. You can only change your past.
  2. Small changes can have large effects.
  3. Nothing we do really matters.
  4. Change is inevitable.
Think about the characteristics of science fiction listed below. In the boxes on the right, write notes describing how each characteristic of science fiction applies to "A Sound of Thunder"

Characteristic of Science Fiction

1. Presents strange or unusual characters or events
2. Has an element of science that makes the events credible
3. Comments on or reflects human nature or society

How do the characteristics apply to "A Sound of Thunder"?

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