GED Language Arts (RLA) : Argument Relationships

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for GED Language Arts (RLA)

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Authorial Attitude, Tone, And Purpose In Argumentative Humanities Passages

"Newton's Mistakes" by Daniel Morrison (2014)

Isaac Newton has often been thought of as the greatest thinker in human history. His insight into the role that gravity plays in existence and physics completely changed our collective understanding of the universe and our place in it. He was understood in his own time as a genius. One famous quote by Alexander Pope (himself quite an intelligent man) demonstrates the deep affection felt for Newton: “Nature, and nature’s mysteries, lay bathed in night, God said 'Let there be Newton,’ and all was light.”

Yet, when the famous economist John Kenneth Galbraith purchased Newton’s journals and diaries at auction, he found to his astonishment, and partial dismay, that more than half of Newton’s work was dedicated to the practice of alchemy—the pursuit of turning ordinary materials into precious metals. Our current understanding of science tells us that this is impossible and that Newton was wasting a significant proportion of his time.

Another famous story about Newton tells of his attempts to figure out the effect of direct exposure to sunlight on the human eye. To carry out this experiment he decided to stare at the sun for as long as humanly possible to see what would happen. The effect, as you might have guessed, was that he very nearly went permanently blind and was indeed completely unable to see for two days.

One might determine from these stories that Newton was not the genius we consider him to be—that he was, in fact, a fool; however, it should tell us something about the nature of genius. It is not merely deep intelligence, but the willingness to try new things and the rejection of the fear of failure. Newton was not a genius in spite of his mistakes, but because of them.

What is the author trying to highlight about Isaac Newton by employing Alexander Pope’s saying in the underlined quote in the first paragraph?

Possible Answers:

The reverence that Newton is held in by historical scientific scholars

The high esteem in which Newton was held by his contemporaries

The illuminating impact of Newton’s revelations

The inherent foolishness in Isaac Newton’s genius

The impact of Newton’s theories about gravity on the field of architecture

Correct answer:

The high esteem in which Newton was held by his contemporaries

Explanation:

It is clear that Alexander Pope himself is highlighting the “illuminating impact of Newton’s revelations” from his use of the word “light.” But, this question is asking you why the author employs Alexander Pope’s quotation, which is a much different question. To understand why the author employs this quotation, you have to go consider what the author says directly before sharing the quotation. He says, “He was understood in his own time as a genius; one famous quote by Alexander Pope (himself quite an intelligent man) demonstrates the deep affection felt for Newton . . . “ This suggests that the author employs Alexander Pope’s famous quotation to demonstrate “the high esteem in which Newton was held by his contemporaries.”

Example Question #103 : Language In Humanities Passages

Adapted from “A Defense of Slang” in The Romance of the Commonplace by Gelett Burgess (1902)

Could Shakespeare come to Chicago and listen curiously to "the man in the street," he would find himself more at home than in London. In the mouths of messenger boys and clerks he would find the English language used with all the freedom of unexpected metaphor and the plastic, suggestive diction that was the privilege of the Elizabethan dramatists; he would say, no doubt, that he had found a nation of poets. There was hardly any such thing as slang in his day, for no graphic trope was too virile or uncommon for acceptance, if its meaning were patent. His own heroes often spoke what corresponds to the slang of today.

The word, indeed, needs precise definition, before we condemn all unconventional talk with vigor. Slang has been called "poetry in the rough," and it is not all coarse or vulgar. There is a prosaic as well as a poetic license. The man in the street calls a charming girl, for instance, a "daisy." Surely this is not inelegant, and such a reference will be understood a century from now. Slang, to prove adjuvant to our speech, which is growing more and more rigid and conventional, should be terse; it should make for force and clarity, without any sacrifice of beauty.

In the passage's second line, why does the author contend that Shakespeare would be more at home in Chicago than in London?

Possible Answers:

He would find the English language used in a more poetic, elastic, and familiar manner.

The author does not contend that Shakespeare would be more at home in Chicago than in London.

He would be able to escape the vulgarity of English slang.

He would discover a whole new form of expression, unfamiliar to Elizabethan England.

In the “messenger boys and clerks” he would find characters reminiscent of the heroes of his plays.

Correct answer:

He would find the English language used in a more poetic, elastic, and familiar manner.

Explanation:

In order to answer this question, it is necessary to consider what you know about the passage as a whole. The author makes no obvious statement as to why Shakespeare would feel more at home in Chicago than in London, but the way in which he discusses slang usage in Chicago in comparison to the London that existed hundreds of years ago provides a clue that the author believes contemporary London to be lacking in colorful language. The author states that Shakespeare would be enamored with Chicago because of the poetic usage of slang, and because the slang that was being used would be familiar to Shakespeare as it resembles the language found often in his plays.

Example Question #1 : Argument Relationships

1 It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

2 There were a king with a large jaw and a queen with a plain face, on the throne of England; there were a king with a large jaw and a queen with a fair face, on the throne of France. 3 In both countries it was clearer than crystal to the lords of the State preserves of loaves and fishes, that things in general were settled forever. …

4 France, less favored on the whole as to matters spiritual than her sister of the shield and trident, rolled with exceeding smoothness downhill, making paper money and spending it. 5 Under the guidance of her Christian pastors, she entertained herself, besides, with such humane achievements as sentencing a youth to have his hands cut off, his tongue torn out with pincers, and his body burned alive, because he had not kneeled down in the rain to do honor to a dirty procession of monks which passed within his view, at a distance of some fifty or sixty yards. 6 It is likely enough that, rooted in the woods of France and Norway, there were growing trees, when that sufferer was put to death, already marked by the Woodman, Fate, to come down and be sawn into boards, to make a certain movable framework with a sack and a knife in it, terrible in history.

What is the purpose of Sentence 2 in the passage?

Possible Answers:

To subtly insult the English rulers

To mock the superficiality of France’s and England’s electorates

To foreshadow future conflict between the rulers of France and England

To clearly establish which country has superior monarchs

To establish that the situation is France is nearly identical to the situation in England

Correct answer:

To establish that the situation is France is nearly identical to the situation in England

Explanation:

By using virtually identical descriptions to depict the rulers of England and France (“There were a king with a large jaw and a queen with a plain face, on the throne of England; there were a king with a large jaw and a queen with a fair face, on the throne of France”), the author is making a point about these rulers’ interchangeability. Reading closely the rest of the passage, we can apply this interchangeability more broadly to the political climates in France and England.

Passage adapted from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities (1859).

Example Question #2 : Argument Relationships

1 Call me Ishmael. 2 Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. 3 It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. 4 Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. 5 This is my substitute for pistol and ball. 6 With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. 7 There is nothing surprising in this. 8 If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.

9 There now is your insular city of the Manhattoes, belted round by wharves as Indian isles by coral reefs—commerce surrounds it with her surf. 10 Right and left, the streets take you waterward. 11 Its extreme downtown is the battery, where that noble mole is washed by waves, and cooled by breezes, which a few hours previous were out of sight of land. 12 Look at the crowds of water-gazers there.

What is the role of Sentences 7-8 in the overall passage?

Possible Answers:

To predict an outcome for his decisions

To link the narrator’s personal struggles with a more general occurrence

To discredit men who do not regularly go to sea

To question the reader’s motivations for staying on land

To point out a broader societal woe

Correct answer:

To link the narrator’s personal struggles with a more general occurrence

Explanation:

In Sentences 7-8, the narrator notes that it’s unsurprising that he feels the way he does. He claims that his woes are similar to the woes of others: “If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.” This effectively links the narrator’s personal account with the experiences of the general populace.

Passage adapted from Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick; or, the Whale (1851)

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