ACT Reading : Drawing Inferences from Humanities Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT Reading

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Example Question #1 : Drawing Inferences From Humanities Passages

This is an excerpt from Meditation 17 by John Donne (1623)

PERCHANCE he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill, as that he knows not it tolls for him; and perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me, and see my state, may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that. The church is Catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she does belongs to all. When she baptizes a child, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to that body which is my head too, and ingrafted into that body whereof I am a member. And when she buries a man, that action concerns me: all mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated; God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God's hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another. As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come, so this bell calls us all; but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness. There was a contention as far as a suit (in which both piety and dignity, religion and estimation, were mingled), which of the religious orders should ring to prayers first in the morning; and it was determined, that they should ring first that rose earliest. If we understand aright the dignity of this bell that tolls for our evening prayer, we would be glad to make it ours by rising early, in that application, that it might be ours as well as his, whose indeed it is. The bell doth toll for him that thinks it doth; and though it intermit again, yet from that minute that that occasion wrought upon him, he is united to God.

The author can best be described as which of the following?

Possible Answers:

An unhappy man

An author like Dante

A doctor

A memoirist

None of the other answers

Correct answer:

None of the other answers

Explanation:

There is no textual evidence that points toward any of these characteristics in regard to the author.

Example Question #2 : Drawing Inferences From Humanities Passages

Adapted from An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding by David Hume (1748)

Everyone will readily allow that there is a considerable difference between the perceptions of the mind, when a man feels the pain of excessive heat, or the pleasure of moderate warmth, and when he afterwards recalls to his memory this sensation, or anticipates it by his imagination. These faculties may mimic or copy the perceptions of the senses; but they can never entirely reach the force and vivacity of the original sentiment. The utmost we say of them, even when they operate with greatest vigour, is that they represent their object in so lively a manner that we could almost say we feel or see it: but, except the mind be disordered by disease or madness, they can never arrive at such a pitch of vivacity as to render these perceptions altogether indistinguishable. All the colours of poetry, however splendid, can never paint natural objects in such a manner as to make the description be taken for a real landscape. The most lively thought is still inferior to the dullest sensation.

We may observe a like distinction running through all the other perceptions of the mind. A man in a fit of anger is actuated in a very different manner from one who only thinks of that emotion. If you tell me that any person is in love, I easily understand your meaning and form a just conception of his situation, but never can mistake that conception for the real disorders and agitations of the passion.

What might we infer this argument pertains to?

Possible Answers:

How much people hesitate and slightly disdain the world

How people avoid using their senses

How much people are less than pleased about the specifics of the world

How people think of and understand the world

None of the other answers

Correct answer:

How people think of and understand the world

Explanation:

The author is grappling here with how we think of and understand the real world.

Example Question #3 : Drawing Inferences From Humanities Passages

Adapted from An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding by David Hume (1748)

Everyone will readily allow that there is a considerable difference between the perceptions of the mind, when a man feels the pain of excessive heat, or the pleasure of moderate warmth, and when he afterwards recalls to his memory this sensation, or anticipates it by his imagination. These faculties may mimic or copy the perceptions of the senses; but they can never entirely reach the force and vivacity of the original sentiment. The utmost we say of them, even when they operate with greatest vigour, is that they represent their object in so lively a manner that we could almost say we feel or see it: but, except the mind be disordered by disease or madness, they can never arrive at such a pitch of vivacity as to render these perceptions altogether indistinguishable. All the colours of poetry, however splendid, can never paint natural objects in such a manner as to make the description be taken for a real landscape. The most lively thought is still inferior to the dullest sensation.

We may observe a like distinction running through all the other perceptions of the mind. A man in a fit of anger is actuated in a very different manner from one who only thinks of that emotion. If you tell me that any person is in love, I easily understand your meaning and form a just conception of his situation, but never can mistake that conception for the real disorders and agitations of the passion.

What might be the implication of this excerpt?

Possible Answers:

That people are quite unhappy when they don't use the senses

That people used to fear intellectual thinking

That people are troubled by sensory perception

None of the other answers

That people need sensory experiences to learn

Correct answer:

That people need sensory experiences to learn

Explanation:

The text implies that we might learn best from sensory experiences rather than thought.

Example Question #4 : Drawing Inferences From Humanities Passages

This is an excerpt from Self Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1841)

Man is timid and apologetic; he is no longer upright; he dares not say "I think," "I am," but quotes some saint or sage. He is ashamed before the blade of grass or the blowing rose. These roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones; they are for what they are; they exist with God today. There is no time to them. There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence. Before a leaf-bud has burst, its whole life acts; in the full-blown flower there is no more; in the leafless root there is no less. Its nature is satisfied, and it satisfies nature, in all moments alike. But man postpones, or remembers; he does not live in the present, but with a reverted eye laments the past, or, heedless of the riches that surround him, stands on tiptoe to foresee the future. He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present, above time.

This should be plain enough. Yet see what strong intellects dare not yet hear God himself, unless he speak the phraseology of I know not what David, or Jeremiah, or Paul. We shall not always set so great a price on a few texts, on a few lives. We are like children who repeat by rote the sentences of grandames and tutors, and, as they grow older, of the men and talents and characters they chance to see—painfully recollecting the exact words they spoke; afterwards, when they come into the point of view which those had who uttered those saying, they understand them, and are willing to let the words go; for, at any time, they can use words as good when occasion comes. If we live truly, we shall see truly. It is as easy for the strong man to be strong, as it is for the weak to be weak. When we have new perception, we shall gladly disburden the memory of its hoarded treasures as old rubbish. When a man lives with God, his voice shall be as sweet as the murmur of the brook and the rustle of the corn.

We can infer from this passage that the author admires what kind of lifestyle?

Possible Answers:

An independent, free thinking one

None of the other answers

One focused on belief in work as ritual

Any kind that works best for you

One centered on family and faith

Correct answer:

An independent, free thinking one

Explanation:

The author points several times to the significance of living an independent, free thinking life.

Example Question #5 : Drawing Inferences From Humanities Passages

This is an excerpt from Self Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1841)

Man is timid and apologetic; he is no longer upright; he dares not say "I think," "I am," but quotes some saint or sage. He is ashamed before the blade of grass or the blowing rose. These roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones; they are for what they are; they exist with God today. There is no time to them. There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence. Before a leaf-bud has burst, its whole life acts; in the full-blown flower there is no more; in the leafless root there is no less. Its nature is satisfied, and it satisfies nature, in all moments alike. But man postpones, or remembers; he does not live in the present, but with a reverted eye laments the past, or, heedless of the riches that surround him, stands on tiptoe to foresee the future. He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present, above time.

This should be plain enough. Yet see what strong intellects dare not yet hear God himself, unless he speak the phraseology of I know not what David, or Jeremiah, or Paul. We shall not always set so great a price on a few texts, on a few lives. We are like children who repeat by rote the sentences of grandames and tutors, and, as they grow older, of the men and talents and characters they chance to see—painfully recollecting the exact words they spoke; afterwards, when they come into the point of view which those had who uttered those saying, they understand them, and are willing to let the words go; for, at any time, they can use words as good when occasion comes. If we live truly, we shall see truly. It is as easy for the strong man to be strong, as it is for the weak to be weak. When we have new perception, we shall gladly disburden the memory of its hoarded treasures as old rubbish. When a man lives with God, his voice shall be as sweet as the murmur of the brook and the rustle of the corn.

What is most likely to come next in this passage?

Possible Answers:

None of the other answers

More details about the inadequate nature of man’s independence

A description of cabin living

A story of the author’s life

A lamentation on democracy

Correct answer:

More details about the inadequate nature of man’s independence

Explanation:

The author is clearly discussing man’s need for increased independence; it seems likely that he will continue in this vein.

Example Question #6 : Drawing Inferences From Humanities Passages

This is an excerpt from Self Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1841)

Man is timid and apologetic; he is no longer upright; he dares not say "I think," "I am," but quotes some saint or sage. He is ashamed before the blade of grass or the blowing rose. These roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones; they are for what they are; they exist with God today. There is no time to them. There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence. Before a leaf-bud has burst, its whole life acts; in the full-blown flower there is no more; in the leafless root there is no less. Its nature is satisfied, and it satisfies nature, in all moments alike. But man postpones, or remembers; he does not live in the present, but with a reverted eye laments the past, or, heedless of the riches that surround him, stands on tiptoe to foresee the future. He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present, above time.

This should be plain enough. Yet see what strong intellects dare not yet hear God himself, unless he speak the phraseology of I know not what David, or Jeremiah, or Paul. We shall not always set so great a price on a few texts, on a few lives. We are like children who repeat by rote the sentences of grandames and tutors, and, as they grow older, of the men and talents and characters they chance to see—painfully recollecting the exact words they spoke; afterwards, when they come into the point of view which those had who uttered those saying, they understand them, and are willing to let the words go; for, at any time, they can use words as good when occasion comes. If we live truly, we shall see truly. It is as easy for the strong man to be strong, as it is for the weak to be weak. When we have new perception, we shall gladly disburden the memory of its hoarded treasures as old rubbish. When a man lives with God, his voice shall be as sweet as the murmur of the brook and the rustle of the corn.

The author is which of the following?

Possible Answers:

A doctor

None of the other answers

A father

A politician

A husband

Correct answer:

None of the other answers

Explanation:

There is no evidence that supports any of these options; it is not clear that the author is any of these things.

Example Question #7 : Drawing Inferences From Humanities Passages

The following is an excerpt from The Monk by Matthew Gregory Lewis (1794)

"Were it possible" said the Friar, "for man to be so totally wrapped up in himself as to live in absolute seclusion from human nature, and could yet feel the contented tranquillity which these lines express, I allow that the situation would be more desirable, than to live in a world so pregnant with every vice and every folly; but this never can be the case. This inscription was merely placed here for the ornament of the grotto, and the sentiments and the hermit are equally imaginary. Man was born for society. However little He may be attached to the world, he never can wholly forget it, or bear to be wholly forgotten by it. Disgusted at the guilt or absurdity of mankind, the misanthrope flies from it: he resolves to become an hermit, and buries himself in the cavern of some gloomy rock. While hate inflames his bosom, possibly he may feel contented with his situation: but when his passions begin to cool; when time has mellowed his sorrows, and healed those wounds which he bore with him to his solitude, think you that content becomes his companion? Ah! no, Rosario. No longer sustained by the violence of his passions, he feels all the monotony of his way of living, and his heart becomes the prey of ennui and weariness. He looks round, and finds himself alone in the universe: the love of society revives in his bosom, and he pants to return to that world which he has abandoned. Nature loses all her charms in his eyes: no one is near him to point out her beauties, or share in his admiration of her excellence and variety. Propped upon the fragment of some rock, he gazes upon the tumbling waterfall with a vacant eye; he views without emotion the glory of the setting sun."

Why is it most likely that the Friar is discussing this point with Rosario?

Possible Answers:

Because Rosario loves nature too much

Because he wishes to practice his sermon on Rosario

None of the other answers

Because Rosario is his son

Because Rosario might wish to leave to commune with nature

Correct answer:

Because Rosario might wish to leave to commune with nature

Explanation:

Though we can’t know for sure from this passage, it is likely that the Friar wishes to dissuade Rosario from a future trip.

Example Question #8 : Drawing Inferences From Humanities Passages

The following is an excerpt from The Monk by Matthew Gregory Lewis (1794)

"Were it possible" said the Friar, "for man to be so totally wrapped up in himself as to live in absolute seclusion from human nature, and could yet feel the contented tranquillity which these lines express, I allow that the situation would be more desirable, than to live in a world so pregnant with every vice and every folly; but this never can be the case. This inscription was merely placed here for the ornament of the grotto, and the sentiments and the hermit are equally imaginary. Man was born for society. However little He may be attached to the world, he never can wholly forget it, or bear to be wholly forgotten by it. Disgusted at the guilt or absurdity of mankind, the misanthrope flies from it: he resolves to become an hermit, and buries himself in the cavern of some gloomy rock. While hate inflames his bosom, possibly he may feel contented with his situation: but when his passions begin to cool; when time has mellowed his sorrows, and healed those wounds which he bore with him to his solitude, think you that content becomes his companion? Ah! no, Rosario. No longer sustained by the violence of his passions, he feels all the monotony of his way of living, and his heart becomes the prey of ennui and weariness. He looks round, and finds himself alone in the universe: the love of society revives in his bosom, and he pants to return to that world which he has abandoned. Nature loses all her charms in his eyes: no one is near him to point out her beauties, or share in his admiration of her excellence and variety. Propped upon the fragment of some rock, he gazes upon the tumbling waterfall with a vacant eye; he views without emotion the glory of the setting sun."

What might we infer about the Friar from the following selection?

“He gazes upon the tumbling waterfall with a vacant eye; he views without emotion the glory of the setting sun.”

Possible Answers:

That he disdains nature

That nature alleviates all man’s troubles

None of the other answers

That he thinks of man as empty without companionship

That waterfall’s and nature offer no respite

Correct answer:

That he thinks of man as empty without companionship

Explanation:

The passage refers to the Friar’s opinion of man too long in isolation; he enjoys nature, but considers its impacts limited.

Example Question #9 : Drawing Inferences From Humanities Passages

This is an excerpt from Meditation 17 by John Donne (1623)

PERCHANCE he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill, as that he knows not it tolls for him; and perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me, and see my state, may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that. The church is Catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she does belongs to all. When she baptizes a child, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to that body which is my head too, and ingrafted into that body whereof I am a member. And when she buries a man, that action concerns me: all mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated; God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God's hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another. As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come, so this bell calls us all; but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness. There was a contention as far as a suit (in which both piety and dignity, religion and estimation, were mingled), which of the religious orders should ring to prayers first in the morning; and it was determined, that they should ring first that rose earliest. If we understand aright the dignity of this bell that tolls for our evening prayer, we would be glad to make it ours by rising early, in that application, that it might be ours as well as his, whose indeed it is. The bell doth toll for him that thinks it doth; and though it intermit again, yet from that minute that that occasion wrought upon him, he is united to God.

What does the author mean to convey in the following selection?

“PERCHANCE he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill, as that he knows not it tolls for him; and perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me, and see my state, may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that.”

Possible Answers:

None of the other answers

That he is very ill but doesn’t wish to say so

That when a bell rings forewarning of a death it may be for you, even if you do not realize it

That bells ring for everyone all the time

That he has already passed away and is hearing bells in heaven

Correct answer:

That when a bell rings forewarning of a death it may be for you, even if you do not realize it

Explanation:

The author is attempting to convey here that the sound of a bell may be for you or for someone else; it is impossible to know what kind of state we are truly in.

Example Question #181 : Content Of Humanities Passages

Adapted from Thoughts on Man (1831) by William Godwin

It is, in reality, obvious that man and woman, as they come from the hands of nature, are so much upon a par with each other as not to afford the best subjects between whom to graft a habit of entire, unalterable affection. In the scenes of vulgar and ordinary society, a permanent connection between persons of opposite sexes is too apt to degenerate into a scene of warfare, where each party is forever engaged in a struggle for superiority, and neither will give way. A penetrating observer, with whom in former days I used intimately to converse, was accustomed to say that there was generally more jarring and ill blood between the two parties in the first year of their marriage than during all the remainder of their lives. It is at length found necessary, as between equally matched belligerents on the theatre of history, that they should come to terms, make a treaty of peace, or at least settle certain laws of warfare that they may not waste their strength in idle hostilities.

There is nothing in which the superiority of modern times over the ancient has been more conspicuous than in our sentiments and practices on this subject. This superiority, as well as several other of our most valuable acquisitions, took its rise in what we call the dark ages. Chivalry was, for the most part, the invention of the eleventh century. Its principle was built upon a theory of the sexes, giving to each a relative importance, and assigning to both functions full of honor and grace. The knights (and every gentleman during that period in due time became a knight) were taught, as the main features of their vocation, the "love of God and the ladies." The ladies in return were regarded as the genuine censors of the deeds of knighthood. From these principles arose a thousand lessons of humanity. The ladies regarded it as their glory to assist their champions to arm and to disarm, to perform for them even menial services, to attend to them in sickness, and to dress their wounds. They bestowed on them their colors, and sent them forth to the field hallowed with their benedictions. The knights on the other hand considered any slight toward the fair sex as an indelible stain to their order; they contemplated the graceful patronesses of their valor with a feeling that partook of religious homage and veneration, and esteemed it as perhaps the first duty of their profession to relieve the wrongs and avenge the injuries of the less powerful sex.

This simple outline as to the relative position of the one sex and the other gave a new face to the whole scheme and arrangements of civil society. It is, like those admirable principles in the order of the material universe or those grand discoveries brought to light from time to time by superior genius, so obvious and simple that we wonder the most common understanding could have missed them, yet so pregnant with results that they seem at once to put a new life and inspire a new character into every part of a mighty and all-comprehensive mass.

The passion between the sexes, in its grosser sense, is a momentary impulse merely. There was danger that, when the fit and violence of the passion was over, the whole would subside into inconstancy and a roving disposition, or at least into indifference and almost brutal neglect. But the institutions of chivalry immediately gave a new face to this. Either sex conceived a deep and permanent interest in the other. In the unsettled state of society which characterized the period when these institutions arose, the defenseless were liable to assaults of multiplied kinds and the fair perpetually stood in need of a protector and a champion. The knights, on the other hand, were taught to derive their fame and their honor from the suffrages of the ladies. Each sex stood in need of the other and the basis of their union was mutual esteem.

The author of this passage would most likely expect the relationship between husband and wife to be __________.

Possible Answers:

a tool for social and economic control

benefitting the man 

benefitting the woman 

mutually beneficial 

benefitting the children 

Correct answer:

mutually beneficial 

Explanation:

Throughout this passage, the author affirms his belief that the relationship between man and woman, husband and wife, is one of mutual benefit. At the very least, it is clear that he believes it should be one of mutual benefit. Evidence for this can be found in the conclusion, where the author writes, "But the institutions of chivalry immediately gave a new face to this. Either sex conceived a deep and permanent interest in the other."

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