ISEE Middle Level Reading : Analyzing the Text in Literature Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ISEE Middle Level Reading

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Analyzing The Text In Literature Passages

Adapted from Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy (1895)

He sounded the clacker till his arm ached, and at length his heart grew sympathetic with the birds' thwarted desires. They seemed, like himself, to be living in a world which did not want them. Why should he frighten them away? They took upon more and more the aspect of gentle friends and pensioners—the only friends he could claim as being in the least degree interested in him, for his aunt had often told him that she was not. He ceased his rattling, and they alighted anew.

"Poor little dears!" said Jude, aloud. "You shall have some dinner—you shall. There is enough for us all. Farmer Troutham can afford to let you have some. Eat, then my dear little birdies, and make a good meal!"

They stayed and ate, inky spots on the nut-brown soil, and Jude enjoyed their appetite. A magic thread of fellow-feeling united his own life with theirs. Puny and sorry as those lives were, they much resembled his own.

His clacker he had by this time thrown away from him, as being a mean and sordid instrument, offensive both to the birds and to himself as their friend. All at once he became conscious of a smart blow upon his buttocks, followed by a loud clack, which announced to his surprised senses that the clacker had been the instrument of offense used. The birds and Jude started up simultaneously, and the dazed eyes of the latter beheld the farmer in person, the great Troutham himself, his red face glaring down upon Jude's cowering frame, the clacker swinging in his hand.

"So it's 'Eat my dear birdies,' is it, young man? 'Eat, dear birdies,' indeed! I'll tickle your breeches, and see if you say, 'Eat, dear birdies' again in a hurry! And you've been idling at the schoolmaster's too, instead of coming here, ha'n't ye, hey? That's how you earn your sixpence a day for keeping the rooks off my corn!"

Which of the following statements about Troutham is supported by the passage?

Possible Answers:

He is a small man. 

He pays his employees well.

He is well spoken. 

He is undemanding.

He is severe. 

Correct answer:

He is severe. 

Explanation:

Troutham's violent reaction to Jude's discretion shows that he is a violent man, which is equal to “severe.” He may think he pays his employees well, but a sixpence was about one fortieth of a pound, so it was not a great deal of money.

Example Question #3 : Analyzing The Text In Literature Passages

Adapted from Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (1883)

He was a very silent man by custom. All day he hung round the cove or upon the cliffs with a brass telescope; all evening he sat in a corner of the parlor next the fire and drank rum and water very strong. Mostly he would not speak when spoken to, only look up sudden and fierce and blow through his nose like a fog-horn; and we and the people who came about our house soon learned to let him be. Every day when he came back from his stroll he would ask if any seafaring men had gone by along the road. At first we thought it was the want of company of his own kind that made him ask this question, but at last we began to see he was desirous to avoid them. When a seaman did put up at the Admiral Benbow (as now and then some did, making by the coast road for Bristol) he would look in at him through the curtained door before he entered the parlor; and he was always sure to be as silent as a mouse when any such was present. For me, at least, there was no secret about the matter, for I was, in a way, a sharer in his alarms. He had taken me aside one day and promised me a silver fourpenny on the first of every month if I would only keep my "weather-eye open for a seafaring man with one leg" and let him know the moment he appeared. Often enough when the first of the month came round and I applied to him for my wage, he would only blow through his nose at me and stare me down, but before the week was out he was sure to think better of it, bring me my four-penny piece, and repeat his orders to look out for "the seafaring man with one leg.”

How that personage haunted my dreams, I need scarcely tell you. I would see him in a thousand forms, and with a thousand diabolical expressions. Now the leg would be cut off at the knee, now at the hip; now he was a monstrous kind of a creature who had never had but the one leg, and that in the middle of his body. To see him leap and run and pursue me over hedge and ditch was the worst of nightmares. And altogether I paid pretty dear for my monthly fourpenny piece, in the shape of these abominable fancies.

The man in the passage asks the writer if he will “keep [his] ‘weather-eye open for a seafaring man with one leg’.” Which of the following most accurately restates the meaning of “keep his weather eye open for” in this phrase?

Possible Answers:

Be suspicious of

Be on the watch for

Leave a window open for

Do a favor for

Pay attention to the weather for

Correct answer:

Be on the watch for

Explanation:

To “keep a weather-eye open” for something means to look out carefully for that thing or person, or in other words, to be on the watch for him, her, or it. “Pay attention to the weather for” doesn’t make sense in the passage. “Do a favor for” and “be suspicious of” might seem like potentially correct answers, but since the man with the wooden leg isn’t actually a character in the same location as the man described in the passage and the narrator, neither of these answer choices make sense. If you thought that a “weather-eye” was a type of window, you may have chosen “leave a window open for,” but again, this makes no sense in the context of the passage.

Example Question #4 : Analyzing The Text In Literature Passages

Adapted from Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (1883)

He was a very silent man by custom. All day he hung round the cove or upon the cliffs with a brass telescope; all evening he sat in a corner of the parlor next the fire and drank rum and water very strong. Mostly he would not speak when spoken to, only look up sudden and fierce and blow through his nose like a fog-horn; and we and the people who came about our house soon learned to let him be. Every day when he came back from his stroll he would ask if any seafaring men had gone by along the road. At first we thought it was the want of company of his own kind that made him ask this question, but at last we began to see he was desirous to avoid them. When a seaman did put up at the Admiral Benbow (as now and then some did, making by the coast road for Bristol) he would look in at him through the curtained door before he entered the parlor; and he was always sure to be as silent as a mouse when any such was present. For me, at least, there was no secret about the matter, for I was, in a way, a sharer in his alarms. He had taken me aside one day and promised me a silver fourpenny on the first of every month if I would only keep my "weather-eye open for a seafaring man with one leg" and let him know the moment he appeared. Often enough when the first of the month came round and I applied to him for my wage, he would only blow through his nose at me and stare me down, but before the week was out he was sure to think better of it, bring me my four-penny piece, and repeat his orders to look out for "the seafaring man with one leg.”

How that personage haunted my dreams, I need scarcely tell you. I would see him in a thousand forms, and with a thousand diabolical expressions. Now the leg would be cut off at the knee, now at the hip; now he was a monstrous kind of a creature who had never had but the one leg, and that in the middle of his body. To see him leap and run and pursue me over hedge and ditch was the worst of nightmares. And altogether I paid pretty dear for my monthly fourpenny piece, in the shape of these abominable fancies.

“That personage,” underlined in the second paragraph, refers to __________.

Possible Answers:

Admiral Benbow

the man who pays the speaker a fourpenny piece each month

the narrator

the seafaring man with one leg

the owner of the inn

Correct answer:

the seafaring man with one leg

Explanation:

You need to pay attention to the transition between the passage’s two paragraphs to get this question correct. At the end of the first passage, we are told, “Often enough when the first of the month came round and I applied to him for my wage, he would only blow through his nose at me and stare me down, but before the week was out he was sure to think better of it, bring me my four-penny piece, and repeat his orders to look out for "the seafaring man with one leg.” Then, the second paragraph begins, “How that personage haunted my dreams, I need scarcely tell you.” The past person mentioned in the first paragraph was “the seafaring man with one leg,” so that is the correct answer.

Example Question #3 : Language In Literature Passages

Adapted from Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (1883)

He was a very silent man by custom. All day he hung round the cove or upon the cliffs with a brass telescope; all evening he sat in a corner of the parlor next the fire and drank rum and water very strong. Mostly he would not speak when spoken to, only look up sudden and fierce and blow through his nose like a fog-horn; and we and the people who came about our house soon learned to let him be. Every day when he came back from his stroll he would ask if any seafaring men had gone by along the road. At first we thought it was the want of company of his own kind that made him ask this question, but at last we began to see he was desirous to avoid them. When a seaman did put up at the Admiral Benbow (as now and then some did, making by the coast road for Bristol) he would look in at him through the curtained door before he entered the parlor; and he was always sure to be as silent as a mouse when any such was present. For me, at least, there was no secret about the matter, for I was, in a way, a sharer in his alarms. He had taken me aside one day and promised me a silver fourpenny on the first of every month if I would only keep my "weather-eye open for a seafaring man with one leg" and let him know the moment he appeared. Often enough when the first of the month came round and I applied to him for my wage, he would only blow through his nose at me and stare me down, but before the week was out he was sure to think better of it, bring me my four-penny piece, and repeat his orders to look out for "the seafaring man with one leg.”

How that personage haunted my dreams, I need scarcely tell you. I would see him in a thousand forms, and with a thousand diabolical expressions. Now the leg would be cut off at the knee, now at the hip; now he was a monstrous kind of a creature who had never had but the one leg, and that in the middle of his body. To see him leap and run and pursue me over hedge and ditch was the worst of nightmares. And altogether I paid pretty dear for my monthly fourpenny piece, in the shape of these abominable fancies.

The underlined sentence tells us that the man being described __________.

Possible Answers:

owns a fog-horn

blows his nose loudly

knows how to operate a fog-horn

looks like a fog-horn

is talkative

Correct answer:

blows his nose loudly

Explanation:

This question focuses a great deal on the phrase “blow through his nose like a fog-horn.” There is no literal fog-horn in the story; this description is a simile saying that the man blowing his nose is comparable to a fog-horn. So, the answer choice “owns a fog-horn” can be eliminated. The comparison is being made between the sound the man makes when he blows his nose and the sound a fog-horn makes, not anything to do with their appearances being similar, so “looks like a fog-horn” can be eliminated as well. “Knows how to operate a fog-horn” isn’t correct either, as “like a fog-horn” isn’t suggesting that the man blew his nose in the same manner as he might operate a fog horn; instead, “like a fog horn” is a use of figurative language making a comparison. This leaves us with “is talkative” and “blows his nose loudly.” We can tell that the man is not talkative because the sentence specifically says that “Mostly he would not speak when spoken to.” So, the correct answer is “blows his nose loudly.” This is the main point the comparison to a fog-horn is making.

Example Question #4 : Analyzing The Text In Literature Passages

Adapted from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (1876)

Within two minutes, or even less, he had forgotten all his troubles. Not because his troubles were one whit less heavy and bitter to him than a man's are to a man, but because a new and powerful interest bore them down and drove them out of his mind for the time—just as men's misfortunes are forgotten in the excitement of new enterprises. This new interest was a valued novelty in whistling, which he had just acquired, and he was suffering to practice it undisturbed. It consisted in a peculiar bird-like turn, a sort of liquid warble, produced by touching the tongue to the roof of the mouth at short intervals in the midst of the music—the reader probably remembers how to do it, if he has ever been a boy. Diligence and attention soon gave him the knack of it, and he strode down the street with his mouth full of harmony and his soul full of gratitude. He felt much as an astronomer feels who has discovered a new planet—no doubt, as far as strong, deep, unalloyed pleasure is concerned, the advantage was with the boy, not the astronomer.

The summer evenings were long. It was not dark, yet. Presently Tom checked his whistle. A stranger was before him—a boy a shade larger than himself. A newcomer of any age or either sex was an impressive curiosity in the poor little shabby village of St. Petersburg. This boy was well-dressed, too—well-dressed on a weekday. This was simply astounding. His cap was a dainty thing, his close-buttoned blue cloth roundabout was new and natty, and so were his pantaloons. He had shoes on—and it was only Friday. He even wore a necktie, a bright bit of ribbon. He had a citified air about him that ate into Tom's vitals. The more Tom stared at the splendid marvel, the higher he turned up his nose at his finery and the shabbier and shabbier his own outfit seemed to him to grow. Neither boy spoke. If one moved, the other moved—but only sidewise, in a circle; they kept face to face and eye to eye all the time.

In context, the underlined phrase "the knack of it" most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

an upsetting experience with it

the skill to do it

a notch in it

a hard time with it

confusion about it

Correct answer:

the skill to do it

Explanation:

The phrase "the knack of it" appears in the following sentence in the passage's first paragraph, which discuss's Tom's experience learning to whistle: "Diligence and attention soon gave him the knack of it, and he strode down the street with his mouth full of harmony and his soul full of gratitude." We can tell that Tom successfully learned to whistle because the next sentence compares his happiness to that of an astronomer who has just discovered a new planet. So, based on the context in which the phrase is used in the passage, the correct answer is "the skill to do it."

Example Question #51 : Context Dependent Meanings Of Words And Phrases In Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (1876)

Within two minutes, or even less, he had forgotten all his troubles. Not because his troubles were one whit less heavy and bitter to him than a man's are to a man, but because a new and powerful interest bore them down and drove them out of his mind for the time—just as men's misfortunes are forgotten in the excitement of new enterprises. This new interest was a valued novelty in whistling, which he had just acquired, and he was suffering to practice it undisturbed. It consisted in a peculiar bird-like turn, a sort of liquid warble, produced by touching the tongue to the roof of the mouth at short intervals in the midst of the music—the reader probably remembers how to do it, if he has ever been a boy. Diligence and attention soon gave him the knack of it, and he strode down the street with his mouth full of harmony and his soul full of gratitude. He felt much as an astronomer feels who has discovered a new planet—no doubt, as far as strong, deep, unalloyed pleasure is concerned, the advantage was with the boy, not the astronomer.

The summer evenings were long. It was not dark, yet. Presently Tom checked his whistle. A stranger was before him—a boy a shade larger than himself. A newcomer of any age or either sex was an impressive curiosity in the poor little shabby village of St. Petersburg. This boy was well-dressed, too—well-dressed on a weekday. This was simply astounding. His cap was a dainty thing, his close-buttoned blue cloth roundabout was new and natty, and so were his pantaloons. He had shoes on—and it was only Friday. He even wore a necktie, a bright bit of ribbon. He had a citified air about him that ate into Tom's vitals. The more Tom stared at the splendid marvel, the higher he turned up his nose at his finery and the shabbier and shabbier his own outfit seemed to him to grow. Neither boy spoke. If one moved, the other moved—but only sidewise, in a circle; they kept face to face and eye to eye all the time.

Which of the following does the last sentence of the passage's first paragraph suggest?

Possible Answers:

Tom is upset for the same reasons as an astronomer might be.

Astronomers often learn to whistle.

Tom is likely not quite as happy as an astronomer who has discovered a new planet.

Tom has just discovered a new planet.

Tom is likely happier than an astronomer who has discovered a new planet.

Correct answer:

Tom is likely happier than an astronomer who has discovered a new planet.

Explanation:

The last line of the passage's first paragraph is, "He felt much as an astronomer feels who has discovered a new planet—no doubt, as far as strong, deep, unalloyed pleasure is concerned, the advantage was with the boy, not the astronomer." Let's analyze this line in detail. The first part of the line, "He felt much as an astronomer feels who has discovered a new planet," tells us that Tom feels as happy as an astronomer who has discovered a new planet. The rest of the line develops this comparison further, by telling us that "as far as strong, deep, unalloyed pleasure is concerned, the advantage was with the boy, not the astronomer." In other words, this latter part of the line is saying that Tom was not only as happy as the hypothetical astronomer, but likely actually happier, as he has "the advantage" "as far as strong, deep, unalloyed pleasure is concerned." So, the correct answer is "Tom is likely happier than an astronomer who has discovered a new planet."

Example Question #91 : Literary Fiction

Adapted from The Fight at the Pass of Thermopylæ by Charlotte M. Yonge (1876)

The troops sent for this purpose were from different cities, and amounted to about 4,000 who were to keep the pass against two millions. The leader of them was Leonidas, who had newly become one of the two kings of Sparta, the city that above all in Greece trained its sons to be hardy soldiers, dreading death infinitely less than shame. Leonidas had already made up his mind that the expedition would probably be his death, perhaps because a prophecy had been given at the Temple at Delphi that Sparta should be saved by the death of one of her kings of the race of Hercules. He was allowed by law to take with him 300 men, and these he chose most carefully, not merely for their strength and valor, but selecting those who had sons, so that no family might be altogether destroyed. These Spartans, with their helots or slaves, made up his own share of the numbers, but all the army was under his generalship. It is even said that the 300 celebrated their own funeral rites before they set out lest they should be deprived of them by the enemy, since, as we have already seen, it was the Greek belief that the spirits of the dead found no rest till their obsequies had been performed. Such preparations did not daunt the spirits of Leonidas and his men, and his wife, Gorgo, not a woman to be faint-hearted or hold him back. Long before, when she was a very little girl, a word of hers had saved her father from listening to a traitorous message from the King of Persia; and every Spartan lady was bred up to be able to say to those she best loved that they must come home from battle "with the shield or carried upon it."

Which of these sentences best restates the underlined portion of text, "Sparta, the city that above all in Greece trained its sons to be hardy soldiers, dreading death infinitely less than shame"?

Possible Answers:

Spartan boys were told that dying in battle was deeply shameful.

Spartan soldiers were taught to fear death above everything else.

None of these answers

Spartan soldiers were trained to fear embarrassment more than death.

Spartan soldiers were educated in the ways of philosophy and warfare.

Correct answer:

Spartan soldiers were trained to fear embarrassment more than death.

Explanation:

“Dreading” means greatly fearing, “infinitely” informally means a great deal, and “shame” means embarrassment, so Spartan soldiers were trained to dread embarrassment much less than death. 

Example Question #93 : Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from The Fight at the Pass of Thermopylæ by Charlotte M. Yonge (1876)

The troops sent for this purpose were from different cities, and amounted to about 4,000 who were to keep the pass against two millions. The leader of them was Leonidas, who had newly become one of the two kings of Sparta, the city that above all in Greece trained its sons to be hardy soldiers, dreading death infinitely less than shame. Leonidas had already made up his mind that the expedition would probably be his death, perhaps because a prophecy had been given at the Temple at Delphi that Sparta should be saved by the death of one of her kings of the race of Hercules. He was allowed by law to take with him 300 men, and these he chose most carefully, not merely for their strength and valor, but selecting those who had sons, so that no family might be altogether destroyed. These Spartans, with their helots or slaves, made up his own share of the numbers, but all the army was under his generalship. It is even said that the 300 celebrated their own funeral rites before they set out lest they should be deprived of them by the enemy, since, as we have already seen, it was the Greek belief that the spirits of the dead found no rest till their obsequies had been performed. Such preparations did not daunt the spirits of Leonidas and his men, and his wife, Gorgo, not a woman to be faint-hearted or hold him back. Long before, when she was a very little girl, a word of hers had saved her father from listening to a traitorous message from the King of Persia; and every Spartan lady was bred up to be able to say to those she best loved that they must come home from battle "with the shield or carried upon it."

Which of these best restates the message of the line "come home from battle 'with the shield or carried upon it'"?

Possible Answers:

If your life is danger, flee; do not desert your family.

Believe in the gods and they shall guide your shield in battle.

Do not come back until the battle is won.

Come back victorious or having sacrificed your life.

Come back with your shield or don’t bother.

Correct answer:

Come back victorious or having sacrificed your life.

Explanation:

We are told earlier in the passage that Spartan society instilled in every individual the importance of fearing shame more than death, so it can be inferred that when the author discusses how “every Spartan lady was bred up to be able to say to those she best loved that they must come home from battle 'with the shield or carried upon it'," he is highlighting the importance of self-sacrafice over individual preservation and that the line in question means come back victorious or else having sacrificed your life. 

Example Question #1 : Analyzing The Text In Literature Passages

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.

Based on the second paragraph, Dinah’s method of washing her kittens is __________ for the kittens.

Possible Answers:

uncomfortable

pleasant

pointless

scary

baffling

Correct answer:

uncomfortable

Explanation:

Let’s look at the second paragraph and how it describes the way in which Dinah washes her kittens:

“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.”

The white kitten doesn’t seem to be afraid, so we can eliminate “scary” as an answer choice. Neither “baffling” (confusing) nor “pointless” is supported by the passage either, so we can discard those answer choices as well. This leaves us with “pleasant” and “uncomfortable.” The fact that the narrator refers to the kitten being washed as “the poor thing,” describes how Dinah “rubbed its face all over, the wrong way,” and the idea that the white kitten was “no double feeling it was all meant for its good” support the idea that Dinah’s method of washing her kittens is uncomfortable for the kittens.

Example Question #5 : Analyzing The Text In Literature Passages

Adapted from The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss (1879 Kingston ed.)

Thus talking, we pushed on until we came to a pleasant grove which stretched down to the water's edge. Here, we halted to rest, seating ourselves under a large tree, by a rivulet that murmured and splashed along its pebbly bed into the great ocean before us. A thousand gaily-plumaged birds flew twittering above us, and Fritz and I gazed up at them. 

My son suddenly started up.

"A monkey," he exclaimed. “I am nearly sure I saw a monkey." 

As he spoke, he sprang round to the other side of the tree, and in doing so, stumbled over a small round object. He handed it to me, remarking as he did so that it was a round bird's nest, of which he had often heard. "You may have done so," said I, laughing, "but this is a coconut."

We split open the nut, but, to our disgust, found the kernel dry and uneatable. 

"Hullo," cried Fritz, "I always thought a coconut was full of delicious sweet liquid, like almond milk."

"So it is," I replied, "when young and fresh, but as it ripens the milk becomes congealed, and in course of time is solidified into a kernel. This kernel then dries as you see here, but when the nut falls on favorable soil, the germ within the kernel swells until it bursts through the shell, and, taking root, springs up a new tree."

"I do not understand," said Fritz, "how the little germ manages to get through this great thick shell, which is not like an almond or hazelnut shell, which is divided down the middle already."

"Nature provides for all things," I answered, taking up the pieces. " Look here, do you see these three round holes near the stalk? It is through them that the germ obtains egress. Now let us find a good nut if we can." 

As coconuts must be overripe before they fall naturally from the tree, it was not without difficulty that we obtained one in which the kernel was not dried up. When we succeeded, however, we were so refreshed by the fruit that we could defer eating until later in the day, and so spare our stock of provisions.

Which of the following best restates the meaning of the underlined sentence, “As coconuts must be overripe before they fall naturally from the tree, it was not without difficulty that we obtained one in which the kernel was not dried up”?

Possible Answers:

Coconuts are only edible after they are overripe.

Coconuts that are too ripe don’t fall off of the trees, so it’s easy to gather the ones that are ripe.

Coconuts that are perfectly ripe don’t fall off of the trees, so it is difficult to gather them.

Coconuts that are underripe remain on the trees, so one must look for the ripe ones amongst the overripe ones on the ground.

Coconuts ripen quickly.

Correct answer:

Coconuts that are perfectly ripe don’t fall off of the trees, so it is difficult to gather them.

Explanation:

Let’s break up the indicated sentence into pieces and analyze those to figure out which answer choice is correct. In the first part of the sentence, “As coconuts must be overripe before they fall naturally from the tree,” the “as” is functioning like “because” or “since.” So, it is saying that “Since coconuts must be “overripe”—that is, too ripe—before they fall off of the trees, something occurred. This something is the rest of the sentence: “it was not without difficulty that we obtained one in which the kernel was not dried up.” The negative construction may seem difficult, but we can tell that “it was not without difficulty” means “it was difficult.” So, the narrator is saying that it was hard for them to find one without a dried-up kernel. Putting the parts of the sentence together, we have, paraphrased: “Since coconuts have to be too ripe before they fall off of the tree, it was hard for us to find one without a dried-up kernel.”

So, which answer choice matches that meaning? We can discard the answer choices that begin with “Coconuts that are too ripe don’t fall off trees,” because this is the opposite of the meaning we figured out. “Coconuts ripen quickly” has nothing to do with the meaning we figured out, so it can’t be correct either. “Coconuts are only edible after they are overripe” can’t be correct either, since the narrator said the overripe coconuts fall off of the trees, meaning they would be easy to find on the ground, yet they had a hard time finding one in which the kernel wasn’t dried-up. We can tell that the coconuts with the dried-up kernels are inedible from the conversation the narrator has with Fritz earlier in the passage as well. Considering the answer choice “coconuts that are underripe remain on the trees, so one must look for the ripe ones amongst the overripe ones on the ground,” we can tell that this doesn’t match the meaning of the indicated sentence, which says that only the coconuts that are too ripe fall off the trees, meaning that the ripe ones remain on the tree. This means that the correct answer is “Coconuts that are perfectly ripe don’t fall off of the trees, so it is difficult to gather them.” This matches the meaning of our paraphrase of the indicated sentence.

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