ISEE Upper Level Reading : Analyzing the Text in Literature Passages

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

varsity tutors app store varsity tutors android store

Example Questions

← Previous 1 3 4

Example Question #1 : Analyzing The Text In Literature Passages

Adapted from "The Sisters" in Dubliners by James Joyce (1914)

There was no hope for him this time: it was the third stroke. Night after night I had passed the house (it was vacation time) and studied the lighted square of window, and night after night I had found it lighted in the same way, faintly and evenly. If he was dead, I thought, I would see the reflection of candles on the darkened blind, for I knew that two candles must be set at the head of a corpse. He had often said to me, "I am not long for this world," and I had thought his words idle. Now I knew they were true. Every night as I gazed up at the window I said softly to myself the word “paralysis.” It had always sounded strangely in my ears, like the word “gnomon” in the Euclid and the word “simony” in the Catechism. But now it sounded to me like the name of some maleficent and sinful being. It filled me with fear, and yet I longed to be nearer to it and to look upon its deadly work.

Old Cotter was sitting at the fire, smoking, when I came downstairs to supper. While my aunt was ladling out my stirabout he said, as if returning to some former remark of his:

"No, I wouldn't say he was exactly . . . but there was something queer . . . there was something uncanny about him. I'll tell you my opinion . . ."

He began to puff at his pipe, no doubt arranging his opinion in his mind. Tiresome old fool! When we knew him first he used to be rather interesting, talking of faints and worms, but I soon grew tired of him and his endless stories about the distillery.

"I have my own theory about it," he said. "I think it was one of those . . . peculiar cases . . . But it's hard to say . . ."

He began to puff again at his pipe without giving us his theory. My uncle saw me staring and said to me:

"Well, so your old friend is gone, you'll be sorry to hear."

"Who?" said I.

"Father Flynn."

"Is he dead?"

"Mr. Cotter here has just told us. He was passing by the house."

I knew that I was under observation, so I continued eating as if the news had not interested me. My uncle explained to old Cotter.

"The youngster and he were great friends. The old chap taught him a great deal, mind you; and they say he had a great wish for him."

"God have mercy on his soul," said my aunt piously.

Old Cotter looked at me for a while. I felt that his little beady black eyes were examining me, but I would not satisfy him by looking up from my plate. He returned to his pipe and finally spat rudely into the grate.

The narrator’s emotions about paralysis are most analogous to which of the following situations?

Possible Answers:

A person who is afraid of heights but still wants to look over the edge of a cliff.

A zebra caught and eaten by a lion.

A person who plays the lottery every day but never wins.

A lumberjack who is killed by a tree he was in the process of chopping down.

A person who is afraid of dogs and refuses to go to an animal shelter to help his friend find a dog.

Correct answer:

A person who is afraid of heights but still wants to look over the edge of a cliff.

Explanation:

Concerning paralysis, the narrator says at the end of the first paragraph, "Every night as I gazed up at the window I said softly to myself the word 'paralysis.' It had always sounded strangely in my ears, like the word 'gnomon' in the Euclid and the word 'simony' in the Catechism. But now it sounded to me like the name of some maleficent and sinful being. It filled me with fear, and yet I longed to be nearer to it and to look upon its deadly work." This last sentence is the most crucial in determining the correct answer to this question; we can tell that despite being afraid of paralysis, the narrator is drawn to it and wants "to be nearer to it and to look upon its deadly work." Only two of the potential answer choices involve fear: "A person who is afraid of dogs and refuses to go to an animal shelter to help his friend find a dog" and "A person who is afraid of heights but still wants to look over the edge of a cliff." The other answer choices can be eliminated. Of the two fear-related answer choices, the one about the person who is afraid of dogs involves that person avoiding the source of his fear, whereas the other answer choice involving the person who is afraid of heights involves that person being drawn to the source of his or her fear. The narrator both fears and wants to observe paralysis, so the best answer choice is the one that conveys this mixture of being afraid of and drawn to something: "A person who is afraid of heights but still wants to look over the edge of a cliff."

Example Question #6 : Understanding The Content Of Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from "The Sisters" in Dubliners by James Joyce (1914)

There was no hope for him this time: it was the third stroke. Night after night I had passed the house (it was vacation time) and studied the lighted square of window, and night after night I had found it lighted in the same way, faintly and evenly. If he was dead, I thought, I would see the reflection of candles on the darkened blind, for I knew that two candles must be set at the head of a corpse. He had often said to me, "I am not long for this world," and I had thought his words idle. Now I knew they were true. Every night as I gazed up at the window I said softly to myself the word “paralysis.” It had always sounded strangely in my ears, like the word “gnomon” in the Euclid and the word “simony” in the Catechism. But now it sounded to me like the name of some maleficent and sinful being. It filled me with fear, and yet I longed to be nearer to it and to look upon its deadly work.

Old Cotter was sitting at the fire, smoking, when I came downstairs to supper. While my aunt was ladling out my stirabout he said, as if returning to some former remark of his:

"No, I wouldn't say he was exactly . . . but there was something queer . . . there was something uncanny about him. I'll tell you my opinion . . ."

He began to puff at his pipe, no doubt arranging his opinion in his mind. Tiresome old fool! When we knew him first he used to be rather interesting, talking of faints and worms, but I soon grew tired of him and his endless stories about the distillery.

"I have my own theory about it," he said. "I think it was one of those . . . peculiar cases . . . But it's hard to say . . ."

He began to puff again at his pipe without giving us his theory. My uncle saw me staring and said to me:

"Well, so your old friend is gone, you'll be sorry to hear."

"Who?" said I.

"Father Flynn."

"Is he dead?"

"Mr. Cotter here has just told us. He was passing by the house."

I knew that I was under observation, so I continued eating as if the news had not interested me. My uncle explained to old Cotter.

"The youngster and he were great friends. The old chap taught him a great deal, mind you; and they say he had a great wish for him."

"God have mercy on his soul," said my aunt piously.

Old Cotter looked at me for a while. I felt that his little beady black eyes were examining me, but I would not satisfy him by looking up from my plate. He returned to his pipe and finally spat rudely into the grate.

The relationship between Old Cotter and the narrator can best be described as __________.

Possible Answers:

cordial and playful

one of mutual admiration

competitive

openly caustic

polite but strained

Correct answer:

polite but strained

Explanation:

What does the passage tell us about how the narrator interacts with Old Cotter? We know that the narrator gets frustrated with Old Cotter when he doesn't finish his sentences in paragraphs two through five: "Tiresome old fool! When we knew him first he used to be rather interesting, talking of faints and worms, but I soon grew tired of him and his endless stories about the distillery." We also know that the narrator purposely doesn't react to the news of Father Flynn's death, which Old Cotter has brought, as in paragraph twelve, he says, "I knew that I was under observation, so I continued eating as if the news had not interested me." We see how Old Cotter reacts to the narrator's lack of reaction in the passage's last paragraph: "Old Cotter looked at me for a while. I felt that his little beady black eyes were examining me, but I would not satisfy him by looking up from my plate. He returned to his pipe and finally spat rudely into the grate." 

Old Cotter and the narrator are clearly not friendly towards each other, so we can eliminate the answer choices "one of mutual admiration" and "cordial and playful." This leaves us with three potential answer choices: "competitive," "openly caustic," and "polite but strained." Nothing in the passage suggests that the two characters are competitive, so we can eliminate that answer. As for choosing between "openly caustic" and "polite but strained," the narrator never verbally insults Old Cotter—he reports to readers that Old Cotter is a "tiresome old fool," but he doesn't say anything while Old Cotter is speaking. Similarly, Old Cotter's most antagonistic action is "[spitting] rudely into the grate"; he never openly antagonizes the narrator. The tension between these two characters is present beneath the surface of the scene's actions, so the best answer choice is "polite but strained."

Example Question #2 : Analyzing The Text In Literature Passages

Adapted from Moby-Dick; or, The Whale by Herman Melville (1851)

The fact is, that among his hunters at least, the whale would, by all hands, be considered a noble dish were there not so much of him; but when you come to sit down before a meat-pie nearly one hundred feet long, it takes away your appetite. Only the most unprejudiced of men, like Stubb, nowadays partake of cooked whales; but the Esquimaux are not so fastidious. We all know how they live upon whales and have rare old vintages of prime old train oil. Zogranda, one of their most famous doctors, recommends strips of blubber for infants as being exceedingly juicy and nourishing. And this reminds me that certain Englishmen, who long ago were accidentally left in Greenland by a whaling vessel—that these men actually lived for several months on the moldy scraps of whales which had been left ashore after trying out the blubber. Among the Dutch whalemen, these scraps are called “fritters,” which, indeed, they greatly resemble, being brown and crisp, and smelling something like old Amsterdam housewives’ dough-nuts or oly-cooks when fresh. They have such an eatable look that the most self-denying stranger can hardly keep his hands off.

But what further depreciates the whale as a civilized dish is his exceeding richness. He is the great prize ox of the sea, too fat to be delicately good. Look at his hump, which would be as fine eating as the buffalo’s (which is esteemed a rare dish), were it not such a solid pyramid of fat. But the spermaceti itself, how bland and creamy that is, like the transparent, half-jellied, white meat of a coconut in the third month of its growth, yet far too rich to supply a substitute for butter. Nevertheless, many whale men have a method of absorbing it into some other substance and then partaking of it. In the long try watches of the night, it is a common thing for the seamen to dip their ship-biscuit into the huge oil-pots and let them fry there awhile. Many a good supper have I thus made.

What is the purpose of the underlined portion of the first paragraph?

Possible Answers:

To show how Stubb and the Esquimaux are different in their food preferences

To show how Stubb is like most men in his food preferences

To show how many people eat whale

To show how Stubb and the Esquimaux are alike in their food preferences

To show how the Esquimaux are like most men in their food preferences

Correct answer:

To show how Stubb and the Esquimaux are alike in their food preferences

Explanation:

The underlined passage suggests that Stubbs, unlike most men, is not picky. It goes on to state that the Esquimaux are also not picky about their food, suggesting that Stubbs and the Esquimaux share similar food preferences.

Example Question #1 : Analyzing The Text In Literature Passages

Adapted from Aristotle's Politics: A Treatise on Government by Aristotle (trans. Ellis 1895)

Now with respect to these honors, which he proposes to bestow on those who can give any information useful to the community, this, though very pleasing in speculation, is what the legislator should not settle, for it would encourage informers, and probably occasion commotions in the state. And this proposal of his gives rise also to further conjectures and inquiries; for some persons have doubted whether it is useful or hurtful to alter the established law of any country, if even for the better.  We cannot immediately determine upon what he here says, whether it is advantageous to alter the law or not. We know, indeed, that it is possible to propose to new model both the laws and government as a common good.  Since we have mentioned this subject, it may be very proper to enter into a few particulars concerning it, for it contains some difficulties, as I have already said, and it may appear better to alter them, since it has been found useful in other sciences.

What is meant by the underlined expression, “Though very pleasing in speculation . . ."?

Possible Answers:

It is a noble idea, though not at all realistic.

None of the other answer choices is correct.

It is an experimental method of governing.

It is an amusing and enjoyable thought.

It is a thoughtful idea, recognizing the importance of information for the city.

Correct answer:

It is a noble idea, though not at all realistic.

Explanation:

The contrast is established in this sentence by the phrasing of "Though . . . is what the legislator should not settle." Although the idea seems good in speculation—that is, "in thought" or "in the abstract"—it is not at all practicable. Indeed, it would likely encourage informers and cause commotion in the state.

Example Question #2 : Analyzing The Text In Literature Passages

Adapted from Candide by Voltaire (1918 trans.)

"Grandeur," said Pangloss, "is extremely dangerous according to the testimony of philosophers. For, in short, Eglon, King of Moab, was assassinated by Ehud; Absalom was hung by his hair, and pierced with three darts; King Nadab, the son of Jeroboam, was killed by Baasa; King Ela by Zimri; Ahaziah by Jehu; Athaliah by Jehoiada; the Kings Jehoiakim, Jeconiah, and Zedekiah, were led into captivity. You know how perished Croesus, Astyages, Darius, Dionysius of Syracuse, Pyrrhus, Perseus, Hannibal, Jugurtha, Ariovistus, Cæsar, Pompey, Nero, Otho, Vitellius, Domitian, Richard II of England, Edward II, Henry VI, Richard III, Mary Stuart, Charles I, the three Henrys of France, the Emperor Henry IV! You know—" 

"I know also," said Candide, "that we must cultivate our garden." 

"You are right," said Pangloss, "for when man was first placed in the Garden of Eden, he was put there ut operaretur eum, that he might cultivate it; which shows that man was not born to be idle." 

"Let us work," said Martin, "without disputing; it is the only way to render life tolerable.”

The whole little society entered into this laudable design, according to their different abilities. Their little plot of land produced plentiful crops. Cunegonde was, indeed, very ugly, but she became an excellent pastry cook; Paquette worked at embroidery; the old woman looked after the linen. They were all, not excepting Friar Giroflée, of some service or other; for he made a good joiner, and became a very honest man.

Pangloss sometimes said to Candide: "There is a concatenation of events in this best of all possible worlds; for if you had not been kicked out of a magnificent castle for love of Miss Cunegonde, if you had not been put into the Inquisition, if you had not walked over America, if you had not stabbed the Baron, if you had not lost all your sheep from the fine country of El Dorado, you would not be here eating preserved citrons and pistachio-nuts."

"All that is very well," answered Candide, "but let us cultivate our garden."

Why does Candide answer, “But let us cultivate our garden” at the end of the passage?

Possible Answers:

To iterate the point that they should not be discussing long theories but should quietly work

To overcome Pangloss' arguments with a direct counterargument

To remind himself of the importance of gardening in the life of the "little society"

To remind Pangloss of the importance of preparing for the harvest

None of the other answers

Correct answer:

To iterate the point that they should not be discussing long theories but should quietly work

Explanation:

Pangloss' character seems to be distracting to Candide—always going off on long-winded disquisitions. Even Martin says that they should not argue but instead should work "without disputing." It is to this sentiment that Candide is appealing as he closes the passage with his remarks to Pangloss.

Example Question #4 : Analyzing The Text In Literature Passages

Adapted from Candide by Voltaire (1918 trans.)

"Grandeur," said Pangloss, "is extremely dangerous according to the testimony of philosophers. For, in short, Eglon, King of Moab, was assassinated by Ehud; Absalom was hung by his hair, and pierced with three darts; King Nadab, the son of Jeroboam, was killed by Baasa; King Ela by Zimri; Ahaziah by Jehu; Athaliah by Jehoiada; the Kings Jehoiakim, Jeconiah, and Zedekiah, were led into captivity. You know how perished Croesus, Astyages, Darius, Dionysius of Syracuse, Pyrrhus, Perseus, Hannibal, Jugurtha, Ariovistus, Cæsar, Pompey, Nero, Otho, Vitellius, Domitian, Richard II of England, Edward II, Henry VI, Richard III, Mary Stuart, Charles I, the three Henrys of France, the Emperor Henry IV! You know—" 

"I know also," said Candide, "that we must cultivate our garden." 

"You are right," said Pangloss, "for when man was first placed in the Garden of Eden, he was put there ut operaretur eum, that he might cultivate it; which shows that man was not born to be idle." 

"Let us work," said Martin, "without disputing; it is the only way to render life tolerable.”

The whole little society entered into this laudable design, according to their different abilities. Their little plot of land produced plentiful crops. Cunegonde was, indeed, very ugly, but she became an excellent pastry cook; Paquette worked at embroidery; the old woman looked after the linen. They were all, not excepting Friar Giroflée, of some service or other; for he made a good joiner, and became a very honest man.

Pangloss sometimes said to Candide: "There is a concatenation of events in this best of all possible worlds; for if you had not been kicked out of a magnificent castle for love of Miss Cunegonde, if you had not been put into the Inquisition, if you had not walked over America, if you had not stabbed the Baron, if you had not lost all your sheep from the fine country of El Dorado, you would not be here eating preserved citrons and pistachio-nuts."

"All that is very well," answered Candide, "but let us cultivate our garden."

For what purpose does Pangloss say, “Which shows that . . . ”?

Possible Answers:

To ridicule the biblical passage implied in the rest of his remarks

To set the stage for another long list like that found at the beginning of the passage

To express a conclusion to an argument, agreeing with the conclusions of his friends

To convince the others that work is not completely necessary to the human condition

To explain the Latin phrase used in the remarks

Correct answer:

To express a conclusion to an argument, agreeing with the conclusions of his friends

Explanation:

If you read Pangloss' words in an organized manner, you will see that he is making an argument that states that since human beings were placed in the Garden of Eden to cultivate it, they were not created to be idle. (That is, they were created to care for the garden.) He is making this argument in order to agree with the others' reasoning regarding the work that they should be doing. (At least he thinks that his method is helping to support it, though the others seem to have little patience for it.)

Example Question #3 : Analyzing The Text In Literature Passages

Adapted from Candide by Voltaire (1918 trans.)

"Grandeur," said Pangloss, "is extremely dangerous according to the testimony of philosophers. For, in short, Eglon, King of Moab, was assassinated by Ehud; Absalom was hung by his hair, and pierced with three darts; King Nadab, the son of Jeroboam, was killed by Baasa; King Ela by Zimri; Ahaziah by Jehu; Athaliah by Jehoiada; the Kings Jehoiakim, Jeconiah, and Zedekiah, were led into captivity. You know how perished Croesus, Astyages, Darius, Dionysius of Syracuse, Pyrrhus, Perseus, Hannibal, Jugurtha, Ariovistus, Cæsar, Pompey, Nero, Otho, Vitellius, Domitian, Richard II of England, Edward II, Henry VI, Richard III, Mary Stuart, Charles I, the three Henrys of France, the Emperor Henry IV! You know—" 

"I know also," said Candide, "that we must cultivate our garden." 

"You are right," said Pangloss, "for when man was first placed in the Garden of Eden, he was put there ut operaretur eum, that he might cultivate it; which shows that man was not born to be idle." 

"Let us work," said Martin, "without disputing; it is the only way to render life tolerable.”

The whole little society entered into this laudable design, according to their different abilities. Their little plot of land produced plentiful crops. Cunegonde was, indeed, very ugly, but she became an excellent pastry cook; Paquette worked at embroidery; the old woman looked after the linen. They were all, not excepting Friar Giroflée, of some service or other; for he made a good joiner, and became a very honest man.

Pangloss sometimes said to Candide: "There is a concatenation of events in this best of all possible worlds; for if you had not been kicked out of a magnificent castle for love of Miss Cunegonde, if you had not been put into the Inquisition, if you had not walked over America, if you had not stabbed the Baron, if you had not lost all your sheep from the fine country of El Dorado, you would not be here eating preserved citrons and pistachio-nuts."

"All that is very well," answered Candide, "but let us cultivate our garden."

What is the purpose of the paragraph beginning, "The whole little society entered . . ."?

Possible Answers:

To overcome a bias that Pangloss expresses in his long explanations

To show that paradise on earth can in fact be created

To show the accomplishments possible when people, no matter their skills, work simply together

None of the other answers

To recount the many hardships of the small group of people working in their garden

Correct answer:

To show the accomplishments possible when people, no matter their skills, work simply together

Explanation:

There are several clues in this paragraph that help you to answer. The first is that the author stresses that each worked "according to their different abilities." Then, on several occasions, he notes that in spite of limitations, each person could give something to the little community. This is particularly emphasized in the case of Cunegonde and Friar Giroflée. Each gave a particular skill to the group, simply working according to the laudable design of Martin who said, "Let us work without disputing; it is the only way to render life tolerable."

Example Question #5 : 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 underlined sentence tells us that the man being described __________.

Possible Answers:

knows how to operate a fog-horn

looks like a fog-horn

is talkative

blows his nose loudly

owns a fog-horn

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 #1 : 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 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:

Do a favor for

Pay attention to the weather for

Leave a window open for

Be suspicious of

Be on the watch 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 #2 : 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.

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

Possible Answers:

the man who pays the speaker a fourpenny piece each month

Admiral Benbow

the seafaring man with one leg

the owner of the inn

the narrator

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.

← Previous 1 3 4
Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors

Incompatible Browser

Please upgrade or download one of the following browsers to use Instant Tutoring: