GED Language Arts (RLA) : Tone, Opinion, and Purpose

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

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Example Questions

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Example Question #273 : Isee Lower Level (Grades 5 6) Reading Comprehension

Adapted from Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll (1871)

One thing was certain, that the white kitten had had nothing to do with it—it was the black kitten's fault entirely. For the white kitten had been having its face washed by the old cat for the last quarter of an hour (and bearing it pretty well, considering); so you see that it COULDN'T have had any hand in the mischief.

The way Dinah washed her children's faces was this: first she held the poor thing down by its ear with one paw, and then with the other paw she rubbed its face all over, the wrong way, beginning at the nose: and just now, as I said, she was hard at work on the white kitten, which was lying quite still and trying to purr—no doubt feeling that it was all meant for its good.

But the black kitten had been finished with earlier in the afternoon, and so, while Alice was sitting curled up in a corner of the great arm-chair, half talking to herself and half asleep, the kitten had been having a grand game of romps with the ball of worsted Alice had been trying to wind up, and had been rolling it up and down till it had all come undone again; and there it was, spread over the hearth-rug, all knots and tangles, with the kitten running after its own tail in the middle.

'Oh, you wicked little thing!' cried Alice, catching up the kitten, and giving it a little kiss to make it understand that it was in disgrace. 'Really, Dinah ought to have taught you better manners! You OUGHT, Dinah, you know you ought!' she added, looking reproachfully at the old cat, and speaking in as cross a voice as she could manage—and then she scrambled back into the arm-chair, taking the kitten and the worsted with her, and began winding up the ball again. But she didn't get on very fast, as she was talking all the time, sometimes to the kitten, and sometimes to herself. Kitty sat very demurely on her knee, pretending to watch the progress of the winding, and now and then putting out one paw and gently touching the ball, as if it would be glad to help, if it might.

The tone used in this passage is best described as __________.

Possible Answers:

conversational

poetic

scientific

pessimistic

ornery

Correct answer:

conversational

Explanation:

This passage’s tone is best described as “conversational.” This can be seen in the first paragraph’s use of “you” and capital letters for emphasis in the sentence “For the white kitten had been having its face washed by the old cat for the last quarter of an hour (and bearing it pretty well, considering); so you see that it COULDN'T have had any hand in the mischief.” It can also be seen in the second paragraph’s use of “as I said” in the clause “and just now, as I said, she was hard at work on the white kitten, which was lying quite still and trying to purr—no doubt feeling that it was all meant for its good.” Nothing in the passage supports the conclusion that its tone is scientific, ornery, poetic, or pessimistic.

Example Question #1 : Poetry

 
Adapted from "On the Sonnet" by John Keats (1848)
 
If by dull rhymes our English must be chain'd,
   And, like Andromeda, the Sonnet sweet
Fetter'd, in spite of pained loveliness;
Let us find out, if we must be constrain'd,
   Sandals more interwoven and complete
To fit the naked foot of poesy;
Let us inspect the lyre, and weigh the stress
Of every chord, and see what may be gain'd
   By ear industrious, and attention meet:
Misers of sound and syllable, no less
   Than Midas of his coinage, let us be
   Jealous of dead leaves in the bay wreath crown;
So, if we may not let the Muse be free,
   She will be bound with garlands of her own.

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

Possible Answers:

sarcastic

ecstatic

didactic

critical

enraged

Correct answer:

critical

Explanation:

Since the poem seeks to underline the problems inherent in strictly sticking to the sonnet form, it can best be described as "critical" in tone. None of the other answer choices are supported by the poem: its tone is certainly not "didactic" (aiming to teach the reader something), "ecstatic," "sarcastic," and while the speaker may be frustrated with the limitations of the sonnet form, "enraged" is too strong of a word to properly capture the poem's tone.

Example Question #2 : Determining Authorial Purpose In Poetry Passages

 
Adapted from "On the Sonnet" by John Keats (1848)
 
If by dull rhymes our English must be chain'd,
   And, like Andromeda, the Sonnet sweet
Fetter'd, in spite of pained loveliness;
Let us find out, if we must be constrain'd,
   Sandals more interwoven and complete
To fit the naked foot of poesy;
Let us inspect the lyre, and weigh the stress
Of every chord, and see what may be gain'd
   By ear industrious, and attention meet:
Misers of sound and syllable, no less
   Than Midas of his coinage, let us be
   Jealous of dead leaves in the bay wreath crown;
So, if we may not let the Muse be free,
   She will be bound with garlands of her own.

The main purpose of this poem by John Keats is __________.

Possible Answers:

to motivate poets to remain inspired even when criticized

to encourage poets to work past the limitations created by strict formal conventions

to contest the notion that poets are bound by form 

to explain how to create aesthetic beauty in poetry 

to foster collaboration amongst poets

Correct answer:

to encourage poets to work past the limitations created by strict formal conventions

Explanation:

The best answer in this case is that the poem's main purpose is "to encourage poets to work past the limitations created by strict formal conventions." The poem can be summarized as saying "If we poets must work within forms with strict rules, like sonnets, let's examine the properties of language to make the forms we use best suit the language of the poems we write."

Example Question #1 : Tone, Opinion, And Purpose

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.

The author begins the story with the sentence "She was fast asleep." This allows him to __________.

Possible Answers:

show how she does not feel guilty about keeping the details of her first love a secret from him

show how little she cares about Gabriel's distress

draw a comparison between Gabriel, who is discontent and has problems sleeping, and his wife, who is happy and sleeps well

quickly set the scene for the following events

move away from depicting both Gabriel and his wife as characters, instead delving deeply into Gabriel's inner thoughts and feelings

Correct answer:

move away from depicting both Gabriel and his wife as characters, instead delving deeply into Gabriel's inner thoughts and feelings

Explanation:

By beginning with the presumption that Gabriel's wife is in a deep sleep, Joyce is free to thoroughly examine Gabriel's inner thoughts, rather than dealing with external interactions between the two characters. The other answers are either too vague and insubstantial to be correct or make assumptions about Gabriel's wife that cannot be drawn from the information in the passage.

Example Question #2 : Tone, Opinion, And Purpose

When I go to a concert, there's a sort of energy in the air unlike any other. I don't mean just excitement, but it's like the excitement of everyone in the room, felt at once. I think that may be why it's so fun to meet people at shows, [Question 1]. Once the band starts playing, I totally forget about everyone around me, and I'm just completely in the moment. Usually this is a great feeling, but [Question 2]. Most of the time, it's not a problem; since we're all so excited about the music, it's hard to stay mad at someone else for running into me. By the end of the set, I'm completely exhausted, but still buzzing from that group enthusiasm. Overall, [Question 3]

How would you describe the tone of the passage?

Possible Answers:

Starstruck

Irritable

Cautious

Frightened

Passionate

Correct answer:

Passionate

Explanation:

The author repeatedly states he or she is excited, and references the pleasure of being around like-minded people in a live music setting, so the negative terms are incorrect. Starstruck is not very applicable because the author does not mention being amazed at seeing his or her favorite celebrities, and while the author mentions that someone may run into you, their tone isn't cautious. Therefore, it must be passionate.

Example Question #3 : Tone, Opinion, And Purpose

When I go to a concert, there's a sort of energy in the air unlike any other. I don't mean just excitement, but it's like the excitement of everyone in the room, felt at once. I think that may be why it's so fun to meet people at shows, [Question 1]. Once the band starts playing, I totally forget about everyone around me, and I'm just completely in the moment. Usually this is a great feeling, but [Question 2]. Most of the time, it's not a problem; since we're all so excited about the music, it's hard to stay mad at someone else for running into me. By the end of the set, I'm completely exhausted, but still buzzing from that group enthusiasm. Overall, [Question 3]

The purpose of this passage was likely to __________________.

Possible Answers:

argue

inform

share an experience

tell a story

persuade

Correct answer:

share an experience

Explanation:

The text isn't a story because it's about the general, non-specific experience of going to a concert. There's no argument, and the author doesn't implore the reader to go to concerts, so it can't be to argue or persuade. It doesn't necessarily inform the reader of objective information in the world, so it must be to share a personal experience.

Example Question #4 : Tone, Opinion, And Purpose

When I go to a concert, there's a sort of energy in the air unlike any other. I don't mean just excitement, but it's like the excitement of everyone in the room, felt at once. I think that may be why it's so fun to meet people at shows, [Question 1]. Once the band starts playing, I totally forget about everyone around me, and I'm just completely in the moment. Usually this is a great feeling, but [Question 2]. Most of the time, it's not a problem; since we're all so excited about the music, it's hard to stay mad at someone else for running into me. By the end of the set, I'm completely exhausted, but still buzzing from that group enthusiasm. Overall, [Question 3].

Which of the given options is the best description of this passage as a whole?

Possible Answers:

An informal, persuasive article

An informal, creative passage

A formal, persuasive article

A formal debate

A formal, academic paper

Correct answer:

An informal, creative passage

Explanation:

The tone of this passage is very informal, which we can tell by the simple sentences and the conversational style. We can also tell that the purpose of this article was likely more expressive than it was to persuade or to educate, due to the lack of objective evidence or a point the author wants you to believe, so we can conclude that it was meant as an informal, creative passage.

Example Question #5 : Tone, Opinion, And Purpose

Dear Congressman Phillips,

I urge you to reconsider your closure of the shipyard. I'm a medical practitioner in the area, so I meet many of the men and women employed by the facility. Many of these people are living paycheck to paycheck, unable to afford regular medical care; any gap in their employment could be devastating. If you must see it economically, consider the tremendous cost to the taxpayers when these people must rely on public programs for assistance. I ask you to please keep this shipyard open.

Very truly yours...

The purpose of this passage is likely to ________________.

Possible Answers:

persuade

inform

illustrate

explain

tell a story

Correct answer:

persuade

Explanation:

The passage begins with "I urge you to reconsider your closure of the shipyard", so we know the author aims to persuade the reader to do something.

Example Question #6 : Tone, Opinion, And Purpose

1 I am a rather elderly man. 2 The nature of my avocations for the last thirty years has brought me into more than ordinary contact with what would seem an interesting and somewhat singular set of men, of whom as yet nothing that I know of has ever been written:—I mean the law-copyists or scriveners. 3 I have known very many of them, professionally and privately, and if I pleased, could relate divers histories, at which good-natured gentlemen might smile, and sentimental souls might weep. 

4 … I am a man who, from his youth upwards, has been filled with a profound conviction that the easiest way of life is the best. 5 Hence, though I belong to a profession proverbially energetic and nervous, even to turbulence, at times, yet nothing of that sort have I ever suffered to invade my peace. 6 I am one of those unambitious lawyers who never addresses a jury, or in any way draws down public applause; but in the cool tranquility of a snug retreat, do a snug business among rich men's bonds and mortgages and title-deeds. 7 All who know me, consider me an eminently safe man. 8 The late John Jacob Astor, a personage little given to poetic enthusiasm, had no hesitation in pronouncing my first grand point to be prudence; my next, method. 9 I do not speak it in vanity, but simply record the fact, that I was not unemployed in my profession by the late John Jacob Astor; a name which, I admit, I love to repeat, for it hath a rounded and orbicular sound to it, and rings like unto bullion. 10 I will freely add, that I was not insensible to the late John Jacob Astor's good opinion.

11 Some time prior to the period at which this little history begins, my avocations had been largely increased. 12 The good old office, now extinct in the State of New York, of a Master in Chancery, had been conferred upon me. It was not a very arduous office, but very pleasantly remunerative.

What is the author’s purpose in the first paragraph?

Possible Answers:

To call the narrator’s reliability into question

To introduce the main topic of the story

To dispute a commonly held belief

To characterize the narrator

To develop suspense

Correct answer:

To introduce the main topic of the story

Explanation:

Although Sentence 1 does establish something about the speaker’s character, it is a false lead. The bulk of the first paragraph — Sentences 2 and 3 — are devoted to describing the main topic of the story, scriveners. None of the other choices have any contextual basis.

Passage adapted from Herman Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener” (1853)

Example Question #7 : Tone, Opinion, And Purpose

1 I am a rather elderly man. 2 The nature of my avocations for the last thirty years has brought me into more than ordinary contact with what would seem an interesting and somewhat singular set of men, of whom as yet nothing that I know of has ever been written:—I mean the law-copyists or scriveners. 3 I have known very many of them, professionally and privately, and if I pleased, could relate divers histories, at which good-natured gentlemen might smile, and sentimental souls might weep. 

4 … I am a man who, from his youth upwards, has been filled with a profound conviction that the easiest way of life is the best. 5 Hence, though I belong to a profession proverbially energetic and nervous, even to turbulence, at times, yet nothing of that sort have I ever suffered to invade my peace. 6 I am one of those unambitious lawyers who never addresses a jury, or in any way draws down public applause; but in the cool tranquility of a snug retreat, do a snug business among rich men's bonds and mortgages and title-deeds. 7 All who know me, consider me an eminently safe man. 8 The late John Jacob Astor, a personage little given to poetic enthusiasm, had no hesitation in pronouncing my first grand point to be prudence; my next, method. 9 I do not speak it in vanity, but simply record the fact, that I was not unemployed in my profession by the late John Jacob Astor; a name which, I admit, I love to repeat, for it hath a rounded and orbicular sound to it, and rings like unto bullion. 10 I will freely add, that I was not insensible to the late John Jacob Astor's good opinion.

11 Some time prior to the period at which this little history begins, my avocations had been largely increased. 12 The good old office, now extinct in the State of New York, of a Master in Chancery, had been conferred upon me. It was not a very arduous office, but very pleasantly remunerative.

Why does the author include the anecdote about John Jacob Astor in the second paragraph?

Possible Answers:

To create suspense around the scriveners

To bore the reader with superfluous information

To undermine the author’s reliability

To distract the reader from the author’s main task

To highlight the speaker’s ordinariness

Correct answer:

To highlight the speaker’s ordinariness

Explanation:

Although the speaker claims that he is not vain, he does repeat Astor’s compliment in a way that indicates that he is, in fact, a little vain. Moreover, the subject of the anecdote is Astor’s praise for the speaker’s rather ordinary lack of ambition. All things told, the anecdote serves to underscore the ordinariness of the speaker.

Passage adapted from Herman Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener” (1853)

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