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How to Determine the Cause and Effect of an Event in a Passage

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  • 0:01 What Is Cause and Effect?
  • 1:15 The Cause
  • 2:13 The Effect
  • 3:00 Strategies
  • 4:02 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Andrew Sedillo

Andrew Sedillo has taught Language Arts, Social Studies, and Technology at a middle school level. He currently holds a Bachelor's of Arts in Education, Master's of Arts Educational Learning Technology, and a Graduate certificate in Online Teaching and Learning.

Recognize and understand how cause and effect relates to literature. Learn how to determine and find cause and effect in a reading passage, along with a strategy to assist you.

What Is Cause and Effect?

Take the time to reflect on your life and think about situations you faced growing up. Each year, we are placed in situations in which we need to make choices. As we grow older, the choices get harder. Due to our choices, we may face a good or bad consequence. One thing to think about is: what has caused us to make these choices? For example, we may want to lose weight because we no longer fit in old clothes, so that causes us to eat healthier foods that lead to weight loss. On the other hand, we may have a craving for unhealthy foods that leads to weight gain.

This idea of making choices and experiencing the effects of these choices is known as cause and effect. Cause and effect is a concept widely used in reading. Authors often use cause and effect to create relationships between characters in a story and the reader; this also serves as a way for readers to analyze a story by using this process to make sense of the plot or themes by understanding the actions of the characters.

The Cause

Through experience, we learn that the choices we make are based on situations we face. This same idea can be applied to literature. Most stories have events that eventually lead to why characters act a certain way or make a choice that may or may not affect the future events in a story. Any time you analyze or explain the cause, you focus on the elements that led to a character making a certain choice. For example in the book, The Hunger Games, the story's protagonist, Katniss, volunteers as tribute to participate in a yearly game in which other teens from different districts fight to the death. What caused her to make this decision was the fact that her younger sister was first chosen. Katniss recognizes that she is the head of the household and should take the place of her little sister because that is the right thing to do. As with every choice, there is always an effect.

The Effect

For any choice that we make there is always a consequence. This can either be good or bad depending on the situation. When this idea applies to literature, the author uses the actions of character choice to create the effect. Any time you analyze or explain the effect, you focus on the consequences of the actions or choices characters make throughout the story. As mentioned in the previous example, Katniss chose to volunteer in place of her sister for the annual Hunger Games. The effect of her choice led her to being taken from her family to fight to the death against other competitors as a means of survival and being glorified by her district as a winner of the annual Hunger Games.

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