GED Language Arts (RLA) : Literary Devices in the Passage

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

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Literary Devices In The Passage

Adapted from As You Like It by William Shakespeare (1623)

 

[This is a monologue by the character Jacques]

 

All the world's a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances;

And one man in his time plays many parts,

His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,

Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms;

Then the whining school-boy, with his satchel

And shining morning face, creeping like a snail

Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,

Sighing like a furnace, with a woeful ballad

Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,

Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,

Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,

Seeking the bubble reputation

Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,

In fair round belly with good capon lin'd,

With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,

Full of wise saws and modern instances;

And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts

Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,

With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,

His youthful hose, well sav'd, a world too wide

For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,

Turning again toward childish treble, pipes

And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,

That ends this strange eventful history,

Is second childishness and mere oblivion;

Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans every thing.

Why did the author choose the word "players" in the underlined selection?

Possible Answers:

To begin to show the theme about the importance of play in human life

To introduce the idea of human frivolity

To strengthen his earlier claim about the stage

To continue the metaphor of the world being a stage

To overcome a prejudice against theatre performers, who are actually just like other human beings

Correct answer:

To continue the metaphor of the world being a stage

Explanation:

The word "players" refers to actors as "playing roles." This reading of the word is amply supported both before and after this sentence. Before this, the author speaks of the world as though it were a stage. All men and women are like "players"—i.e. actors and actresses—on this stage of life. Likewise, the following sentence supports this as well, for it speaks of every person having "exits and entrances." This is referring to the way that actors enter and exit the stage during a play.

Example Question #2 : Literary Devices In The Passage

Adapted from As You Like It by William Shakespeare (1623)

 

[This is a monologue by the character Jacques]

 

All the world's a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances;

And one man in his time plays many parts,

His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,

Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms;

Then the whining school-boy, with his satchel

And shining morning face, creeping like a snail

Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,

Sighing like a furnace, with a woeful ballad

Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,

Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,

Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,

Seeking the bubble reputation

Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,

In fair round belly with good capon lin'd,

With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,

Full of wise saws and modern instances;

And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts

Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,

With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,

His youthful hose, well sav'd, a world too wide

For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,

Turning again toward childish treble, pipes

And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,

That ends this strange eventful history,

Is second childishness and mere oblivion;

Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans every thing.

Why has the author chosen to speak of "seven ages" in the underlined selection?

Possible Answers:

Because he will be drawing on ancient numerology to show the cyclical pattern of the seven-fold nature of life

As there are seven days in the week, so too are there seven ages in a given man's life

Because he will be providing seven examples of how one person has many roles within a single lifetime

Because Shakespeare was still living in a Christian culture for which seven was an important number

There is absolutely no reason for this specific number

Correct answer:

Because he will be providing seven examples of how one person has many roles within a single lifetime

Explanation:

A number of the answer options are a bit ridiculous, providing little to no connection with the actual intent of the author—at least as far as we can tell by reading the passage. The best thing to do is to stick close to the passage and not read too much into it. Throughout the whole monologue, the character describes seven ages of human life, from infancy to old age. Hence, this is why he introduces the topic by mentioning the seven-fold character of human life.

Example Question #3 : Literary Devices In The Passage

Adapted from Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare, III.ii.82-117 (1599)

 

[This is a speech by Mark Antony]

 

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears!

I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.

The evil that men do lives after them,

The good is oft interred with their bones;

So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus

Hath told you Caesar was ambitious;

If it were so, it was a grievous fault,

And grievously hath Caesar answer'd it.

Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest-

For Brutus is an honorable man;

So are they all, all honorable men-

Come I to speak in Caesar's funeral.

He was my friend, faithful and just to me;

But Brutus says he was ambitious,

And Brutus is an honorable man.

He hath brought many captives home to Rome,

Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill.

Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?

When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept;

Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:

Yet Brutus says he was ambitious,

And Brutus is an honorable man.

You all did see that on the Lupercal [a public festival]

I thrice presented him a kingly crown,

Which he did thrice refuse. Was this ambition?

Yet Brutus says he was ambitious,

And sure he is an honorable man.

I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,

But here I am to speak what I do know.

You all did love him once, not without cause;

What cause withholds you then to mourn for him?

O judgment, thou art fled to brutish beasts,

And men have lost their reason. Bear with me;

My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,

And I must pause till it come back to me.

What is the speaker doing when he says the underlined words?

Possible Answers:

He is emphasizing an antecedent point.

He is shouting an important fact.

He is diverting the listener's attention.

He is switching to a new theme.

He is making an aside, perhaps sarcastically. 

Correct answer:

He is making an aside, perhaps sarcastically. 

Explanation:

From the context of this passage, you might not be able to detect the sarcasm with which Mark Antony makes this repeated remark: "For Brutus is an honorable man; So are they all, all honorable men." However, note that the text is preceded and followed by hyphens.  Given that these two lines break the flow of the speech, they must be expressed like something of an "aside," not directly part of the speech itself. This interpretation is verified by the use of hyphens, which often mark that kind of device.

Example Question #1 : Other Word Interpretation Questions

From “The Dead” in Dubliners by James Joyce (1915)

She was fast asleep.

Gabriel, leaning on his elbow, looked for a few moments unresentfully on her tangled hair and half-open mouth, listening to her deep-drawn breath. So she had had that romance in her life: a man had died for her sake. It hardly pained him now to think how poor a part he, her husband, had played in her life. He watched her while she slept as though he and she had never lived together as man and wife. His curious eyes rested long upon her face and on her hair: and, as he thought of what she must have been then, in that time of her first girlish beauty, a strange friendly pity for her entered his soul. He did no like to say even to himself that her face was no longer beautiful but he knew that it was no longer the face for which Michael Furey had braved death.

Perhaps she had not told him all the story. His eyes moved to the chair over which she had thrown some of her clothes. A petticoat string dangled to the floor. One boot stood upright, its limp upper fallen: the fellow of it lay upon its side. He wondered at his riot of emotions of an hour before. From what had it proceeded? From his aunt’s supper, from his own foolish speech, from the wine and dancing, the merry-making when saying good-night in the hall, the pleasure of the walk along the river in the snow. Poor Aunt Julia! She, too, would soon be a shade with the shade of Patrick Morkan and his horse. He had caught that haggard look upon her face for a moment when she was singing Arrayed for the Bridal. Soon, perhaps, he would be sitting in that same drawing-room, dressed in black, his silk hat on his knees. The blinds would be drawn down and Aunt Kate would be sitting beside him, crying and blowing her nose and telling him how Julia had died. He would cast about in his mind for some words that might console her, and would find only lame and useless ones. Yes, yes: that would happen very soon.

The air of the room chilled his shoulders. He stretched himself cautiously along under the sheets and lay down beside his wife. One by one they were all becoming shades. Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age. He thought of how she who lay beside him had locked in her heart for so many years that image of her lover’s eyes when he had told her that he did not wish to live.

Generous tears filled Gabriel’s eyes. He had never felt like that himself towards any woman but he knew that such a feeling must be love. The tears gathered more thickly in his eyes and in the partial darkness he imagined he saw the form of a young man standing under a dripping tree. Other forms were near. His soul had approached that region where dwell the vast hosts of the dead. He was conscious of, but could not apprehend, their wayward and flickering existence. His own identity was fading out into a grey impalpable world: the solid world itself which these dead had one time reared and lived in was dissolving and dwindling.

A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.

Throughout the passage, the descriptions of people becoming "shades" is a metaphor for __________.

Possible Answers:

people becoming shadows of their formerly young idealistic selves

people growing more physically tired and weak as they age

people becoming ghosts that remain in the world to haunt others

the disillusionment of old age

the journey towards death

Correct answer:

the journey towards death

Explanation:

A metaphor is a literary device in which one one thing represents another thing that is not literally the same. A "shade" is referred to in two instances, both times specifically related to death. In the second paragraph, Gabriel muses that Aunt Julia would soon be a shade, and then imagines the circumstances of her death. In the following paragraph, he says they are all becoming shades, followed by a reflection on death: "Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age."

Example Question #4 : Literary Devices In The Passage

As he [Dorian Gray] thought of Hetty Merton, he began to wonder if the portrait in the locked room had changed. Surely it was not still so horrible as it had been? Perhaps if his life became pure, he would be able to expel every sign of evil passion from the face. Perhaps the signs of evil had already gone away. He would go and look.

 

 . . .

 

He went in quietly, locking the door behind him, as was his custom, and dragged the purple hanging from the portrait. A cry of pain and indignation broke from him. He could see no change, save that in the eyes there was a look of cunning and in the mouth the curved wrinkle of the hypocrite. The thing was still loathsome—more loathsome, if possible, than before—and the scarlet dew that spotted the hand seemed brighter, and more like blood newly spilled. Then he trembled. Had it been merely vanity that had made him do his one good deed? Or the desire for a new sensation, as Lord Henry had hinted, with his mocking laugh? Or that passion to act a part that sometimes makes us do things finer than we are ourselves? Or, perhaps, all these? And why was the red stain larger than it had been? It seemed to have crept like a horrible disease over the wrinkled fingers. There was blood on the painted feet, as though the thing had dripped—blood even on the hand that had not held the knife. Confess? Did it mean that he was to confess? To give himself up and be put to death? He laughed. He felt that the idea was monstrous. Besides, even if he did confess, who would believe him? There was no trace of the murdered man anywhere. Everything belonging to him had been destroyed. He himself had burned what had been below-stairs. The world would simply say that he was mad. They would shut him up if he persisted in his story.... Yet it was his duty to confess, to suffer public shame, and to make public atonement. There was a God who called upon men to tell their sins to earth as well as to heaven. Nothing that he could do would cleanse him till he had told his own sin. His sin? He shrugged his shoulders. The death of Basil Hallward seemed very little to him. He was thinking of Hetty Merton. For it was an unjust mirror, this mirror of his soul that he was looking at. Vanity? Curiosity? Hypocrisy? Had there been nothing more in his renunciation than that? There had been something more. At least he thought so. But who could tell? ... No. There had been nothing more. Through vanity he had spared her. In hypocrisy he had worn the mask of goodness. For curiosity's sake he had tried the denial of self. He recognized that now.

Passage adapted from Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891)

What does “scarlet dew” mean in this passage?

Possible Answers:

Red rain

Blood

 Sweat

Spilled paint

Correct answer:

Blood

Explanation:

“Blood” is the correct answer. This is a very easy question that tests your understanding of literary devices. Look at the very next sentence, and it says that “it” (referring to the “scarlet dew”) looked “more like blood newly spilled.” Thus, “blood” is the correct answer here.

Example Question #5 : Literary Devices In The Passage

This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,

  Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,

  Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic,

  Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms.

  Loud from its rocky caverns, the deep-voiced neighboring ocean     (5)

  Speaks, and in accents disconsolate answers the wail of the forest.

(1847)

What type of imagery prevails in this passage?

Possible Answers:

Cryptic

Triptych

Sonic

Alimentary

Haptic

Correct answer:

Sonic

Explanation:

The poem includes many auditory or sonic details: “murmuring,” “voices sad and prophetic,” “loud,” “deep-voiced,” “accents disconsolate,” and “wail.” None of the other choices make sense in the context of the passage.

Passage adapted from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Evangeline.” (1847)

Example Question #6 : Literary Devices In The Passage

This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,

  Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,

  Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic,

  Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms.

  Loud from its rocky caverns, the deep-voiced neighboring ocean     (5)

  Speaks, and in accents disconsolate answers the wail of the forest.

(1847)

What is the tone of this passage?

Possible Answers:

Reverent

Speculative

Capricious

Antagonistic

Jocund

Correct answer:

Reverent

Explanation:

The poem’s narrator speaks in reverent, worshipful ways about the ancient forest. In particular, lines 3-4 (“Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic, / Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms”) convey the speaker’s deep respect for the forest. The tone is certainly not "jocund" (lighthearted), "antagonistic" (hostile), "speculative" (wondering), or "capricious" (flighty).

Passage adapted from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Evangeline.” (1847)

Example Question #7 : Literary Devices In The Passage

This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,

  Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,

  Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic,

  Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms.

  Loud from its rocky caverns, the deep-voiced neighboring ocean     (5)

  Speaks, and in accents disconsolate answers the wail of the forest.

(1847)

Which of the following does not contribute to the poem’s mysticism?

Possible Answers:

The introduction of the ocean

The incantatory meter

The personification of the natural world

None of these

The allusions to ancient peoples

Correct answer:

The introduction of the ocean

Explanation:

The hypnotic meter (dactylic hexameter), the sustained personification of the forest and ocean, and the allusions to the Druids all contribute to the poem’s mystical feel. The introduction of the “deep-voiced” ocean, on the other hand, is straightforward and even overbearing.

Passage adapted from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Evangeline.” (1847)

Example Question #8 : Literary Devices In The Passage

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. 

(1910)

The "man who is actually in the arena" is an example of a ___________________.

Possible Answers:

simile

allusion

metaphor

hyperbole

Correct answer:

metaphor

Explanation:

Roosevelt compares the image of a man competing in an arena to all forms of human endeavor.  He does not use either "like" or "as, make reference to another well-known source, nor give an obvious exaggeration. Thus "metaphor" is the best answer choice.

Passage adapted from Citizenship in a Republic, a speech given by Theodore Roosevelt on April 23, 1910.

Example Question #9 : Literary Devices In The Passage

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.

In Sentence 5, what literary technique can be seen in the phrase “such humane achievements”?

Possible Answers:

Iambic pentameter

Metonymy

Caricature

Sarcasm

Hyperbole

Correct answer:

Sarcasm

Explanation:

Here we have a clear example of sarcasm. The author describes the gruesome torture and killing of a young man for a minor offense, a punishment that is clearly the opposite of humane. Sarcasm is the use of words that are the opposite of what you really intend to say, usually for the purpose of mocking or satirizing something.

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

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