Crane’s The Blue Hotel – reading comprehension worksheet

On one hand, I’m a little discouraged to find so many reading comprehension worksheets already available on the web, gratis.  One site boasts 1000 passages, albeit for K-6th grades.  And this is just one of many, many sites devoted to making the teacher’s job a little easier, which is not a bad thing, of course.  But I wonder if the worksheets I create and post here are redundant

but no!  Most of the resources available seem to be aimed at the lower grades.  Thus far I have chosen rather difficult passages from classic literature and the level is advanced.  (Perhaps, this will be my niche.) In classic works, you can readily find varied and complex syntax, which students need steady exposure to.  In my experience, students seem to have as much trouble with syntax as vocabulary, figurative language, or anything else.

Today’s worksheet is based on the opening paragraph of Stephen Crane’s short novel The Blue Hotel –

The Palace Hotel at Fort Romper was painted a light blue, a shade that is on the legs of a kind of heron, causing the bird to declare its position against any background. The Palace Hotel, then, was always screaming and howling in a way that made the dazzling winter landscape of Nebraska seem only a gray swampish hush. It stood alone on the prairie, and when the snow was falling the town two hundred yards away was not visible. But when the traveller alighted at the railway station he was obliged to pass the Palace Hotel before he could come upon the company of low clapboard houses which composed Fort Romper, and it was not to be thought that any traveller could pass the Palace Hotel without looking at it. Pat Scully, the proprietor, had proved himself a master of strategy when he chose his paints. It is true that on clear days, when the great trans-continental expresses, long lines of swaying Pullmans, swept through Fort Romper, passengers were overcome at the sight, and the cult that knows the brown-reds and the subdivisions of the dark greens of the East expressed shame, pity, horror, in a laugh. But to the citizens of this prairie town and to the people who would naturally stop there, Pat Scully had performed a feat. With this opulence and splendor, these creeds, classes, egotisms, that streamed through Romper on the rails day after day, they had no color in common.

A fine paragraph.  Probably difficult for even a college student.  The student may have to read the paragraph a couple of times to realize that it’s about the rather garish blue color of a hotel, a hotel in the boondies of Nebraska. The first sentence presents an image of a bird, “a kind of heron” whose legs are blue, the same blue color of the hotel.  The next sentence

The Palace Hotel, then, was always screaming and howling in a way that made the dazzling winter landscape of Nebraska seem only a gray swampish hush.

contains two synaesthetic metaphors.  Sound imagery “screaming and howling” is used to describe how the hotel looks and similarly the appearance of the winter landscape is described as a “hush.”  The worksheet doesn’t ask about this interesting use of figurative language, but teachers might point it out to students.  Again, this kind of delving into a text shows students the possibilities of language and hopefully inspire them to produce some complex prose of their own.


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