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Current time:0:00Total duration:7:32

Worked example: Literature passage, part 1

Video transcript

- [Man] So we have a reading passage here, it says this passage is adapted from Edith Wharton, Ethan Frome, originally published in 1911. Mattie Silver is Ethan's household employee, so Mattie Silver must be a character in this passage right over here. And before we even start to read this passage together, it's probably worthwhile to stress that we should get pumped about reading this passage, because if we're interested in it, we will comprehend it better. But even more importantly, we're about to spend a few minutes of our life on this passage, and so if we're gonna spend a few minutes of our life on something, we might as well enjoy it. So let's, (laughs) let's do that, all right. Mattie Silver had lived under Ethan's roof for a year, and from early morning till they met at supper he had frequent chances of seeing her; but no moments in her company were comparable to those when, her arm in his, and her light step flying to keep time with his long stride, they walked back through the night to the farm. So it sounds like he likes her. He had taken to the girl from the first day, when he had driven over to the Flats to meet her, and she had smiled and waved to him from the train, crying out, "You must be Ethan!" as she jumped down with her bundles, while he reflected, looking over her slight person: "She don't look much on housework, "but she ain't a fretter, anyhow." But it was not only, and I don't quite know what fretter means, I'd have to think about that, what it seems like on the context. But it was not only that the coming to his house of a bit of hopeful young life was like the lighting of a fire on a cold hearth. The girl was more than the bright serviceable creature that he had thought her. She had an eye to see and an ear to hear: he could show her things and tell her things, and taste the bliss of feeling that all he imparted left long reverberations and echoes he could wake at will. So he felt not only was she kind of this fun, bright spirit that was coming to the life, he felt that there was a connection that he could make with her, that she had an eye to see and an ear to hear, that he could show her things and awaken an appreciation for things. Let's keep reading, this is interesting. It was during their night walks back to the farm that he felt most intensely the sweetness of this communion. He had always been more sensitive than the people about him to the appeal of natural beauty. His unfinished studies had given form to this sensibility and even in his unhappiest moments field and sky spoke to him with a deep and powerful persuasion. But hitherto the emotion had remained in him as a silent ache, veiling with sadness the beauty that evoked it. He did not even know whether anyone else in the world felt as he did, oh, I actually feel that way when I look at nature, but anyway, this isn't about me. As he did, or whether he was the sole victim of this mournful privilege. Then he learned that one other spirit had trembled with the same touch of wonder: that at his side, living under his roof and eating his bread, was a creature to whom he could say: "That's Orion down yonder; "the big fellow to the right is Aldebaran." I'm not quite sure how to pronounce this, Alde-bear-an, Aldebar-ahn. "And the bunch of little ones, like bees swarming, "they're the Pleiades." Or whom he could hold entranced before a ledge of granite thrusting up through the fern while he unrolled the huge panorama of the ice age, and the long dim stretches of succeeding time. The fact that admiration for his learning mingled with Mattie's wonder at what he taught was not the least part of his pleasure. And there were other sensations, less definable but more exquisite, which drew them together with a shock of silent joy: the cold red of sunset behind winter hills, the flight of cold flocks over slope, the flight of cloud-flocks over slopes of golden stubble, or the intensely blue shadows of hemlocks on sunlit snow. When she said to him once: "It looks just as if it was painted!" it seemed to Ethan that the art of definition could go no farther, and that words had at last been found to utter his secret soul. So he clearly likes this girl. She works for him, so it's a bit of an awkward relationship, but he likes her not just 'cause she has this, I guess it sounds like positive energy, but he loves being able to teach her and show her appreciation of nature and it seems like some of the science that he knows about the stars and geology and whatever else, and so he kinda likes this not only a companion, this co-appreciator of nature, but he also likes being her teacher and he feels that it's awakening things, and an appreciation for science and nature in her. As he stood in the darkness outside the church these memories, all right, so everything we just read so far, these were memories. These memories came back with the poignancy of vanished things. All right, so we just read all this stuff, but he's thinking about them as he stood in the darkness outside of the church as if they're gone, that they're not there anymore, you know, that these things are no longer there. There's a poignancy of vanished things. Watching Mattie whirl down the floor from hand to hand, whirl down the floor from hand to hand? I wonder what she's doing, uh, maybe she's cleaning, or she's doing something else? I'm not sure, but let's keep reading. Watching Mattie whirl down the floor from hand to hand he wondered how he could ever have thought that his dull talk interested her. So now he's saying before he thought that he was really charming her by telling her about geology and about the stars, but now he's saying he wondered how he could have ever thought that his dull talk interested her. So now it seems like he thinks that she actually wasn't as interested as he thought. To him, who was never gay but in her presence, her gaiety seemed plain proof of indifference. All right, so he was never really that jovial of a guy but when he was around her. But saying her gaiety, her kind of happiness, seemed plain proof of indifference. So why is that? The face she lifted to her dancers, all right, so she's around some dancers now, I guess. The face she lifted to her dancers was the same which, when she saw him, always looked like a window that has caught the sunset. Oh, okay, I see it. He thought that she was this kind of, this positivity, this connection that he felt, was something that was only between him and her but now he's feeling that, well, she does that with everybody. He even noticed two or three gestures which, in his fatuity, so when he was infatuated with her, he had thought she kept for him: a way of throwing her head back when she was amused, as if to taste her laugh before she let it out, and a trick of sinking her lids slowly when anything charmed or moved her. All right, so before he thought that they had this very unique connection, but now in hindsight, he's like, oh, she wasn't interested in me at all, she does that with everyone, so let's now read the questions.