PSAT Critical Reading : Summarizing and Describing Literary Fiction Passage Content

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for PSAT Critical Reading

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Summarizing And Describing Literary Fiction Passage Content

Adapted from James Fennimore Cooper’s novel, The Last of the Mohicans (1826). Read the passage and then answer the questions that follow.

 

1          A young man, in the dress of an officer, conducted to their steeds two

2 females, who, as it was apparent by their dresses, were prepared to encounter

3 the fatigues of a journey in the woods. One, and she was the most juvenile in her

4 appearance, though both were young, permitted glimpses of her dazzling

5 complexion, fair golden hair, and bright blue eyes to be caught, as she artlessly

6 suffered the morning air to blow aside the green veil which descended low from

7 her beaver. The flush which still lingered above the pines in the western sky was

8 not more bright nor delicate than the bloom on her cheek; nor was the opening

9 day more cheering than the animated smile which she bestowed on the youth, as

10 he assisted her into the saddle. The other, who appeared to share equally in the

11 attentions of the young officer, concealed her charms from the gaze of the

12 soldiery, with a care that seemed better fitted to the experience of four or five

13 additional years. It could be seen, however, that her person, though molded

14 with the same exquisite proportions, of which none of the graces were lost by

15 the travelling dress she wore, was rather fuller and more mature than that of

16 her companion.

How are the two females different from one another?

Possible Answers:

The young officer prefers the older female.

One is flirtatious and one is modest.

One is young and one is quite older.

They have different bodily proportions.

Correct answer:

One is flirtatious and one is modest.

Explanation:

The first female allows the wind to blow her veil and reveal her face to the soldiers, while the second female makes sure that her face remains unexposed (Lines 4–5, 11–12).

Example Question #2 : Summarizing And Describing Literary Fiction Passage Content

Adapted from James Fennimore Cooper’s novel, The Last of the Mohicans (1826). Read the passage and then answer the questions that follow.

 

1          A young man, in the dress of an officer, conducted to their steeds two

2 females, who, as it was apparent by their dresses, were prepared to encounter

3 the fatigues of a journey in the woods. One, and she was the most juvenile in her

4 appearance, though both were young, permitted glimpses of her dazzling

5 complexion, fair golden hair, and bright blue eyes to be caught, as she artlessly

6 suffered the morning air to blow aside the green veil which descended low from

7 her beaver. The flush which still lingered above the pines in the western sky was

8 not more bright nor delicate than the bloom on her cheek; nor was the opening

9 day more cheering than the animated smile which she bestowed on the youth, as

10 he assisted her into the saddle. The other, who appeared to share equally in the

11 attentions of the young officer, concealed her charms from the gaze of the

12 soldiery, with a care that seemed better fitted to the experience of four or five

13 additional years. It could be seen, however, that her person, though molded

14 with the same exquisite proportions, of which none of the graces were lost by

15 the travelling dress she wore, was rather fuller and more mature than that of

16 her companion.

Which literary device can be seen in Lines 7–8 (“The flush . . . on her cheek”)?

Possible Answers:

Comparison 

Personification

Simile

Onomatopoeia

Correct answer:

Comparison 

Explanation:

The narrator is comparing the flush of the western sky to the bloom on the girl’s cheek. Simile is a type of comparison, but the author doesn’t use the words “like” or “as.”

Example Question #3 : Summarizing And Describing Literary Fiction Passage Content

Adapted from Jacob's Room by Virginia Woolf (1922)

True, there's no harm in crying for one's husband, and the tombstone, though plain, was a solid piece of work, and on summer's days when the widow brought her boys to stand there one felt kindly towards her. Hats were raised higher than usual; wives tugged their husbands' arms. Seabrook lay six foot beneath, dead these many years; enclosed in three shells; the crevices sealed with lead, so that, had earth and wood been glass, doubtless his very face lay visible beneath, the face of a young man whiskered, shapely, who had gone out duck-shooting and refused to change his boots.

"Merchant of this city," the tombstone said; though why Betty Flanders had chosen so to call him when, as many still remembered, he had only sat behind an office window for three months, and before that had broken horses, ridden to hounds, farmed a few fields, and run a little wild—well, she had to call him something. An example for the boys.

Had he, then, been nothing? An unanswerable question, since even if it weren't the habit of the undertaker to close the eyes, the light so soon goes out of them. At first, part of herself; now one of a company, he had merged in the grass, the sloping hillside, the thousand white stones, some slanting, others upright, the decayed wreaths, the crosses of green tin, the narrow yellow paths, and the lilacs that drooped in April, with a scent like that of an invalid's bedroom, over the churchyard wall. Seabrook was now all that; and when, with her skirt hitched up, feeding the chickens, she heard the bell for service or funeral, that was Seabrook's voice—the voice of the dead.

The rooster had been known to fly on her shoulder and peck her neck, so that now she carried a stick or took one of the children with her when she went to feed the fowls.

"Wouldn't you like my knife, mother?" said Archer.

Sounding at the same moment as the bell, her son's voice mixed life and death inextricably, exhilaratingly.

"What a big knife for a small boy!" she said. She took it to please him. Then the rooster flew out of the hen-house, and, shouting to Archer to shut the door into the kitchen garden, Mrs. Flanders set her meal down, clucked for the hens, went bustling about the orchard, and was seen from over the way by Mrs. Cranch, who, beating her mat against the wall, held it for a moment suspended while she observed to Mrs. Page next door that Mrs. Flanders was in the orchard with the chickens.

Mrs. Page, Mrs. Cranch, and Mrs. Garfit could see Mrs. Flanders in the orchard because the orchard was a piece of Dods Hill enclosed; and Dods Hill dominated the village. No words can exaggerate the importance of Dods Hill. It was the earth; the world against the sky; the horizon of how many glances can best be computed by those who have lived all their lives in the same village, only leaving it once to fight in the Crimea, like old George Garfit, leaning over his garden gate smoking his pipe. The progress of the sun was measured by it; the tint of the day laid against it to be judged.

"Now she's going up the hill with little John," said Mrs. Cranch to Mrs. Garfit, shaking her mat for the last time, and bustling indoors. Opening the orchard gate, Mrs. Flanders walked to the top of Dods Hill, holding John by the hand. Archer and Jacob ran in front or lagged behind; but they were in the Roman fortress when she came there, and shouting out what ships were to be seen in the bay. For there was a magnificent view—moors behind, sea in front, and the whole of Scarborough from one end to the other laid out flat like a puzzle. Mrs. Flanders, who was growing stout, sat down in the fortress and looked about her.

The sixth paragraph establishes all of the following EXCEPT __________.

Possible Answers:

Mr. Garfit is a war hero. 

Mr. Garfit is a smoker.

Dod's hill could be seen by most of the village.

Dods hill was a vantage point.

Mrs. Cranch could see the orchard from her garden.

Correct answer:

Mr. Garfit is a war hero. 

Explanation:

The paragraph does suggest that Mr. Garfit went to the Crimea to fight, but it does not tell us whether he was decorated for heroism, so we cannot say the paragraph establishes that he is a hero.

Example Question #82 : Identifying And Analyzing Important Details In Prose Fiction Passages

Adapted from Jacob's Room by Virginia Woolf (1922)

True, there's no harm in crying for one's husband, and the tombstone, though plain, was a solid piece of work, and on summer's days when the widow brought her boys to stand there one felt kindly towards her. Hats were raised higher than usual; wives tugged their husbands' arms. Seabrook lay six foot beneath, dead these many years; enclosed in three shells; the crevices sealed with lead, so that, had earth and wood been glass, doubtless his very face lay visible beneath, the face of a young man whiskered, shapely, who had gone out duck-shooting and refused to change his boots.

"Merchant of this city," the tombstone said; though why Betty Flanders had chosen so to call him when, as many still remembered, he had only sat behind an office window for three months, and before that had broken horses, ridden to hounds, farmed a few fields, and run a little wild—well, she had to call him something. An example for the boys.

Had he, then, been nothing? An unanswerable question, since even if it weren't the habit of the undertaker to close the eyes, the light so soon goes out of them. At first, part of herself; now one of a company, he had merged in the grass, the sloping hillside, the thousand white stones, some slanting, others upright, the decayed wreaths, the crosses of green tin, the narrow yellow paths, and the lilacs that drooped in April, with a scent like that of an invalid's bedroom, over the churchyard wall. Seabrook was now all that; and when, with her skirt hitched up, feeding the chickens, she heard the bell for service or funeral, that was Seabrook's voice—the voice of the dead.

The rooster had been known to fly on her shoulder and peck her neck, so that now she carried a stick or took one of the children with her when she went to feed the fowls.

"Wouldn't you like my knife, mother?" said Archer.

Sounding at the same moment as the bell, her son's voice mixed life and death inextricably, exhilaratingly.

"What a big knife for a small boy!" she said. She took it to please him. Then the rooster flew out of the hen-house, and, shouting to Archer to shut the door into the kitchen garden, Mrs. Flanders set her meal down, clucked for the hens, went bustling about the orchard, and was seen from over the way by Mrs. Cranch, who, beating her mat against the wall, held it for a moment suspended while she observed to Mrs. Page next door that Mrs. Flanders was in the orchard with the chickens.

Mrs. Page, Mrs. Cranch, and Mrs. Garfit could see Mrs. Flanders in the orchard because the orchard was a piece of Dods Hill enclosed; and Dods Hill dominated the village. No words can exaggerate the importance of Dods Hill. It was the earth; the world against the sky; the horizon of how many glances can best be computed by those who have lived all their lives in the same village, only leaving it once to fight in the Crimea, like old George Garfit, leaning over his garden gate smoking his pipe. The progress of the sun was measured by it; the tint of the day laid against it to be judged.

"Now she's going up the hill with little John," said Mrs. Cranch to Mrs. Garfit, shaking her mat for the last time, and bustling indoors. Opening the orchard gate, Mrs. Flanders walked to the top of Dods Hill, holding John by the hand. Archer and Jacob ran in front or lagged behind; but they were in the Roman fortress when she came there, and shouting out what ships were to be seen in the bay. For there was a magnificent view—moors behind, sea in front, and the whole of Scarborough from one end to the other laid out flat like a puzzle. Mrs. Flanders, who was growing stout, sat down in the fortress and looked about her.

One of the main points made in the last paragraph is that __________.

Possible Answers:

there is a vast panorama visible from Dod's hill

John is not trusted to play with the other boys

the Roman fort is merely ornamental

no one sails on the nearby bay

Jacob and Archer came to the fort after John and Betty

Correct answer:

there is a vast panorama visible from Dod's hill

Explanation:

The author writes, “there was a magnificent view—moors behind, sea in front, and the whole of Scarborough from one end to the other laid out flat like a puzzle.” This description suggests that there was a great panorama or view from Dod's hill.

Example Question #75 : Identifying And Analyzing Details In Literature Passages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Who?" said I.

"Father Flynn."

"Is he dead?"

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

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

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

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

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

Which of the following is NOT true regarding the passage?

Possible Answers:

The man who had a stroke has experienced previous strokes.

Old Cotter informed the narrator's aunt and uncle of Father Flynn’s death.

The narrator is staying with relations.

The narrator was older than Father Flynn.

The narrator is good friends with the man who has experienced a stroke.

Correct answer:

The narrator is good friends with the man who has experienced a stroke.

Explanation:

Let's consider each answer choice individually to find the one which is not true.

"The man who had a stroke had experienced previous strokes." - This is true; the first sentence tells us this: "There was no hope for him this time: it was the third stroke."

"The narrator was older than Father Flynn."  - This is true; we can tell by the way in which the narrator and Father Flynn are described in paragraph thirteen: "'The youngster and he were great friends. The old chap taught him a great deal, mind you; and they say he had a great wish for him.'" The narrator is called "the youngster" and Father Flynn is called "the old chap," so we can infer that Father Flynn was older than the narrator.

"The narrator is staying with relations." - This is true; we are told that the narrator is staying with his aunt and uncle.

"Old Cotter informed the narrator's aunt and uncle of Father Flynn’s death." - This is true; in paragraph eleven, the narrator's uncle says to him (referring to the news of Father Flynn's death), ""Mr. Cotter here has just told us. He was passing by the house.""

"The narrator is good friends with the man who has experienced a stroke." - This is the correct answer, as it is not true. We are never told anything about the narrator's relationship to the dying man; we learn only that the narrator passes by his house and knows that he is paralyzed.

Example Question #32 : Locating Details In Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life by George Eliot (1874)

Dorothea trembled while she read this letter; then she fell on her knees, buried her face, and sobbed. She could not pray; under the rush of solemn emotion in which thoughts became vague and images floated uncertainly, she could but cast herself, with a childlike sense of reclining, in the lap of a divine consciousness which sustained her own. She remained in that attitude till it was time to dress for dinner.

How could it occur to her to examine the letter, to look at it critically as a profession of love? Her whole soul was possessed by the fact that a fuller life was opening before her: she was a neophyte about to enter on a higher grade of initiation. She was going to have room for the energies which stirred uneasily under the dimness and pressure of her own ignorance and the petty peremptoriness of the world’s habits.

Now she would be able to devote herself to large yet definite duties; now she would be allowed to live continually in the light of a mind that she could reverence. This hope was not unmixed with the glow of proud delight—the joyous maiden surprise that she was chosen by the man whom her admiration had chosen. All Dorothea’s passion was transfused through a mind struggling towards an ideal life; the radiance of her transfigured girlhood fell on the first object that came within its level. The impetus with which inclination became resolution was heightened by those little events of the day which had roused her discontent with the actual conditions of her life.

Dorothea’s decision in response to the letter is finally brought about by __________.

Possible Answers:

her love for the letter writer

her sense of admiration for the letter writer’s character

her desire to escape her current undesirable “conditions” (line 20)

a religious sense of duty

a sense of “proud delight” (line 14)

Correct answer:

her desire to escape her current undesirable “conditions” (line 20)

Explanation:

"Her desire to escape her current undesirable 'conditions'" (line 20) can be the only correct answer because of the use of the word “finally” in the question. What finally convinces Dorothea to accept the proposal is the need to escape her current state of life, as evidenced in lines 18-20.

 

 

Example Question #41 : Content Of Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1890)

The studio was filled with the rich odour of roses, and when the light summer wind stirred amidst the trees of the garden, there came through the open door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the more delicate perfume of the pink-flowering thorn.

From the corner of the divan of Persian saddle-bags on which he was lying, smoking, as usual, innumerable cigarettes, Lord Henry Wotton could just catch the gleam of the honey-sweet and honey-colored blossoms of the laburnum, whose tremulous branches seemed hardly able to bear the burden of a beauty so flame-like as theirs.

In the center of the room, clamped to an upright easel, stood the full-length portrait of a young man of extraordinary personal beauty, and in front of it, some little distance away, was sitting the artist himself, Basil Hallward, whose sudden disappearance some years ago caused, at the time, such public excitement, and gave rise to so many strange conjectures. 

As he looked at the gracious and comely form he had so skilfully mirrored in his art, a smile of pleasure passed across his face, and seemed about to linger there. But he suddenly started up, and, closing his eyes, placed his fingers upon the lids, as though he sought to imprison within his brain some curious dream from which he feared he might awake.

"It is your best work, Basil, the best thing you have ever done," said Lord Henry, languidly. "You must certainly send it next year to the Grosvenor. The Academy is too large and too vulgar. The Grosvenor is the only place."

"I don't think I will send it anywhere," he answered, tossing his head back in that odd way that used to make his friends laugh at him at Oxford. "No: I won't send it anywhere."

Lord Henry elevated his eyebrows, and looked at him in amazement through the thin blue wreaths of smoke that curled up in such fanciful whorls from his heavy cigarette. "Not send it anywhere? My dear fellow, why? Have you any reason? What odd chaps you painters are! You do anything in the world to gain a reputation. As soon as you have one, you seem to want to throw it away. It is silly of you, for there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about. A portrait like this would set you far above all the young men in England, and make the old men quite jealous, if old men are ever capable of any emotion." 

"I know you will laugh at me," he replied, "but I really can't exhibit it. I have put too much of myself into it." 

Lord Henry stretched his long legs out on the divan and shook with laughter.

"Yes, I knew you would laugh; but it is quite true, all the same."

"Too much of yourself in it! Upon my word, Basil, I didn't know you were so vain; and I really can't see any resemblance between you, with your rugged strong face and your coal-black hair, and this young Adonis, who looks as if he was made of ivory and rose-leaves. Why, my dear Basil, he is a Narcissus, and you—well, of course you have an intellectual expression, and all that. But beauty, real beauty, ends where an intellectual expression begins. Intellect is in itself an exaggeration, and destroys the harmony of any face. The moment one sits down to think, one becomes all nose, or all forehead, or something horrid. Look at the successful men in any of the learned professions. How perfectly hideous they are! Except, of course, in the church. But then in the church they don't think. A bishop keeps on saying at the age of eighty what he was told to say when he was a boy of eighteen, and consequently he always looks absolutely delightful. Your mysterious young friend, whose name you have never told me, but whose picture really fascinates me, never thinks. I feel quite sure of that. He is a brainless, beautiful thing, who should be always here in winter when we have no flowers to look at, and always here in summer when we want something to chill our intelligence. Don't flatter yourself, Basil: you are not in the least like him.”

Which of these descriptions most accurately depicts the personality of Lord Henry Wotton?

Possible Answers:

A moderately well-off man who enjoys the company of talented artists because he wishes to one day become an artist himself

A caring man who only worries about the betterment of society

An unintelligent, frivolous man who spends most of his days in bed

A wonderfully talented artist who is too vain to submit his artwork to a gallery

A wealthy man who is preoccupied with fame and beauty

Correct answer:

A wealthy man who is preoccupied with fame and beauty

Explanation:

The answer “A caring man who only worries about the betterment of society” is incorrect because Lord Henry is primarily preoccupied with himself, and the betterment of the upper class.  The answer “A moderately well-off man who enjoys the company of talented artists because he wishes to one day become an artist himself” is incorrect because not only is Lord Henry richer than “moderately well-off”, but he also has no desire to be an artist.  The answer “An unintelligent, frivolous man who spends most of his days in bed” is incorrect because Lord Henry is an intelligent man, and while he enjoys lounging, does not spend most of his days in bed.  The answer “A wonderfully talented artist who is too vain to submit his artwork to a gallery” is incorrect because it describes Basil, the artist.   The correct answer is “A wealthy man who is preoccupied with fame and beauty” because Lord Henry refers to both fame and beauty in the passage, and shows them to very important to him.

Example Question #4 : Drawing Generalizations About Prose Fiction Passages

Adapted from The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1890)

The studio was filled with the rich odour of roses, and when the light summer wind stirred amidst the trees of the garden, there came through the open door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the more delicate perfume of the pink-flowering thorn.

From the corner of the divan of Persian saddle-bags on which he was lying, smoking, as usual, innumerable cigarettes, Lord Henry Wotton could just catch the gleam of the honey-sweet and honey-colored blossoms of the laburnum, whose tremulous branches seemed hardly able to bear the burden of a beauty so flame-like as theirs.

In the center of the room, clamped to an upright easel, stood the full-length portrait of a young man of extraordinary personal beauty, and in front of it, some little distance away, was sitting the artist himself, Basil Hallward, whose sudden disappearance some years ago caused, at the time, such public excitement, and gave rise to so many strange conjectures. 

As he looked at the gracious and comely form he had so skilfully mirrored in his art, a smile of pleasure passed across his face, and seemed about to linger there. But he suddenly started up, and, closing his eyes, placed his fingers upon the lids, as though he sought to imprison within his brain some curious dream from which he feared he might awake.

"It is your best work, Basil, the best thing you have ever done," said Lord Henry, languidly. "You must certainly send it next year to the Grosvenor. The Academy is too large and too vulgar. The Grosvenor is the only place."

"I don't think I will send it anywhere," he answered, tossing his head back in that odd way that used to make his friends laugh at him at Oxford. "No: I won't send it anywhere."

Lord Henry elevated his eyebrows, and looked at him in amazement through the thin blue wreaths of smoke that curled up in such fanciful whorls from his heavy cigarette. "Not send it anywhere? My dear fellow, why? Have you any reason? What odd chaps you painters are! You do anything in the world to gain a reputation. As soon as you have one, you seem to want to throw it away. It is silly of you, for there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about. A portrait like this would set you far above all the young men in England, and make the old men quite jealous, if old men are ever capable of any emotion." 

"I know you will laugh at me," he replied, "but I really can't exhibit it. I have put too much of myself into it." 

Lord Henry stretched his long legs out on the divan and shook with laughter.

"Yes, I knew you would laugh; but it is quite true, all the same."

"Too much of yourself in it! Upon my word, Basil, I didn't know you were so vain; and I really can't see any resemblance between you, with your rugged strong face and your coal-black hair, and this young Adonis, who looks as if he was made of ivory and rose-leaves. Why, my dear Basil, he is a Narcissus, and you—well, of course you have an intellectual expression, and all that. But beauty, real beauty, ends where an intellectual expression begins. Intellect is in itself an exaggeration, and destroys the harmony of any face. The moment one sits down to think, one becomes all nose, or all forehead, or something horrid. Look at the successful men in any of the learned professions. How perfectly hideous they are! Except, of course, in the church. But then in the church they don't think. A bishop keeps on saying at the age of eighty what he was told to say when he was a boy of eighteen, and consequently he always looks absolutely delightful. Your mysterious young friend, whose name you have never told me, but whose picture really fascinates me, never thinks. I feel quite sure of that. He is a brainless, beautiful thing, who should be always here in winter when we have no flowers to look at, and always here in summer when we want something to chill our intelligence. Don't flatter yourself, Basil: you are not in the least like him.”

Which of the following themes is NOT discussed by the characters in the passage?

Possible Answers:

Art

Fame

Love

Intelligence

Beauty

Correct answer:

Love

Explanation:

Throughout the passage, the characters certainly discuss art, as the main topic of conversation is Basil Hallward’s portrait of Dorian Gray and whether or not he will choose to exhibit it. Fame is mentioned when Lord Henry states, “It is silly of you, for there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” Beauty and intelligence are discussed in the last paragraph, wherein Lord Henry claims, “But beauty, real beauty, ends where an intellectual expression begins.” The only topic that never appears in the characters’ dialogue is love, so “love” is the correct answer.

Example Question #4 : Literary Fiction

Adapted from Emma by Jane Austen (1815)

Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.

She was the youngest of the two daughters of a most affectionate, indulgent father; and had, in consequence of her sister's marriage, been mistress of his house from a very early period. Her mother had died too long ago for her to have more than an indistinct remembrance of her caresses; and her place had been supplied by an excellent woman as governess, who had fallen little short of a mother in affection.

Sixteen years had Miss Taylor been in Mr. Woodhouse's family, less as a governess than a friend, very fond of both daughters, but particularly of Emma. Between them it was more the intimacy of sisters. Even before Miss Taylor had ceased to hold the nominal office of governess, the mildness of her temper had hardly allowed her to impose any restraint; and the shadow of authority being now long passed away, they had been living together as friend and friend very mutually attached, and Emma doing just what she liked; highly esteeming Miss Taylor's judgment, but directed chiefly by her own.

The real evils, indeed, of Emma's situation were the power of having rather too much her own way, and a disposition to think a little too well of herself; these were the disadvantages which threatened alloy to her many enjoyments. The danger, however, was at present so unperceived, that they did not by any means rank as misfortunes with her.

Sorrow came—a gentle sorrow—but not at all in the shape of any disagreeable consciousness. Miss Taylor married. It was Miss Taylor's loss which first brought grief. It was on the wedding-day of this beloved friend that Emma first sat in mournful thought of any continuance. The wedding over, and the bride-people gone, her father and herself were left to dine together, with no prospect of a third to cheer a long evening. Her father composed himself to sleep after dinner, as usual, and she had then only to sit and think of what she had lost.

The event had every promise of happiness for her friend. Mr. Weston was a man of unexceptionable character, easy fortune, suitable age, and pleasant manners; and there was some satisfaction in considering with what self-denying, generous friendship she had always wished and promoted the match; but it was a black morning's work for her. 

How was she to bear the change?—It was true that her friend was going only half a mile from them; but Emma was aware that great must be the difference between a Mrs. Weston, only half a mile from them, and a Miss Taylor in the house; and with all her advantages, natural and domestic, she was now in great danger of suffering from intellectual solitude. She dearly loved her father, but he was no companion for her. He could not meet her in conversation, rational or playful.

Emma is most accurately described as __________.

Possible Answers:

hard-working and vain

quick-witted and willful

benevolent and secretive

insubordinate and haughty

precocious and lazy

Correct answer:

quick-witted and willful

Explanation:

Emma is distinctly described by the passage in two places: in the first paragraph, her introduction, and in the fourth paragraph, where her personality flaws are discussed. The first paragraph calls Emma “handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition,” and notes that she “seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence” and had grown up “with very little to distress or vex her.” The fourth paragraph adds, “The real evils, indeed, of Emma's situation were the power of having rather too much her own way, and .”

Given these descriptions, we can begin to narrow our answer choices. While Emma might be called “vain” because we are told that she has “a disposition to think a little too well of herself,” nothing in the passage suggests that she is “hard-working,” so “hard-working and vain” cannot be the answer. “Precocious” she might be for always doing what she wants, but we nothing in the passage supports calling her “lazy,” so “precocious and lazy” isn’t correct either. While one might perhaps call her “benevolent,” there is little evidence directly supporting this analysis, and “secretive” does not accurately describes Emma according to the passage, so “benevolent . . . secretive” can’t be the correct answer either. This leaves us with “insubordinate and haughty” and “quick-witted and willful.” “Insubordinate” is too intense a term for Emma’s slight stubborn streak; we are never told that she specifically breaks rules, just that she does what she wants. This makes “willful” the better descriptor of the two. Similarly, while we are told that she is “quick-witted” in that the passage calls her “clever,” “haughty” is too intense a term to describe “a disposition to think a little too well of herself.” The best answer choice is “quick-witted and willful.”

Example Question #11 : Inferences And Predictions In Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (1908)

The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring cleaning his little home. First with brooms, then with dusters, then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and a pail of whitewash, 'till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms. Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing. It was small wonder, then, that he suddenly flung down his brush on the floor, said "Bother!" and "O blow!" and also "Hang spring cleaning!" and bolted out of the house without even waiting to put on his coat. Something up above was calling him imperiously, and he made for the steep little tunnel which answered in his case to the gaveled carriage-drive owned by animals whose residences are nearer to the sun and air. So he scraped and scratched and scrabbled and scrooged and then he scrooged again and scrabbled and scratched and scraped, working busily with his little paws and muttering to himself, "Up we go! Up we go!" 'till at last, pop! His snout came out into the sunlight, and he found himself rolling in the warm grass of a great meadow.

"This is fine!" he said to himself. "This is better than whitewashing!" The sunshine struck hot on his fur, soft breezes caressed his heated brow, and after the seclusion of the cellarage he had lived in so long, the carol of happy birds fell on his dulled hearing almost like a shout. Jumping off all his four legs at once, in the joy of living and the delight of spring without its cleaning, he pursued his way across the meadow 'till he reached the hedge on the further side.

"Hold up!" said an elderly rabbit at the gap. "Sixpence for the privilege of passing by the private road!" He was bowled over in an instant by the impatient and contemptuous Mole, who trotted along the side of the hedge chaffing the other rabbits as they peeped hurriedly from their holes to see what the row was about. "Onion-sauce! Onion-sauce!" he remarked jeeringly, and was gone before they could think of a thoroughly satisfactory reply. Then they all started grumbling at each other. "How STUPID you are! Why didn't you tell him—" "Well, why didn't YOU say—" "You might have reminded him—" and so on, in the usual way; but, of course, it was then much too late, as is always the case.

Which of these is an assumption that the reader is expected to make when reading this passage?

Possible Answers:

The rabbits normally speak in rhyme, but the elderly rabbit is not very good at rhyming, so he doesn't.

Animals can make use of tools similar to the ones that humans use.

Moles normally sleep through spring.

Every road in the story is a toll road.

The mole and the rabbits can talk, but no other animal can.

Correct answer:

Animals can make use of tools similar to the ones that humans use.

Explanation:

The passage tells us that the mole uses "brooms," "dusters," "ladders and steps and chairs," and "a brush and a pail of whitewash" when spring cleaning his home. So, the story expects its readers to assume that animals can make use of tools similar to the ones that humans use. None of the other answers are supported by the passage.

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