LSAT Reading : Understanding Context-Dependent Vocabulary and Phrasing in Social Science Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for LSAT Reading

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Example Question #1 : Understanding Context Dependent Vocabulary And Phrasing In Social Science Passages

Adapted from the third volume of The History of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon (1782)

The spectator who casts a mournful view over the ruins of ancient Rome, is tempted to accuse the memory of the Goths and Vandals, for the mischief which they had neither leisure, nor power, nor perhaps inclination, to perpetrate. The tempest of war might strike some lofty turrets to the ground; but the destruction which undermined the foundations of those massy fabrics was prosecuted, slowly and silently, during a period of ten centuries; and the motives of interest, that afterwards operated without shame or control, were severely checked by the taste and spirit of the emperor Majorian. The decay of the city had gradually impaired the value of the public works. The circus and theaters might still excite, but they seldom gratified, the desires of the people: the temples, which had escaped the zeal of the Christians, were no longer inhabited, either by gods or men; the diminished crowds of the Romans were lost in the immense space of their baths and porticos; and the stately libraries and halls of justice became useless to an indolent generation, whose repose was seldom disturbed, either by study or business. The monuments of consular, or Imperial, greatness were no longer revered, as the immortal glory of the capital: they were only esteemed as an inexhaustible mine of materials, cheaper, and more convenient than the distant quarry. Specious petitions were continually addressed to the easy magistrates of Rome, which stated the want of stones or bricks, for some necessary service: the fairest forms of architecture were rudely defaced, for the sake of some paltry, or pretended, repairs; and the degenerate Romans, who converted the spoil to their own emolument, demolished, with sacrilegious hands, the labors of their ancestors. Majorian, who had often sighed over the desolation of the city, applied a severe remedy to the growing evil.

He reserved to the prince and senate the sole cognizance of the extreme cases which might justify the destruction of an ancient edifice; imposed a fine of fifty pounds of gold (two thousand pounds sterling) on every magistrate who should presume to grant such illegal and scandalous license, and threatened to chastise the criminal obedience of their subordinate officers, by a severe whipping, and the amputation of both their hands. In the last instance, the legislator might seem to forget the proportion of guilt and punishment; but his zeal arose from a generous principle, and Majorian was anxious to protect the monuments of those ages, in which he would have desired and deserved to live. The emperor conceived that it was his interest to increase the number of his subjects; and that it was his duty to guard the purity of the marriage-bed: but the means which he employed to accomplish these salutary purposes are of an ambiguous, and perhaps exceptionable, kind. The pious maids, who consecrated their virginity to Christ, were restrained from taking the veil till they had reached their fortieth year. Widows under that age were compelled to form a second alliance within the term of five years, by the forfeiture of half their wealth to their nearest relations, or to the state. Unequal marriages were condemned or annulled. The punishment of confiscation and exile was deemed so inadequate to the guilt of adultery, that, if the criminal returned to Italy, he might, by the express declaration of Majorian, be slain with impunity.

The underlined phrase "converted the spoil to their own emolument" as used in the passage most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

made the problems of the city their own

eased their suffering by increasing the demolition

destroyed everything recklessly

changed the destruction into their own profit

used the destruction as a means to power

Correct answer:

changed the destruction into their own profit

Explanation:

“Emolument” is similar to profit or compensation,so the Romans converted the destruction of the city into their own profit. You can gain this by inferring from the context that the Roman's gains were monetary, and not through power or better living. The word "converted" likewise suggests the involvement of money.

Example Question #11 : Understanding The Content Of Social Science Passages

Adapted from The Family Among the Australian Aborigines: a Sociological Study by Bronislaw Malinowski (1913)

It seems beyond doubt that in the aboriginal society the husband exercised almost complete authority over his wife; she was entirely in his hands and he might ill-treat her, provided he did not kill her. Out of our thirty statements, in six cases (Kurnai, Bangerang, Lower Murray tribes, according to Bonney, Geawe-Gal, Port Jackson tribes, North-west Central Queenslanders) the absolute authority of the husband is explicitly affirmed. We read in them either the bare statement that the husband had an absolute power over his family; or, in the better of them, we are more exactly informed that he had only to abstain from inflicting death on his wife. It was the latter's kinsman who would avenge her (Kurnai, Bangerang, North-west Central Queenslanders). It is difficult to ascertain in what form society would interfere with the husband if he transgressed the limits of his legal authority, i. e. killed his wife. Curr informs us that the woman's relatives would avenge her death. Howitt says that there would ensue a blood feud, which comes nearly to the same. It is very probable that the woman's kin retained some rights of protection. The remaining statements implicitly declare that the husband's authority was very extensive. (Encounter Bay tribes according to Meyer; New South Wales tribes according to Hodgson; Port Stephens tribes according to R. Dawson; Arunta; Herbert River tribes; Queenslanders according to Palmer; Moreton Bay tribes according to J. D. Lang; South-Western tribes according to Salvado; West Australians according to Grey.) It is clear that wherever we read of excessive harshness and bad treatment, wounds, blows inflicted on women, the husband must possess the authority to do it; in other words, he does not find any social barrier preventing him from ill-treatment. Especially as, in these statements, such ill-treatment is mentioned to be the rule and not an exception. In two statements we can gather no information on this point. According to the statement of J. Dawson on the West Victoria tribes, the husband's authority appears strictly limited by the potential intervention of the chief, who could even divorce the woman if she complained. But Curr warns us against Dawson's information concerning the chief and his power. Curr's arguments appear to be very conclusive. Too much weight cannot be attached, therefore, to Dawson's exceptional statement. Discarding it, we see that we have on this point fairly clear information. We may assume that society interfered but seldom with the husband, in fact, only in the extreme case of his killing his wife. Six statements are directly, and the remainder indirectly, in favor of this view, and the only one contradictory is not very trustworthy.

The underlined and bolded phrase "transgressed the limits" as used in the passage most nearly refers to __________.

Possible Answers:

working on various methods of asserting authority

moving between different kinds of authority

overstepping normal boundaries

creating new kinds of legal protections

creating new kinds of marriage arrangements

Correct answer:

overstepping normal boundaries

Explanation:

The author discusses a husband who has "transgressed the limits of his legal authority" in the context of a husband who has killed his wife, one thing no husband can legally do in aboriginal society. This means that the author uses the phrase to indicate the husband has done something that goes past what is an acceptable boundary.

Example Question #2 : Understanding Context Dependent Vocabulary And Phrasing In Social Science Passages

Passage adapted from Leon Gambetta's Educating the Peasantry (1869)

(1) We have received a classical or scientific education— even the imperfect one of our day. (3) We have learned to read our history, to speak our language, while (a cruel thing to say) so many of our countrymen can only babble! Ah! (4) That peasant, bound as he is to the tillage of the soil, who bravely carries the burden of his day, with no other consolation than that of leaving to his children the paternal fields, perhaps increased an acre in extent; all his passions, joys, and fears concentrated in the fate of his patrimony. (5) Of the external world, of the society in which he lives, he apprehends only legends and rumors. (6) He is the prey of the cunning and fraudulent. (7) He strikes, without knowing it, the bosom of the revolution, his benefactress… (8) It is to the peasantry, then, that we must address ourselves. (9) We must raise and instruct them… Enlightened and free peasants who are able to represent themselves… should be a tribute rendered to the progress of the civilization of the masses.

(10) …Progress will be denied us as long as the French democracy fail to demonstrate that if we would remake our country, if we would bring back her grandeur, her power, and her genius it is of vital interest to her superior classes to elevate and emancipate this people of workers, who hold in reserve a force still virgin but able to develop inexhaustible treasures of activity and aptitude. (11) We must learn and then teach the peasant what he owes to Society and what he has the right to ask of her.

(12) On the day when it shall be well understood that we have no grander or more pressing work; that we should put aside and postpone all other reforms: that we have but one task— the Instruction of the people, the diffusion of education, the encouragement of science— on that day a great step will have been taken in your regeneration. (13) But our action needs to be a double one, that it may bear upon the body as well as the wind. (14) To be exact, each man should be intelligent, trained not only to think, read, and reason, but made able to act and fight. (15) Everywhere beside the teacher we should place the gymnast and the soldier, to the end that our children, our soldiers, our fellow citizens, may be able to hold a sword, to carry a gun on a long march, to sleep under the canopy of the stars, to support valiantly all the hardships demanded of a patriot. (16) We must push to the front education. (17) Otherwise we only make a success of letters, but do not create a bulwark of patriots...

What is the closest meaning of the word "patrimony" as used in Sentence 4 of the passage?

Possible Answers:

Heritage

A gift of property

A male-dominated society 

An endowment belonging to the church

Correct answer:

A gift of property

Explanation:

While heritage or a church endowment are both possible definitions of patrimony, the definition that is most applicable for this question is a gift of property received from a father/ancestor. The final option, "a male-dominated society," would be more representative of the word "patriarchy" than "patrimony." 

Example Question #3 : Understanding Context Dependent Vocabulary And Phrasing In Social Science Passages

Passage adapted from Leon Gambetta's Educating the Peasantry (1869)

(1) We have received a classical or scientific education— even the imperfect one of our day. (3) We have learned to read our history, to speak our language, while (a cruel thing to say) so many of our countrymen can only babble! Ah! (4) That peasant, bound as he is to the tillage of the soil, who bravely carries the burden of his day, with no other consolation than that of leaving to his children the paternal fields, perhaps increased an acre in extent; all his passions, joys, and fears concentrated in the fate of his patrimony. (5) Of the external world, of the society in which he lives, he apprehends only legends and rumors. (6) He is the prey of the cunning and fraudulent. (7) He strikes, without knowing it, the bosom of the revolution, his benefactress… (8) It is to the peasantry, then, that we must address ourselves. (9) We must raise and instruct them… Enlightened and free peasants who are able to represent themselves… should be a tribute rendered to the progress of the civilization of the masses.

(10) …Progress will be denied us as long as the French democracy fail to demonstrate that if we would remake our country, if we would bring back her grandeur, her power, and her genius it is of vital interest to her superior classes to elevate and emancipate this people of workers, who hold in reserve a force still virgin but able to develop inexhaustible treasures of activity and aptitude. (11) We must learn and then teach the peasant what he owes to Society and what he has the right to ask of her.

(12) On the day when it shall be well understood that we have no grander or more pressing work; that we should put aside and postpone all other reforms: that we have but one task— the Instruction of the people, the diffusion of education, the encouragement of science— on that day a great step will have been taken in your regeneration. (13) But our action needs to be a double one, that it may bear upon the body as well as the wind. (14) To be exact, each man should be intelligent, trained not only to think, read, and reason, but made able to act and fight. (15) Everywhere beside the teacher we should place the gymnast and the soldier, to the end that our children, our soldiers, our fellow citizens, may be able to hold a sword, to carry a gun on a long march, to sleep under the canopy of the stars, to support valiantly all the hardships demanded of a patriot. (16) We must push to the front education. (17) Otherwise we only make a success of letters, but do not create a bulwark of patriots...

Based on the context, what is the closest definition of the word "bulwark" in Sentence 17?

Possible Answers:

A group which creates havoc 

An extension of the side of a ship above the deck

A person or institution who acts as a defense 

A weakness 

Correct answer:

A person or institution who acts as a defense 

Explanation:

The correct answer is a person or institution who acts as a defense. While "an extension of the side of a ship above the deck" is another possible definition of bulwark, it is out of context in the passage. The final two options are not definitions of bulwark.

Example Question #4 : Understanding Context Dependent Vocabulary And Phrasing In Social Science Passages

Passage adapted from Giuseppe Mazzini's The Duties of Man (1860)

Education, we have said; and this is the great word which sums up our whole doctrine. The vital question agitating our century is a question of education. What we have to do is not to establish a new order of things by violence. An order of things so established is also tyrannical even when it I better than the old. We have to overthrow by force the brute force which opposes itself to-day to every attempt at improvement, and then propose for the approval of the nation, free to express it will what we believe to be the best order of things and by every possible means educate men to develop it and act in conformity with it. The theory of rights enables us to rise and overthrow obstacles, but not to found a strong and lasting accord between all the elements which compose the nation. With the theory of happiness, of well-being, as the primary aim of existence we shall only form egoistic men, worshippers of the material, who will carry the old passions into the new order of things and corrupt it in a few months. We have therefore to find a principle of education superior to any such theory, which shall guide men to better things, teach them constancy in self-sacrifice and link them with their fellow men without making them dependent on the ideas of a single man or on the strength of all. And this principle is Duty. We must convince men that they, sons of one only God, must obey one only law, here on earth; that each one of them must live not for himself, but for others; that the object of their life is not to be more or less happy, but to make themselves and others better; that to fight against injustice and error for the benefit of their brothers is not only a right, but a duty; a duty not to be neglected without sin, — the duty of their whole life.

Italian Working-men, my Brothers! Understand me fully. When I say that the knowledge of their rights is not enough to enable men to effect any appreciable or lasting improvement, I do not ask you to renounce these rights; I only say that they cannot exist except as a consequence of duties fulfilled, and that one must begin with the latter in order to arrive at the former. And when I say that by proposing happiness, well-being, or material interest as the aim of existence, we run the risk of producing egoists, I do not mean that you should never strive after these things. I say that material interests pursued alone, and not as a means, but as an end, lead always to this most disastrous result. When under the Emperors, the old Romans asked for nothing but bread and amusements, they became the most abject race conceivable, and after submitting to the stupid and ferocious tyranny of the Emperors they basely fell into slavery to the invading Barbarians…

Material improvement is essential, and we shall strive to win it for ourselves; but not because the one thing necessary for men is to be well fed and housed, but rather because you cannot have a sense of your own dignity or any moral development while you are engaged, as in the present day, in a continual duel with want. You work ten or twelve hours a day: how can you find time to educate yourselves?

Which of the following is the closest meaning of "abject" as used in the passage?

Possible Answers:

Wretched

Obsolete 

Exalted

Eminent 

Correct answer:

Wretched

Explanation:

The closest definition of "abject" as it is being used in this context is wretched. While "obsolete" is a possible definition of abject, obsolete is rarely used to describe a "race" and does not match the author's purpose in this sentence. "Exalted" is an antonym to abject, and "eminent" refers to a positive quality or a respected individual/group.

Example Question #5 : Understanding Context Dependent Vocabulary And Phrasing In Social Science Passages

Passage adapted from Giuseppe Mazzini's The Duties of Man (1860)

Education, we have said; and this is the great word which sums up our whole doctrine. The vital question agitating our century is a question of education. What we have to do is not to establish a new order of things by violence. An order of things so established is also tyrannical even when it I better than the old. We have to overthrow by force the brute force which opposes itself to-day to every attempt at improvement, and then propose for the approval of the nation, free to express it will what we believe to be the best order of things and by every possible means educate men to develop it and act in conformity with it.  With the theory of happiness, of well-being, as the primary aim of existence we shall only form egoistic men, worshippers of the material, who will carry the old passions into the new order of things and corrupt it in a few months. We have therefore to find a principle of education superior to any such theory, which shall guide men to better things, teach them constancy in self-sacrifice and link them with their fellow men without making them dependent on the ideas of a single man or on the strength of all. And this principle is Duty. We must convince men that they, sons of one only God, must obey one only law, here on earth; that each one of them must live not for himself, but for others; that the object of their life is not to be more or less happy, but to make themselves and others better; that to fight against injustice and error for the benefit of their brothers is not only a right, but a duty; a duty not to be neglected without sin, — the duty of their whole life.

Italian Working-men, my Brothers! Understand me fully. When I say that the knowledge of their rights is not enough to enable men to effect any appreciable or lasting improvement, I do not ask you to renounce these rights; I only say that they cannot exist except as a consequence of duties fulfilled, and that one must begin with the latter in order to arrive at the former. And when I say that by proposing happiness, well-being, or material interest as the aim of existence, we run the risk of producing egoists, I do not mean that you should never strive after these things. I say that material interests pursued alone, and not as a means, but as an end, lead always to this most disastrous result. When under the Emperors, the old Romans asked for nothing but bread and amusements, they became the most abject race conceivable, and after submitting to the stupid and ferocious tyranny of the Emperors they basely fell into slavery to the invading Barbarians…

Material improvement is essential, and we shall strive to win it for ourselves; but not because the one thing necessary for men is to be well fed and housed, but rather because you cannot have a sense of your own dignity or any moral development while you are engaged, as in the present day, in a continual duel with want. You work ten or twelve hours a day: how can you find time to educate yourselves?

Which of the following is the closest meaning of the bolded word "agitating" as used in the passage?

Possible Answers:

disquieting

troubling

unnerving

aggressive political activism

Correct answer:

troubling

Explanation:

Of the available options, the closest meaning of the word "agitating" as it is being used in this context is "troubling." While "unnerving" and "disquieting" (feelings of anxiety or worry) are possible definitions of "agitating," neither fit the context of the sentence. "Agitating" may also be used to describe social or political activism, which would make sense to the subject matter here, it is not relevant to the specific context of this sentence.

Example Question #6 : Understanding Context Dependent Vocabulary And Phrasing In Social Science Passages

Passage adapted from Moral Principles in Education (1909) by John Dewey.

There cannot be two sets of ethical principles, one for life in the school, and the other for life outside of the school. As conduct is one, so also the principles of conduct are one. The tendency to discuss the morals of the school as if the school were an institution by itself is highly unfortunate. The moral responsibility of the school, and of those who conduct it, is to society. The school is fundamentally an institution erected by society to do a certain specific work,—to exercise a certain specific function in maintaining the life and advancing the welfare of society. The educational system which does not recognize that this fact entails upon it an ethical responsibility is derelict and a defaulter. It is not doing what it was called into existence to do, and what it pretends to do. Hence the entire structure of the school in general and its concrete workings in particular need to be considered from time to time with reference to the social position and function of the school.

The idea that the moral work and worth of the public school system as a whole are to be measured by its social value is, indeed, a familiar notion. However, it is frequently taken in too limited and rigid a way. The social work of the school is often limited to training for citizenship, and citizenship is then interpreted in a narrow sense as meaning capacity to vote intelligently, disposition to obey laws, etc. But it is futile to contract and cramp the ethical responsibility of the school in this way. The child is one, and he must either live his social life as an integral unified being, or suffer loss and create friction. To pick out one of the many social relations which the child bears, and to define the work of the school by that alone, is like instituting a vast and complicated system of physical exercise which would have for its object simply the development of the lungs and the power of breathing, independent of other organs and functions. The child is an organic whole, intellectually, socially, and morally, as well as physically. We must take the child as a member of society in the broadest sense, and demand for and from the schools whatever is necessary to enable the child intelligently to recognize all his social relations and take his part in sustaining them.

In the passage, "fundamentally" is used by the author to mean __________.

Possible Answers:

at the most basic and important level

rigid and unmoving in moral matters

backwards looking and reactionary

simplistic and basic in meaning

focused only on good citizenship

Correct answer:

at the most basic and important level

Explanation:

"The school is fundamentally an institution erected by society to do a certain specific work," writes the author of the passage, describing what education's role in society is. Placed in such a way, "fundamentally" describes the most important aspects of a school in relation to society. This means the author uses "fundamentally" to mean "at the most basic and important level."

Example Question #7 : Understanding Context Dependent Vocabulary And Phrasing In Social Science Passages

"Luchador!" by William Floyd (2015)

In the United States, the form is usually referred to as “professional wrestling” or even “sports entertainment,” but in Mexico it goes by the simple moniker of “lucha libre,” Spanish for “free fighting.” The term is fitting, as the Mexican brand of wrestling features more high-flying maneuvers, more outrageous characters, and more over the top match stipulations than its US based counterpart. For the uninitiated, seeing a variety of masked men in spandex, referred to as luchadors, flying around a small arena would seem obviously entertaining, if only on a superficial or visceral level. Yet lucha libre is not merely a spectacle, but is instead woven into the very fabric of Mexican culture.

Take the biggest star of wrestling in the history of Mexico, El Santo. While officially born as a man named Rodolfo Guzman Huerta, he is known as “el enmascarado de plata, “the man in the silver mask.” El Santo was the biggest star of the squared circle across Mexico during the 1950s, but his star was based on more than his ring work. While the mask, common to many other luchadors, helped make Santo a different kind of wrestler, his appeal was broader than the entertainment of a regular wrestling show. His most famous rivalry was with a fellow masked luchador with a less sacred moniker, Blue Demon, adding a supernatural good vs. evil tone to the proceedings. Then he began appearing as a superhero in a series of comic books and films. These cheap, often over-the-top, films became some of the most popular in all of Mexican cinema. By 1960, Santo had gone from being the biggest wrestler in Mexico to the most significant cultural icon in the nation.

El Santo’s cultural relevance made his entire being sacrosanct, as he never removed his mask outside his home. When he had to travel internationally, he would not allow anyone in his private circle to come with him, for fear that they would see him when he had to take off his mask for customs officials. In 1984, El Santo went on the talk show Contrapunto and for the first time in his life, lifted up his mask to show his face to his adoring public. While only for a few seconds, the Mexican public finally saw the man behind the superhero. One week later he was dead from a heart attack. Without the mask, he was no longer able to fight off everyday human causes of death. In burial, however, he still wore his silver mask.

A Mexican luchador is more than a fighter, he is the representative of the themes which flow through the larger culture. El Santo was something more than a grappler, becoming Mexico’s version of Elvis, Superman, and Muhammad Ali, all rolled into one. For any resident of the United States, Hulk Hogan is a minor celebrity. For any Mexican, El Santo is a part of everyday life.

The word "sacrosanct" as used in the third paragraph most nearly means something that is __________.

Possible Answers:

a problematically religious idea

a well kept secret

mimicking the aspects of sainthood

a significant cultural icon

so revered that it is inviolable

Correct answer:

so revered that it is inviolable

Explanation:

The author refers to El Santo's entire being as "sacrosanct," then discusses how El Santo made sure no one ever saw him without his mask covering his face. This indicates that seeing El Santo as the man Rodolfo Guzman Huerta was something that should never have happened for any lucha libre fan. This means that the best meaning for "sacrosanct" as it is used in the passage is something "so revered that it is inviolable."

Example Question #8 : Understanding Context Dependent Vocabulary And Phrasing In Social Science Passages

"Fandom" by William Floyd (2015)

The denizen of the bleacher seats is not a normal creature, separated from the regulations and expectations of polite society by a variety of factors, some of which are the fault of the person in the bleachers and some of which are a result of society’s own arm’s length stance to the regular sports fan. A person who decides that a Saturday or Sunday, or even sometimes both, is not reserved for family, friends, or regular errands, but is purposely saved for attending the extremely advanced version of a childhood game performed in a massive stadium by astonishingly well paid athletes.

The avid sports fan is easily spotted away from the stadium thanks to the peculiar form of dress preferred by the person who wishes to obsess over strangers playing a game. A crazed sports devotee will wear largely one color, sometimes two distinct colors, which are the same as those worn by the favored team. The avoidance of any other color is largely due to the wish to avoid looking like the fan of another team, especially a team’s chief rival. The cut of the clothing is largely plain, simple t-shirts and sweat shirts, which are made to emphasize the chosen color and the notably oversized logo.

The conversation of the sports obsessive is also unique, although to an uninformed ear it might sound like the usual chit-chat made by people in polite company. In actuality, there is an insider patois which obliterates any ability for a non-fan to comprehend this speech. Additionally, even the most basic facts have sharp opinions which need to be fiercely defended as though it is a matter of life and death.

The wildly devoted sports fan is also identifiable when the poor soul has had to be taken to some gathering where their preferred clothing is beyond the pale, such as a wedding or charity gala. Detached from their true obsession for a matter of hours, the sports obsessive will possess a forlorn look, trying to find some method by which they can extract themselves from the conversation of regular people to perhaps find a television that will show them their true desire. When they notice someone else with a similar look, they might ask a benign question about athletic pursuits. If the answer is the desired response, then their face will light up at having found their fellow traveler outside the universe they usually inhabit.

The word "patois" as used in the third paragraph most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

a desire to not be heard by others

a strategy for concealing the true meaning of a conversation

a coded form of communication

a specific manner of speaking

a method of developing new terminology

Correct answer:

a specific manner of speaking

Explanation:

The author uses "patois" to describe the way that sports fans speak with each other, after indicating that the conversation of a sports fan sounds normal, but is made up of strange unknowable terms. This indicates that the word is used to mean a manner of speaking which is specific to sports fans.

Example Question #9 : Understanding Context Dependent Vocabulary And Phrasing In Social Science Passages

Passage adapted from The Untroubled Mind (1915) by Herbert J. Hall.

When I go about among my patients, most of them, as it happens, “nervously” sick, I sometimes stop to consider why it is they are ill. I know that some are so because of physical weakness over which they have no control, that some are suffering from the effects of carelessness, some from willfulness, and more from simple ignorance of the rules of the game. There are so many rules that no one will ever know them‌ all, but it seems that we live in a world of laws, and that if we transgress those laws by ever so little, we must suffer equally, whether our transgression is a mistake or not, and whether we happen to be saints or sinners. There are laws also which have to do with the recovery of poise and balance when these have been lost. These laws are less well observed and understood than those which determine our downfall.

The more gross illnesses, from accident, contagion, and malignancy, we need not consider here, but only those intangible injuries that disable people who are relatively sound in the physical sense. It is true that nervous troubles may cause physical complications and that physical disease very often coexists with nervous illness, but it is better for us now to make an artificial separation. Just what happens in the human economy when a “nervous breakdown” comes, nobody seems to know, but mind and body cooperate to make the‌ patient miserable and helpless. It may be nature’s way of holding us up and preventing further injury. The hold-up is severe, usually, and becomes in itself a thing to be managed.

The rules we have wittingly or unwittingly broken are often unknown to us, but they exist in the All-Wise Providence, and we may guess by our own suffering how far we have overstepped them. If a man runs into a door in the dark, we know all about that,—the case is simple,—but if he runs overtime at his office and hastens to be rich with the result of a nervous dyspepsia—that is a mystery. Here is a girl who “came out” last year. She was apparently strong and her mother was ambitious for her social progress. That meant four nights a week for several months at dances and dinners, getting home at 3 a.m. or later. It was gay and delightful while it lasted, but it could not last, and the girl went to pieces suddenly; her back gave out because it was not strong enough to stand the dancing and the long-continued physical strain. The nerves gave out because she did not give her faculties time to rest, and perhaps because of a love affair that supervened. The result was a year of invalidism, and then, because the rules of recovery were not understood, several years more of convalescence. Such common rules should be well enough understood, but they are broken everywhere by the wisest people.

As used in the passage, the word "transgression" most nearly means ____________.

Possible Answers:

moving between two different societal structures

a violation of accepted social conventions

working to make social structures more open and clear

completely obeying the basic rules of society

the physical manifestations of mental health issues

Correct answer:

a violation of accepted social conventions

Explanation:

The author uses "transgression" in the first paragraph, while discussing the ways in which the rules of society are often broken when someone has a nervous breakdown. This linkage indicates that a transgression is in some way a violation of accepted social conventions.

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