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Analyzing Narrative Technique

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Analyzing Narrative Technique Answer Key

An excerpt from "At the Earth's Core" by Edgar Rice Burroughs

In the first place please bear in mind that I do not expect you to believe this story. Nor could you wonder had you witnessed a recent experience of mine when, in the armor of blissful and stupendous ignorance, I gaily narrated the gist of it to a Fellow of the Royal Geological Society on the occasion of my last trip to London.

You would surely have thought that I had been detected in no less a heinous crime than the purloining of the Crown Jewels from the Tower, or putting poison in the coffee of His Majesty the King.

The erudite gentleman in whom I confided congealed before I was half through!—it is all that saved him from exploding—and my dreams of an Honorary Fellowship, gold medals, and a niche in the Hall of Fame faded into the thin, cold air of his arctic atmosphere.

But I believe the story, and so would you, and so would the learned Fellow of the Royal Geological Society, had you and he heard it from the lips of the man who told it to me. Had you seen, as I did, the fire of truth in those gray eyes; had you felt the ring of sincerity in that quiet voice; had you realized the pathos of it all—you, too, would believe. You would not have needed the final ocular proof that I had—the weird rhamphorhynchus-like creature which he had brought back with him from the inner world.

I came upon him quite suddenly, and no less unexpectedly, upon the rim of the great Sahara Desert. He was standing before a goat-skin tent amidst a clump of date palms within a tiny oasis. Close by was an Arab douar of some eight or ten tents.

I had come down from the north to hunt lion. My party consisted of a dozen children of the desert—I was the only “white” man. As we approached the little clump of verdure I saw the man come from his tent and with hand-shaded eyes peer intently at us. At sight of me he advanced rapidly to meet us.

“A white man!” he cried. “May the good Lord be praised! I have been watching you for hours, hoping against hope that THIS time there would be a white man. Tell me the date. What year is it?”

And when I had told him he staggered as though he had been struck full in the face, so that he was compelled to grasp my stirrup leather for support.

“It cannot be!” he cried after a moment. “It cannot be! Tell me that you are mistaken, or that you are but joking.”

“I am telling you the truth, my friend,” I replied. “Why should I deceive a stranger, or attempt to, in so simple a matter as the date?”

For some time he stood in silence, with bowed head.

“Ten years!” he murmured, at last. “Ten years, and I thought that at the most it could be scarce more than one!" That night he told me his story—the story that I give you here as nearly in his own words as I can recall them.
How does the narrator's assertion that the story may not seem believable to the reader affect the text?
  1. It brings in an element of skepticism.
  2. It makes the reader anticipate what is to come.
  3. It adds an element of mystery and intrigue.
  4. All of the above
Which detail most fascinates the man the narrator meets?
  1. The fact that he is a white man
  2. The date the narrator gives him
  3. The story the narrator tells him
  4. The lack of white men around
Paragraph 3 uses the word erudite. The word ERUDITE most likely means...
  1. a traditional French appetizer
  2. educated
  3. impolite or ill-mannered
  4. sophisticated
Even though the erudite gentleman did not believe the narrator, the narrator believed the story. Why does he say he believed the story?
  • Sample answer: In paragraph 4, the narrator says that if you'd "seen the fire of truth in those gray eyes; had you felt the ring of sincerity in that quiet voice; had you realized the pathos of it all—you, too, would believe." The man was so sincere and emotional about his story that the narrator knew it had to be true.
Considering the setting, where the man had been, and your knowledge of Greek and Latin roots, the weird rhamphorhynchus-like creature is most likely...
  1. a flying dinosaur with a beak
  2. a dinosaur similar to a brontosaurus
  3. a small rodent
  4. a unique fish of some kind
The narrator says "had you realized the pathos of it all—you, too, would believe."
The word PATHOS most likely means...
  1. An appeal to ethics and character
  2. An appeal to logic or reason
  3. An appeal to emotion, particularly pity or sadness
  4. An appeal to time
Has the narrator met a man who has made a real discovery or is the man simply crazy? Support with details from the text.
  • Sample answer: The narrator has met a man who has made a real discovery. Not only did he tell the story with so much conviction and emotion, but he also had a physical object to back it up.


    The narrator has met a man who is simply crazy. He's very emotional and thinks ten years have passed, which is crazy. Since the narrator is in the middle of the desert, the weird creature he found could just be a random desert creature no one has seen before.
What does the narrator's decision to tell the story even though he doesn't expect anyone to believe it say about the story he is about to tell?
  1. The story is so important that it must be told even if no one believes it.
  2. The story is so ridiculous that it deserves attention, even if it's not true.
  3. The story makes a good piece of fiction.
  4. The story deals with very unusual topics.
After the prologue, the first chapter of the story begins as such...

"I WAS BORN IN CONNECTICUT ABOUT THIRTY YEARS ago. My name is David Innes. My father was a wealthy mine owner. When I was nineteen he died. All his property was to be mine when I had attained my majority—provided that I had devoted the two years intervening in close application to the great business I was to inherit."

Who is David Innes?
  1. The narrator
  2. The man the narrator met
  3. A completely new character
  4. The author
Based on the title of the story and content of the prologue, where do you think the man the narrator met had been for ten years?
  • Sample answer: The story is called "At the Earth's Core" and it says he brought something from the inner world, so it's likely the man had been in the core of the Earth.

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