Reading Passage 3 – Trapped in the Dark

Keywords: Fiction, first-person POV, Year 7-ish, 10 questions, 8 MCQs, 2 short-answer questions.

(The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (review here!), Alan Bradley, pg. 1)

It was as black in the old closet as old blood. They had shoved me in and locked the door. I breathed heavily through my nose, fighting desperately to remain calm. I tried counting to ten on every intake of breath, and to eight as I released each one slowly into the darkness. Luckily for me, they had pulled the gag so tightly into my open mouth that my nostrils were left unobstructed, and I was able to draw in one slow lungful after another of the stale, musty air.

I tried hooking my fingernails under the silk scarf that bound my hands behind me but, since I always bit to the quick, there was nothing to catch. Jolly good luck then that I’d remembered to put my fingertips together, using them as ten firm little bases to press my palms apart as they had pulled the knots tight.

Now I rotated my wrists, squeezing them together until I felt a bit of slack, using my thumbs to work the silk down until the knots were between my palms – then between my fingers. If they had been bright enough to think of tying my thumbs together, I should never have escaped. What utter morons they were.


  1. Was the narrator able to breathe through her nose? Why/why not?

a) Yes, because the gag in her mouth was slack

b) Yes, because the silk scarf was too tight

c) Only a little, because the air was too stale and musty

d) Yes, because her nostrils weren’t blocked

2. What does the main character try to do first?

a) Unbind herself and call for help

b) Slacken the scarf binding her body

c) Breathe in and out in a slow and calming way

d) Undoing all of her fingers from the scarf

3. “Bit to the quick”, as used in the passage, is a phrase that means:

a) Jumping to conclusions

b) Going a bit too quickly

c) Biting to the bottom of your fingernails

d) Biting something quickly

4. In the third paragraph, ‘slack’ is used to mean:

a) Loose

b) Lazy

c) Tight

d) Large

5. How did the narrator undo the scarf tied around her hands?

a) She rotated her wrists and pressed her palms apart with her fingertips

b) She hooked her fingernails under the scarf and edged the knot towards her fingers

c) She pressed her fingertips together so the scarf wouldn’t be too tight

d) She used her thumbs to move the scarf down so the knot was within her fingers

6. Based on this passage, what would best describe the narrator?

a) Avuncular and condescending

b) Amiable and patient

c) Sagacious and level-headed

d) Knowledgeable and anxious

7. Which of these quotes is an example of a colloquialism?

a) “It was as black in the old closet as old blood.”

b) “Jolly good luck…”

c) “What utter morons…”

d) There are no colloquialisms in this passage

8. The passage is from a novel. The novel’s genre is most likely to be:

a) A slice of life comedy

b) Mystery

c) Fantasy

d) Biography

9. What is the main character’s opinion of her captors? Use one piece of evidence from the text to support your answer.


10. What do you think will happen directly after this passage?


Check your answers here!

Note: this passage is from The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley. To my knowledge, utilising this passage as a free educational exercise falls under fair use. If not, please let me know. I want to make sure that everything on this website is fair and right. The questions are of my own creation.


A teaching student whose goal is to become a primary-school teacher! I'm currently working as an English tutor to almost 100 students (they're all wonderful!).

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