MCAT Verbal : Identifying relevant supporting information

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for MCAT Verbal

varsity tutors app store varsity tutors android store

Example Questions

← Previous 1 3 4

Example Question #1 : Identifying Relevant Supporting Information

Once upon a time (and that was only 33 years ago) there were five little boys who played circus in their back yards with a strip of rag carpet for a tent and a paper whale. They charged pins and then pennies.

Then they gave a real show in the barn, and then in the hall. And now they own elephants and camels and giraffes and hippopotamuses, and about forty eleven circuses.

When the bands blare and the horses “rare” and the big green and gold and silver wagons come past, and the clowns cut up such funny didoes, the chances are that you are seeing the men that the Ringling Brothers employ to amuse the boys and girls; yes, and the men and women of America during the summer.

For the circus business of America is the Ringling business.

They own the Ringling Brothers’ show, and Barnum’s, which was later Barnum and Bailey’s, the Forepaugh-Sells shows and what is left of the Hagenback’s and more of the dog and pony shows, and the remnants of Buffalo Bill’s and Pawnee Bill’s Wild West, and Ranch 101, and, oh, lots and lots of other shows.

And they are the boys who started in the barn loft at Baraboo, Wisconsin. They are the “Circus Trust” of America!

The chances are that the government never will complain because the Ringling boys (for they always will be boys, no matter how old they get) are a “trust.” They own lots and lots of circuses, but many of them they bought when they did not need or want them, out of sentiment when some of the competitors of the days when they rode in wagons were in hard luck.

Some they bought so that they might preserve the names of the famous old “shows.” Some they bought so that they might direct the routes, and send some circuses to some city or town their “big shows” could not reach. Some they wanted because from them they could get new acts and new performers for the “big shows,” and some they own because when the public has ceased to thrill over some famous “actor” in the big shows they can send him to the smaller ones where he may perform before those who never have felt the thrills.

There is too much sentiment in the circus business for it to be a destroyer or a menace. The Ringlings have bought shows, carried them, supplied them with acts and given the old owner full charge to buy them back and run them.

Just how many men and women, and horses and dogs these boys own now even they do not know exactly. Some idea of the vast expanse of creating and maintaining a great circus may be gained from the fact that the Ringling shows’ menagerie alone is valued and insured at more than $1,000,000; the forty performing elephants are worth $250,000. The robe worn by one elephant alone cost $12,000. The length of the Ringlings’ main tent is 580 feet, the largest ever erected; the menagerie contains 108 cages, and the parade is three miles long. The 4,500 costumes worn in the Solomon and the Queen of Sheba spectacle itself were produced at the cost of more than $1,000,000.

Double these latter figures—for the Barnum shows are about the same size, add one-third for the smaller shows controlled and you will have some idea of the magnitude of the “show” business.

 

Adapted from "Ringling Kids' Back Yard Show Grows into Mammoth Octopus." Fullerton, Hugh S. The day book. [Chicago, IL] 13 June 1914. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.

Which of the following is not used as evidence of the Ringling brothers' success?

Possible Answers:

The number of cages to house their animals

The number of performers in their main show

The names of prominent circuses they have bought

The number of costumes in a particular performance

Correct answer:

The number of performers in their main show

Explanation:

The article references the number of cages in the Ringling menagerie and the number of costumes in the "Solomon and the Queen of Sheba" performance in the tenth paragraph. The fifth paragraph references several prominent circuses that have been bought by the Ringling brothers.

While the tenth paragraph implies that there are a great many people employed by the Ringling brothers' circus, the exact number of performers is not listed.

Example Question #2 : Identifying Relevant Supporting Information

Once upon a time (and that was only 33 years ago) there were five little boys who played circus in their back yards with a strip of rag carpet for a tent and a paper whale. They charged pins and then pennies.

Then they gave a real show in the barn, and then in the hall. And now they own elephants and camels and giraffes and hippopotamuses, and about forty eleven circuses.

When the bands blare and the horses “rare” and the big green and gold and silver wagons come past, and the clowns cut up such funny didoes, the chances are that you are seeing the men that the Ringling Brothers employ to amuse the boys and girls; yes, and the men and women of America during the summer.

For the circus business of America is the Ringling business.

They own the Ringling Brothers’ show, and Barnum’s, which was later Barnum and Bailey’s, the Forepaugh-Sells shows and what is left of the Hagenback’s and more of the dog and pony shows, and the remnants of Buffalo Bill’s and Pawnee Bill’s Wild West, and Ranch 101, and, oh, lots and lots of other shows.

And they are the boys who started in the barn loft at Baraboo, Wisconsin. They are the “Circus Trust” of America!

The chances are that the government never will complain because the Ringling boys (for they always will be boys, no matter how old they get) are a “trust.” They own lots and lots of circuses, but many of them they bought when they did not need or want them, out of sentiment when some of the competitors of the days when they rode in wagons were in hard luck.

Some they bought so that they might preserve the names of the famous old “shows.” Some they bought so that they might direct the routes, and send some circuses to some city or town their “big shows” could not reach. Some they wanted because from them they could get new acts and new performers for the “big shows,” and some they own because when the public has ceased to thrill over some famous “actor” in the big shows they can send him to the smaller ones where he may perform before those who never have felt the thrills.

There is too much sentiment in the circus business for it to be a destroyer or a menace. The Ringlings have bought shows, carried them, supplied them with acts and given the old owner full charge to buy them back and run them.

Just how many men and women, and horses and dogs these boys own now even they do not know exactly. Some idea of the vast expanse of creating and maintaining a great circus may be gained from the fact that the Ringling shows’ menagerie alone is valued and insured at more than $1,000,000; the forty performing elephants are worth $250,000. The robe worn by one elephant alone cost $12,000. The length of the Ringlings’ main tent is 580 feet, the largest ever erected; the menagerie contains 108 cages, and the parade is three miles long. The 4,500 costumes worn in the Solomon and the Queen of Sheba spectacle itself were produced at the cost of more than $1,000,000.

Double these latter figures—for the Barnum shows are about the same size, add one-third for the smaller shows controlled and you will have some idea of the magnitude of the “show” business.

 

Adapted from "Ringling Kids' Back Yard Show Grows into Mammoth Octopus." Fullerton, Hugh S. The day book. [Chicago, IL] 13 June 1914. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.

Why does the author believe the government will not challenge the practices of the Ringling brothers?

Possible Answers:

The brothers are sentimental about their industry

The brothers are "boys" and do not pose any threat

The brothers have built a monopoly on the circus industry

The brothers have not yet acquired enough influence to be a threat

Correct answer:

The brothers have built a monopoly on the circus industry

Explanation:

The author makes several notes about the Ringling brothers' acquisition of other circuses and their sentimental investment in the circus industry. He also consistently references them as "boys." Of the answer choices, all but one (the brothers' lack of influence) reference statements that the author made in the passage.

The key to this question is identifying the relevant line that references the government's involvement, found in the seventh paragraph: "the government never will complain because the Ringling boys . . . are a 'trust.'" The author suggests that the brothers have become the "'Circus Trust' of America," buying so many other shows and becoming so influential in the industry that they have essentially built a monopoly. For this reason, the author believes that the government will not challenge the brothers.

Example Question #3 : Identifying Relevant Supporting Information

Adapted from Hall, J. N. "Clayhill Parkhill, Anatomist and Surgeon" in Annals of Surgery (May 1902; 35(5): 674-678)

The surgery of America in those days was still in the masterly grasp of those great surgeons who, in the bloodiest war of modern times, had advanced their profession to an enviable position. In practically every city of the land, the leading surgeon was a man who, after Antietam, Gettysburg, and Cold Harbor, had amputated, perhaps, scores of limbs in a single day. The young man thirsting for a place in surgery, stood no chance in the race with men whose operative work in a single day had exceeded all that he might hope to do in ten years.

As a result, the surgery of the country in 1885 was in the hands of men already getting past middle age, and not easily adaptable to new things; as fine a class of surgeons, nevertheless, as ever honored the profession of any country.

Meanwhile the times had changed. Under the stimulus of the work of Lister, antiseptic surgery had been born. The older men watched the younger ones as they fearlessly invaded field after field upon which they had never dared to tread, and they hesitated in their work. The knowledge of bacteriology had been their undoing. A few of these men, conspicuously Keen, of Philadelphia, and Conner, of Cincinnati, adapted themselves to the new order of things; the great majority of them were crowded out by the younger men.

And had these excellent men, thus crowded out of their field of activity, done nothing for surgery? Let us look briefly at their work. After one of the great battles, perhaps 100 amputations were performed. Experience had taught them that in the serious wounds of the extremities, without amputation, 75 percent died; with immediate amputation, 75 percent lived. In other words, amputation avoided fifty deaths in each 100 cases, chiefly from septicemia, pyxemia, erysipelas, secondary hemorrhage, and hospital gangrene. But the new surgery made unnecessary most of these amputations, practically annihilated all these causes of death, and yet saved most of the limbs. Competition under these circumstances was out of the question.

The older men then stepped aside so far as operative surgery went; but the magnificent knowledge of non-operative surgery which these men had attained, executive ability of the first order, and the power of handling large bodies of men, left them still invaluable to the profession and the world. As an illustration of this point, note that as the great railroads pushed westward, almost every one had as chief surgeon one of these able men. Mercer of the Union Pacific, Livingston of the Burlington, and Bancroft of the Denver and Rio Grande, may serve as examples. During the transition period of which I speak, although the young men carried on their operative work independently, they continually sought the counsel of these older men in broad surgical questions, in their fractures and dislocations, and in many other non-operative parts of the field of surgery for which an incomparable experience had so magnificently fitted them.

According to the passage, the reason(s) for the younger surgeons taking over the field from the older generation is or are:

I.   Their superior knowledge and training

II.  Their use of the latest research and techniques

III. Their extensive experience in non-operative aspects of surgery

Possible Answers:

II only

I and III

I and II

I, II, and III

Correct answer:

II only

Explanation:

"II only" is the correct answer, as only statement II is correct.

Statement II states that younger surgeons used the latest techniques and research, which is supported in paragraphs 3 and 4 as reasons for them being able to outperform and outcompete their predecessors. With sterile techniques, they were able to approach cases perform operations never before possible. They also achieved superior results while using limb-sparing surgeries.

Incorrect choices:

Statement I suggests that their knowledge and training is superior to the older generation which is not supported in the passage. It is possible that their knowledge and training in new techniques and bacteriology is superior, however the passage also suggests that they still seek aid from the older generation of surgeons who amassed a great wealth of knowledge from the Civil War.

Statement III describes an advantage of the older surgeons, not the younger surgeons. This is discussed in paragraph 5 as a reason for older surgeons still being crucial to the field of surgery.

Example Question #4 : Identifying Relevant Supporting Information

Adapted from Hall, J. N. "Clayhill Parkhill, Anatomist and Surgeon" in Annals of Surgery (May 1902; 35(5): 674-678)

The surgery of America in those days was still in the masterly grasp of those great surgeons who, in the bloodiest war of modern times, had advanced their profession to an enviable position. In practically every city of the land, the leading surgeon was a man who, after Antietam, Gettysburg, and Cold Harbor, had amputated, perhaps, scores of limbs in a single day. The young man thirsting for a place in surgery, stood no chance in the race with men whose operative work in a single day had exceeded all that he might hope to do in ten years.

As a result, the surgery of the country in 1885 was in the hands of men already getting past middle age, and not easily adaptable to new things; as fine a class of surgeons, nevertheless, as ever honored the profession of any country.

Meanwhile the times had changed. Under the stimulus of the work of Lister, antiseptic surgery had been born. The older men watched the younger ones as they fearlessly invaded field after field upon which they had never dared to tread, and they hesitated in their work. The knowledge of bacteriology had been their undoing. A few of these men, conspicuously Keen, of Philadelphia, and Conner, of Cincinnati, adapted themselves to the new order of things; the great majority of them were crowded out by the younger men.

And had these excellent men, thus crowded out of their field of activity, done nothing for surgery? Let us look briefly at their work. After one of the great battles, perhaps 100 amputations were performed. Experience had taught them that in the serious wounds of the extremities, without amputation, 75 percent died; with immediate amputation, 75 percent lived. In other words, amputation avoided fifty deaths in each 100 cases, chiefly from septicemia, pyxemia, erysipelas, secondary hemorrhage, and hospital gangrene. But the new surgery made unnecessary most of these amputations, practically annihilated all these causes of death, and yet saved most of the limbs. Competition under these circumstances was out of the question.

The older men then stepped aside so far as operative surgery went; but the magnificent knowledge of non-operative surgery which these men had attained, executive ability of the first order, and the power of handling large bodies of men, left them still invaluable to the profession and the world. As an illustration of this point, note that as the great railroads pushed westward, almost every one had as chief surgeon one of these able men. Mercer of the Union Pacific, Livingston of the Burlington, and Bancroft of the Denver and Rio Grande, may serve as examples. During the transition period of which I speak, although the young men carried on their operative work independently, they continually sought the counsel of these older men in broad surgical questions, in their fractures and dislocations, and in many other non-operative parts of the field of surgery for which an incomparable experience had so magnificently fitted them.

All of the following are cited as reasons for the success of the older generation of surgeons EXCEPT __________.

Possible Answers:

the use of limb-salvaging surgery

the number of operations performed

knowledge and experience

decision-making capacity

Correct answer:

the use of limb-salvaging surgery

Explanation:

All of the answer choices are mentioned by the author in support of the older generation except "the use of limb-salvaging surgery."

The older generation was well-versed in amputations, but it was the younger surgeons who performed limb-sparing operations that made amputations outdated and unnecessary.

Incorrect choices:

The older surgeons were described as having invaluable knowledge and experience for which younger surgeons would turn to for counsel. They were also said to have had performed so many operations that it would take a new surgeon a decade to accomplish what they did in a day during the Civil War. The author says that the older generation of surgeons was still very much needed for their decision-making and their administrative abilities in dealing with large volumes of patients.

Example Question #4 : Identifying Relevant Supporting Information

Adapted from "The Memorable Assassination" in What is Man? And Other Essays by Mark Twain (1906)

The more one thinks of the assassination, the more imposing and tremendous the event becomes. The destruction of a city is a large event, but it is one which repeats itself several times in a thousand years; the destruction of a third part of a nation by plague and famine is a large event, but it has happened several times in history; the murder of a king is a large event, but it has been frequent.

The murder of an empress is the largest of all large events. One must go back about two thousand years to find an instance to put with this one. The oldest family of unchallenged descent in Christendom lives in Rome and traces its line back seventeen hundred years, but no member of it has been present in the earth when an empress was murdered, until now. Many a time during these seventeen centuries members of that family have been startled with the news of extraordinary events—the destruction of cities, the fall of thrones, the murder of kings, the wreck of dynasties, the extinction of religions, the birth of new systems of government; and their descendants have been by to hear of it and talk about it when all these things were repeated once, twice, or a dozen times—but to even that family has come news at last which is not staled by use, has no duplicates in the long reach of its memory.

It is an event which confers a curious distinction upon every individual now living in the world: he has stood alive and breathing in the presence of an event such as has not fallen within the experience of any traceable or untraceable ancestor of his for twenty centuries, and it is not likely to fall within the experience of any descendant of his for twenty more.

Time has made some great changes since the Roman days. The murder of an empress then—even the assassination of Caesar himself—could not electrify the world as this murder has electrified it. For one reason, there was then not much of a world to electrify; it was a small world, as to known bulk, and it had rather a thin population, besides; and for another reason, the news traveled so slowly that its tremendous initial thrill wasted away, week by week and month by month, on the journey, and by the time it reached the remoter regions there was but little of it left. It was no longer a fresh event, it was a thing of the far past; it was not properly news, it was history. But the world is enormous now, and prodigiously populated—that is one change; and another is the lightning swiftness of the flight of tidings, good and bad. "The Empress is murdered!" When those amazing words struck upon my ear in this Austrian village last Saturday, three hours after the disaster, I knew that it was already old news in London, Paris, Berlin, New York, San Francisco, Japan, China, Melbourne, Cape Town, Bombay, Madras, Calcutta, and that the entire globe with a single voice, was cursing the perpetrator of it. Since the telegraph first began to stretch itself wider and wider about the earth, larger and increasingly larger areas of the world have, as time went on, received simultaneously the shock of a great calamity; but this is the first time in history that the entire surface of the globe has been swept in a single instant with the thrill of so gigantic an event.

The author’s attitude towards the assassin could primarily be described as __________.

Possible Answers:

Condemning

Understanding

Fearful

Apathetic

Disgusted

Correct answer:

Condemning

Explanation:

The author’s attitude towards the assassin is hard to determine because the author makes limited personal mention of the assassin or his opinions of him. However, by an evaluation of one sentence and a small amount of inference, one can determine that the author's attitude is best described as “condemning.” This is because, in the fourth paragraph, the author says, "the entire globe with a single voice, was cursing the perpetrator of it.” If the author believes everyone is united in “cursing the perpetrator,” he is probably also “condemning.” Although the author would be likely to feel “disgusted” as well, there is no direct evidence to support this. From the importance the author attaches to the event, it is extremely unlikely he would be “apathetic.”

Example Question #5 : Identifying Relevant Supporting Information

Adapted from "William Dean Howells" published in The Nebraska State Journal by Willa Cather (July 14, 1895)

Certainly now in his old age Mr. Howells is selecting queer titles for his books. A while ago we had that feeble tale, The Coast of Bohemia, and now we have My Literary Passions. “Passions,” literary or otherwise, were never Mr. Howells’ forte and surely no man could be further from even the coast of Bohemia.

Apropos of My Literary Passions, which has so long strung out in The Ladies’ Home Journal along with those thrilling articles about how Henry Ward Beecher tied his necktie and what kind of coffee Mrs. Hall Cain likes, why did Mr. Howells write it? Doesn’t Mr. Howells know that at one time or another everyone raves over Don Quixote, imitates Heine, worships Tourgueneff and calls Tolstoy a prophet? Does Mr. Howells think that no one but he ever had youth and enthusiasm and aspirations? Doesn’t he know that the only thing that makes the world worth living in at all is that once, when we are young, we all have that great love for books and impersonal things, all reverence and dream? We have all known the time when Porthos, Athos and d’Artagnan were vastly more real and important to us than the folks who lived next door. We have all dwelt in that country where Anna Karenina and the Levins were the only people who mattered much. We have all known that intoxicating period when we thought we “understood life,” because we had read Daudet, Zola and Guy de Maupassant, and like Mr. Howells we all looked back rather fondly upon the time when we believed that books were the truth and art was all. After a while books grow matter of fact like everything else and we always think enviously of the days when they were new and wonderful and strange. That’s a part of existence. We lose our first keen relish for literature just as we lose it for ice cream and confectionery. The taste grows older, wiser and more subdued. We would all wear out of very enthusiasm if it did not. But why should Mr. Howells tell the world this common experience in detail as though it were his and his alone? He might as well write a detailed account of how he had the measles and the whooping cough. It was all right and proper for Mr. Howells to like Heine and Hugo, but, in the words of the circus clown, “We’ve all been there.”

What does the author believe changes in the approach of an individual to literature as he or she grows older?

Possible Answers:

The individual’s enthusiasm is heightened.

The individual’s ability to comprehend meaning improves.

The individual’s enthusiasm is lessened.

The author does not claim that the individual's approach to literature changes as the individual grows older.

The individual’s ability to comprehend meaning lessens. 

Correct answer:

The individual’s enthusiasm is lessened.

Explanation:

The author of this passage believes that in youth, an individual is more responsive and more enthusiastic about literature and the ideas that he or she reads. Evidence for this can be found throughout the passage, but can be most clearly seen in the following excerpt: “After a while books grow matter of fact like everything else and we always think enviously of the days when they were new and wonderful and strange. That’s a part of existence. We lose our first keen relish for literature just as we lose it for ice cream and confectionery. The taste grows older, wiser and more subdued.”

Example Question #6 : Identifying Relevant Supporting Information

Adapted from "Concerning Tobacco" in What is Man? And Other Essays by Mark Twain (1906)

As concerns tobacco, there are many superstitions. And the chiefest is this—that there is a standard governing the matter, whereas there is nothing of the kind. Each man's own preference is the only standard for him, the only one which he can accept, the only one which can command him. A congress of all the tobacco-lovers in the world could not elect a standard which would be binding upon you or me, or would even much influence us.

The next superstition is that a man has a standard of his own. He hasn't. He thinks he has, but he hasn't. He thinks he can tell what he regards as a good cigar from what he regards as a bad one—but he can't. He goes by the brand, yet imagines he goes by the flavor. One may palm off the worst counterfeit upon him; if it bears his brand he will smoke it contentedly and never suspect.

Children of twenty-five, who have seven years of experience, try to tell me what is a good cigar and what isn't. Me, who never learned to smoke; me, who came into the world asking for a light.

No one can tell me what is a good cigar—for me. I am the only judge. People who claim to know say that I smoke the worst cigars in the world. They bring their own cigars when they come to my house. They betray an unmanly terror when I offer them a cigar; they tell lies and hurry away to meet engagements which they have not made when they are threatened with the hospitalities of my box. Now then, observe what superstition, assisted by a man's reputation, can do. I was to have twelve personal friends to supper one night. One of them was as notorious for costly and elegant cigars as I was for cheap and devilish ones. I called at his house and when no one was looking borrowed a double handful of his very choicest; cigars which cost him forty cents apiece and bore red-and-gold labels in sign of their nobility. I removed the labels and put the cigars into a box with my favorite brand on it—a brand which those people all knew, and which cowed them as men are cowed by an epidemic. They took these cigars when offered at the end of the supper, and lit them and sternly struggled with them—in dreary silence, for hilarity died when the fell brand came into view and started around—but their fortitude held for a short time only; then they made excuses and filed out, treading on one another's heels with indecent eagerness; and in the morning when I went out to observe results the cigars lay all between the front door and the gate. All except one—that one lay in the plate of the man from whom I had cabbaged the lot. One or two whiffs was all he could stand. He told me afterward that some day I would get shot for giving people that kind of cigars to smoke.

Am I certain of my own standard? Perfectly; yes, absolutely—unless somebody fools me by putting my brand on some other kind of cigar; for no doubt I am like the rest, and know my cigar by the brand instead of by the flavor. However, my standard is a pretty wide one and covers a good deal of territory. To me, almost any cigar is good that nobody else will smoke, and to me almost all cigars are bad that other people consider good. Nearly any cigar will do me, except a Havana. People think they hurt my feelings when they come to my house with their life preservers on—I mean, with their own cigars in their pockets. It is an error; I take care of myself in a similar way. When I go into danger—that is, into rich people's houses, where, in the nature of things, they will have high-tariff cigars, red-and-gilt girded and nested in a rosewood box along with a damp sponge, cigars which develop a dismal black ash and burn down the side and smell, and will grow hot to the fingers, and will go on growing hotter and hotter, and go on smelling more and more infamously and unendurably the deeper the fire tunnels down inside below the thimbleful of honest tobacco that is in the front end, the furnisher of it praising it all the time and telling you how much the deadly thing cost—yes, when I go into that sort of peril I carry my own defense along; I carry my own brand—twenty-seven cents a barrel—and I live to see my family again. I may seem to light his red-gartered cigar, but that is only for courtesy's sake; I smuggle it into my pocket for the poor, of whom I know many, and light one of my own; and while he praises it I join in, but when he says it cost forty-five cents I say nothing, for I know better.

The author primarily characterizes the cigars of his wealthy friends by __________.

Possible Answers:

the dangers inherent in smoking them

the effect they have on the inexperienced

the appeal they have to the poor

the amount of money wasted to purchase them

the manner in which they burn wildly

Correct answer:

the dangers inherent in smoking them

Explanation:

The author primarily discusses his experience of smoking cigars with his wealthy friends in the last paragraph. In it, he goes into great detail to explain the unpleasantness he finds in the smoking of these cigars. He states, “When I go into danger—that is, into rich people's houses, where, in the nature of things, they will have high-tariff cigars, red-and-gilt girded and nested in a rosewood box along with a damp sponge, cigars which develop a dismal black ash and burn down the side and smell, and will grow hot to the fingers, and will go on growing hotter and hotter, and go on smelling more and more infamously and unendurably the deeper the fire tunnels down inside below the thimbleful of honest tobacco that is in the front end, the furnisher of it praising it all the time and telling you how much the deadly thing cost—yes, when I go into that sort of peril I carry my own defense along; I carry my own brand—twenty-seven cents a barrel—and I live to see my family again.” From the excerpts that read “When I go into danger,” “how much the deadly thing cost,” and “I live to see my family again,” it can be seen that he is characterizing them, in mockery, by the dangers involved in smoking them.

Example Question #7 : Identifying Relevant Supporting Information

Adapted from "A Scrap of Curious History" in What is Man? And Other Essays by Mark Twain (1906)

At half past two in the morning the dead silence of the village was broken by a crashing explosion, and the town patrol saw the preacher's house spring in a wreck of whirling fragments into the sky. The preacher was killed. The town was paralyzed and with reason. To struggle against a visible enemy is a thing worth while, and there is a plenty of men who stand always ready to undertake it; but to struggle against an invisible one—an invisible one who sneaks in and does his awful work in the dark and leaves no trace—that is another matter. That is a thing to make the bravest tremble and hold back.

The cowed populace were afraid to go to the funeral. The man who was to have had a packed church to hear him expose and denounce the common enemy had but a handful to see him buried. The coroner's jury had brought in a verdict of "death by the visitation of God," for no witness came forward; if any existed they prudently kept out of the way. Nobody seemed sorry. Nobody wanted to see the terrible secret society provoked into the commission of further outrages. Everybody wanted the tragedy hushed up, ignored, forgotten, if possible.

And so there was a bitter surprise and an unwelcome one when Will Joyce, the itinerant blacksmith, came out and proclaimed himself the assassin! Plainly he was not minded to be robbed of his glory. He made his proclamation, and stuck to it. Stuck to it, and insisted upon a trial. Here was an ominous thing; here was a new and peculiarly formidable terror, for a motive was revealed here which society could not hope to deal with successfully—vanity, thirst for notoriety. If men were going to kill for notoriety's sake, and to win the glory of newspaper renown, a big trial, and a showy execution, what possible invention of man could discourage or deter them? The town was in a sort of panic; it did not know what to do.

However, the grand jury had to take hold of the matter—it had no choice. It brought in a true bill, and presently the case went to the county court. The trial was a fine sensation. The prisoner was the principal witness for the prosecution. He gave a full account of the assassination; he described even the minutest particulars: how he deposited his keg of powder and laid his train—from the house to such-and-such a spot; how George Ronalds and Henry Hart came along just then, smoking, and he borrowed Hart's cigar and fired the train with it, shouting, "Down with all slave-tyrants!" and how Hart and Ronalds made no effort to capture him, but ran away, and had never come forward to testify yet.

But they had to testify now, and they did—and pitiful it was to see how reluctant they were, and how scared. The crowded house listened to Joyce's fearful tale with a profound and breathless interest, and in a deep hush which was not broken till he broke it himself, in concluding, with a roaring repetition of his "Death to all slave-tyrants!"—which came so unexpectedly and so startlingly that it made everyone present catch his breath and gasp.

The trial was put in the paper, with biography and large portrait, with other slanderous and insane pictures, and the edition sold beyond imagination.

The execution of Joyce was a fine and picturesque thing. It drew a vast crowd. Good places in trees and seats on rail fences sold for half a dollar apiece; lemonade and gingerbread-stands had great prosperity. Joyce recited a furious and fantastic and denunciatory speech on the scaffold which had imposing passages of school-boy eloquence in it, and gave him a reputation on the spot as an orator, and his name, later, in the society's records, of the "Martyr Orator." He went to his death breathing slaughter and charging his society to "avenge his murder." If he knew anything of human nature he knew that to plenty of young fellows present in that great crowd he was a grand hero—and enviably situated.

He was hanged. It was a mistake. Within a month from his death the society which he had honored had twenty new members, some of them earnest, determined men. They did not court distinction in the same way, but they celebrated his martyrdom. The crime which had been obscure and despised had become lofty and glorified.

Such things were happening all over the country. Wild-brained martyrdom was succeeded by uprising and organization. Then, in natural order, followed riot, insurrection, and the wrack and restitutions of war. It was bound to come, and it would naturally come in that way. It has been the manner of reform since the beginning of the world.

What is the most likely reason as to why the preacher was murdered?

Possible Answers:

The preacher stood in the way of social reform.

The preacher was an outsider in the community.

The preacher supported the institution of slavery.

The preacher committed a personal affront against Will Joyce.

The preacher favored the abolitionist cause.

Correct answer:

The preacher supported the institution of slavery.

Explanation:

It is clear from context that Will Joyce and his co-conspirators are committing their crimes for the cause of the abolition of slavery. This can be seen in the manner in which the author describes how Will Joyce shouts “death to all slave-tyrants.” We can therefore infer that he likely murdered the preacher because either the preacher supported the institution of slavery or he kept slaves himself. The answer choice that reads “the preacher stood in the way of social reform” is close to correct, but it is less directly correct than the right answer, which describes the actual type of social reform that Will Joyce was working for.

Example Question #8 : Identifying Relevant Supporting Information

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.

What is the primary function of the fourth paragraph?

Possible Answers:

It refutes earlier claims made by Darwin.

It explains the effects of nature on the origin of music.

It demonstrates the ways in which early man experienced natural phenomena.

It highlights how the primeval man experienced ignorance as fear.

It suggests that the origin of music lies in the inadequacy of spoken words for expressing fear.

Correct answer:

It highlights how the primeval man experienced ignorance as fear.

Explanation:

The primary function of the fourth paragraph is to “highlight how the primeval man experienced ignorance as fear.” The author spends most of the fourth paragraph talking about the natural forces that threatened early mankind and how man was incapable of understanding the causes of these things. Natural phenomena were a mystery to the primeval man; he had nothing in common with these threatening forces and so experienced this ignorance as fear. The answer choice “It explains the effects of nature on the origin of music” is incomplete, but as it is closely related to the overall thesis, this is a challenging incorrect answer to reject. The problem with it is that it misses a key step in the argument, namely the fact that mankind was ignorant to the causes behind natural disasters and so experienced a great fear of them. The answer choice “Suggest that the origin of music lies in the inadequacy of spoken words for expressing fear” is much closer to the argument of the whole passage than it is to the function of the fourth paragraph within that argument.

Example Question #9 : Identifying Relevant Supporting Information

Adapted from "Hallam" in Volume 1 of Critical and Historical Essays by Thomas Babbington Macaulay (1828)

History, at least in its state of ideal perfection, is a compound of poetry and philosophy. It impresses general truths on the mind by a vivid representation of particular characters and incidents. But, in fact, the two hostile elements of which it consists have never been known to form a perfect amalgamation, and at length, in our own time, they have been completely and professedly separated. The problem seems only to be getting worse. Good histories, in the proper sense of the word, we have not. But we have good historical romances, and good historical essays. The imagination and the reason, if we may use a legal metaphor, have made partition of a province of literature of which they were formerly seized per my et per tout, and now they hold their respective portions in severalty, instead of holding the whole in common.

To make the past present, to bring the distant near, to place us in the society of a great man or on the eminence which overlooks the field of a mighty battle, to invest with the reality of human flesh and blood beings whom we are too much inclined to consider as personified qualities in an allegory, to call up our ancestors before us with all their peculiarities of language, manners, and garb, to show us over their houses, to seat us at their tables, to rummage their old-fashioned wardrobes, to explain the uses of their ponderous furniture, these parts of the duty which properly belongs to the historian have been appropriated by the historical novelist. On the other hand, to extract the philosophy of history, to direct on judgment of events and men, to trace the connection of cause and effects, and to draw from the occurrences of former time general lessons of moral and political wisdom has become the business of a distinct class of writers.

Of the two kinds of composition into which history has been thus divided, the one may be compared to a map, the other to a painted landscape. The picture, though it places the country before us, does not enable us to ascertain with accuracy the dimensions, the distances, and the angles. The map is not a work of imitative art. It presents no scene to the imagination, but it gives us exact information as to the bearings of the various points, and is a more useful companion to the traveller or the general than the painted landscape could be, though it were the grandest that ever Rosa peopled with outlaws, or the sweetest over which Claude ever poured the mellow effulgence of a setting sun.

It is remarkable that the practice of separating the two ingredients of which history is composed has become prevalent on the Continent as well as in this country. Italy has already produced a historical novel, of high merit and of still higher promise. In France, the practice has been carried to a length somewhat whimsical. M. Sismondi publishes a grave and stately history of the Merovingian kings, very valuable, and a little tedious. He then sends forth as a companion to it a novel, in which he attempts to give a lively representation of characters and manners. This course, as it seems to us, has all the disadvantages of a division of labour, and none of its advantages.

What is the primary function of the second paragraph?

Possible Answers:

To suggest that history has suffered from the division of historical writing into two distinct branches

To explain why historical writing has been so neatly divided in recent years

To highlight why philosophical recording of history is more useful than poetic recording of history

To develop the respective subject matter of the two distinct branches of historical writing

To question the impact of historical storytelling on our understanding of history

Correct answer:

To develop the respective subject matter of the two distinct branches of historical writing

Explanation:

In the second paragraph, the author describes the function and utilities of the two types of historical writing. He does not explain why historical writing has become divided, and he does not question the impact of historical storytelling on our understanding of history until later in the essay. The answer choice “To suggest that history has suffered from the division of historical writing into two distinct branches” is closer to the overall thesis of the essay than to the primary function of its second paragraph. The author does not highlight why philosophical recording of history is more useful than poetic recording until later in the essay. The primary function of the second paragraph is merely to describe and develop the differences between the subject matter of the two branches of historical writing that he wishes to discuss. We can see this to be the case by analyzing the way in which he creates two lists and then ends them both with the following comments: “these parts of the duty which properly belongs to the historian have been appropriated by the historical novelist" and “has become the business of a distinct class of writers.”

← Previous 1 3 4
Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors

Incompatible Browser

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