HiSET: Language Arts - Reading : Author or Speaker's Point of View

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for HiSET: Language Arts - Reading

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Author Or Speaker's Point Of View

Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first a patron, the last a punisher.

6Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer. Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built on the ruins of the bowers of paradise. For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform, and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver; but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest; and this he is induced to do by the same prudence which in every other case advises him out of two evils to choose the least. Wherefore, security being the true design and end of government, it unanswerably follows that whatever form thereof appears most likely to ensure it to us, with the least expense and greatest benefit, is preferable to all others.

7In order to gain a clear and just idea of the design and end of government, let us suppose a small number of persons settled in some sequestered part of the earth, unconnected with the rest, they will then represent the first peopling of any country, or of the world. In this state of natural liberty, society will be their first thought. A thousand motives will excite them thereto, the strength of one man is so unequal to his wants, and his mind so unfitted for perpetual solitude, that he is soon obliged to seek assistance and relief of another, who in his turn requires the same. Four or five united would be able to raise a tolerable dwelling in the midst of a wilderness, but one man might labour out of the common period of life without accomplishing any thing; when he had felled his timber he could not remove it, nor erect it after it was removed; hunger in the mean time would urge him from his work, and every different want call him a different way. Disease, nay even misfortune would be death, for though neither might be mortal, yet either would disable him from living, and reduce him to a state in which he might rather be said to perish than to die.

Adapted from Common Sense by Thomas Paine (1776)

Based on this passage, how would you assume that the author feels about government?

Possible Answers:

He believes that government is produced by the wants of the people

He believes that government is a necessary evil

He believes that a strong government is necessary in order to erect palaces

He believes that government is a natural state of liberty

He believes that a small number of persons settled apart from others is the best form of government

Correct answer:

He believes that government is a necessary evil


The answer appears in the first sentence of the second paragraph. The passage explains that in an ideal world, people would not need government. Government, the author maintains, exists in order to ensure safety of the citizens, but requires sacrifice on the part of the citizens as well.

Example Question #2 : Author Or Speaker's Point Of View

“Consider the subtleness of the sea; how its most dreaded creatures glide under water, unapparent for the most part, and treacherously hidden beneath the loveliest tints of azure. Consider also the devilish brilliance and beauty of many of its most remorseless tribes, as the dainty embellished shape of many species of sharks. Consider, once more, the universal cannibalism of the sea; all whose creatures prey upon each other, carrying on eternal war since the world began.

Consider all this; and then turn to the green, gentle, and most docile earth; consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself? For as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half-known life. God keep thee! Push not off from that isle, thou canst never return!”

Passage adapted from Moby Dick, Herman Melville (1851)

The author gives what advice to his readers?

Possible Answers:

The listener might die in the sea

Stay where you are happy

Believe in God

Don’t prey on other creatures

Avoid sharks

Correct answer:

Stay where you are happy


Melville tells the listener to stay on the island of peace and joy (Tahiti”) because once one leaves, one can never return. To Melville, life’s happiness is small in relation to all life’s horrors, just as the island is small in relation to the sea. One should never venture out of a happy place – off the island – because happiness exists in a small area and is easily lost.

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