AP English Language : Purpose in Context

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for AP English Language

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Example Questions

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Example Question #55 : Words And Phrases In Context

Adapted from “The Celebration of Intellect” by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1861)

I cannot consent to wander from the duties of this day into the fracas of politics. The brute noise of cannon has, I know, a most poetic echo in these days when it is an instrument of freedom and the primal sentiments of humanity. Yet it is but representative and a far-off means and servant; but here in the college we are in the presence of the constituency and the principle itself. Here is, or should be, the majesty of reason and the creative cause, and it were a compounding of all gradation and reverence to suffer the flash of swords and the boyish strife of passion and the feebleness of military strength to intrude on this sanctity and omnipotence of Intellectual Law.

Against the heroism of soldiers I set the heroism of scholars, which consists in ignoring the other. You shall not put up in your Academy the statue of Caesar or Pompey, of Nelson or Wellington, of Washington or Napoleon, of Garibaldi, but of Archimedes, of Milton, of Newton. . . .

For either science and literature is a hypocrisy, or it is not. If it be, then resign your charter to the Legislature, turn your college into barracks and warehouses, and divert the funds of your founders into the stock of a rope-walk or a candle-factory, a tan-yard or some other undoubted conveniency for the surrounding population. But if the intellectual interest be, as I hold, no hypocrisy, but the only reality, then it behooves us to enthrone it, obey it, and give it possession of us and ours; to give, among other possessions, the college into its hand casting down every idol, every pretender, every hoary lie, every dignified blunder that has crept into its administration.

What is the purpose of the statues mentioned in the underlined sentence?

Possible Answers:

To stress the importance of remembering the past

To overcome a bias of many who are ignorant of important figures like Newton and Archimedes

To underscore the fact that most great artists are forgotten by history

None of the other answer choices is correct.

To provide icons for the people that should be praised in the American intellectual awareness

Correct answer:

To provide icons for the people that should be praised in the American intellectual awareness

Explanation:

The point of this paragraph is to present the personages Emerson believes deserve the praise of culture and intellectual society. The statues are meant to represent the people he believes should be held in esteem by the people in academia whom he is addressing. He is exhorting them against exalting military figures and exhorting them to exalt other people like Newton, Archimedes, and Milton.

Example Question #57 : Ap English Language

Adapted from “The Celebration of Intellect” by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1861)

At this season, the colleges keep their anniversaries, and in this country where education is a primary interest, every family has a representative in their halls; a son, a brother, or one of our own kindred is there for his training. But even if we had no son or friend therein, yet the college is part of the community, and it is there for us, is training our teachers, civilizers, and inspirers. It is essentially the most radiating and public of agencies, like, but better than, the light-house, or the alarm-bell, or the sentinel who fires a signal-cannon, or the telegraph which speeds the local news over the land. Besides, it deals with a force which it cannot monopolize or confine, cannot give to those who come to it and refuse to those outside. I have no doubt of the force, and for me the only question is whether the force is inside.

This power which it deals is dear to all. If the colleges were better, if they had any monopoly of it, nay, if they really had it, had the power of imparting valuable thought, creative principles, truths which become powers, thoughts which become talents—if they could cause that a mind not profound should become profound—we should all rush to their gates; instead of contriving inducements to draw students, you would need to set police at the gates to keep order in the in-rushing multitude.

These are giddy times, and, you say, the college will be deserted. No, never was it so much needed. But I say, those were the giddy times which went before these, and the new times are the times of arraignment, times of trial, and times of judgment. ‘Tis because the college was false to its trust, because the scholars did not learn and teach, because they were traders and left their altars and libraries and worship of truth and played the sycophant to presidents and generals and members of Congress, and gave degrees and literary and social honors to those whom they ought to have rebuked and exposed, incurring the contempt of those whom they ought to have put in fear; then the college is suicidal, ceases to be a school; power oozes out of it just as fast as truth does, and instead of overawing the strong, and upholding the good, it is a hospital for decayed tutors.

This Integrity over all partial knowledge and skill, homage to truth—how rare! Few men wish to know how the thing really stands, what is the law of it without reference to persons. Other men are victims of their means—sanity consists in not being subdued by your means.

Why does the author say that “the new times are times of arraignment, times of trial, and times of judgment”?

Possible Answers:

Culture has regressed to a state of complete barbarism, and now the nation is at the brink of war.

Few teachers are of good quality, for most have not studied assiduously enough during their time in college.

Religion has been abandoned by nearly all of the intellectual classes.

The decline of education will likely result in poor hygiene, leading to many social ills.

The university has neglected its true charge in order to flatter those whom it should have critiqued.

Correct answer:

The university has neglected its true charge in order to flatter those whom it should have critiqued.

Explanation:

In the sentence following the underlined selection, Emerson lists various ways in which the college/university no longer focused on truth and education, turning instead to various types of social flattery. This is argued to be a dereliction of the duty of the university as a critical force for society.

Example Question #2 : Purpose In Context

Adapted from "The Poet" in Essays: Second Series by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1844)

Those who are esteemed umpires of taste, are often persons knowledge of admired pictures or sculptures, and have an inclination for whatever is elegant; but if you inquire whether they are beautiful souls, and whether their own acts are like fair pictures, you learn that they are selfish and sensual. Their cultivation is local, as if you should rub a log of dry wood in one spot to produce fire, all the rest remaining cold. Their knowledge of the fine arts is some study of rules and particulars, or some limited judgment of color or form, which is exercised for amusement or for show. It is a proof of the shallowness of the doctrine of beauty, as it lies in the minds of our amateurs, that men seem to have lost the perception of the instant dependence of form upon soul. There is no doctrine of forms in our philosophy. We were put into our bodies, as fire is put into a pan, to be carried about; but there is no accurate adjustment between the spirit and the organ, much less is the latter the germination of the former. So in regard to other forms, the intellectual men do not believe in any essential dependence of the material world on thought and volition. Theologians think it a pretty air-castle to talk of the spiritual meaning of a ship or a cloud, of a city or a contract, but they prefer to come again to the solid ground of historical evidence; and even the poets are contented with a civil and conformed manner of living, and to write poems from the fancy, at a safe distance from their own experience. But the highest minds of the world have never ceased to explore the double meaning, or, shall I say, the quadruple, or the centuple, or much more manifold meaning, of every sensuous fact: Orpheus, Empedocles, Heraclitus, Plato, Plutarch, Dante, Swedenborg, and the masters of sculpture, picture, and poetry. For we are not pans and barrows, nor even porters of the fire and torch-bearers, but children of the fire, made of it, and only the same divinity transmuted, and at two or three removes, when we know least about it. And this hidden truth, that the fountains whence all this river of Time, and its creatures, floweth, are intrinsically ideal and beautiful, draws us to the consideration of the nature and functions of the Poet, or the man of Beauty, to the means and materials he uses, and to the general aspect of the art in the present time.

The breadth of the problem is great, for the poet is representative. He stands among partial men for the complete man, and apprises us not of his wealth, but of the common-wealth. The young man reveres men of genius, because, to speak truly, they are more himself than he is. They receive of the soul as he also receives, but they more. Nature enhances her beauty, to the eye of loving men, from their belief that the poet is beholding her shows at the same time. He is isolated among his contemporaries, by truth and by his art, but with this consolation in his pursuits, that they will draw all men sooner or later. For all men live by truth, and stand in need of expression. In love, in art, in avarice, in politics, in labor, in games, we study to utter our painful secret. The man is only half himself, the other half is his expression.

What is the function of the underlined sentence, "He stands among partial men for the complete man, and apprises us not of his wealth, but of the common-wealth"?

Possible Answers:

express the commonality and interconnectedness of poetry and the writers in the discipline

attribute the completeness of man to his poetic aptitude

ascribe the poet with a universality of expression that is representative of humanity as a whole

demonstrate the holistic nature of artistic expression

demonstrate the ardor the poet possesses in writing poems that express the gamut of human emotion

Correct answer:

ascribe the poet with a universality of expression that is representative of humanity as a whole

Explanation:

This quotation serves to link the poet with a universality of expression and to demonstrate the poet's ability to extrapolate poetry to a universal rather than a merely individual level. This is insinuated in the author's phrasing of "the common-wealth," a phrase that is used in order to show how poetry functions as an expressive form for humanity as a whole.

Example Question #1 : Purpose In Context

Adapted from "The Poet" in Essays: Second Series by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1844)

Those who are esteemed umpires of taste, are often persons knowledge of admired pictures or sculptures, and have an inclination for whatever is elegant; but if you inquire whether they are beautiful souls, and whether their own acts are like fair pictures, you learn that they are selfish and sensual. Their cultivation is local, as if you should rub a log of dry wood in one spot to produce fire, all the rest remaining cold. Their knowledge of the fine arts is some study of rules and particulars, or some limited judgment of color or form, which is exercised for amusement or for show. It is a proof of the shallowness of the doctrine of beauty, as it lies in the minds of our amateurs, that men seem to have lost the perception of the instant dependence of form upon soul. There is no doctrine of forms in our philosophy. We were put into our bodies, as fire is put into a pan, to be carried about; but there is no accurate adjustment between the spirit and the organ, much less is the latter the germination of the former. So in regard to other forms, the intellectual men do not believe in any essential dependence of the material world on thought and volition. Theologians think it a pretty air-castle to talk of the spiritual meaning of a ship or a cloud, of a city or a contract, but they prefer to come again to the solid ground of historical evidence; and even the poets are contented with a civil and conformed manner of living, and to write poems from the fancy, at a safe distance from their own experience. But the highest minds of the world have never ceased to explore the double meaning, or, shall I say, the quadruple, or the centuple, or much more manifold meaning, of every sensuous fact: Orpheus, Empedocles, Heraclitus, Plato, Plutarch, Dante, Swedenborg, and the masters of sculpture, picture, and poetry. For we are not pans and barrows, nor even porters of the fire and torch-bearers, but children of the fire, made of it, and only the same divinity transmuted, and at two or three removes, when we know least about it. And this hidden truth, that the fountains whence all this river of Time, and its creatures, floweth, are intrinsically ideal and beautiful, draws us to the consideration of the nature and functions of the Poet, or the man of Beauty, to the means and materials he uses, and to the general aspect of the art in the present time.

The breadth of the problem is great, for the poet is representative. He stands among partial men for the complete man, and apprises us not of his wealth, but of the common-wealth. The young man reveres men of genius, because, to speak truly, they are more himself than he is. They receive of the soul as he also receives, but they more. Nature enhances her beauty, to the eye of loving men, from their belief that the poet is beholding her shows at the same time. He is isolated among his contemporaries, by truth and by his art, but with this consolation in his pursuits, that they will draw all men sooner or later. For all men live by truth, and stand in need of expression. In love, in art, in avarice, in politics, in labor, in games, we study to utter our painful secret. The man is only half himself, the other half is his expression.

The author lists several famous poets by name in the first paragraph in order to __________.

Possible Answers:

demonstrate the myriad of meanings possible from the same set of facts or life experiences

provide examples of artists and poets who incorporate experience into their work in contrast to other individuals who do not employ experience

enumerate poets who possess a mastery of poetic expression

reference poets who have created the foundations of poetic craft and have reached full expression in their poetry

list artists and poets who have devoted themselves to only drawing inspiration from experience instead of fancy

Correct answer:

provide examples of artists and poets who incorporate experience into their work in contrast to other individuals who do not employ experience

Explanation:

The author lists "Orpheus, Empedocles, Heraclitus, Plato, Plutarch, Dante, Swedenborg, and the masters of sculpture, picture, and poetry" as exemplifying "the highest minds of the world," those who integrate experience into their work and in doing so, combine "form" and "spirit."

Example Question #2 : Purpose In Context

Adapted from the First Inaugural Address of Thomas Jefferson (March 4th, 1801)

During the contest of opinion through which we have passed, the animation of discussions and of exertions has sometimes worn an aspect which might impose on strangers unused to think freely and to speak and to write what they think; but this being now decided by the voice of the nation, announced according to the rules of the Constitution, all will, of course, arrange themselves under the will of the law, and unite in common efforts for the common good. All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.

Let us, then, fellow-citizens, unite with one heart and one mind. Let us restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty and even life itself are but dreary things. And let us reflect that, having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions. During the throes and convulsions of the ancient world, during the agonizing spasms of infuriated man, seeking through blood and slaughter his long-lost liberty, it was not wonderful that the agitation of the billows should reach even this distant and peaceful shore; that this should be more felt and feared by some and less by others, and should divide opinions as to measures of safety.

But every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists. If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it. I know, indeed, that some honest men fear that a republican government can not be strong, that this government is not strong enough; but would the honest patriot, in the full tide of successful experiment, abandon a government which has so far kept us free and firm on the theoretic and visionary fear that this government, the world's best hope, may by possibility want energy to preserve itself? I trust not. I believe this, on the contrary, the strongest government on earth. I believe it the only one where every man, at the call of the law, would fly to the standard of the law, and would meet invasions of the public order as his own personal concern. Sometimes it is said that man can not be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.

To what does the word "angels" refer in the underlined selection?

Possible Answers:

Men of religious temperaments

People of kindness and goodwill

A spiritual being

Those whose job it is to protect others

Men of impeccable character

Correct answer:

Men of impeccable character

Explanation:

Before this sentence, Jefferson states, "Sometimes it is said that man can not be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others?" Even though we do not have Jefferson's concluding remarks to this thought, we can interpret this adequately. Some say that human beings cannot be trusted either to govern themselves or others. In contrast to this, he asks whether or not we have found angels who can govern human beings. By this, he uses "angels" in a broad sense to mean innocent and trustworthy men. The idea here is that angels are pure beings—hence, he extends its usage to apply to human beings of a certain kind of character. Such persons would be "impeccable"—that is, without fault.

Example Question #1 : Other Content Questions

From “Essay on Liberty” by John Stuart Mill

Mankind can hardly be too often reminded, that there was once a man named Socrates, between whom and the legal authorities and public opinion of his time, there took place a memorable collision. Born in an age and country abounding in individual greatness, this man has been handed down to us by those who best knew both him and the age, as the most virtuous man in it; while we know him as the head and prototype of all subsequent teachers of virtue, the source equally of the lofty inspiration of Plato and the judicious utilitarianism of Aristotle, "i maëstri di color che sanno," the two headsprings of ethical as of all other philosophy. This acknowledged master of all the eminent thinkers who have since lived—whose fame, still growing after more than two thousand years, all but outweighs the whole remainder of the names which make his native city illustrious—was put to death by his countrymen, after a judicial conviction, for impiety and immorality. Impiety, in denying the gods recognized by the State; indeed his accuser asserted (see the Apologia) that he believed in no gods at all. Immorality, in being, by his doctrines and instructions, a "corrupter of youth." Of these charges the tribunal, there is every ground for believing, honestly found him guilty, and condemned the man who probably of all then born had deserved best of mankind, to be put to death as a criminal.

To pass from this to the only other instance of judicial iniquity, the mention of which, after the condemnation of Socrates, would not be an anti-climax: the event which took place on Calvary rather more than eighteen hundred years ago. The man who left on the memory of those who witnessed his life and conversation, such an impression of his moral grandeur, that eighteen subsequent centuries have done homage to him as the Almighty in person, was ignominiously put to death, as what? As a blasphemer. Men did not merely mistake their benefactor; they mistook him for the exact contrary of what he was, and treated him as that prodigy of impiety, which they themselves are now held to be, for their treatment of him. The feelings with which mankind now regard these lamentable transactions, especially the later of the two, render them extremely unjust in their judgment of the unhappy actors. These were, to all appearance, not bad men—not worse than men most commonly are, but rather the contrary; men who possessed in a full, or somewhat more than a full measure, the religious, moral, and patriotic feelings of their time and people: the very kind of men who, in all times, our own included, have every chance of passing through life blameless and respected. The high-priest who rent his garments when the words were pronounced, which, according to all the ideas of his country, constituted the blackest guilt, was in all probability quite as sincere in his horror and indignation, as the generality of respectable and pious men now are in the religious and moral sentiments they profess; and most of those who now shudder at his conduct, if they had lived in his time, and been born Jews, would have acted precisely as he did. Orthodox Christians who are tempted to think that those who stoned to death the first martyrs must have been worse men than they themselves are, ought to remember that one of those persecutors was Saint Paul.

Why does Mill mention that Socrates lived “in an age and country abounding in individual greatness”?

Possible Answers:

To overcome a bias about Athens in Socrates' day

To praise the men of Athens in Socrates' day

To stress the mutable character of all opinions

To stress the gravity of the charges against Socrates

To show how truly great Socrates was

Correct answer:

To show how truly great Socrates was

Explanation:

If you read the whole sentence that contains the underlined selection, you will see that Mill states that in this age of "individual greatness," Socrates stood out "as the most virtuous man in it." He was a great men among great men—what a high position he had, at least according to Mill! 

Example Question #3 : Purpose In Context

From “Essay on Liberty” by John Stuart Mill

Mankind can hardly be too often reminded, that there was once a man named Socrates, between whom and the legal authorities and public opinion of his time, there took place a memorable collision. Born in an age and country abounding in individual greatness, this man has been handed down to us by those who best knew both him and the age, as the most virtuous man in it; while we know him as the head and prototype of all subsequent teachers of virtue, the source equally of the lofty inspiration of Plato and the judicious utilitarianism of Aristotle, "i maëstri di color che sanno," the two headsprings of ethical as of all other philosophy. This acknowledged master of all the eminent thinkers who have since lived—whose fame, still growing after more than two thousand years, all but outweighs the whole remainder of the names which make his native city illustrious—was put to death by his countrymen, after a judicial conviction, for impiety and immorality. Impiety, in denying the gods recognized by the State; indeed his accuser asserted (see the Apologia) that he believed in no gods at all. Immorality, in being, by his doctrines and instructions, a "corrupter of youth." Of these charges the tribunal, there is every ground for believing, honestly found him guilty, and condemned the man who probably of all then born had deserved best of mankind, to be put to death as a criminal.

To pass from this to the only other instance of judicial iniquity, the mention of which, after the condemnation of Socrates, would not be an anti-climax: the event which took place on Calvary rather more than eighteen hundred years ago. The man who left on the memory of those who witnessed his life and conversation, such an impression of his moral grandeur, that eighteen subsequent centuries have done homage to him as the Almighty in person, was ignominiously put to death, as what? As a blasphemer. Men did not merely mistake their benefactor; they mistook him for the exact contrary of what he was, and treated him as that prodigy of impiety, which they themselves are now held to be, for their treatment of him. The feelings with which mankind now regard these lamentable transactions, especially the later of the two, render them extremely unjust in their judgment of the unhappy actors. These were, to all appearance, not bad men—not worse than men most commonly are, but rather the contrary; men who possessed in a full, or somewhat more than a full measure, the religious, moral, and patriotic feelings of their time and people: the very kind of men who, in all times, our own included, have every chance of passing through life blameless and respected. The high-priest who rent his garments when the words were pronounced, which, according to all the ideas of his country, constituted the blackest guilt, was in all probability quite as sincere in his horror and indignation, as the generality of respectable and pious men now are in the religious and moral sentiments they profess; and most of those who now shudder at his conduct, if they had lived in his time, and been born Jews, would have acted precisely as he did. Orthodox Christians who are tempted to think that those who stoned to death the first martyrs must have been worse men than they themselves are, ought to remember that one of those persecutors was Saint Paul.

What does the underlined expression “which they themselves are now held to be” prepare for that is discussed later in the passage?

Possible Answers:

The contrast between these Jewish men and the orthodox Christians of Mill's own day.

The contrast between the Jewish men of his own day and those of Jesus' time.

The story of the high-priest rending his garments.

His condemnation of the actions of the people of Jesus' day.

The comparison that Mill makes between the people of Jesus' time and the men of his (Mill's) own age.

Correct answer:

The comparison that Mill makes between the people of Jesus' time and the men of his (Mill's) own age.

Explanation:

The selection implies (rather directly) that certain people of Mill's own day believe Jewish people to be impious because of what they did to Jesus; however, as Mill later points out, the same people who make this unfair condemnation would likewise have been quite likely to do the same thing had they been alive during Jesus' own day. Therefore, this remark prepares for the comparison that is later made. In short, Mill first states that certain people of his own day hold Jewish people to be impious. Then, later on, he compares the men of his own day to the Jewish people of Jesus' time, showing that the "righteous" men of his time would be just as likely to do exactly the same as did the Jewish people then. Thus, he indirectly asserts that they too have the same character as those whom they condemn as impious.

Example Question #5 : Purpose In Context

Adapted from Volume I of The Life of Charlotte Brontë by Elizabeth Gaskell (1906 ed.)

About a year after Mrs. Brontë’s death, an elder sister, as I have before mentioned, came from Penzance to superintend her brother-in-law’s household and look after his children. Miss Branwell was, I believe, a kindly and conscientious woman, with a good deal of character, but with the somewhat narrow ideas natural to one who had spent nearly all her life in the same place. She had strong prejudices, and soon took a distaste to Yorkshire. From Penzance, where plants which we in the north call greenhouse flowers grow in great profusion, and without any shelter even in the winter, and where the soft warm climate allows the inhabitants, if so disposed, to live pretty constantly in the open air, it was a great change for a lady considerably past forty to come and take up her abode in a place where neither flowers nor vegetables would flourish, and where a tree of even moderate dimensions might be hunted for far and wide; where the snow lay long and late on the moors, stretching bleakly and barely far up from the dwelling which was henceforward to be her home; and where often, on autumnal or winter nights, the four winds of heaven seemed to meet and rage together, tearing round the house as if they were wild beasts striving to find an entrance. She missed the small round of cheerful, social visiting perpetually going on in a country town; she missed the friends she had known from her childhood, some of whom had been her parents’ friends before they were hers; she disliked many of the customs of the place, and particularly dreaded the cold damp arising from the flag floors in the passages and parlors of Haworth Parsonage. The stairs, too, I believe, are made of stone; and no wonder, when stone quarries are near, and trees are far to seek. I have heard that Miss Branwell always went about the house in pattens, clicking up and down the stairs, from her dread of catching cold. For the same reason, in the latter years of her life, she passed nearly all her time, and took most of her meals, in her bedroom. The children respected her, and had that sort of affection for her which is generated by esteem; but I do not think they ever freely loved her. It was a severe trial for any one at her time of life to change neighborhood and habitation so entirely as she did; and the greater her merit.

In context, the underlined phrase "wild beasts" is used for what purpose?

Possible Answers:

To illustrate the intensity of the weather

To describe the ferocious animals in the vicinity

To condemn the behavior of the children towards their aunt

To expose the various threats posed by the family's solitude

To evoke the mysterious noises in the old house

Correct answer:

To illustrate the intensity of the weather

Explanation:

Neither "ferocious animals" nor "mysterious noises" are mentioned in this passage. In context, the phrase "wild beasts" does not refer to the children at all, and it does not suggest threats posed by solitude. Instead, the author compares the wind on autumn and winter nights to "wild beasts," thus suggesting the magnitude and fierceness of the weather conditions.

Example Question #4 : Purpose In Context

Adapted from Volume I of The Life of Charlotte Brontë by Elizabeth Gaskell (1906 ed.)

About a year after Mrs. Brontë’s death, an elder sister, as I have before mentioned, came from Penzance to superintend her brother-in-law’s household and look after his children. Miss Branwell was, I believe, a kindly and conscientious woman, with a good deal of character, but with the somewhat narrow ideas natural to one who had spent nearly all her life in the same place. She had strong prejudices, and soon took a distaste to Yorkshire. From Penzance, where plants which we in the north call greenhouse flowers grow in great profusion, and without any shelter even in the winter, and where the soft warm climate allows the inhabitants, if so disposed, to live pretty constantly in the open air, it was a great change for a lady considerably past forty to come and take up her abode in a place where neither flowers nor vegetables would flourish, and where a tree of even moderate dimensions might be hunted for far and wide; where the snow lay long and late on the moors, stretching bleakly and barely far up from the dwelling which was henceforward to be her home; and where often, on autumnal or winter nights, the four winds of heaven seemed to meet and rage together, tearing round the house as if they were wild beasts striving to find an entrance. She missed the small round of cheerful, social visiting perpetually going on in a country town; she missed the friends she had known from her childhood, some of whom had been her parents’ friends before they were hers; she disliked many of the customs of the place, and particularly dreaded the cold damp arising from the flag floors in the passages and parlors of Haworth Parsonage. The stairs, too, I believe, are made of stone; and no wonder, when stone quarries are near, and trees are far to seek. I have heard that Miss Branwell always went about the house in pattens, clicking up and down the stairs, from her dread of catching cold. For the same reason, in the latter years of her life, she passed nearly all her time, and took most of her meals, in her bedroom. The children respected her, and had that sort of affection for her which is generated by esteem; but I do not think they ever freely loved her. It was a severe trial for any one at her time of life to change neighborhood and habitation so entirely as she did; and the greater her merit.

The author's choice of the underlined phrase "I have heard" suggests which of the following?

Possible Answers:

Miss Branwell's habit has been recalled by those close to her.

The narrator is making an inference based on evidence.

The narrator has witnessed Miss Branwell's behavior.

The narrator is embellishing more commonplace details.

Miss Branwell was fiercely secretive in her private life.

Correct answer:

Miss Branwell's habit has been recalled by those close to her.

Explanation:

The phrase "I have heard" rules out the possibility that the narrator actually saw what she is about to describe. It also suggests, however, that she is reporting the facts rather than "embellishing," which would bring in fictional elements, or inferring, which would require an educated guess. There is no indication that Miss Branwell was "fiercely secretive." So, the phrase most nearly implies that the narrator has spoken with those, most probably family members, who either remember or have themselves heard stories of Miss Branwell's actions.

Example Question #7 : Purpose In Context

Adapted from the First Inaugural Address of Thomas Jefferson (March 4th, 1801)

During the contest of opinion through which we have passed, the animation of discussions and of exertions has sometimes worn an aspect which might impose on strangers unused to think freely and to speak and to write what they think; but this being now decided by the voice of the nation, announced according to the rules of the Constitution, all will, of course, arrange themselves under the will of the law, and unite in common efforts for the common good. All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.

Let us, then, fellow-citizens, unite with one heart and one mind. Let us restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty and even life itself are but dreary things. And let us reflect that, having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions. During the throes and convulsions of the ancient world, during the agonizing spasms of infuriated man, seeking through blood and slaughter his long-lost liberty, it was not wonderful that the agitation of the billows should reach even this distant and peaceful shore; that this should be more felt and feared by some and less by others, and should divide opinions as to measures of safety.

But every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists. If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it. I know, indeed, that some honest men fear that a republican government can not be strong, that this government is not strong enough; but would the honest patriot, in the full tide of successful experiment, abandon a government which has so far kept us free and firm on the theoretic and visionary fear that this government, the world's best hope, may by possibility want energy to preserve itself? I trust not. I believe this, on the contrary, the strongest government on earth. I believe it the only one where every man, at the call of the law, would fly to the standard of the law, and would meet invasions of the public order as his own personal concern. Sometimes it is said that man can not be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.

What is the purpose of the underlined statement?

Possible Answers:

To acknowledge the divisions in the political landscape

To diminish the animosity between two factions

To hint at Jefferson's major plan for upcoming years

To castigate two factions for their bitter warring

To predict upcoming political battles

Correct answer:

To diminish the animosity between two factions

Explanation:

At the beginning of this paragraph, Jefferson clearly is addressing the fact that certain parties in the U.S. think that they have very different opinions politically. By saying that they are all Federalists and all Republicans, he is trying to "smooth over" these opinions. They may have differences in opinions, but these are not the sources of different root principles. Thus, he is attempting to diminish the differences and animosity between the parties.

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