MCAT Verbal : Determining the strength of evidence

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for MCAT Verbal

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Determining The Strength Of Evidence

Adapted from “The Origin of Music” in Critical and Historical Essays by Edward Macdowell (1912)

Darwin's theory that music had its origin “in the sounds made by the half-human progenitors of man during the season of courtship” seems for many reasons to be inadequate and untenable. A much more plausible explanation, it seems to me, is to be found in the theory of Theophrastus, in which the origin of music is attributed to the whole range of human emotion.

When an animal utters a cry of joy or pain it expresses its emotions in more or less definite tones, and at some remote period of the earth's history all primeval mankind must have expressed its emotions in much the same manner. When this inarticulate speech developed into the use of certain sounds as symbols for emotions—emotions that otherwise would have been expressed by the natural sounds occasioned by them—then we have the beginnings of speech as distinguished from music, which is still the universal language. In other words, intellectual development begins with articulate speech, leaving music for the expression of the emotions.

To symbolize the sounds used to express emotion, if I may so put it, is to weaken that expression, and it would naturally be the strongest emotion that would first feel the inadequacy of the new-found speech. Now what is mankind's strongest emotion? Even in the nineteenth century Goethe could say, “'Tis fear that constitutes the god-like in man.” Certainly before the Christian era the soul of mankind had its roots in fear. In our superstition we were like children beneath a great tree of which the upper part was as a vague and fascinating mystery, but the roots holding it firmly to the ground were tangible, palpable facts. We feared—we knew not what. Love was human, all the other emotions were human; fear alone was indefinable.

The primeval man, looking at the world subjectively, was merely part of it. He might love, hate, threaten, kill, if he willed; every other creature could do the same. But the wind was a great spirit to him; lightning and thunder threatened him as they did the rest of the world; the flood would destroy him as ruthlessly as it tore the trees asunder. The elements were animate powers that had nothing in common with him; for what the intellect cannot explain the imagination magnifies.

Fear, then, was the strongest emotion. Therefore auxiliary aids to express and cause fear were necessary when the speech symbols for fear, drifting further and further away from expressing the actual thing, became words, and words were inadequate to express and cause fear. In that vague groping for sound symbols which would cause and express fear far better than mere words, we have the beginning of what is gradually to develop into music.

The author references Goethe in order to __________.

Possible Answers:

refute a position long held by respected experts

lend some comic sentiment to his argument

undermine the conclusions of Darwin

reinforce an unconventional position

give recognizable authority to his argument

Correct answer:

give recognizable authority to his argument

Explanation:

Usually, when an author references a famous name, it is done to “give recognizable authority” to the author’s argument. This is certainly the case for this question. In context, the author says, “Now what is mankind's strongest emotion? Even in the nineteenth century Goethe could say, ''Tis fear that constitutes the god-like in man.'' Here the author is backing up the claims he is making in the surrounding text by referencing the opinions of a famous and well-respected man.

Example Question #2 : Determining The Strength Of Evidence

Adapted from "Save the Redwoods" by John Muir in Sierra Club Bulletin Volume XI Number 1 (January 1920)

We are often told that the world is going from bad to worse, but this righteous uprising in defense of God's trees is telling a different story. The wrongs done to trees are done in the darkness of ignorance and unbelief, for when light comes the heart of the people is always right. Forty-seven years ago one of these Calaveras King Sequoias was laboriously cut down, that the stump might be had for a dancing-floor. Another, one of the finest in the grove, was skinned alive to a height of one hundred and sixteen feet and the bark sent to London to show how fine and big that Calaveras tree was—as sensible a scheme as skinning our great men would be to prove their greatness. Now some millmen want to cut all the Calaveras trees into lumber and money. No doubt these trees would make good lumber after passing through a sawmill, as George Washington after passing through the hands of a French cook would have made good food. But both for Washington and the tree that bears his name higher uses have been found.

In noble groves and forests south of the Calaveras Grove the axe and saw have long been busy, and thousands of the finest Sequoias have been felled, while fires have spread still wider and more lamentable ruin. In the course of my explorations twenty-five years ago, I found five sawmills on or near the lower margin of the Sequoia belt. One of the smallest of these in the 1874 season sawed two million feet of Sequoia lumber. Since that time, other mills have been built among the Sequoias. The destruction of these grand trees is still going on. 

On the other hand, the Calaveras Grove for forty years has been faithfully protected by Mr. Sperry, and with the exception of the two trees mentioned above is still in primeval beauty. Many groves have of late been partially protected by the Federal Government, while the well-known Mariposa Grove has long been guarded by the State.

For the thousands of acres of Sequoia forest outside of reservations and national parks, and in the hands of lumbermen, no help is in sight. Probably more than three times as many Sequoias as are contained in the whole Calaveras Grove have been cut into lumber every year for the last twenty-six years without let or hindrance, and with scarce a word of protest on the part of the public, while at the first whisper of bonding the Calaveras Grove to lumbermen most everybody rose in alarm. Californians’ righteous and lively indignation after their long period of deathlike apathy, in which they have witnessed the destruction of other groves unmoved, seems strange until the rapid growth that right public opinion has made during the last few years is considered and the peculiar interest that attaches to the Calaveras giants. They were the first discovered and are best known. Thousands of travelers from every country come to see them, their reputation is world-wide, and the names of great men have long been associated with them—Washington, Humboldt, Torrey and Gray, Sir Joseph Hooker, and others. These kings of the forest rightly belong to the world, but as they are in California, we cannot escape responsibility as their guardians. Fortunately the American people are equal to this trust, or any other that may arise, as soon as they see it and understand it.

Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot defend themselves or run away. And few destroyers of trees ever plant any, nor can planting avail much toward restoring our grand aboriginal giants. It took more than three thousand years to make some of the oldest of the Sequoias, trees that are still standing in perfect strength and beauty. Through all the eventful centuries since Christ's time, and long before that, God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand storms; but he cannot save them from sawmills and fools; this is left to the American people.The news from Washington is encouraging. The House has passed a bill providing for the Government acquisition of the Calaveras giants. The danger these Sequoias have been in will do good far beyond the boundaries of the Calaveras Grove, in saving other groves and forests and quickening interest in forest affairs in general. While the iron of public sentiment is hot let us strike hard. In particular, a reservation or national park of the only other species of Sequoia, the sempervirens, or redwood, hardly less wonderful than the gigantea, should be quickly secured. It will have to be acquired by gift or purchase, for the Government has sold every section of the redwood belt from the Oregon boundary to below Santa Cruz.

The author cites information in paragraph two about the logging activities he witnessed in order to do what?

Possible Answers:

To show that the logging of Sequoias has occurred for a long time and that a great deal of destruction has already occurred

To provide a personal anecdote that supports his argument that the time to act to save the Sequoias is now

To provide a rhetorical rallying cry

To support his argument with qualitative evidence of the extent of logging currently in California

To show that his research and argument aligns closely with the work of others

Correct answer:

To show that the logging of Sequoias has occurred for a long time and that a great deal of destruction has already occurred

Explanation:

Correct answer: To show that the logging of sequoias has continued for a long time and that a great deal of destruction has already occurred

The author makes a point of saying how long ago the logging began, how it's been expanded, and how many trees have already been destroyed. This is his main point here: that a great many Sequoia trees have been destroyed already.

 

Provide a personal anecdote that supports his argument that the time to act to save the sequoias is now.

Part of the author's claims in the second paragraph stem from personal anecdote, but part of his claims are learned facts—the number of new mills, for example, and the amount of Sequoia lumber processed at one of these mills. Thus, this is not the best answer.

 

Show that his research and argument aligns closely with the work of others.

The author doesn't mention research or arguments of others.

 

Provide a rhetorical rallying cry.

This is incorrect because this paragraph is less aptly described as a "rhetorical rallying cry" than other paragraphs; the last paragraph best fits this description.

 

Support his argument with qualitative evidence of the extent of logging currently in California.

The author talks more about the past extent of logging up to the time at which he is writing. In addition, he presents some numbers, so his claims here are best described as quantitative, not qualitative.

Example Question #3 : Determining The Strength Of Evidence

Adapted from "Save the Redwoods" by John Muir in Sierra Club Bulletin Volume XI Number 1 (January 1920)

We are often told that the world is going from bad to worse, but this righteous uprising in defense of God's trees is telling a different story. The wrongs done to trees are done in the darkness of ignorance and unbelief, for when light comes the heart of the people is always right. Forty-seven years ago one of these Calaveras King Sequoias was laboriously cut down, that the stump might be had for a dancing-floor. Another, one of the finest in the grove, was skinned alive to a height of one hundred and sixteen feet and the bark sent to London to show how fine and big that Calaveras tree was—as sensible a scheme as skinning our great men would be to prove their greatness. Now some millmen want to cut all the Calaveras trees into lumber and money. No doubt these trees would make good lumber after passing through a sawmill, as George Washington after passing through the hands of a French cook would have made good food. But both for Washington and the tree that bears his name higher uses have been found.

In noble groves and forests south of the Calaveras Grove the axe and saw have long been busy, and thousands of the finest Sequoias have been felled, while fires have spread still wider and more lamentable ruin. In the course of my explorations twenty-five years ago, I found five sawmills on or near the lower margin of the Sequoia belt. One of the smallest of these in the 1874 season sawed two million feet of Sequoia lumber. Since that time, other mills have been built among the Sequoias. The destruction of these grand trees is still going on. 

On the other hand, the Calaveras Grove for forty years has been faithfully protected by Mr. Sperry, and with the exception of the two trees mentioned above is still in primeval beauty. Many groves have of late been partially protected by the Federal Government, while the well-known Mariposa Grove has long been guarded by the State.

For the thousands of acres of Sequoia forest outside of reservations and national parks, and in the hands of lumbermen, no help is in sight. Probably more than three times as many Sequoias as are contained in the whole Calaveras Grove have been cut into lumber every year for the last twenty-six years without let or hindrance, and with scarce a word of protest on the part of the public, while at the first whisper of bonding the Calaveras Grove to lumbermen most everybody rose in alarm. Californians’ righteous and lively indignation after their long period of deathlike apathy, in which they have witnessed the destruction of other groves unmoved, seems strange until the rapid growth that right public opinion has made during the last few years is considered and the peculiar interest that attaches to the Calaveras giants. They were the first discovered and are best known. Thousands of travelers from every country come to see them, their reputation is world-wide, and the names of great men have long been associated with them—Washington, Humboldt, Torrey and Gray, Sir Joseph Hooker, and others. These kings of the forest rightly belong to the world, but as they are in California, we cannot escape responsibility as their guardians. Fortunately the American people are equal to this trust, or any other that may arise, as soon as they see it and understand it.

Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot defend themselves or run away. And few destroyers of trees ever plant any, nor can planting avail much toward restoring our grand aboriginal giants. It took more than three thousand years to make some of the oldest of the Sequoias, trees that are still standing in perfect strength and beauty. Through all the eventful centuries since Christ's time, and long before that, God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand storms; but he cannot save them from sawmills and fools; this is left to the American people.The news from Washington is encouraging. The House has passed a bill providing for the Government acquisition of the Calaveras giants. The danger these Sequoias have been in will do good far beyond the boundaries of the Calaveras Grove, in saving other groves and forests and quickening interest in forest affairs in general. While the iron of public sentiment is hot let us strike hard. In particular, a reservation or national park of the only other species of Sequoia, the sempervirens, or redwood, hardly less wonderful than the gigantea, should be quickly secured. It will have to be acquired by gift or purchase, for the Government has sold every section of the redwood belt from the Oregon boundary to below Santa Cruz.

Which of the following is an assumption made by the author?

Possible Answers:

There are sufficient sources of lumber to meet the reasonable needs of society without using Sequoias for this purpose.

The people will always, in the end, act to save and preserve natural resources.

The only way to halt the destruction of the Sequoias is through federal or state action.

Lumbermen have too much political power.

Lumbermen are only concerned with money.

Correct answer:

There are sufficient sources of lumber to meet the reasonable needs of society without using Sequoias for this purpose.

Explanation:

Correct answer: There are sufficient sources of lumber to meet the reasonable needs of society without using Sequoias for this purpose.

The author objects only to the use of these trees for lumber, and his analogy with George Washington indicates that he thinks that there is something that's acceptable to be used for this purpose. All Sequoias, like all people, should not be used for a crass and base purpose, but just as saying George Washington should not be made into food doesn't imply that chickens should not, saying Sequoias not be made into lumber does not imply that no trees should. The author makes no argument against the idea that this wood is being put to necessary uses, and so there is an implication that lumber needs can be sourced elsewhere. It is possible that the author thinks that society should reduce its use of lumber, as well, but this answer is still the best of the group.

 

The people will always, in the end, act to save and preserve natural resources.

This answer is incorrect because the author sets a conditional: only when destructive activities are brought to light does this happen. In this case, the destruction of Sequoias went on in California until a well-known forest was threatened.

 

Lumbermen are only concerned with money.

The author says that some lumbermen are concerned with lumber and money, but he doesn't say this of all lumbermen nor that their only concern is money.

 

The only way to halt the destruction of the Sequoias is through federal or state action.

Although the author clearly thinks that state or government action is a good idea, there is nothing to suggest he would be against a private citizen purchasing and preserving a group of Sequoias. The author ends the passage by saying, "In particular, a reservation or national park of the only other species of Sequoia, the sempervirens, or redwood, hardly less wonderful than the gigantea, should be quickly secured. It will have to be acquired by gift or purchase, for the Government has sold every section of the redwood belt from the Oregon boundary to below Santa Cruz." A reservation might be a private thing.

 

Lumbermen have too much political power.

This is an incorrect answer because while there is an implication that lumbermen have political power, the author claims that it is defeated when their activities are brought to light. The author places the problem mostly on the lack of public knowledge and not the political power opposing conservation attempts. 

Example Question #4 : Determining The Strength Of Evidence

Adapted from Samuel Johnson's "Labor Necessary to Excellence" in No. 169 of The Rambler (1751)

No vanity can more justly incur contempt and indignation than that which boasts of negligence and hurry. For who can bear with patience the writer who claims such superiority to the rest of his species as to imagine mankind are at leisure for attention to his extemporary sallies and that posterity will reposit his casual effusions among the treasures of ancient wisdom?

Men have sometimes appeared of such transcendent abilities that their slightest and most cursory performances excel all that labor and study can enable meaner intellects to compose, as there are regions of which the spontaneous products cannot be equalled in other soils by care and culture. But it is no less dangerous for any man to place himself in this rank of understanding and fancy that he is born to be illustrious without labor than to omit the cares of husbandry and expect from his ground the blossoms of Arabia.

The greatest part of those who congratulate themselves upon their intellectual dignity and usurp the privileges of genius are men whom only themselves would ever have marked out as enriched by uncommon liberalities of nature, or entitled to veneration and immortality on easy terms. This ardor of confidence is usually found among those who, having not enlarged their notions by books or conversation, are persuaded, by the partiality which we all feel in our own favor, that they have reached the summit of excellence because they discover none higher than themselves; and who acquiesce in the first thoughts that occur, because their scantiness of knowledge allows them little choice; and the narrowness of their views affords them no glimpse of perfection, of that sublime idea which human industry has from the first ages been vainly toiling to approach. They see a little, and believe that there is nothing beyond their sphere of vision, as the Patuecos of Spain, who inhabited a small valley, conceived the surrounding mountains to be the boundaries of the world. In proportion as perfection is more distinctly conceived, the pleasure of contemplating our own performances will be lessened; it may therefore be observed, that they who most deserve praise are often afraid to decide in favor of their own performances; they know how much is still wanting to their completion, and wait with anxiety and terror the determination of the public. I please everyone else, says Tally, but never satisfy myself.

It has often been inquired, why, notwithstanding the advances of later ages in science and the assistance which the infusion of so many new ideas has given us, we fall below the ancients in the art of composition. Some part of their superiority may be justly ascribed to the graces of their language, from which the most polished of the present European tongues are nothing more than barbarous degenerations. Some advantage they might gain merely by priority, which put them in possession of the most natural sentiments and left us nothing but servile repetition or forced conceits. But the greater part of their praise seems to have been the just reward of modesty and labor. Their sense of human weakness confined them commonly to one study, which their knowledge of the extent of every science engaged them to prosecute with indefatigable diligence.

The author references "the Patuecos of Spain" for which of the following reasons?

Possible Answers:

To create a comparison to ancient writers in order to mock the ancient writers

To refute a commonly held theory about the nature of labor

To provide an example of the ways in which hard work and an open mind may reward individuals and communities

To provide an example of the way in which limited knowledge can lead to a limited perspective on the world

To provide an example of the possible deadly consequences of a lack of fundamental education and literacy

Correct answer:

To provide an example of the way in which limited knowledge can lead to a limited perspective on the world

Explanation:

The author references the "the Patuecos of Spain" and their conception of "the surrounding mountains [of their small village] to be the boundaries of the world." The author uses this example to analogously shore up his point about the less educated and hard-working writers being less aware of their own limitations, and more likely to claim their own "genius."

Example Question #5 : Determining The Strength Of Evidence

Adapted from Samuel Johnson's "Labor Necessary to Excellence" in No. 169 of The Rambler (1751)

No vanity can more justly incur contempt and indignation than that which boasts of negligence and hurry. For who can bear with patience the writer who claims such superiority to the rest of his species as to imagine mankind are at leisure for attention to his extemporary sallies and that posterity will reposit his casual effusions among the treasures of ancient wisdom?

Men have sometimes appeared of such transcendent abilities that their slightest and most cursory performances excel all that labor and study can enable meaner intellects to compose, as there are regions of which the spontaneous products cannot be equalled in other soils by care and culture. But it is no less dangerous for any man to place himself in this rank of understanding and fancy that he is born to be illustrious without labor than to omit the cares of husbandry and expect from his ground the blossoms of Arabia.

The greatest part of those who congratulate themselves upon their intellectual dignity and usurp the privileges of genius are men whom only themselves would ever have marked out as enriched by uncommon liberalities of nature, or entitled to veneration and immortality on easy terms. This ardor of confidence is usually found among those who, having not enlarged their notions by books or conversation, are persuaded, by the partiality which we all feel in our own favor, that they have reached the summit of excellence because they discover none higher than themselves; and who acquiesce in the first thoughts that occur, because their scantiness of knowledge allows them little choice; and the narrowness of their views affords them no glimpse of perfection, of that sublime idea which human industry has from the first ages been vainly toiling to approach. They see a little, and believe that there is nothing beyond their sphere of vision, as the Patuecos of Spain, who inhabited a small valley, conceived the surrounding mountains to be the boundaries of the world. In proportion as perfection is more distinctly conceived, the pleasure of contemplating our own performances will be lessened; it may therefore be observed, that they who most deserve praise are often afraid to decide in favor of their own performances; they know how much is still wanting to their completion, and wait with anxiety and terror the determination of the public. I please everyone else, says Tally, but never satisfy myself.

It has often been inquired, why, notwithstanding the advances of later ages in science and the assistance which the infusion of so many new ideas has given us, we fall below the ancients in the art of composition. Some part of their superiority may be justly ascribed to the graces of their language, from which the most polished of the present European tongues are nothing more than barbarous degenerations. Some advantage they might gain merely by priority, which put them in possession of the most natural sentiments and left us nothing but servile repetition or forced conceits. But the greater part of their praise seems to have been the just reward of modesty and labor. Their sense of human weakness confined them commonly to one study, which their knowledge of the extent of every science engaged them to prosecute with indefatigable diligence.

In the opening paragraph, the author uses a question for what reason?

Possible Answers:

The question is used to directly engage the reader from the beginning.

The question is rhetorical, designed to strengthen his case by showing how weak the arguments of his opponents are.

The question is rhetorical, designed to strengthen his case by showing the absurdity of life in the face of the whims of fortune.

The question is rhetorical, designed to strengthen his case by showing how obvious his conclusions are.

The question is used to distort the reader's perception of the topic of the essay, setting up the surprise ending later.

Correct answer:

The question is rhetorical, designed to strengthen his case by showing how obvious his conclusions are.

Explanation:

In this case, the author uses a rhetorical question to strengthen his argument by showing the obviousness of the "contemptibility" of those who would do little work and then brag about their intelligence. The author describes a set of people and actions, and uses the rhetorical question to show how universal the feelings they would generate are. From there, he goes on to make a more positive argument about hard work and modesty, the antithesis of the actions described in the opening.

Example Question #6 : Determining The Strength Of Evidence

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.

What evidence does the author primarily employ to demonstrate Lincoln’s disdain for slavery?

Possible Answers:

Excerpts from Lincoln’s personal diary

Personal anecdotes and recollections

Excerpts from Lincoln’s correspondences

Second-hand accounts of children of former slaves

Quotes from Lincoln’s political opponents

Correct answer:

Personal anecdotes and recollections

Explanation:

Throughout this passage, the author employs the testimony of people Lincoln encountered and talked with during his life. Judge Gillespie, Mr. Herndon, Major Stuart, and others are given space to tell anecdotes and recall examples that demonstrate Lincoln’s commitment to bringing about the demise of the institution of slavery.

Example Question #243 : Mcat Verbal Reasoning

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?

The testimony of Emperor Joseph and Voltaire is used to __________.

Possible Answers:

show how Marie Antoinette was as beloved in Austria as she was despised in France

demonstrate that the only people who defended Marie Antoinette were members of her family

highlight the poor choices made by Marie Antoinette towards the end of her life

furnish the author’s argument that Marie Antoinette contributed a great deal to the French Revolution

refute claims that Marie Antoinette was universally despised in her lifetime

Correct answer:

furnish the author’s argument that Marie Antoinette contributed a great deal to the French Revolution

Explanation:

The statement by Emperor Joseph suggests that Marie Antoinette’s conduct at court was understood to be a harbinger of revolution even without the gift of hindsight. The testimony of Voltaire is used to show that the decisions enacted by Marie Antoinette were derided at the time and led to dissatisfaction and revolution in France. Together, the two pieces of information are used to help provide additional detail and evidence to the author’s argument that Marie Antoinette contributed a great deal to the outbreak of the French Revolution.

Example Question #7 : Determining The Strength Of Evidence

Adapted from Albert William Parry's Education in the Middle Ages (1920).

The introduction of Christianity to this country subsequent to the Saxon invasion was effected by means of two independent agencies—the Roman mission under the leadership of Augustine which arrived in Thanet in 597, and the Scottish missionaries who, in response to the invitation of Oswald, king of Northumbria, took up their residence in the island of Lindisfarne in 635.

The primary task of these missionaries was obviously that of converting a people who professed a heathen religion to an adherence to the Christian faith. The accomplishment of this main task, however, involved two additional tasks, the one moral, the other social. A dismal picture of the moral condition of the settlers in this country in the fifth century has been painted by Montalembert. Basing his account on Ozanam’s “Germains avant la Christianisme” he asks, “What could be expected in point of morality from persons accustomed to invoke and to worship Woden, the god of massacres, Freya, the Venus of the North, the goddess of sensuality, and all those bloody and obscene gods of whom the one had for his emblem a naked sword and another the hammer with which he broke the heads of his enemies?” He continues, “The immortality which was promised to them in their Valhalla but reserved for them new days of slaughter and nights of debauchery spent in drinking deep in the halls of their victims. And in this world, their life was but too often a prolonged indulgence of carnage, plundering and lechery.” Herein lay the moral task which awaited the Christian missionaries. They had to replace the existing national ideals with the ideals of Christianity—ideals of the highest standard of personal morality. The social task undertaken by the missionaries was that of elevating this country from a condition of barbarism into a state of civilisation. Referring to the results of the introduction of Christianity, Green writes, “The new England was admitted into the older commonwealth of nations. The civilisation, art, letters, which had fled before the sword of the English conquest returned with the Christian faith.”

What means could be adopted by the missionaries to accomplish the ends they had in view? It is obvious that continual teaching and instruction would be imperative to meet the needs of the converts to the new faith, and it is equally clear that it would be necessary to provide for the creation of a native ministry in order that the labours of the early missionaries might be continued. Teaching, consequently, occupies a position of the greatest importance, and it is to the educational aspect of the labours of these missionaries rather than to the religious or the ecclesiastical aspect that our attention is now directed. It may be advisable for us to remind ourselves that these missionaries came to this country speaking the Latin tongue, that the services of the Church were carried on in that language, and that such books as existed were also written in Latin. It is necessary to make this point clear in order to show that schools for instruction in this language would be imperative from the very first.

It is also important to remember, as Montalembert points out, that the conversion of England was effected by means of monks, first of the Benedictine monks sent from Rome, and afterwards of Celtic monks. We may here lay down a general hypothesis, which the course of this thesis will tend to demonstrate: the educational institutions established in this country were due to an imitation of those which had been in operation elsewhere. The Christian missionaries to England, for example, did not originate a system of education. They adopted what they had seen in operation in the parent monasteries from which they came, and, in so doing, they would naturally adapt the system to the special needs of the country. Some exceptions to this general principle may be found; they will be noted in their proper place.

Accepting this hypothesis, before we can proceed to consider the special work for education of the monasteries in this country, it is necessary briefly to review the meaning of monachism and to consider the extent to which monasteries had previously associated themselves with educational work.

What best describes the author's opinions about examples of Monks deviating from assumed practices of education?

Possible Answers:

They are non-existent.

They will be mentioned where appropriate.

They are not worth mentioning as they disprove the author's conclusions.

They are detailed by others but bear no significance.

They are unusual and are the work of Saxon converts.

Correct answer:

They will be mentioned where appropriate.

Explanation:

The author states quite clearly that: “The Christian missionaries to England, for example, did not originate a system of education. They adopted what they had seen in operation in the parent monasteries from which they came, and, in so doing, they would naturally adapt the system to the special needs of the country. Some exceptions to this general principle may be found; they will be noted in their proper place.” so it is quite clear that the author's opinion is that they are worthy enough to be mentioned where appropriate. We can come to this by discrediting the other answers as they are obviously incorrect. We know they are existent; they do not disprove any of the author's current conclusions; they are not the work of Saxon converts as far as we know and they do bear enough significance to be mentioned at least once in the passage.

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