SAT II Literature : Other Questions About Language: Prose

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT II Literature

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Other Questions About Language: Prose

Dear Sir, 

You are pleased to call again, and with some earnestness, for my thoughts on the late proceedings in France. I will not give you reason to imagine, that I think my sentiments of such value as to wish myself to be solicited about them. They are of too little consequence to be very anxiously either communicated or withheld. It was from attention to you, and to you only, that I hesitated at the time, when you first desired to receive them. In the first letter I had the honour to write you, and which at length I send, I wrote neither for nor from any description of men; nor shall I in this. My errors, if any, are my own. My reputation alone is to answer for them. 

You see, Sir, by the long letter I have transmitted to you, that, though I do most heartily wish that France may be animated by a spirit of rational liberty, and that I think you bound, in all honest policy, to provide a permanent body, in which that spirit may reside, and an effectual organ, by which it may act, it is my misfortune to entertain great doubts concerning several material points in your late transactions.  

(1790)

In the second paragraph, the meaning of the word "organ" is most clearly explained by the phrase _________________.

Possible Answers:

"in all honest policy"

"a permanent body"

"by which it may act"

"in which that spirit"

"animated by a spirit of rational liberty"

Correct answer:

"by which it may act"

Explanation:

The phrase "by which it may act," which directly follows the word "organ," describes what the function of the aforementioned "organ" ought to be. "Organ" here means neither a body part nor a musical instrument. There is nothing in the context to suggest either of those meanings. Rather, in this context "organ" simply refers to some apparatus by which any thing (here, specifically, the French government) "may act." The phrase "by which it may act," more than any other information provided by the passage, makes this clear.

Passage adapted from Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790).

Example Question #2 : Other Questions About Language: Prose

It was a fine autumn morning; the early sun shone serenely on embrowned groves and still green fields; advancing on to the lawn, I looked up and surveyed the front of the mansion. It was three storeys high, of proportions not vast, though considerable: a gentleman’s manor-house, not a nobleman’s seat: battlements round the top gave it a picturesque look. …Farther off were hills: not so lofty as those round Lowood, nor so craggy, nor so like barriers of separation from the living world; but yet quiet and lonely hills enough, and seeming to embrace Thornfield with a seclusion I had not expected to find existent so near the stirring locality of Millcote. A little hamlet, whose roofs were blent with trees, straggled up the side of one of these hills; the church of the district stood nearer Thornfield: its old tower-top looked over a knoll between the house and gates.

I was yet enjoying the calm prospect and pleasant fresh air, yet listening with delight to the cawing of the rooks, yet surveying the wide, hoary front of the hall, and thinking what a great place it was for one lonely little dame like Mrs. Fairfax to inhabit, when that lady appeared at the door.

“What! out already?” said she.  “I see you are an early riser.”  I went up to her, and was received with an affable kiss and shake of the hand.

(1847)

Based on context, what word could be substituted for “embrowned” (sentence 1)?

Possible Answers:

Russet

Embittered

Withered

Sere

Dreary

Correct answer:

Russet

Explanation:

We can tell from the sentence in question that the narrator is describing an autumn scene. Therefore, the fact that the groves (clusters of trees) are “embrowned” is a reference to the fact that their leaves have changed color. For this reason, any color word that describes autumn leaves would have fit the sentence well. Withered, which is a synonym for sere, is too strong a choice, since we know from the same sentence that the grass is still green. Dreary and embittered similarly don’t fit the passage.

Passage adapted from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre: An Autobiography. (1847)

Example Question #3 : Other Questions About Language: Prose

It was a fine autumn morning; the early sun shone serenely on embrowned groves and still green fields; advancing on to the lawn, I looked up and surveyed the front of the mansion. It was three storeys high, of proportions not vast, though considerable: a gentleman’s manor-house, not a nobleman’s seat: battlements round the top gave it a picturesque look. …Farther off were hills: not so lofty as those round Lowood, nor so craggy, nor so like barriers of separation from the living world; but yet quiet and lonely hills enough, and seeming to embrace Thornfield with a seclusion I had not expected to find existent so near the stirring locality of Millcote. A little hamlet, whose roofs were blent with trees, straggled up the side of one of these hills; the church of the district stood nearer Thornfield: its old tower-top looked over a knoll between the house and gates.

I was yet enjoying the calm prospect and pleasant fresh air, yet listening with delight to the cawing of the rooks, yet surveying the wide, hoary front of the hall, and thinking what a great place it was for one lonely little dame like Mrs. Fairfax to inhabit, when that lady appeared at the door.

“What! out already?” said she.  “I see you are an early riser.”  I went up to her, and was received with an affable kiss and shake of the hand.

(1847)

Based on context, what word could be substituted for “stirring” (paragraph 1)?

Possible Answers:

Bucolic

Emotional

Humdrum

Embroiled

Vivacious

Correct answer:

Vivacious

Explanation:

In the sentence in question, “stirring” is contrasted with the words quiet, lonely, and seclusion. We can tell we’re looking for an antonym to these three words, and “vivacious,” or “lively,” is the closest choice. Embroiled is too negative a word for the tone of the passage, and emotional is too vague.

Passage adapted from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre: An Autobiography. (1847)

Example Question #4 : Other Questions About Language: Prose

… The figure of that first ancestor, invested by family tradition with a dim and dusky grandeur, was present to my boyish imagination as far back as I can remember. It still haunts me, and induces a sort of home-feeling with the past, which I scarcely claim in reference to the present phase of the town. I seem to have a stronger claim to a residence here on account of this grave, bearded, sable-cloaked, and steeple-crowned progenitor—who came so early, with his Bible and his sword, and trode the unworn street with such a stately port, and made so large a figure, as a man of war and peace—a stronger claim than for myself, whose name is seldom heard and my face hardly known. He was a soldier, legislator, judge; he was a ruler in the Church; he had all the Puritanic traits, both good and evil. He was likewise a bitter persecutor; as witness the Quakers, who have remembered him in their histories, and relate an incident of his hard severity towards a woman of their sect, which will last longer, it is to be feared, than any record of his better deeds, although these were many. His son, too, inherited the persecuting spirit, and made himself so conspicuous in the martyrdom of the witches, that their blood may fairly be said to have left a stain upon him. So deep a stain, indeed, that his dry old bones, in the Charter-street burial-ground, must still retain it, if they have not crumbled utterly to dust! I know not whether these ancestors of mine bethought themselves to repent, and ask pardon of Heaven for their cruelties; or whether they are now groaning under the heavy consequences of them in another state of being.

(1850)

In sentence 2, what might be the best synonym for “home-feeling”?

Possible Answers:

Censure

Qualms

Effervescence

Domesticity

Kinship

Correct answer:

Kinship

Explanation:

Simply by substituting these words into sentence 2, we can surmise that “kinship” fits best. The narrator is describing the fondness he feels for his family’s past. Qualms, or reservations, and censure, or criticism, does not make sense in this context. Nor does effervescence, which is the quality of being bubbly. "Domesticity" refers to family life or home life, and is a related concept, but it’s not a better choice than kinship.

Passage adapted from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. (1850)

Example Question #5 : Other Questions About Language: Prose

We went tiptoeing along a path amongst the trees back towards the end of the widow's garden, stooping down so as the branches wouldn't scrape our heads. When we was passing by the kitchen I fell over a root and made a noise. We scrouched down and laid still. …Jim was setting in the kitchen door; we could see him pretty clear, because there was a light behind him.  He got up and stretched his neck out about a minute, listening. Then he says:

“Who dah?”

He listened some more; then he come tiptoeing down and stood right between us; we could a touched him, nearly. Well, likely it was minutes and minutes that there warn't a sound, and we all there so close together. There was a place on my ankle that got to itching, but I dasn't scratch it; and then my ear begun to itch; and next my back, right between my shoulders. Seemed like I'd die if I couldn't scratch. Well, I've noticed that thing plenty times since. If you are with the quality, or at a funeral, or trying to go to sleep when you ain't sleepy—if you are anywheres where it won't do for you to scratch, why you will itch all over in upwards of a thousand places.

The word “scrouched” (sentence 3) is an example of what kind of word?

Possible Answers:

Loan word

Onomatopoeia

Allusion

Portmanteau

Witticism

Correct answer:

Portmanteau

Explanation:

A portmanteau is a neologism (new word) created by combining two existing words (e.g. Spanish + English = Spanglish). In this case, the author has combined “scrunched” and “crouched” to give an accurate and amusing description of the posture his characters are adapting.

Passage adapted from Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884).

Example Question #6 : Other Questions About Language: Prose

 (1) During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country, and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher. (2) I know not how it was—but, with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit. (3) I say insufferable; for the feeling was unrelieved by any of that half-pleasurable, because poetic, sentiment, with which the mind usually receives even the sternest natural images of the desolate or terrible. (4) I looked upon the scene before me—upon the mere house, and the simple landscape features of the domain—upon the bleak walls—upon the vacant eye-like windows—upon a few rank sedges—and upon a few white trunks of decayed trees—with an utter depression of soul which I can compare to no earthly sensation more properly than to the after-dream of the reveller upon opium—the bitter lapse into every-day life—the hideous dropping off of the veil.

What is the function of the phrase “the hideous dropping off of the veil” (sentence 4)?

Possible Answers:

It is an analogy for a grotesque person removing a face covering

It clarifies that the speaker has shed his illusions after seeing the house in person

It is an allusion to the return to consciousness from a drugged state

It is an allusion to being jilted at the altar

It is a poetic way to describe the speaker’s spirits sinking

Correct answer:

It is an allusion to the return to consciousness from a drugged state

Explanation:

This phrase is presented in sentence 4 as an equivalent phrase to “the after-dream of the reveller upon opium—the bitter lapse into every-day life,” meaning that “an allusion to the return to consciousness from a drugged state” is the best choice. All the other choices, while perhaps relevant to the idea of a veil, lack textual relevance.

Passage adapted from Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher,” (1839).

Example Question #7 : Other Questions About Language: Prose

From The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane (1875)

After complicated journeyings with many pauses, there had come months of monotonous life in a camp. He had had the belief that real war was a series of death struggles with small time in between for sleep and meals; but since his regiment had come to the field the army had done little but sit still and try to keep warm.

He was brought then gradually back to his old ideas. Greek-like struggles would be no more. Men were better, or more timid. Secular and religious education had effaced the throat-grappling instinct, or else firm finance held in check the passions.

He had grown to regard himself merely as a part of a vast blue demonstration. His province was to look out, as far as he could, for his personal comfort. For recreation he could twiddle his thumbs and speculate on the thoughts which must agitate the minds of the generals. Also, he was drilled and drilled and reviewed, and drilled and drilled and reviewed.

The only foes he had seen were some pickets along the river bank. They were a sun-tanned, philosophical lot, who sometimes shot reflectively at the blue pickets. When reproached for this afterward, they usually expressed sorrow, and swore by their gods that the guns had exploded without their permission. The youth, on guard duty one night, conversed across the stream with one of them. He was a slightly ragged man, who spat skillfully between his shoes and possessed a great fund of bland and infantile assurance. The youth liked him personally.

"Yank," the other had informed him, "yer a right dum good feller." This sentiment, floating to him upon the still air, had made him temporarily regret war.

Various veterans had told him tales. Some talked of gray, bewhiskered hordes who were advancing with relentless curses and chewing tobacco with unspeakable valor; tremendous bodies of fierce soldiery who were sweeping along like the Huns. Others spoke of tattered and eternally hungry men who fired despondent powders. "They'll charge through hell's fire an' brimstone t' git a holt on a haversack, an' sech stomachs ain't a'lastin' long," he was told. From the stories, the youth imagined the red, live bones sticking out through slits in the faded uniforms.

Still, he could not put a whole faith in veteran's tales, for recruits were their prey. They talked much of smoke, fire, and blood, but he could not tell how much might be lies. They persistently yelled "Fresh fish!" at him, and were in no wise to be trusted.

However, he perceived now that it did not greatly matter what kind of soldiers he was going to fight, so long as they fought, which fact no one disputed. There was a more serious problem. He lay in his bunk pondering upon it. He tried to mathematically prove to himself that he would not run from a battle.

Previously he had never felt obliged to wrestle too seriously with this question. In his life he had taken certain things for granted, never challenging his belief in ultimate success, and bothering little about means and roads. But here he was confronted with a thing of moment. It had suddenly appeared to him that perhaps in a battle he might run. He was forced to admit that as far as war was concerned he knew nothing of himself.

A sufficient time before he would have allowed the problem to kick its heels at the outer portals of his mind, but now he felt compelled to give serious attention to it.

What is the implicit contrast in the underlined selection?

Possible Answers:

Animosity toward enemies and sympathy for their mutual humanity

An intellectual person and one whose grammar shows that he is not intelligent

Two types of interpersonal communication

The kindness of Southern fighters and the crassness of Northern ones during the Civil War

Southern and Northern forms of hospitality during the Civil War

Correct answer:

Animosity toward enemies and sympathy for their mutual humanity

Explanation:

When the one soldier heard the words of the enemy, he regretted war. The idea is that the words strike the other man to the heart—he realizes that they are not great foes but really are merely men in an unfortunate situation. The contrast is between his regret for war and an assumed lack of such regret. (He only temporarily regrets war.) Thus, there is a contrast between a kind of animosity and a kind of sympathy.

Example Question #8 : Other Questions About Language: Prose

There are days which occur in this climate, at almost any season of the year, wherein the world reaches its perfection, when the air, the heavenly bodies, and the earth, make a harmony, as if nature would indulge her offspring; when, in these bleak upper sides of the planet, nothing is to desire that we have heard of the happiest latitudes, and we bask in the shining hours of Florida and Cuba; when everything that has life gives sign of satisfaction, and the cattle that lie on the ground seem to have great and tranquil thoughts. 2. These halcyons may be looked for with a little more assurance in that pure October weather, which we distinguish by the name of the Indian Summer.  3. The day, immeasurably long, sleeps over the broad hills and warm wide fields. 4. To have lived through all its sunny hours, seems longevity enough. 5. The solitary places do not seem quite lonely. 6. At the gates of the forest, the surprised man of the world is forced to leave his city estimates of great and small, wise and foolish. 7. The knapsack of custom falls off his back with the first step he makes into these precincts. 8. Here is sanctity which shames our religions, and reality which discredits our heroes. 9. Here we find nature to be the circumstance which dwarfs every other circumstance, and judges like a god all men that come to her. 10. We have crept out of our close and crowded houses into the night and morning, and we see what majestic beauties daily wrap us in their bosom. 11. How willingly we would escape the barriers which render them comparatively impotent, escape the sophistication and second thought, and suffer nature to intrance us. 12. The tempered light of the woods is like a perpetual morning, and is stimulating and heroic. 13. The anciently reported spells of these places creep on us. 14. The stems of pines, hemlocks, and oaks, almost gleam like iron on the excited eye. 15. The incommunicable trees begin to persuade us to live with them, and quit our life of solemn trifles. 16. Here no history, or church, or state, is interpolated on the divine sky and the immortal year. 17. How easily we might walk onward into the opening landscape, absorbed by new pictures, and by thoughts fast succeeding each other, until by degrees the recollection of home was crowded out of the mind, all memory obliterated by the tyranny of the present, and we were led in triumph by nature.

The imagery of the passage suggests a connection between:


I. Civilization and alienation
II. Nature and holiness
III. Beauty and human community

Possible Answers:

I only

II and III only

I, II, and III

II only

I and II only

Correct answer:

I and II only

Explanation:

The passage shows a connection between civilization and alienation. The man who leaves society and goes alone into nature discovers that human institutions (religion, history, heroism, the state) pale in comparison to their counterparts in nature. As the man leaves civilization, he also leaves the inauthentic and the disconnected.

The passage links nature with holiness through images of "sanctity which shames our religions" and "solitary places" where one is never quite alone, as well as the assertion that nature judges human beings "like a god."

The author does not associate beauty with human community. He states that the further away he gets from human society and forms of thought, the better able he is to perceive the "majestic beauties" of nature.

Passage adapted from Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Essay VI, Nature" (1836)

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