SAT Critical Reading : Considering Analogous Concepts in Literary Fiction Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT Critical Reading

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Analyzing The Text 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.

The narrator’s emotions about paralysis are most analogous to which of the following situations?

Possible Answers:

A zebra caught and eaten by a lion.

A person who is afraid of dogs and refuses to go to an animal shelter to help his friend find a dog.

A person who is afraid of heights but still wants to look over the edge of a cliff.

A person who plays the lottery every day but never wins.

A lumberjack who is killed by a tree he was in the process of chopping down.

Correct answer:

A person who is afraid of heights but still wants to look over the edge of a cliff.

Explanation:

Concerning paralysis, the narrator says at the end of the first paragraph, "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." This last sentence is the most crucial in determining the correct answer to this question; we can tell that despite being afraid of paralysis, the narrator is drawn to it and wants "to be nearer to it and to look upon its deadly work." Only two of the potential answer choices involve fear: "A person who is afraid of dogs and refuses to go to an animal shelter to help his friend find a dog" and "A person who is afraid of heights but still wants to look over the edge of a cliff." The other answer choices can be eliminated. Of the two fear-related answer choices, the one about the person who is afraid of dogs involves that person avoiding the source of his fear, whereas the other answer choice involving the person who is afraid of heights involves that person being drawn to the source of his or her fear. The narrator both fears and wants to observe paralysis, so the best answer choice is the one that conveys this mixture of being afraid of and drawn to something: "A person who is afraid of heights but still wants to look over the edge of a cliff."

Example Question #19 : Passage Content

Adapted from The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade by Herman Melville (1857)

At sunrise on a first of April, there appeared suddenly a man in cream-colors at the water-side in the city of St. Louis.

His cheek was fair, his chin downy, his hair flaxen, his hat a white fur one, with a long fleecy nap. He had neither trunk, valise, carpet-bag, nor parcel. No porter followed him. He was unaccompanied by friends. From the shrugged shoulders, titters, whispers, wonderings of the crowd, it was plain that he was, in the extremest sense of the word, a stranger.

In the same moment with his advent, he stepped aboard the favorite steamer Fidèle, on the point of starting for New Orleans. Stared at, but unsaluted, with the air of one neither courting nor shunning regard, but evenly pursuing the path of duty, lead it through solitudes or cities, he held on his way along the lower deck until he chanced to come to a placard nigh the captain's office, offering a reward for the capture of a mysterious impostor, supposed to have recently arrived from the East; quite an original genius in his vocation, as would appear, though wherein his originality consisted was not clearly given; but what purported to be a careful description of his person followed.

As if it had been a theatre-bill, crowds were gathered about the announcement, and among them certain chevaliers, whose eyes, it was plain, were on the capitals, or, at least, earnestly seeking sight of them from behind intervening coats; but as for their fingers, they were enveloped in some myth; though, during a chance interval, one of these chevaliers somewhat showed his hand in purchasing from another chevalier, ex-officio a peddler of money-belts, one of his popular safe-guards, while another peddler, who was still another versatile chevalier, hawked, in the thick of the throng, the lives of Measan, the bandit of Ohio, Murrel, the pirate of the Mississippi, and the brothers Harpe, the Thugs of the Green River country, in Kentucky—creatures, with others of the sort, one and all exterminated at the time, and for the most part, like the hunted generations of wolves in the same regions, leaving comparatively few successors; which would seem cause for unalloyed gratulation, and is such to all except those who think that in new countries, where the wolves are killed off, the foxes increase.

Pausing at this spot, the stranger so far succeeded in threading his way, as at last to plant himself just beside the placard, when, producing a small slate and tracing some words upon if, he held it up before him on a level with the placard, so that they who read the one might read the other. The words were these:—

"Charity thinketh no evil.”

Which of the following is most comparable to the placard in front of the captain’s quarters described in paragraph two?

Possible Answers:

An advertisement for a comedian’s upcoming shows

A lost-and-found ad

An instruction manual

A name-card labeling the occupant of an office

A wanted poster

Correct answer:

A wanted poster

Explanation:

What do we know about the placard? It is most distinctly described in the second paragraph; the third paragraph concerns the crowd’s reaction to it. The second paragraph says:

“[The man in cream-colors] held on his way along the lower deck until he chanced to come to a placard nigh the captain's office, offering a reward for the capture of a mysterious impostor, supposed to have recently arrived from the East; quite an original genius in his vocation, as would appear, though wherein his originality consisted was not clearly given; but what purported to be a careful description of his person followed.”

So, we know that the placard is “offering a reward for the capture of a mysterious impostor”; this is enough information to help us realize that the placard is most comparable to “a wanted poster.”

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