Keywords: Year 6+, fiction, 8 MCQs, 5 short answer questions, 13 questions overall, early 20th-century literature, 4 pages.
Recommended time: 30 minutes.
In this passage, 10-year-old Emily Starr has just lost her father. Her mother Juliet died many years ago. Now an orphan, Emily must be left under the care of her family on her mother’s side: the Murray family. The Murrays own land called ‘New Moon’. This is Emily’s first ever meeting with the Murrays, right after her father’s funeral.
Emily walked rigidly downstairs before Ellen and into the parlour. Eight people were sitting around it—and she instantly felt the critical gaze of sixteen stranger eyes. She looked very pale and plain in her black dress; the purple shadows left by weeping made her large eyes look too large and hollow. She was desperately afraid, and she knew it—but she would not let the Murrays see it. She held up her head and faced the ordeal before her gallantly.
“This,” said Ellen, turning her around by the shoulder, “is your Uncle Wallace.”
Emily shuddered and put out a cold hand. She did not like Uncle Wallace—she knew that at once—he was black and grim and ugly, with frowning, bristly brows and a stern, unpitying mouth. He had big pouches under his eyes, and carefully-trimmed black side-whiskers. Emily decided then and there that she did not admire side-whiskers.
“How do you do, Emily?” he said coldly—and just as coldly he bent forward and kissed her cheek.
A sudden wave of indignation swept over Emily’s soul. How dared he kiss her—he had hated her father and disowned her mother! She would have none of his kisses! Flash-quick, she snatched her handkerchief from her pocket and wiped her outraged cheek.
“Well—well!” exclaimed a disagreeable voice from the other side of the room.
Uncle Wallace looked as if he would like to say a great many things but couldn’t think of them. Ellen, with a grunt of despair, propelled Emily to the next sitter.
“Your Aunt Eva,” she said.
Aunt Eva was sitting huddled up in a shawl. She had the fretful face of the imaginary invalid. She shook hands with Emily and said nothing. Neither did Emily.
“Your Uncle Oliver,” announced Ellen.
Emily rather liked Uncle Oliver’s appearance. He was big and fat and rosy and jolly-looking. She thought she would not mind so much if he kissed her, in spite of his bristly white moustache. But Uncle Oliver had learned Uncle Wallace’s lesson.
“I’ll give you a quarter for a kiss,” he whispered genially. A joke was Uncle Oliver’s idea of being kind and sympathetic, but Emily did not know this, and resented it.
“I don’t sell my kisses,” she said, lifting her head as haughtily as any Murray of them all could do.
Uncle Oliver chuckled and seemed infinitely amused and not a bit offended. But Emily heard a sniff across the room.
Aunt Addie was next. She was as fat and rosy and jolly-looking as her husband and she gave Emily’s cold hand a nice, gentle squeeze.
“How are you, dear?” she said.
That “dear” touched Emily and thawed her a trifle. But the next in turn froze her up instantly again. It was Aunt Ruth—Emily knew it was Aunt Ruth before Ellen said so, and she knew it was Aunt Ruth who had “well—welled” and sniffed. She knew the cold, grey eyes, the prim, dull brown hair, the short, stout figure, the thin, pinched, merciless mouth.
Aunt Ruth held out the tips of her fingers, but Emily did not take them.
“Shake hands with your Aunt,” said Ellen in an angry whisper.
“She does not want to shake hands with me,” said Emily, distinctly, “and so I am not going to do it.”
Aunt Ruth folded her scorned hands back on her black silk lap.
“You are a very ill-bred child,” she said; “but of course it was only what was to be expected.”
Emily felt a sudden compunction. Had she cast a reflection on her father by her behaviour? Perhaps after all she should have shaken hands with Aunt Ruth. But it was too late now—Ellen had already jerked her on.
“This is your Cousin, Mr. James Murray,” said Ellen, in the disgusted tone of one who gives up something as a bad job and is only anxious to be done with it.
“Cousin Jimmy—Cousin Jimmy,” said that individual. Emily looked steadily at him, and liked him at once without any reservations.
He had a little, rosy, elfish face with a forked grey beard; his hair curled over his head in a most un-Murray-like mop of glossy brown; and his large, brown eyes were as kind and frank as a child’s. He gave Emily a hearty handshake, though he looked askance at the lady across from him while doing it.
“Hello, pussy!” he said.
Emily began to smile at him, but her smile was, as always, so slow in developing that Ellen had whisked her on before it was in full flower, and it was Aunt Laura who got the benefit of it. Aunt Laura started and paled.
“Juliet’s smile!” she said, half under her breath. And again Aunt Ruth sniffed.
Aunt Laura did not look like any one else in the room. She was almost pretty, with her delicate features and the heavy coils of pale, sleek, fair hair, faintly greyed, pinned closely all around her head. But it was her eyes that won Emily. They were such round blue, blue eyes. One never quite got over the shock of their blueness. And when she spoke it was in a beautiful, soft voice.
“You poor, dear, little child,” she said, and put her arm around Emily for a gentle hug.
Emily returned the hug and had a narrow escape then from letting the Murrays see her cry. All that saved her was the fact that Ellen suddenly pushed her on into the corner by the window.
“And this is your Aunt Elizabeth.”
Yes, this was Aunt Elizabeth. No doubt about that—and she had on a stiff, black satin dress, so stiff and rich that Emily felt sure it must be her very best. This pleased Emily. Whatever Aunt Elizabeth thought of her father, at least she had paid him the respect of her best dress. And Aunt Elizabeth was quite fine looking in a tall, thin, austere style, with clear-cut features and a massive coronet of iron-grey hair under her black lace cap. But her eyes, though steel-blue, were as cold as Aunt Ruth’s, and her long, thin mouth was compressed severely. Under her cool, appraising glance Emily retreated into herself and shut the door of her soul. She would have liked to please Aunt Elizabeth—who was “boss” at New Moon—but she felt she could not do it.
- What best describes how Emily feels when she first sees the Murrays?
a) Frightened and timid
b) Brave and fearless
c) Critical and nervous
d) Scared and determined
2. When Emily met Uncle Wallace, she ______ him because he seemed __________ and had ____________________.
a) Liked, ugly, side-whiskers.
b) Disliked, grim, side-whiskers.
c) Disliked, critical, a merciless mouth.
d) Disliked, jolly, an unpitying mouth.
3. When Uncle Oliver joked, “I’ll give you a quarter for a kiss,” how did Emily react and why?
a) Emily was offended because she didn’t realize it was a joke.
b) Emily almost cried in front of the Murrays because she didn’t want to kiss him.
c) Emily was insulted because she believes her kisses are worth more than a quarter.
d) Emily didn’t realize it was a joke so she said nothing.
4. Which uncles did Emily end up liking?
a) Uncle Oliver and Uncle Jimmy.
b) Uncle Wallace and Uncle Oliver.
c) Only Uncle Jimmy.
d) Only Uncle Oliver.
5. Which aunts did Emily end up disliking?
a) Aunt Ruth, Aunt Laura, and Aunt Elizabeth.
b) Aunt Ruth and Aunt Ellen.
c) Aunt Laura, Aunt Eva, and Aunt Addie.
d) Aunt Ruth and Aunt Elizabeth.
6. Occasionally, someone negatively reacts to Emily from across the room by sniffing or saying, “well well.” Who is this person and how do we know?
a) Aunt Elizabeth. We know because Emily sees her do it.
b) Aunt Ruth. We know because Emily sees her do it.
c) Aunt Ruth. We know because Emily thinks that she did it.
d) We don’t find out who sniffed or said “well well”.
7. How would you describe Emily as a person?
a) Fearless and open.
b) Brave and honest.
c) Fearful and friendly.
d) Frank and meek.
8. Find a quote from the passage and explain how it supports your answer for question 7.
Possible quotes that would support the ‘brave and honest’ answer are:
- She was desperately afraid, and she knew it—but she would not let the Murrays see it. She held up her head and faced the ordeal before her gallantly.
- A sudden wave of indignation swept over Emily’s soul. How dared he kiss her—he had hated her father and disowned her mother! She would have none of his kisses!
- “She does not want to shake hands with me,” said Emily, distinctly, “and so I am not going to do it.”
9. The narrator is:
a) Objective and clinical.
b) Omniscient and understanding.
c) Subjective and biased.
d) Comedic and limited.
10. Find a quote from the passage and explain how it supports your answer for question 9.
Possible quotes that would support the ‘omniscient and understanding’ answer could be:
- A joke was Uncle Oliver’s idea of being kind and sympathetic, but Emily did not know this, and resented it.
- “I don’t sell my kisses,” she said, lifting her head as haughtily as any Murray of them all could do.
These quotes work for this answer because they describe something that the main character – Emily – doesn’t know. The narrator is omniscient and understanding, so they can describe the fact that Uncle Oliver meant to be nice and that Emily unthinkingly showed Murray pride.
11. Choose a character other than Emily. State one fact we learn about this character and support your answer with a quote.
There are many characters to choose from! Here is a brief summary of the characters and what we learn about them in this passage:
- Ellen = exasperated with Emily, in charge of Emily, is making Emily greet her relatives politely but fails.
- Uncle Wallace = ugly, grim, dark, cold, has side-whiskers, frowning, bristly brows and a stern, unpitying mouth. Presumptuous because he kissed Emily without checking if that was okay with her. Speechless and offended by Emily wiping his kiss off with a handkerchief.
- Aunt Eva = ‘imaginary invalid’ which means she imagines that she is constantly sick, quiet, reticient.
- Uncle Oliver = friendly, understanding, kind, likes to tell jokes, sympathetic towards Emily, unoffended by Emily.
- Aunt Addie = jolly, friendly, gentle, sympathetic to Emily, kind.
- Aunt Ruth = disapproving of Emily, thinks of Emily as rude, cold, grey eyes, the prim, dull brown hair, the short, stout figure, the thin, pinched, merciless mouth, thinks that Emily’s father did a bad job of raising Emily, values discipline and manners.
- Cousin Jimmy = friendly, kind towards Emily, frank, childlike.
- Aunt Laura = recognises Juliet’s smile, kind, pretty, pale hair, blue eyes, has a beautiful and soft voice, sympathetic and kind towards Emily.
- Aunt Elizabeth = respectful, stern, tall, thin, austere, cold, severe, blue eyes like Aunt Ruth’s, the boss of New Moon.
12. What do you think will happen after the end of this passage? Give it your best guess based on what you have learned about the story and its characters.
There is no single correct answer! Your answer could be considered correct if it makes sense (so nothing about Emily suddenly flying to space or Aunt Ruth exploding or something). The best answer would take into account that Emily has just met Aunt Elizabeth but they haven’t said anything to each-other yet. Aunt Elizabeth hasn’t reacted to Emily yet either. So what happens next is most likely going to one or both of those things happening.
13. Define these words and include the quote in which it appears. (If you don’t know one, research it. If there are multiple definitions, choose the one that’s most likely used in the original quote.)
Compunction = “Emily felt a sudden compunction.” ‘Compunction’ is the feeling of guilt that stops you from doing something you know is wrong.
Coronet = (referring to Aunt Elizabeth) “…a massive coronet of iron-grey hair.” ‘Coronet’ in this sentence means a sort of crown or headpiece, which illustrates Aunt Elizabeth’s hair as sleek and hard as a crown.
Merciless = (referring to Aunt Ruth) “…the thin, pinched, merciless mouth.” ‘Merciless’ means to be without mercy or compassion.
The original passage and questions are here!
Note: This passage is from L.M. Montgomery’s Emily of New Moon, sourced from Project Gutenberg. 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.