SSAT Upper Level Reading : Determining Authorial Tone in Argumentative Social Science Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SSAT Upper Level Reading

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Example Questions

Example Question #24 : Analyzing Authorial Tone And Method In Social Science Or History Passages

Adapted from The Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln (1863)

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow, this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

The author’s tone in the final sentence is best described as __________.

Possible Answers:

awed

determined

contemplative 

resigned 

jubilant 

Correct answer:

determined

Explanation:

The last sentence of this passage is similar, but not identical, in tone the whole of the passage. Whereas most of the passage is primarily respectful or somber in tone—focusing on remembrance of past events—the conclusion provides a guide for future conduct. The author says that “we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” The use of the phrase “highly resolve” is an indicator that the author’s tone is primarily determined. Awed implies a mixture of wonder and fear; contemplative means thoughtful; jubilant means very happy; resigned means to accept reluctantly.

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