MCAT Verbal : Comparing conflicting or supporting ideas

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for MCAT Verbal

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Comparing Conflicting Or Supporting Ideas

Adapted from “Walt Whitman” in The Nebraska State Journal by Willa Cather (January 19, 1896)

Speaking of monuments reminds one that there is more talk about a monument to Walt Whitman, “the good, gray poet.” Just why the adjective good is always applied to Whitman it is difficult to discover, probably because people who could not understand him at all took it for granted that he meant well. If ever there was a poet who had no literary ethics at all beyond those of nature, it was he. He was neither good nor bad, any more than are the animals he continually admired and envied. He was a poet without an exclusive sense of the poetic, a man without the finer discriminations, enjoying everything with the unreasoning enthusiasm of a boy. He was the poet of the dung hill as well as of the mountains, which is admirable in theory but excruciating in verse. In the same paragraph he informs you that, “The pure contralto sings in the organ loft,” and that “The malformed limbs are tied to the table, what is removed drop horribly into a pail.” No branch of surgery is poetic, and that hopelessly prosaic word “pail” would kill a whole volume of sonnets. Whitman’s poems are reckless rhapsodies over creation in general, sometimes sublime, sometimes ridiculous. He declares that the ocean with its “imperious waves, commanding” is beautiful, and that the fly-specks on the walls are also beautiful. Such catholic taste may go in science, but in poetry their results are sad. The poet’s task is usually to select the poetic. Whitman never bothers to do that, he takes everything in the universe from fly-specks to the fixed stars. His Leaves of Grass is a sort of dictionary of the English language, and in it is the name of everything in creation set down with great reverence but without any particular connection.

But however ridiculous Whitman may be there is a primitive elemental force about him. He is so full of hardiness and of the joy of life. He looks at all nature in the delighted, admiring way in which the old Greeks and the primitive poets did. He exults so in the red blood in his body and the strength in his arms. He has such a passion for the warmth and dignity of all that is natural. He has no code but to be natural, a code that this complex world has so long outgrown. He is sensual, not after the manner of Swinburne and Gautier, who are always seeking for perverted and bizarre effects on the senses, but in the frank fashion of the old barbarians who ate and slept and married and smacked their lips over the mead horn. He is rigidly limited to the physical, things that quicken his pulses, please his eyes or delight his nostrils. There is an element of poetry in all this, but it is by no means the highest. If a joyous elephant should break forth into song, his lay would probably be very much like Whitman’s famous “Song of Myself.” It would have just about as much delicacy and deftness and discriminations. He says:

“I think I could turn and live with the animals. They are so placid and self-contained, I stand and look at them long and long. They do not sweat and whine about their condition. They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins. They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God. Not one is dissatisfied nor not one is demented with the mania of many things. Not one kneels to another nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago. Not one is respectable or unhappy, over the whole earth.” And that is not irony on nature, he means just that, life meant no more to him. He accepted the world just as it is and glorified it, the seemly and unseemly, the good and the bad. He had no conception of a difference in people or in things. All men had bodies and were alike to him, one about as good as another. To live was to fulfill all natural laws and impulses. To be comfortable was to be happy. To be happy was the ultimatum. He did not realize the existence of a conscience or a responsibility. He had no more thought of good or evil than the folks in Kipling’s Jungle Book.

And yet there is an undeniable charm about this optimistic vagabond who is made so happy by the warm sunshine and the smell of spring fields. A sort of good fellowship and whole-heartedness in every line he wrote. His veneration for things physical and material, for all that is in water or air or land, is so real that as you read him you think for the moment that you would rather like to live so if you could. For the time you half believe that a sound body and a strong arm are the greatest things in the world. Perhaps no book shows so much as Leaves of Grass that keen senses do not make a poet. When you read it you realize how spirited a thing poetry really is and how great a part spiritual perceptions play in apparently sensuous verse, if only to select the beautiful from the gross.

According to the author, how does Whitman differ from Swinburne and Gautier?

Possible Answers:

Whitman is less sensual and more philosophical than Swinburne and Gautier.

Whitman is more strange and unique than Swinburne and Gautier.

Whitman is more modern than Swinburne and Gautier.

Whitman is more honest and down-to-earth than Swinburne and Gautier.

Whitman is less offensive than Swinburne and Gautier.

Correct answer:

Whitman is more honest and down-to-earth than Swinburne and Gautier.

Explanation:

In the context of comparing Whitman to Swinburne and Gautier, the author focuses on how all three of them are “sensual,” but states that Whitman’s brand of sensuality is not perverted and bizarre like that of the other two. Rather, Whitman is “frank,” or honest. Whitman is compared to the simplicity exhibited by people who lived long ago. The author says: “He has such a passion for the warmth and dignity of all that is natural. He has no code but to be natural, a code that this complex world has so long outgrown. He is sensual, not after the manner of Swinburne and Gautier, who are always seeking for perverted and bizarre effects on the senses, but in the frank fashion of the old barbarians who ate and slept and married and smacked their lips over the mead horn.”

Example Question #2 : Comparing Conflicting Or Supporting Ideas

Adapted from “Walt Whitman” in The Nebraska State Journal by Willa Cather (January 19, 1896)

Speaking of monuments reminds one that there is more talk about a monument to Walt Whitman, “the good, gray poet.” Just why the adjective good is always applied to Whitman it is difficult to discover, probably because people who could not understand him at all took it for granted that he meant well. If ever there was a poet who had no literary ethics at all beyond those of nature, it was he. He was neither good nor bad, any more than are the animals he continually admired and envied. He was a poet without an exclusive sense of the poetic, a man without the finer discriminations, enjoying everything with the unreasoning enthusiasm of a boy. He was the poet of the dung hill as well as of the mountains, which is admirable in theory but excruciating in verse. In the same paragraph he informs you that, “The pure contralto sings in the organ loft,” and that “The malformed limbs are tied to the table, what is removed drop horribly into a pail.” No branch of surgery is poetic, and that hopelessly prosaic word “pail” would kill a whole volume of sonnets. Whitman’s poems are reckless rhapsodies over creation in general, sometimes sublime, sometimes ridiculous. He declares that the ocean with its “imperious waves, commanding” is beautiful, and that the fly-specks on the walls are also beautiful. Such catholic taste may go in science, but in poetry their results are sad. The poet’s task is usually to select the poetic. Whitman never bothers to do that, he takes everything in the universe from fly-specks to the fixed stars. His Leaves of Grass is a sort of dictionary of the English language, and in it is the name of everything in creation set down with great reverence but without any particular connection.

But however ridiculous Whitman may be there is a primitive elemental force about him. He is so full of hardiness and of the joy of life. He looks at all nature in the delighted, admiring way in which the old Greeks and the primitive poets did. He exults so in the red blood in his body and the strength in his arms. He has such a passion for the warmth and dignity of all that is natural. He has no code but to be natural, a code that this complex world has so long outgrown. He is sensual, not after the manner of Swinburne and Gautier, who are always seeking for perverted and bizarre effects on the senses, but in the frank fashion of the old barbarians who ate and slept and married and smacked their lips over the mead horn. He is rigidly limited to the physical, things that quicken his pulses, please his eyes or delight his nostrils. There is an element of poetry in all this, but it is by no means the highest. If a joyous elephant should break forth into song, his lay would probably be very much like Whitman’s famous “Song of Myself.” It would have just about as much delicacy and deftness and discriminations. He says:

“I think I could turn and live with the animals. They are so placid and self-contained, I stand and look at them long and long. They do not sweat and whine about their condition. They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins. They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God. Not one is dissatisfied nor not one is demented with the mania of many things. Not one kneels to another nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago. Not one is respectable or unhappy, over the whole earth.” And that is not irony on nature, he means just that, life meant no more to him. He accepted the world just as it is and glorified it, the seemly and unseemly, the good and the bad. He had no conception of a difference in people or in things. All men had bodies and were alike to him, one about as good as another. To live was to fulfill all natural laws and impulses. To be comfortable was to be happy. To be happy was the ultimatum. He did not realize the existence of a conscience or a responsibility. He had no more thought of good or evil than the folks in Kipling’s Jungle Book.

And yet there is an undeniable charm about this optimistic vagabond who is made so happy by the warm sunshine and the smell of spring fields. A sort of good fellowship and whole-heartedness in every line he wrote. His veneration for things physical and material, for all that is in water or air or land, is so real that as you read him you think for the moment that you would rather like to live so if you could. For the time you half believe that a sound body and a strong arm are the greatest things in the world. Perhaps no book shows so much as Leaves of Grass that keen senses do not make a poet. When you read it you realize how spirited a thing poetry really is and how great a part spiritual perceptions play in apparently sensuous verse, if only to select the beautiful from the gross.

The author’s attitude in this essay changes from one of __________ to one of __________.

Possible Answers:

dogmatic belief . . . moderate condescension

somber consideration . . . eloquent understanding

unquestioning faith . . . confused toleration

rigid criticism . . . empathetic acceptance

mockery and condescension . . . tacit acceptance

Correct answer:

rigid criticism . . . empathetic acceptance

Explanation:

The author’s attitude in the early parts of this essay, particularly in the first paragraph, could best be described as “rigid criticism.” The rigidity applies primarily to the author’s perspective on what does and does not constitute poetry, and the criticism is firmly leveled at Whitman for his inability to comprehend how to use language in a poetic fashion and how to determine what is and is not poetic subject matter. This attitude could perhaps also be called “mockery and condescension,” but this implies a level of criticism and rudeness far exceeding that which the author provides. It is simply too harsh.

The author's attitude shifts as the essay moves towards its conclusion to one that is much more “accepting” of Whitman’s unique style. The “empathetic” aspect of this comes in through the manner in which the author puts herself in Whitman’s mindset. The tone of “empathetic acceptance” can be most easily seen in the following excerpt: “His veneration for things physical and material, for all that is in water or air or land, is so real that as you read him you think for the moment that you would rather like to live so if you could. For the time you half believe that a sound body and a strong arm are the greatest things in the world.”

Example Question #2 : Comparing Conflicting Or Supporting Ideas

Adapted from The Everyday Life of Abraham Lincoln by Francis Fischer Browne (1913)

In 1838, Lincoln was for a third time a candidate for the State Legislature. Mr. Wilson, one of his colleagues from Sangamon County, states that a question of the division of the county was one of the local issues. "Mr. Lincoln and myself," says Mr. Wilson, "among others residing in the portion of the county that sought to be organized into a new county, opposed the division, and it became necessary that I should make a special canvass through the northwest part of the county, then known as Sand Ridge. I made the canvass. Mr. Lincoln accompanied me, being personally acquainted with everyone we called at nearly every house. At that time it was the universal custom to keep some whiskey in the house for private use and to treat friends. The subject was always mentioned as a matter of politeness, but with the usual remark to Mr. Lincoln, ‘We know you never drink, but maybe your friend would like to take a little.' I never saw Mr. Lincoln drink. He often told me he never drank, and had no desire for drink, nor for the companionship of drinking men."

The result of this canvass was that Lincoln was elected to the Legislature for the session of 1838-39. The next year he was elected for the session of 1840-41. This ended his legislative service, which comprised eight consecutive years, from 1834 to 1841. In these later sessions, he was as active and prominent in the House as he had been in the earlier times when a member from New Salem.

Lincoln's faculty for getting the better of an adversary by an apt illustration or anecdote was seldom better shown than by an incident which occurred during his last term in the Legislature. Hon. James C. Conkling has given the following graphic description of the scene: "A gentleman who had formerly been Attorney General of the State was also a member. Presuming upon his age, experience, and former official position, he thought it incumbent upon himself to oppose Lincoln, who was then one of the acknowledged leaders of his party. He at length attracted the attention of Lincoln, who replied to his remarks, telling one of his humorous anecdotes and making a personal application to his opponent that placed the latter in such a ridiculous attitude that it convulsed the whole House. All business was suspended. In vain the Speaker rapped with his gavel. Members of all parties, without distinction, were compelled to laugh. They not only laughed, they screamed and yelled; they thumped upon the floor with their canes; they clapped their hands and threw up their hats; they shouted and twisted themselves into all sorts of contortions, until their sides ached and the tears rolled down their cheeks. One paroxysm passed away, but was speedily succeeded by another, and again they laughed and screamed and yelled. Another lull occurred, and still another paroxysm, until they seemed to be perfectly exhausted. The ambition of Lincoln's opponent was abundantly gratified, and for the remainder of the session he lapsed into profound obscurity."

In June, 1842, ex-President Van Buren was journeying through Illinois with a company of friends. When near Springfield they were delayed by bad roads, and were compelled to spend the night at Rochester, some miles out. The accommodations at this place were very poor, and a few of the ex-President's Springfield friends proposed to go out to meet him and try to aid in entertaining him. Knowing Lincoln's ability as a talker and storyteller, they begged him to go with them and aid in making their guest at the country inn pass the evening as pleasantly as possible. Lincoln, with his usual good nature, went with them, and entertained the party for hours with graphic descriptions of Western life, anecdotes, and witty stories. Judge Peck, who was of the party and a warm friend of the ex-President, says that Lincoln was at his best. There was a constant succession of brilliant anecdotes and funny stories, accompanied by loud laughter in which Van Buren took his full share. "He also," says the Judge, "gave us incidents and anecdotes of Elisha Williams, and other leading members of the New York bar, going back to the days of Hamilton and Burr. Altogether there was a right merry time. Mr. Van Buren said the only drawback upon his enjoyment was that his sides were sore from laughing at Lincoln's stories for a week thereafter."

The third paragraph most specifically demonstrates __________.

Possible Answers:

the comedic gifts that Lincoln possessed

Lincoln’s ability to use his affable nature to political advantage

Lincoln’s desire to humiliate his political opponents

Lincoln’s broad support within Congress

the lack of seriousness in the Congress of the United States in the nineteenth century

Correct answer:

Lincoln’s ability to use his affable nature to political advantage

Explanation:

Throughout this passage, the author highlights Lincoln’s affable nature. In the third paragraph, the author shows how Lincoln was able to use this affability to his political advantage. Lincoln is challenged by a rival and is able to render this challenge ineffective through a combination of humorous storytelling and witty observations about his challenger. It is going too far, and in contrast to the author’s overall tone, to suggest that the author wanted to show Lincoln’s desire to humiliate his opponent. And while Lincoln’s broad support and comedic gifts are parts of this passage, they are less closely related to the third paragraph than the correct answer.

Example Question #4 : Comparing Conflicting Or Supporting Ideas

Adapted from "A Criticism on the English Historians" by Samuel Johnson in The Rambler #122 (1751)

Of the various kinds of speaking or writing, which serve necessity, or promote pleasure, none appears so artless or easy as simple narration; for what should make him who knows the whole order and progress of an affair unable to relate it? Yet we hourly find such as endeavor to entertain or instruct us by recitals, clouding the facts that they intend to illustrate, and losing themselves and their auditors in wilds and mazes, in digression and confusion. When we have congratulated ourselves upon a new opportunity of inquiry, and new means of information, it often happens, that without designing either deceit or concealment, without ignorance of the fact, or unwillingness to disclose it, the relator fills the ear with empty sounds, harasses the attention with fruitless impatience, and disturbs the imagination by a tumult of events, without order of time, or train of consequence.

It is natural to believe, upon the same principle, that no writer has a more easy task than the historian. The philosopher has the works of omniscience to examine, and is therefore engaged in disquisitions, to which finite intellects are utterly unequal. The poet trusts to his invention, and is not only in danger of those inconsistencies, to which every one is exposed by departure from truth, but may be censured as well for deficiencies of matter, as for irregularity of disposition, or impropriety of ornament. But the happy historian has no other labor than of gathering what tradition pours down before him, or records treasure for his use. He has only the actions and designs of men like himself to conceive and to relate; he is not to form, but copy characters, and therefore is not blamed for the inconsistency of statesmen, the injustice of tyrants, or the cowardice of commanders. The difficulty of making variety consistent, or uniting probability with surprise, needs not to disturb him; the manners and actions of his personages are already fixed; his materials are provided and put into his hands, and he is at leisure to employ all his powers in arranging and displaying them.

Yet, even with these advantages, very few in any age have been able to raise themselves to reputation by writing histories; and among the innumerable authors who fill every nation with accounts of their ancestors, or undertake to transmit to futurity the events of their own time, the greater part, when fashion and novelty have ceased to recommend them, are of no other use than chronological memorials, which necessity may sometimes require to be consulted, but which fright away curiosity and disgust delicacy.

It is observed that our nation, which has produced so many authors eminent for almost every other species of literary excellence, has been hitherto remarkably barren of historical genius; and so far has this defect raised prejudices against us, that some have doubted whether an Englishman can stop at that mediocrity of style, or confine his mind to that even tenor of imagination that narrative requires.

They who can believe that nature has so capriciously distributed understanding, have surely no claim to the honor of serious confutation. The inhabitants of the same country have opposite characters in different ages; the prevalence or neglect of any particular study can proceed only from the accidental influence of some temporary cause; and if we have failed in history, we can have failed only because history has not hitherto been diligently cultivated.

But how is it evident, that we have not historians among us, whom we may venture to place in comparison with any that the neighboring nations can produce? The attempt of Raleigh is deservedly celebrated for the labor of his researches, and the elegance of his style; but he has endeavored to exert his judgment more than his genius, to select facts, rather than adorn them; and has produced an historical dissertation, but seldom risen to the majesty of history.

According to the author, how do historians differ from philosophers?

Possible Answers:

Historians' jobs are easier because they are only discussing abstract concepts, while philosophers must deal with morality and ethics, matters relevant to the real world.

Historians are held in the highest esteem of all writers due to the style and substance of their work. Philosophers are used as a particularly direct example of writers whose style is deficient in comparison.

Philosophers' work has a wide scope, and they deal with abstract concepts, while historians recreate actual events.

Philosophers are, in general, held in higher esteem than all other writers, including historians.

Philosophers' work has a wide scope, and they deal with abstract concepts; therefore, their work is less important than that of historians, who discuss real people and events.

Correct answer:

Philosophers' work has a wide scope, and they deal with abstract concepts, while historians recreate actual events.

Explanation:

According to the author, philosophers' work has a wide scope which examines "omniscience." Historians, meanwhile, have "only the actions and designs of men . . . to conceive and to relate." All the other options provided created a statement that was not consistent with the author's characterization of philosophers and historians in comparison.

Example Question #3 : Comparing Conflicting Or Supporting Ideas

Adapted from The Everyday Life of Abraham Lincoln by Francis Fischer Browne (1913)

Lincoln took but little part in politics of slavery until the passage of the Nebraska Bill by Congress in 1854. The enactment of this measure impelled him to take a firmer stand upon the question of slavery than he had yet assumed. He had been opposed to the institution on grounds of sentiment since his boyhood; now he determined to fight it from principle. Mr. Herndon states that Lincoln really became an anti-slavery man in 1831, during his visit to New Orleans, where he was deeply affected by the horrors of the traffic in human beings. On one occasion he saw a slave, a beautiful girl, sold at auction. She was felt over, pinched, and trotted around to show bidders she was sound. Lincoln walked away from the scene with a feeling of deep abhorrence. He said to John Hanks, "If I ever get a chance to hit that institution, John, I'll hit it hard!"

Judge Gillespie records a conversation that he had with Lincoln in 1850 on the slavery question, remarking by way of introduction that the subject of slavery was the only one on which he (Lincoln) was apt to become excited. "I recollect meeting him once at Shelbyville," says Judge Gillespie, "when he remarked that something must be done or slavery would overrun the whole country. He said there were about six hundred thousand non-slaveholding whites in Kentucky to about thirty-three thousand slaveholders; that in the convention then recently held it was expected that the delegates would represent these classes about in proportion to their respective numbers; but when the convention assembled, there was not a single representative of the non-slaveholding class; everyone was in the interest of the slaveholders; 'and,' said he, 'the thing is spreading like wildfire over the country. In a few years we will be ready to accept the institution in Illinois, and the whole country will adopt it.' I asked him to what he attributed the change that was going on in public opinion. He said he had recently put that question to a Kentuckian, who answered by saying, 'You might have any amount of land, money in your pocket, or bank-stock, and while traveling around nobody would be any wiser; but if you had a black man trudging at your heels, everybody would see him and know that you owned a slave. It is the most ostentatious way of displaying property in the world; if a young man goes courting, the only inquiry is as to how many slaves he owns.' The love for slave property was swallowing up every other mercenary possession. Its ownership not only betokened the possession of wealth, but indicated the gentleman of leisure who scorned labor. These things Mr. Lincoln regarded as highly pernicious to the thoughtless and giddy young men who were too much inclined to look upon work as vulgar and ungentlemanly. He was much excited, and said with great earnestness that this spirit ought to be met, and if possible checked; that slavery was a great and crying injustice, an enormous national crime, and we could not expect to escape punishment for it. I asked him how he would proceed in his efforts to check the spread of slavery. He confessed he did not see his way clearly; but I think he made up his mind that from that time he would oppose slavery actively. I know that Lincoln always contended that no man had any right, other than what mere brute force gave him, to hold a slave. He used to say it was singular that the courts would hold that a man never lost his right to property that had been stolen from him, but that he instantly lost his right to himself if he was stolen. Lincoln always contended that the cheapest way of getting rid of slavery was for the nation to buy the slaves and set them free."

While in Congress, Lincoln had declared himself plainly as opposed to slavery; and in public speeches not less than private conversations he had not hesitated to express his convictions on the subject. In 1850 he said to Major Stuart: "The time will soon come when we must all be Democrats or Abolitionists. When that time comes, my mind is made up. The slavery question cannot be compromised." The hour had now struck in which Lincoln was to espouse with his whole heart and soul that cause for which finally he was to lay down his life. In the language of Mr. Arnold, "He had bided his time. He had waited until the harvest was ripe. With unerring sagacity he realized that the triumph of freedom was at hand. He entered upon the conflict with the deepest conviction that the perpetuity of the Republic required the extinction of slavery.

Which of these statements is most obviously contradicted by other statements in the passage?

Possible Answers:

“I asked him how he would proceed in his efforts to check the spread of slavery. He confessed he did not see his way clearly . . . “

“Lincoln took but little part in politics of slavery until the passage of the Nebraska Bill by Congress in 1854.”

“Mr. Herndon states that Lincoln really became an anti-slavery man in 1831, during his visit to New Orleans, where he was deeply affected by the horrors of the traffic in human beings.”

“Judge Gillespie records a conversation which he had with Lincoln in 1850 on the slavery question, remarking by way of introduction that the subject of slavery was the only one on which he (Lincoln) was apt to become excited.”

“While in Congress, Lincoln had declared himself plainly as opposed to slavery; and in public speeches not less than private conversations he had not hesitated to express his convictions on the subject.”

Correct answer:

“Lincoln took but little part in politics of slavery until the passage of the Nebraska Bill by Congress in 1854.”

Explanation:

Throughout the passage, the author makes reference to Lincoln’s disgust at the institution of slavery, but the introduction states, “Lincoln took but little part in politics of slavery until the passage of the Nebraska Bill by Congress in 1854.” It is possible that the clause “in politics” makes this sentence not wholly contradictory, but later in the essay, we find the author talking about how Lincoln spoke freely in private and in public office about his opposition to slavery in 1850, and it seems fair to qualify talking about slavery with other politicians as being involved in the “politics of slavery.”

Example Question #6 : Comparing Conflicting Or Supporting Ideas

Adapted from “Robespierre” in Critical Miscellanies by John Morley (1904)

Marie Antoinette's high mien in adversity, and the contrast between the dazzling splendor of her first years and the scenes of outrage and bloody death that made the climax of her fate, could not but strike the imaginations of men. Such contrasts are the very stuff of which Tragedy, the gorgeous muse with scepter'd pall, loves to weave her most imposing raiment. But history must be just; and the character of the Queen had far more concern in the disaster of the first five years of the Revolution than had the character of Robespierre. Every new document that comes to light heaps up proof that if blind and obstinate choice of personal gratification before the common weal be enough to constitute a state criminal, then the Queen of France was one of the worst state criminals that ever afflicted a nation. The popular hatred of Marie Antoinette sprang from a sound instinct. We shall never know how much or how little truth there was in those frightful charges against her, that may still be read in a thousand pamphlets. These imputed depravities far surpass anything that John Knox ever said against Mary Stuart, or that Juvenal has recorded against Messalina; and, perhaps, for the only parallel we must look to the hideous stories of the Byzantine secretary against Theodora, the too famous empress of Justinian and the persecutor of Belisarius. We have to remember that all the revolutionary portraits are distorted by furious passion, and that Marie Antoinette may no more deserve to be compared to Mary Stuart than Robespierre deserves to be compared to Ezzelino or to Alva. It is at least certain that, from the unlucky hour when the Austrian archduchess crossed the French frontier, a childish bride of fourteen, down to the hour when the Queen of France made the attempt to recross it in resentful flight one and twenty years afterwards, Marie Antoinette was ignorant, unteachable, blind to events and deaf to good counsels, a bitter grief to her heroic mother, the evil genius of her husband, the despair of her truest advisers, and an exceedingly bad friend to the people of France. When Burke had that immortal vision of her at Versailles—"just above the horizon, decorating and cheering the elevated sphere she just began to move in, glittering like the morning star, full of life and splendor and joy"—we know from the correspondence between Maria Theresa and her minister at Versailles, that what Burke really saw was no divinity, but a flighty and troublesome schoolgirl, an accomplice in all the ignoble intrigues, and a sharer of all the small busy passions that convulse the insects of a court. She broke out in incredible dissipations; in indiscreet visits to the masked balls at the opera, in midnight parades and mystifications on the terrace at Versailles, in insensate gambling. “The court of France is turned into a gaming-hell,” said the Emperor Joseph, the Queen's own brother: “if they do not amend, the revolution will be cruel.”

These vices or follies were less mischievous than her intervention in affairs of state. Here to levity she added both dissimulation and vindictiveness. It was the Queen's influence that procured the dismissal of the two virtuous ministers by whose aid the King was striving to arrest the decay of the government of his kingdom. Malesherbes was distasteful to her for no better reason than that she wanted his post for some favorite's favorite. Against Turgot she conspired with tenacious animosity because he had suppressed a sinecure which she designed for a court parasite, and because he would not support her caprice on behalf of a worthless creature of her faction. These two admirable men were disgraced on the same day. The Queen wrote to her mother that she had not meddled in the affair. This was a falsehood, for she had even sought to have Turgot thrown into the Bastille. “I am as one dashed to the ground,” cried the great Voltaire, now nearing his end. “Never can we console ourselves for having seen the golden age dawn and vanish. My eyes see only death in front of me, now that Turgot is gone. The rest of my days must be all bitterness.” What hope could there be that the personage who had thus put out the light of hope for France in 1776 would welcome that greater flame that was kindled in the land in 1789?

Which of these quotations most obviously conflicts with the underlined statement of the author?

Possible Answers:

"But history must be just; and the character of the Queen had far more concern in the disaster of the first five years of the Revolution than had the character of Robespierre."

"The popular hatred of Marie Antoinette sprang from a sound instinct."

"These vices or follies were less mischievous than her intervention in affairs of state."

"We have to remember that all the revolutionary portraits are distorted by furious passion . . . "

"Every new document that comes to light heaps up proof that if blind and obstinate choice of personal gratification before the common weal be enough to constitute a state criminal, then the Queen of France was one of the worst state criminals that ever afflicted a nation."

Correct answer:

"We have to remember that all the revolutionary portraits are distorted by furious passion . . . "

Explanation:

The author of this passage conflicts himself on numerous occasions when considering the veracity of the claims made against Marie Antoinette. On the one hand, he describes her as “ignorant,” “deaf to good counsels,” and “an exceedingly bad friend to the people of France.” Yet, on the other hand, he concedes that these observations are drawn partially from sensationalized accounts of Marie Antoinette written by those who had cause to disgrace her. It is clear that the author is trying to be objective and even-handed, but he also contradicts his statements in doing so. His statement "We have to remember that all the revolutionary portraits are distorted by furious passion" conflicts with the underlined statement because it suggests that we cannot really draw any definitive conclusions about Marie Antoinette based on the material at hand.

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