SAT Critical Reading : Context-Dependent Meaning of Phrases or Sentences in Social Science / History Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT Critical Reading

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Example Question #53 : Language In Social Science / History Passages

Adapted from The War Message (1917) by Woodrow Wilson

On the third of February I officially laid before you the extraordinary announcement of the Imperial German Government that on and after the first day of February it was its purpose to put aside all restraints of law or of humanity and use its submarines to sink every vessel that sought to approach either the ports of Great Britain and Ireland or the western coasts of Europe or any of the ports controlled by the enemies of Germany within the Mediterranean.

The new policy has swept every restriction aside. Vessels of every kind, whatever their flag, their character, their cargo, their destination, their errand, have been ruthlessly sent to the bottom: without warning and without thought of help or mercy for those on board, the vessels of friendly neutrals along with those of belligerents. Even hospital ships and ships carrying relief to the sorely bereaved and stricken people of Belgium have been sunk with the same reckless lack of compassion or of principle. I was for a little while unable to believe that such things would in fact be done by any government that had hitherto subscribed to the humane practices of civilized nations. International law had its origin in the attempt to set up some law which would be respected and observed upon the seas, where no nation had right of dominion and where lay the free highways of the world. The German Government has swept this aside under the plea of retaliation and necessity and because it had no weapons which it could use at sea except these which it is impossible to employ as it is employing them without throwing to the winds all scruples of humanity or of respect for the understandings that were supposed to underlie the intercourse of the world. I am not now thinking of the loss of property involved, immense and serious as that is, but only of the wanton and wholesale destruction of the lives of noncombatants, men, women, and children, engaged in pursuits which have always, even in the darkest periods of modern history, been deemed innocent and legitimate. Property can be paid for; the lives of peaceful and innocent people cannot be. The present German submarine warfare against commerce is a warfare against mankind.

It is a war against all nations. American ships have been sunk, American lives taken, in ways which it has stirred us very deeply to learn of, but the ships and people of other neutral and friendly nations have been sunk and overwhelmed in the waters in the same way. There has been no discrimination. The challenge is to all mankind. Each nation must decide for itself how it will meet it. The choice we make for ourselves must be made with a moderation of counsel and a temperateness of judgment befitting our character and our motives as a nation. We must put excited feeling away. Our motive will not be revenge or the victorious assertion of the physical might of the nation, but only the vindication of right, of human right, of which we are only a single champion.

What does the author most nearly mean when he describes the seas as “the free highways of the world?”

Possible Answers:

that the American navy has a duty to control the aggressive behavior of other navies

that oceanic venture always contains an element of danger, particularly during World War One

that all nations and peoples have equal right to trade on the ocean

that World War One has reinforced the security and freedom of the seas

that operating a ship is no more dangerous than driving a car

Correct answer:

that all nations and peoples have equal right to trade on the ocean

Explanation:

The author references the “free highways of the world” to contrast the approach of American, and other allied nations, to trading rights on the seas with the approach of the German high command. The author says that “international law had its origin in the attempt to set up some law which would be respected and observed upon the seas, where no nation had right of dominion and where lay the free highways of the world.” The author means that all nations and people have equal right to trade on the ocean, according to international law.

Example Question #23 : Determining Context Dependent Meanings Of Phrases And Clauses In Social Science Or History Passages

Adapted from Women’s Political Future by Frances E. W. Harper (1893)

The world has need of all the spiritual aid that woman can give for the social advancement and moral development of the human race. The tendency of the present age, with its restlessness, religious upheavals, failures, blunders, and crimes, is toward broader freedom, an increase of knowledge, the emancipation of thought, and recognition of the brotherhood of man; in this movement woman, as the companion of man, must be an equal. So close is the bond between man and woman that you cannot raise one without lifting the other. The world cannot move without woman's sharing in the movement, and to help give a right impetus to that movement is woman's highest privilege.

If the fifteenth century discovered America to the Old World, the nineteenth is discovering woman to herself. Not the opportunity of discovering new worlds, but that of filling this old world with fairer and higher aims than the greed of gold and the lust of power, is hers. Through weary, wasting years men have destroyed, dashed in pieces, and overthrown, but today we stand on the threshold of woman's era, and woman's work is grandly constructive. In her hand are possibilities whose use or abuse must tell upon the political life of the nation, and send their influence for good or evil across the track of unborn ages.

In the context of the first paragraph, what does the author believe is the “tendency of the present age”?

Possible Answers:

Female empowerment

Religious accord

Political stability

Male subservience

Recognition of universal equality

Correct answer:

Recognition of universal equality

Explanation:

The author states that the tendency of the present age is “toward broader freedom” and “recognition of the brotherhood of man.” The idea of the importance of female empowerment is mentioned often throughout the passage and is a central point; however, the author expressly states that the tendency of the present age is towards a universal acceptance, not simply an acceptance of women.

Example Question #1 : Specific Phrases And Sentences In Social Science / History Passages

Adapted from "Margaret Fuller and Mary Wollstonecraft" by George Eliot (1855)

There is a notion commonly entertained among men that an instructed woman, capable of having opinions, is likely to prove an unpractical yoke-fellow, always pulling one way when her husband wants to go the other, oracular in tone, and prone to give lectures. But surely, so far as obstinacy is concerned, your unreasoning animal is the most difficult of your creatures. For our own parts, we see no reason why women should be better kept under control rather than educated to be mans rational equal.  

If you ask me what offices women may fill, I reply—any. I do not care what case you put; let them be sea-captains, if you will. I do not doubt there are women well fitted for such an office, and, if so, I should be glad to welcome the Maid of Saragossa. I think women need, especially at this juncture, a much greater range of occupation than they have, to rouse their latent powers. In families that I know, some little girls like to saw wood, and others to use carpenters' tools. Where these tastes are indulged, cheerfulness and good-humor are promoted. Where they are forbidden, because "such things are not proper for girls," they grow sullen and mischievous.

Men pay a heavy price for their reluctance to encourage self-help and independent resources in women. The precious meridian years of many a man of genius have to be spent in the toil of routine, that an "establishment" may be kept up for a woman who can understand none of his secret yearnings, who is fit for nothing but to sit in her drawing-room like a doll-Madonna in her shrine. No matter. Anything is more endurable than to change our established formulae about women, or to run the risk of looking up to our wives instead of looking down on them. So men say of women, let them be idols, useless absorbents of previous things, provided we are not obliged to admit them to be strictly fellow-beings, to be treated, one and all, with justice and sober reverence.

When the author discusses women’s “latent powers,” she most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

that women can never achieve true equality

the ability to resist patriarchal humiliation with pride and dignity

the capabilities women have to overcome male dominance

that male subservience to women is the natural and inevitable result of female empowerment

the present but unexpressed faculties of women

Correct answer:

the present but unexpressed faculties of women

Explanation:

The easiest way to answer this question is to know the meaning of the word latent, which is hidden. This should help you identify that the correct answer is “the present but unexpressed faculty of women.” For clarification in this instance faculty means capabilities. If you did not know the meaning of latent it is necessary to read-in-context and then make an assumption based on what you know of the author’s overall intention throughout the passage. The sentence in which “latent powers” is contained reveals that the author believes those “powers” need to be “roused.” To rouse means to elevate. This should provide a clue as to the meaning behind “latent powers.” The other four answer choices can generally be eliminated on the grounds that they represent the opposite arguments to the primary point made by the author.

Example Question #1 : Finding Context Dependent Meanings Of Phrases In Argumentative Social Science Passages

Adapted from "Address to the Court" by Eugene Debs (1918)

Your Honor, I have stated in this court that I am opposed to the form of our present government; that I am opposed to the social system in which we live; that I believed in the change of both—but by perfectly peaceable and orderly means.

Let me call your attention to the fact this morning that in this system five percent of our people own and control two-thirds of our wealth; sixty-five percent of the people, embracing the working class who produce all wealth, have but five percent to show for it.

Standing here this morning, I recall my boyhood. At fourteen I went to work in a railroad shop; at sixteen I was firing a freight engine on a railroad. I remember all the hardships and privations of that earlier day, and from that time until now my heart has been with the working class. I could have been in Congress long ago. I have preferred to go to prison. The choice has been deliberately made. I could not have done otherwise. I have no regret.

In the struggle, the unceasing struggle, between the toilers and producers and their exploiters, I have tried, as best I might, to serve those among whom I was born, with whom I expect to share my lot until the end of my days. I am thinking this morning of the men in the mills and factories; I am thinking of the men in the mines and on the railroads; I am thinking of the women who, for a paltry wage, are compelled to work out their lives; of the little children, who in this system, are robbed of their childhood, and in their early, tender years are seized in the remorseless grasp of Mammon, and forced into the industrial dungeons, there to feed the machines while they themselves are being starved body and soul. I see them dwarfed, diseased, stunted, their little lives broken, and their hopes blasted, because in this high noon of our twentieth-century civilization money is still so much more important than human life. Gold is god and rules in the affairs of men.

What does the author most nearly mean by the statement “Gold is God”?

Possible Answers:

Religion has been rendered obsolete by the allures of consumerism.

Gold blights the senses of men and brings out the worst in them.

Money, and the acquisition of it, is the primary ruling force in the world.

Without money the world would be a godless, spiritual void.

The American government has failed the American people.

Correct answer:

Money, and the acquisition of it, is the primary ruling force in the world.

Explanation:

When the author says that “Gold is God” in the last sentence of the concluding paragraph, he means that money, and the acquisition of it, is the primary motivating factor in the world. The key to understanding this phrasing can be found in the preceding sentence, where the author states this idea at greater length: “. . . because in this high noon of our twentieth-century civilization money is still so much more important than human life.”

Example Question #7 : Phrase Choice And Effect

Adapted from "Margaret Fuller and Mary Wollstonecraft" by George Eliot (1855)

There is a notion commonly entertained among men that an instructed woman, capable of having opinions, is likely to prove an unpractical yoke-fellow, always pulling one way when her husband wants to go the other, oracular in tone, and prone to give lectures. But surely, so far as obstinacy is concerned, your unreasoning animal is the most difficult of your creatures. For our own parts, we see no reason why women should be better kept under control rather than educated to be mans rational equal.  

If you ask me what offices women may fill, I reply—any. I do not care what case you put; let them be sea-captains, if you will. I do not doubt there are women well fitted for such an office, and, if so, I should be glad to welcome the Maid of Saragossa. I think women need, especially at this juncture, a much greater range of occupation than they have, to rouse their latent powers. In families that I know, some little girls like to saw wood, and others to use carpenters' tools. Where these tastes are indulged, cheerfulness and good-humor are promoted. Where they are forbidden, because "such things are not proper for girls," they grow sullen and mischievous.

Men pay a heavy price for their reluctance to encourage self-help and independent resources in women. The precious meridian years of many a man of genius have to be spent in the toil of routine, that an "establishment" may be kept up for a woman who can understand none of his secret yearnings, who is fit for nothing but to sit in her drawing-room like a doll-Madonna in her shrine. No matter. Anything is more endurable than to change our established formulae about women, or to run the risk of looking up to our wives instead of looking down on them. So men say of women, let them be idols, useless absorbents of previous things, provided we are not obliged to admit them to be strictly fellow-beings, to be treated, one and all, with justice and sober reverence.

What is the "notion commonly entertained among men"?

Possible Answers:

Women are meant to serve the interests of men.

Educating women would require a complete social rethink of gendered identity.

Women are better suited to motherhood than they are to intellectual pursuit.

Women are inherently less intelligent than men.

Educated women will prove too defiant.

Correct answer:

Educated women will prove too defiant.

Explanation:

The notion commonly entertained by men is revealed in the succeeding sentences where the author states that men believe educated women will “always pull one way when her husband wants to go the other”, and be “prone to give lectures.” The author is not stating that men believe women are meant to serve male interests, nor is she stating that men believe women to be less intelligent or better suited to motherhood. The author might believe men perceive women in this manner, but she focuses her argument on convincing men that they need not fear that educated women will be defiant and difficult. The notion commonly entertained by men is that education women will cause them to defy their husbands and therefore keeping women dependent requires keeping them ill-educated.

Example Question #55 : Language In Social Science / History Passages

Adapted from "Co. Aytch," Maury Grays, First Tennessee Regiment; or, A Side Show of the Big Show by Samuel Rush Watkins (1900 ed.)

In giving a description of this most memorable battle, I do not pretend to give you figures, and describe how this general looked and how that one spoke, and the other one charged with drawn saber, etc. I know nothing of these things—see the history for that. I was simply a soldier of the line, and I only write of the things I saw. I was in every battle, skirmish and march that was made by the First Tennessee Regiment during the war, and I do not remember of a harder contest and more evenly fought battle than that of Perryville. If it had been two men wrestling, it would have been called a "dog fall." Both sides claim the victory—both whipped.

I stood picket in Perryville the night before the battle—a Yankee on one side of the street, and I on the other. We got very friendly during the night, and made a raid upon a citizen's pantry, where we captured a bucket of honey, a pitcher of sweet milk, and three or four biscuits. The old citizen was not at home—he and his whole household had gone visiting, I believe. In fact, I think all of the citizens of Perryville were taken with a sudden notion of promiscuous visiting about this time; at least they were not at home to all callers.

At length the morning dawned. Our line was drawn up on one side of Perryville, the Yankee army on the other. The two enemies that were soon to meet in deadly embrace seemed to be eyeing each other. The blue coats lined the hillside in plain view. You could count the number of their regiments by the number of their flags. We could see the huge war dogs frowning at us, ready at any moment to belch forth their fire and smoke, and hurl their thunderbolts of iron and death in our very midst.

I wondered why the fighting did not begin. Never on earth were our troops more eager for the engagement to open. The Yankees commenced to march toward their left, and we marched almost parallel to our right—both sides watching each other's maneuvers and movements. It was but the lull that precedes the storm. Colonel Field was commanding our brigade, and Lieutenant-Colonel Patterson our regiment. About 12 o'clock, while we were marching through a corn field, in which the corn had been shocked, they opened their war dogs upon us. The beginning of the end had come. Here is where Captain John F. Wheless was wounded, and three others, whose names I have forgotten. The battle now opened in earnest, and from one end of the line to the other seemed to be a solid sheet of blazing smoke and fire. Our regiment crossed a stream, being preceded by Wharton's Texas Rangers, and we were ordered to attack at once with vigor. Here General Maney's horse was shot. From this moment the battle was a mortal struggle. Two lines of battle confronted us. We killed almost everyone in the first line, and were soon charging over the second, when right in our immediate front was their third and main line of battle from which four Napoleon guns poured their deadly fire.

We did not recoil, but our line was fairly hurled back by the leaden hail that was poured into our very faces. Eight color-bearers were killed at one discharge of their cannon. We were right up among the very wheels of their Napoleon guns. It was death to retreat now to either side. Our Lieutenant-Colonel Patterson halloed to charge and take their guns, and we were soon in a hand-to-hand fight—every man for himself—using the butts of our guns and bayonets. One side would waver and fall back a few yards, and would rally, when the other side would fall back, leaving the four Napoleon guns; and yet the battle raged. Such obstinate fighting I never had seen before or since. The guns were discharged so rapidly that it seemed the earth itself was in a volcanic uproar. The iron storm passed through our ranks, mangling and tearing men to pieces. The very air seemed full of stifling smoke and fire which seemed the very pit of hell, peopled by contending demons.

Our men were dead and dying right in the very midst of this grand havoc of battle. It was a life to life and death to death grapple. The sun was poised above us, a great red ball sinking slowly in the west, yet the scene of battle and carnage continued. I cannot describe it. The mantle of night fell upon the scene. I do not know which side whipped, but I know that I helped bring off those four Napoleon guns that night though we were mighty easy about it.

Based on how the phrase is used in the third paragraph, what are "war dogs"?

Possible Answers:

Cannons

Cavalrymen

Infantrymen

Skirmishers

Combat dogs

Correct answer:

Cannons

Explanation:

We can infer from the passage that the various references to “war dogs” are references to the enemies' cannons, as they are said to be ready to “belch forth their fire and smoke, and hurl their thunderbolts of iron and death in [the narrator's army's] very midst.”

Example Question #53 : Language In Social Science / History Passages

Adapted from "Federalist No. 46. The Influence of the State and Federal Governments Compared" by James Madison in The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay (1788)

I proceed to inquire whether the federal government or the state governments will have the advantage with regard to the predilection and support of the people. Notwithstanding the different modes in which they are appointed, we must consider both of them as substantially dependent on the great body of the citizens of the United States. I assume this position here as it respects the first, reserving the proofs for another place. The federal and state governments are in fact but different agents and trustees of the people, constituted with different powers, and designed for different purposes. The adversaries of the Constitution seem to have lost sight of the people altogether in their reasonings on this subject, and to have viewed these different establishments not only as mutual rivals and enemies, but as uncontrolled by any common superior in their efforts to usurp the authorities of each other. These gentlemen must here be reminded of their error. They must be told that the ultimate authority, wherever the derivative may be found, resides in the people alone, and that it will not depend merely on the comparative ambition or address of the different governments, whether either, or which of them, will be able to enlarge its sphere of jurisdiction at the expense of the other. Truth, no less than decency, requires that the event in every case should be supposed to depend on the sentiments and sanction of their common constituents.

To which group of people does the underlined phrase "these gentlemen" refer?

Possible Answers:

"the people"

"trustees of the people"

"The adversaries of the Constitution"

"common constituents"

"mutual rivals and enemies"

Correct answer:

"The adversaries of the Constitution"

Explanation:

It's not possible to tell what is meant by "These gentlemen" based solely on a consideration of the sentence in which the phrase appears. Considering the context surrounding the phrase is necessary: "The adversaries of the Constitution seem to have lost sight of the people altogether in their reasonings on this subject, and to have viewed these different establishments not only as mutual rivals and enemies, but as uncontrolled by any common superior in their efforts to usurp the authorities of each other. These gentlemen must here be reminded of their error." When we consider the sentence that precedes the one with the specified phrase in it, we can see that "These gentlemen" refers to "The adversaries of the Constitution." It's important to consider the meaning of the whole sentence, and not just pick out the last noun that could potentially be the antecedent.

Example Question #2 : Finding Context Dependent Meanings Of Phrases In Argumentative Social Science Passages

Adapted from "Federalist No. 46. The Influence of the State and Federal Governments Compared" by James Madison in The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay (1788)

Many considerations, besides those suggested on a former occasion, seem to place it beyond doubt that the first and most natural attachment of the people will be to the governments of their respective states. Into the administration of these a greater number of individuals will expect to rise. From the gift of these a greater number of offices and emoluments will flow. By the superintending care of these, all the more domestic and personal interests of the people will be regulated and provided for. With the affairs of these, the people will be more familiarly and minutely conversant. And with the members of these, will a greater proportion of the people have the ties of personal acquaintance and friendship, and of family and party attachments; on the side of these, therefore, the popular bias may well be expected most strongly to incline.

Experience speaks the same language in this case. The federal administration, though hitherto very defective in comparison with what may be hoped under a better system, had, during the war, and particularly whilst the independent fund of paper emissions was in credit, an activity and importance as great as it can well have in any future circumstances whatever. It was engaged, too, in a course of measures which had for their object the protection of everything that was dear and the acquisition of everything that could be desirable to the people at large. It was, nevertheless, invariably found, after the transient enthusiasm for the early Congresses was over, that the attention and attachment of the people were turned anew to their own particular governments; that the federal council was at no time the idol of popular favor; and that opposition to proposed enlargements of its powers and importance was the side usually taken by the men who wished to build their political consequence on the prepossessions of their fellow-citizens.

What does the author mean when he states in the underlined sentence, “Experience speaks the same language in this case”?

Possible Answers:

Experiential evidence supports the author's theoretical predictions.

The author has heard people talking about these issues and coming to the same conclusions as he has.

The author thinks that experience will prove his ideas correct.

While the author's predictions may seem sound, experience will be likely to disprove them.

People that the author has asked about his argument have all supported it.

Correct answer:

Experiential evidence supports the author's theoretical predictions.

Explanation:

This sentence is an important one because it functions as the transition between the passage's first and second paragraphs. While both "The author thinks that experience will prove his ideas correct" and "Experiential evidence supports the author's theoretical predictions" may look correct, the latter is the better answer because it references the author's "theoretical predictions," the subject of the first paragraph. It's important to recognize this subtle difference, as referring back to the ideas discussed in the previous paragraph is a large part of what makes the sentence a good transition.

Example Question #322 : Social Sciences / History

Adapted from "Federalist No. 46. The Influence of the State and Federal Governments Compared" by James Madison in The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay (1788)

Many considerations, besides those suggested on a former occasion, seem to place it beyond doubt that the first and most natural attachment of the people will be to the governments of their respective states. Into the administration of these a greater number of individuals will expect to rise. From the gift of these a greater number of offices and emoluments will flow. By the superintending care of these, all the more domestic and personal interests of the people will be regulated and provided for. With the affairs of these, the people will be more familiarly and minutely conversant. And with the members of these, will a greater proportion of the people have the ties of personal acquaintance and friendship, and of family and party attachments; on the side of these, therefore, the popular bias may well be expected most strongly to incline.

Experience speaks the same language in this case. The federal administration, though hitherto very defective in comparison with what may be hoped under a better system, had, during the war, and particularly whilst the independent fund of paper emissions was in credit, an activity and importance as great as it can well have in any future circumstances whatever. It was engaged, too, in a course of measures which had for their object the protection of everything that was dear and the acquisition of everything that could be desirable to the people at large. It was, nevertheless, invariably found, after the transient enthusiasm for the early Congresses was over, that the attention and attachment of the people were turned anew to their own particular governments; that the federal council was at no time the idol of popular favor; and that opposition to proposed enlargements of its powers and importance was the side usually taken by the men who wished to build their political consequence on the prepossessions of their fellow-citizens.

Which of the following best paraphrases the underlined clause, "opposition to proposed enlargements of its powers and importance was the side usually taken by the men who wished to build their political consequence on the prepossessions of their fellow-citizens"?

Possible Answers:

The federal government was increasing in scale and power despite what being opposed by most politicians and their constituents.

Citizens did not favor the growth of the federal government.

Anyone wanting political power had to support the federal government's growth, or they would not be popular with their constituents.

Men seeking political power based on the preferences of their constituents tended to oppose expansion of the federal government.

Politicians favored increasing the power and importance of the federal government, but their constituents did not.

Correct answer:

Men seeking political power based on the preferences of their constituents tended to oppose expansion of the federal government.

Explanation:

The clause in question is "opposition to proposed enlargements of its powers and importance was the side usually taken by the men who wished to build their political consequence on the prepossessions of their fellow-citizens." This is a long and complex clause with confusing syntax, so let's break it down a bit: "oppositions to proposed enlargements of its powers"—what does the "its" stand for? In context, we can tell that "its" means "the federal government's." So this first part of the clause means "proposed enlargements of the federal government." The clause continues with "was the side usually taken by the men." This is confusing syntax; let's straighten it out. So, these men, which will be described by the rest of the clause, took the side of opposing the growth of the federal government. What else do we learn about these men? They "wished to build their political consequence"—or gain political importance—"on the prepossessions of their fellow-citizens," or on the biases of their constituents. So let's put all that together in an order that makes more sense. "Men seeking political power based on the preferences of their constituents tended to oppose expansion of the federal government"—that's the correct answer.

Example Question #1 : Specific Phrases And Sentences In Social Science / History Passages

Adapted from A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft (1792)

 In the middle rank of life, to continue the comparison, men, in their youth, are prepared for professions, and marriage is not considered as the grand feature in their lives; whilst women, on the contrary, have no other scheme to sharpen their faculties. It is not business, extensive plans, or any of the excursive flights of ambition, that engross their attention; no, their thoughts are not employed in rearing such noble structures. To rise in the world, and have the liberty of running from pleasure to pleasure, they must marry advantageously, and to this object their time is sacrificed, and their persons often legally prostituted. A man when he enters any profession has his eye steadily fixed on some future advantage (and the mind gains great strength by having all its efforts directed to one point) and, full of his business, pleasure is considered as mere relaxation; whilst women seek for pleasure as the main purpose of existence. In fact, from the education, which they receive from society, the love of pleasure may be said to govern them all; but does this prove that there is a sex in souls? It would be just as rational to declare that the courtiers in France, when a destructive system of despotism had formed their character, were not men, because liberty, virtue, and humanity, were sacrificed to pleasure and vanity.—Fatal passions, which have ever domineered over the whole race!

The same love of pleasure, fostered by the whole tendency of their education, gives a trifling turn to the conduct of women in most circumstances: for instance, they are ever anxious about secondary things; and on the watch for adventures, instead of being occupied by duties.

A man, when he undertakes a journey, has, in general, the end in view; a woman thinks more of the incidental occurrences, the strange things that may possibly occur on the road; the impression that she may make on her fellow travelers; and, above all, she is anxiously intent on the care of the finery that she carries with her, which is more than ever a part of herself, when going to figure on a new scene; when, to use an apt French turn of expression, she is going to produce a sensation.—Can dignity of mind exist with such trivial cares? This observation should not be confined to the fair sex; however, at present, I only mean to apply it to them.

What is the main idea of the underlined question, "Can dignity of mind exist with such trivial cares?"

Possible Answers:

The author is asking if seriousness, self-control, and respect can be gained if women are taken up with niggling details. 

The author is asking if women can retain their mental capabilities under the pressure of daily life.

The author is asking if women will be thought of as less intelligent than men by society.

The author is asking if men think women's opinions are valid, with reference to their habits.

All of these answers are correct.

Correct answer:

The author is asking if seriousness, self-control, and respect can be gained if women are taken up with niggling details. 

Explanation:

We can interpret “dignity of mind” to be a seriousness or self-control of the mind which gains respect. Then if we look at the end of the question “with such trivial cares” we can see that “niggling details” is synonymous with “trivial cares” The author is not concerned, when asking the question, about society's view of women. The use of the rhetorical question is an imploring for women to attempt to retain their “dignity of mind.”  

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