SAT II Literature : Word Choice and Connotation: Poetry

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT II Literature

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Word Choice And Connotation

A Late Walk

1          When I go up through the mowing field,
2          The headless aftermath,
3          Smooth-laid like thatch with the heavy dew,
4          Half closes the garden path.

5          And when I come to the garden ground,
6          The whir of sober birds
7          Up from the tangle of withered weeds
8          Is sadder than any words

9          A tree beside the wall stands bare,
10        But a leaf that lingered brown,
11        Disturbed, I doubt not, by my thought,
12        Comes softly rattling down.

13        I end not far from my going forth
14        By picking the faded blue
15        Of the last remaining aster flower
16        To carry again to you.

The following connotes the imagery of warfare:

Possible Answers:

"Disturbed, I doubt not, by my thought," (line 11)

"the last remaining aster flower" (line 15)

"The whir of sober birds" (line 6)

"headless aftermath" (line 2)

"Comes softly rattling down." (line 12)

Correct answer:

"headless aftermath" (line 2)

Explanation:

An aftermath is the consequence of a disaster, like a war. The imagery of "headless aftermath" implies a farmer who has, in some way, defeated the fields.

Example Question #2 : Word Choice And Connotation

A Late Walk

1          When I go up through the mowing field,
2          The headless aftermath,
3          Smooth-laid like thatch with the heavy dew,
4          Half closes the garden path.

5          And when I come to the garden ground,
6          The whir of sober birds
7          Up from the tangle of withered weeds
8          Is sadder than any words

9          A tree beside the wall stands bare,
10        But a leaf that lingered brown,
11        Disturbed, I doubt not, by my thought,
12        Comes softly rattling down.

13        I end not far from my going forth
14        By picking the faded blue
15        Of the last remaining aster flower
16        To carry again to you.

The phrase "sober birds" (line 6) implies that even the birds are                      .

Possible Answers:

playful to a fault

delusional about the encroaching severe weather

serious and sad about the changing season

not intoxicated on drink

irresponsible about foraging

Correct answer:

serious and sad about the changing season

Explanation:

The "sober birds" (line 6) are serious and sad. The poet, Robert Frost, even calls their busy "whir" (line 6) "sadder than any words" (line 8). Their sobriety indicates a clarity of vision and purpose in the face of winter.

Example Question #1 : Word Choice And Connotation: Poetry

A Late Walk

1          When I go up through the mowing field,
2          The headless aftermath,
3          Smooth-laid like thatch with the heavy dew,
4          Half closes the garden path.

5          And when I come to the garden ground,
6          The whir of sober birds
7          Up from the tangle of withered weeds
8          Is sadder than any words

9          A tree beside the wall stands bare,
10        But a leaf that lingered brown,
11        Disturbed, I doubt not, by my thought,
12        Comes softly rattling down.

13        I end not far from my going forth
14        By picking the faded blue
15        Of the last remaining aster flower
16        To carry again to you.

In line 14, the adjective "faded" contributes to what?

Possible Answers:

The abundance of nature imagery in the poem

The lightheartedness of the poem

The speaker's symbolic rebirth

The elegiac style of the poem

The pastoral character of the poem

Correct answer:

The elegiac style of the poem

Explanation:

The "faded blue" of line 14 contributes to the poems overall elegiac style (that is, its mournful design). For the speaker, even the blue of the aster flower has been dulled.

Example Question #4 : Word Choice And Connotation

My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree

    Toward heaven still,

    And there's a barrel that I didn't fill

    Beside it, and there may be two or three

    Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.

    But I am done with apple-picking now.

    Essence of winter sleep is on the night,

    The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.

Based on context, to what does “Essence of winter sleep” likely refer?

Possible Answers:

Wood smoke

The smell of winter

The coldest days of winter

Snow

Hypothermia

Correct answer:

The smell of winter

Explanation:

Based on the context, some of these choices are too specific for the poem: snow, the coldest days of winter, hypothermia, and wood smoke are all more particular than the surrounding lines. Given the use of scent in the following line, the best answer to encapsulate the “essence” of winter nights is the smell of those nights.

Passage adapted from Robert Frost’s “After Apple-Picking.” North of Boston. (1915)

Example Question #2 : Word Choice And Connotation: Poetry

Adapted from Walt Whitman's "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" in Leaves of Grass (1855)

1

Flood-tide below me! I see you face to face!
Clouds of the west—sun there half an hour high—I see you also face to face.

Crowds of men and women attired in the usual costumes, how curious you are to me!
On the ferry-boats the hundreds and hundreds that cross, returning home, are more curious to me than you suppose,
And you that shall cross from shore to shore years hence are more to me, and more in my meditations, than you might suppose.



2

The impalpable sustenance of me from all things at all hours of the day,
The simple, compact, well-join’d scheme, myself disintegrated, every one disintegrated yet part of the scheme,
The similitudes of the past and those of the future,
The glories strung like beads on my smallest sights and hearings, on the walk in the street and the passage over the river,
The current rushing so swiftly and swimming with me far away,
The others that are to follow me, the ties between me and them,
The certainty of others, the life, love, sight, hearing of others. 

Others will enter the gates of the ferry and cross from shore to shore,
Others will watch the run of the flood-tide,
Others will see the shipping of Manhattan north and west, and the heights of Brooklyn to the south and east,
Others will see the islands large and small;
Fifty years hence, others will see them as they cross, the sun half an hour high,
A hundred years hence, or ever so many hundred years hence, others will see them,
Will enjoy the sunset, the pouring-in of the flood-tide, the falling-back to the sea of the ebb-tide.
 

3

It avails not, time nor place—distance avails not,
I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever so many generations hence,
Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt,
Just as any of you is one of a living crowd, I was one of a crowd,
Just as you are refresh’d by the gladness of the river and the bright flow, I was refresh’d,
Just as you stand and lean on the rail, yet hurry with the swift current, I stood yet was hurried,
Just as you look on the numberless masts of ships and the thick-stemm’d pipes of steamboats, I look’d.

I too many and many a time cross’d the river of old,
Watched the Twelfth-month sea-gulls, saw them high in the air floating with motionless wings, oscillating their bodies,
Saw how the glistening yellow lit up parts of their bodies and left the rest in strong shadow,
Saw the slow-wheeling circles and the gradual edging toward the south,
Saw the reflection of the summer sky in the water,
Had my eyes dazzled by the shimmering track of beams . . .

The use of the underlined phrase "usual costumes" in line 3 serves to highlight which of the following?

I. The normality of the scene
II. The contingent, nonessential nature of how people dress
III. The many notable clothing styles present
IV. How strange the scene seems to the speaker

Possible Answers:

I and IV only

I and II only

I, II, III, and IV

I, II, and IV only

I, II, and III only

Correct answer:

I, II, and IV only

Explanation:

"Usual" highlights how common the scene is, and "costumes" suggests fashion is historically, culturally, and socially contingent. The juxtaposition of the two creates a sense of uncanniness. No emphasis is placed on the particulars of how people are dressed.

Example Question #63 : Interpreting Words

1 Suddenly I saw the cold and rook-delighting Heaven

2 That seemed as though ice burned and was but the more ice,

3 And thereupon imagination and heart were driven

4 So wild that every casual thought of that and this

5 Vanished, and left but memories, that should be out of season

6 With the hot blood of youth, of love crossed long ago;

7 And I took all the blame out of all sense and reason,

8 Until I cried and trembled and rocked to and fro,

9 Riddled with light. Ah! when the ghost begins to quicken,

10 Confusion of the death-bed over, is it sent

11 Out naked on the roads, as the books say, and stricken

12 By the injustice of the skies for punishment?

(1916)

 

What is the "ghost" in line 9 referring to?

Possible Answers:

A mythical spirit that inhabits the sky

Someone being revived from death

A malevolent spirit summoned by magic

The soul of someone who has died

The spirit of a dead person appearing in visible form

Correct answer:

The soul of someone who has died

Explanation:

Context reveals that the "ghost" mentioned in line 9 refers to the soul of someone who has died. This is particularly clear from the mention of the "confusion of the death-bed" (line 10). The speaker is so impressed by the size and brightness of the sky that it makes him reflect on death and his uncertainty concerning the afterlife.

Passage adapted from William Butler Yeats' "The Cold Heaven" (1916)

Example Question #3 : Word Choice And Connotation: Poetry

1                  In silent night when rest I took,

2                  For sorrow near I did not look,

3                  I wakened was with thund’ring noise

4                  And piteous shrieks of dreadful voice.

5                  That fearful sound of “fire” and “fire,”

6                  Let no man know is my Desire.

7                  I, starting up, the light did spy,

8                  And to my God my heart did cry

9                  To straighten me in my Distress

10               And not to leave me succourless.

11               Then, coming out, behold a space

12               The flame consume my dwelling place.

13               And when I could no longer look,

14               I blest His name that gave and took,

15               That laid my goods now in the dust.

16               Yea, so it was, and so ‘twas just.

17               It was his own, it was not mine,

18               Far be it that I should repine;

19               He might of all justly bereft

20               But yet sufficient for us left.

21               When by the ruins oft I past

22               My sorrowing eyes aside did cast

23               And here and there the places spy

24               Where oft I sate and long did lie.

25               Here stood that trunk, and there that chest,

26               There lay that store I counted best.

27               My pleasant things in ashes lie

28               And them behold no more shall I.

29               Under thy roof no guest shall sit,

30               Nor at thy Table eat a bit.

31               No pleasant talk shall ‘ere be told

32               Nor things recounted done of old.

33               No Candle e'er shall shine in Thee,

34               Nor bridegroom’s voice e'er heard shall be.

35               In silence ever shalt thou lie,

36               Adieu, Adieu, all’s vanity.

37               Then straight I ‘gin my heart to chide,

38               And did thy wealth on earth abide?

39               Didst fix thy hope on mould'ring dust?

40               The arm of flesh didst make thy trust?

41               Raise up thy thoughts above the sky

42               That dunghill mists away may fly.

43               Thou hast a house on high erect

44               Framed by that mighty Architect,

45               With glory richly furnished,

46               Stands permanent though this be fled.

47               It’s purchased and paid for too

48               By Him who hath enough to do.

49               A price so vast as is unknown,

50               Yet by His gift is made thine own;

51               There’s wealth enough, I need no more,

52               Farewell, my pelf, farewell, my store.

53               The world no longer let me love,

54               My hope and treasure lies above.

 

(1666)

Lines 30-34 all begin with "No" or "Nor." What is the effect of this repetition?

Possible Answers:

It draws attention to the speaker's materialistic obsession

It highlights the material amount lost by the speaker

It shows how much the speaker valued her things for the memories they gave her

It contributes to the doubting tone of the poem

It emphasizes the building anger within the speaker

Correct answer:

It highlights the material amount lost by the speaker

Explanation:

The content of these lines is essentially a list of the things she has lost; by beginning each line with a negation, the author is able to show the reader how much the speaker has lost in the fire.

Passage adapted from Anne Bradstreet's "Upon the Burning of our House" (1666)

Example Question #4 : Word Choice And Connotation: Poetry


To the Dead in the Grave-Yard Under My Window
by Adelaide Crapsey (1878 - 1915)

  1. How can you lie so still? All day I watch
  2. And never a blade of all the green sod moves
  3. To show where restlessly you toss and turn,
  4. And fling a desperate arm or draw up knees
  5. Stiffened and aching from their long disuse;
  6. I watch all night and not one ghost comes forth
  7. To take its freedom of the midnight hour.
  8. Oh, have you no rebellion in your bones?
  9. The very worms must scorn you where you lie,
  10. A pallid mouldering acquiescent folk,
  11. Meek habitants of unresented graves.
  12. Why are you there in your straight row on row
  13. Where I must ever see you from my bed
  14. That in your mere dumb presence iterate
  15. The text so weary in my ears: “Lie still
  16. And rest; be patient and lie still and rest.”
  17. I’ll not be patient! I will not lie still!

The diction of the poem is most distinctly characterized by _________________.

Possible Answers:

arcane syntax

impassioned castigation

abundant metaphor

romantic allusion

humorous contrast

Correct answer:

impassioned castigation

Explanation:

The speaker's diction is characterized by impassioned castigation of the dead to whom she's speaking. She does not speak metaphorically; her syntax is not especially arcane; she does not make romantic allusions to anything. You could argue that she is drawing a humorous contrast between the "acquiescent" stillness of the dead and her own enforced immobility. But it's not clear that this is intended to be funny. Also, the question is asking about her diction overall. The answer that best applies to the poem as a whole is clearly "impassioned castigation."

Example Question #8 : Word Choice And Connotation

When my mother died I was very young, 
And my father sold me while yet my tongue 
Could scarcely cry " 'weep! 'weep! 'weep! 'weep!" 
So your chimneys I sweep & in soot I sleep. 
 
There's little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head 
That curled like a lamb's back, was shaved, so I said, 
"Hush, Tom! never mind it, for when your head's bare, 
You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair." 
 
And so he was quiet, & that very night, 
As Tom was a-sleeping he had such a sight! 
That thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned, & Jack, 
Were all of them locked up in coffins of black; 
 
And by came an Angel who had a bright key, 
And he opened the coffins & set them all free; 
Then down a green plain, leaping, laughing they run, 
And wash in a river and shine in the Sun. 
 
Then naked & white, all their bags left behind, 
They rise upon clouds, and sport in the wind. 
And the Angel told Tom, if he'd be a good boy, 
He'd have God for his father & never want joy. 
 
And so Tom awoke; and we rose in the dark 
And got with our bags & our brushes to work. 
Though the morning was cold, Tom was happy & warm; 
So if all do their duty, they need not fear harm. 

(1789)

William Blake's diction shifts halfway through the poem. Which pair of words best describe the type of connotative diction in the beginning and in the end of the poem? 

Possible Answers:

Melancholy . . . Pure

Tragic . . . Ominous 

Agoraphobic . . . Holy

Frightening . . . Elated

Religious . . . Cleansing

Correct answer:

Melancholy . . . Pure

Explanation:

This is the correct answer because Blake's diction is very dark and melancholy in the first part of the poem, using words such as "cried," "spoil," "locked," "coffins," and "black." He then goes on to use words with positive connotations reminiscent of purity and holiness, such as "Angel," "bright," "wash," "sun," "happy," and "warm."

Passage adapted from William Blake's Songs of Innocence (1789).

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