SSAT Upper Level Reading : Finding Context-Dependent Meanings of Phrases in Literary Fiction Passages

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

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Example Questions

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Example Question #2 : Understanding And Evaluating Opinions And Arguments In Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from The Fight at the Pass of Thermopylæ by Charlotte M. Yonge (1876)

The troops sent for this purpose were from different cities, and amounted to about 4,000 who were to keep the pass against two millions. The leader of them was Leonidas, who had newly become one of the two kings of Sparta, the city that above all in Greece trained its sons to be hardy soldiers, dreading death infinitely less than shame. Leonidas had already made up his mind that the expedition would probably be his death, perhaps because a prophecy had been given at the Temple at Delphi that Sparta should be saved by the death of one of her kings of the race of Hercules. He was allowed by law to take with him 300 men, and these he chose most carefully, not merely for their strength and valor, but selecting those who had sons, so that no family might be altogether destroyed. These Spartans, with their helots or slaves, made up his own share of the numbers, but all the army was under his generalship. It is even said that the 300 celebrated their own funeral rites before they set out lest they should be deprived of them by the enemy, since, as we have already seen, it was the Greek belief that the spirits of the dead found no rest till their obsequies had been performed. Such preparations did not daunt the spirits of Leonidas and his men, and his wife, Gorgo, not a woman to be faint-hearted or hold him back. Long before, when she was a very little girl, a word of hers had saved her father from listening to a traitorous message from the King of Persia; and every Spartan lady was bred up to be able to say to those she best loved that they must come home from battle "with the shield or carried upon it."

Which of these sentences best restates the underlined portion of text, "Sparta, the city that above all in Greece trained its sons to be hardy soldiers, dreading death infinitely less than shame"?

Possible Answers:

None of these answers

Spartan soldiers were taught to fear death above everything else.

Spartan boys were told that dying in battle was deeply shameful.

Spartan soldiers were educated in the ways of philosophy and warfare.

Spartan soldiers were trained to fear embarrassment more than death.

Correct answer:

Spartan soldiers were trained to fear embarrassment more than death.

Explanation:

“Dreading” means greatly fearing, “infinitely” informally means a great deal, and “shame” means embarrassment, so Spartan soldiers were trained to dread embarrassment much less than death. 

Example Question #364 : Ssat Upper Level Reading Comprehension

Adapted from The Fight at the Pass of Thermopylæ by Charlotte M. Yonge (1876)

The troops sent for this purpose were from different cities, and amounted to about 4,000 who were to keep the pass against two millions. The leader of them was Leonidas, who had newly become one of the two kings of Sparta, the city that above all in Greece trained its sons to be hardy soldiers, dreading death infinitely less than shame. Leonidas had already made up his mind that the expedition would probably be his death, perhaps because a prophecy had been given at the Temple at Delphi that Sparta should be saved by the death of one of her kings of the race of Hercules. He was allowed by law to take with him 300 men, and these he chose most carefully, not merely for their strength and valor, but selecting those who had sons, so that no family might be altogether destroyed. These Spartans, with their helots or slaves, made up his own share of the numbers, but all the army was under his generalship. It is even said that the 300 celebrated their own funeral rites before they set out lest they should be deprived of them by the enemy, since, as we have already seen, it was the Greek belief that the spirits of the dead found no rest till their obsequies had been performed. Such preparations did not daunt the spirits of Leonidas and his men, and his wife, Gorgo, not a woman to be faint-hearted or hold him back. Long before, when she was a very little girl, a word of hers had saved her father from listening to a traitorous message from the King of Persia; and every Spartan lady was bred up to be able to say to those she best loved that they must come home from battle "with the shield or carried upon it."

Which of these best restates the message of the line "come home from battle 'with the shield or carried upon it'"?

Possible Answers:

Believe in the gods and they shall guide your shield in battle.

Come back victorious or having sacrificed your life.

If your life is danger, flee; do not desert your family.

Do not come back until the battle is won.

Come back with your shield or don’t bother.

Correct answer:

Come back victorious or having sacrificed your life.

Explanation:

We are told earlier in the passage that Spartan society instilled in every individual the importance of fearing shame more than death, so it can be inferred that when the author discusses how “every Spartan lady was bred up to be able to say to those she best loved that they must come home from battle 'with the shield or carried upon it'," he is highlighting the importance of self-sacrafice over individual preservation and that the line in question means come back victorious or else having sacrificed your life. 

Example Question #3 : Analyzing The Text In Literature Passages

Adapted from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (1876)

Within two minutes, or even less, he had forgotten all his troubles. Not because his troubles were one whit less heavy and bitter to him than a man's are to a man, but because a new and powerful interest bore them down and drove them out of his mind for the time—just as men's misfortunes are forgotten in the excitement of new enterprises. This new interest was a valued novelty in whistling, which he had just acquired, and he was suffering to practice it undisturbed. It consisted in a peculiar bird-like turn, a sort of liquid warble, produced by touching the tongue to the roof of the mouth at short intervals in the midst of the music—the reader probably remembers how to do it, if he has ever been a boy. Diligence and attention soon gave him the knack of it, and he strode down the street with his mouth full of harmony and his soul full of gratitude. He felt much as an astronomer feels who has discovered a new planet—no doubt, as far as strong, deep, unalloyed pleasure is concerned, the advantage was with the boy, not the astronomer.

The summer evenings were long. It was not dark, yet. Presently Tom checked his whistle. A stranger was before him—a boy a shade larger than himself. A newcomer of any age or either sex was an impressive curiosity in the poor little shabby village of St. Petersburg. This boy was well-dressed, too—well-dressed on a weekday. This was simply astounding. His cap was a dainty thing, his close-buttoned blue cloth roundabout was new and natty, and so were his pantaloons. He had shoes on—and it was only Friday. He even wore a necktie, a bright bit of ribbon. He had a citified air about him that ate into Tom's vitals. The more Tom stared at the splendid marvel, the higher he turned up his nose at his finery and the shabbier and shabbier his own outfit seemed to him to grow. Neither boy spoke. If one moved, the other moved—but only sidewise, in a circle; they kept face to face and eye to eye all the time.

Which of the following does the last sentence of the passage's first paragraph suggest?

Possible Answers:

Tom is upset for the same reasons as an astronomer might be.

Tom has just discovered a new planet.

Tom is likely not quite as happy as an astronomer who has discovered a new planet.

Astronomers often learn to whistle.

Tom is likely happier than an astronomer who has discovered a new planet.

Correct answer:

Tom is likely happier than an astronomer who has discovered a new planet.

Explanation:

The last line of the passage's first paragraph is, "He felt much as an astronomer feels who has discovered a new planet—no doubt, as far as strong, deep, unalloyed pleasure is concerned, the advantage was with the boy, not the astronomer." Let's analyze this line in detail. The first part of the line, "He felt much as an astronomer feels who has discovered a new planet," tells us that Tom feels as happy as an astronomer who has discovered a new planet. The rest of the line develops this comparison further, by telling us that "as far as strong, deep, unalloyed pleasure is concerned, the advantage was with the boy, not the astronomer." In other words, this latter part of the line is saying that Tom was not only as happy as the hypothetical astronomer, but likely actually happier, as he has "the advantage" "as far as strong, deep, unalloyed pleasure is concerned." So, the correct answer is "Tom is likely happier than an astronomer who has discovered a new planet."

Example Question #365 : Ssat Upper Level Reading Comprehension

Adapted from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (1876)

Within two minutes, or even less, he had forgotten all his troubles. Not because his troubles were one whit less heavy and bitter to him than a man's are to a man, but because a new and powerful interest bore them down and drove them out of his mind for the time—just as men's misfortunes are forgotten in the excitement of new enterprises. This new interest was a valued novelty in whistling, which he had just acquired, and he was suffering to practice it undisturbed. It consisted in a peculiar bird-like turn, a sort of liquid warble, produced by touching the tongue to the roof of the mouth at short intervals in the midst of the music—the reader probably remembers how to do it, if he has ever been a boy. Diligence and attention soon gave him the knack of it, and he strode down the street with his mouth full of harmony and his soul full of gratitude. He felt much as an astronomer feels who has discovered a new planet—no doubt, as far as strong, deep, unalloyed pleasure is concerned, the advantage was with the boy, not the astronomer.

The summer evenings were long. It was not dark, yet. Presently Tom checked his whistle. A stranger was before him—a boy a shade larger than himself. A newcomer of any age or either sex was an impressive curiosity in the poor little shabby village of St. Petersburg. This boy was well-dressed, too—well-dressed on a weekday. This was simply astounding. His cap was a dainty thing, his close-buttoned blue cloth roundabout was new and natty, and so were his pantaloons. He had shoes on—and it was only Friday. He even wore a necktie, a bright bit of ribbon. He had a citified air about him that ate into Tom's vitals. The more Tom stared at the splendid marvel, the higher he turned up his nose at his finery and the shabbier and shabbier his own outfit seemed to him to grow. Neither boy spoke. If one moved, the other moved—but only sidewise, in a circle; they kept face to face and eye to eye all the time.

In context, the underlined phrase "the knack of it" most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

confusion about it

a hard time with it

an upsetting experience with it

the skill to do it

a notch in it

Correct answer:

the skill to do it

Explanation:

The phrase "the knack of it" appears in the following sentence in the passage's first paragraph, which discuss's Tom's experience learning to whistle: "Diligence and attention soon gave him the knack of it, and he strode down the street with his mouth full of harmony and his soul full of gratitude." We can tell that Tom successfully learned to whistle because the next sentence compares his happiness to that of an astronomer who has just discovered a new planet. So, based on the context in which the phrase is used in the passage, the correct answer is "the skill to do it."

Example Question #1 : Finding Context Dependent Meanings Of Phrases In Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (1883)

He was a very silent man by custom. All day he hung round the cove or upon the cliffs with a brass telescope; all evening he sat in a corner of the parlor next the fire and drank rum and water very strong. Mostly he would not speak when spoken to, only look up sudden and fierce and blow through his nose like a fog-horn; and we and the people who came about our house soon learned to let him be. Every day when he came back from his stroll he would ask if any seafaring men had gone by along the road. At first we thought it was the want of company of his own kind that made him ask this question, but at last we began to see he was desirous to avoid them. When a seaman did put up at the Admiral Benbow (as now and then some did, making by the coast road for Bristol) he would look in at him through the curtained door before he entered the parlor; and he was always sure to be as silent as a mouse when any such was present. For me, at least, there was no secret about the matter, for I was, in a way, a sharer in his alarms. He had taken me aside one day and promised me a silver fourpenny on the first of every month if I would only keep my "weather-eye open for a seafaring man with one leg" and let him know the moment he appeared. Often enough when the first of the month came round and I applied to him for my wage, he would only blow through his nose at me and stare me down, but before the week was out he was sure to think better of it, bring me my four-penny piece, and repeat his orders to look out for "the seafaring man with one leg.”

How that personage haunted my dreams, I need scarcely tell you. I would see him in a thousand forms, and with a thousand diabolical expressions. Now the leg would be cut off at the knee, now at the hip; now he was a monstrous kind of a creature who had never had but the one leg, and that in the middle of his body. To see him leap and run and pursue me over hedge and ditch was the worst of nightmares. And altogether I paid pretty dear for my monthly fourpenny piece, in the shape of these abominable fancies.

The man in the passage asks the writer if he will “keep [his] ‘weather-eye open for a seafaring man with one leg’.” Which of the following most accurately restates the meaning of “keep his weather eye open for” in this phrase?

Possible Answers:

Leave a window open for

Be on the watch for

Do a favor for

Pay attention to the weather for

Be suspicious of

Correct answer:

Be on the watch for

Explanation:

To “keep a weather-eye open” for something means to look out carefully for that thing or person, or in other words, to be on the watch for him, her, or it. “Pay attention to the weather for” doesn’t make sense in the passage. “Do a favor for” and “be suspicious of” might seem like potentially correct answers, but since the man with the wooden leg isn’t actually a character in the same location as the man described in the passage and the narrator, neither of these answer choices make sense. If you thought that a “weather-eye” was a type of window, you may have chosen “leave a window open for,” but again, this makes no sense in the context of the passage.

Example Question #2 : Finding Context Dependent Meanings Of Phrases In Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (1883)

He was a very silent man by custom. All day he hung round the cove or upon the cliffs with a brass telescope; all evening he sat in a corner of the parlor next the fire and drank rum and water very strong. Mostly he would not speak when spoken to, only look up sudden and fierce and blow through his nose like a fog-horn; and we and the people who came about our house soon learned to let him be. Every day when he came back from his stroll he would ask if any seafaring men had gone by along the road. At first we thought it was the want of company of his own kind that made him ask this question, but at last we began to see he was desirous to avoid them. When a seaman did put up at the Admiral Benbow (as now and then some did, making by the coast road for Bristol) he would look in at him through the curtained door before he entered the parlor; and he was always sure to be as silent as a mouse when any such was present. For me, at least, there was no secret about the matter, for I was, in a way, a sharer in his alarms. He had taken me aside one day and promised me a silver fourpenny on the first of every month if I would only keep my "weather-eye open for a seafaring man with one leg" and let him know the moment he appeared. Often enough when the first of the month came round and I applied to him for my wage, he would only blow through his nose at me and stare me down, but before the week was out he was sure to think better of it, bring me my four-penny piece, and repeat his orders to look out for "the seafaring man with one leg.”

How that personage haunted my dreams, I need scarcely tell you. I would see him in a thousand forms, and with a thousand diabolical expressions. Now the leg would be cut off at the knee, now at the hip; now he was a monstrous kind of a creature who had never had but the one leg, and that in the middle of his body. To see him leap and run and pursue me over hedge and ditch was the worst of nightmares. And altogether I paid pretty dear for my monthly fourpenny piece, in the shape of these abominable fancies.

“That personage,” underlined in the second paragraph, refers to __________.

Possible Answers:

Admiral Benbow

the owner of the inn

the seafaring man with one leg

the narrator

the man who pays the speaker a fourpenny piece each month

Correct answer:

the seafaring man with one leg

Explanation:

You need to pay attention to the transition between the passage’s two paragraphs to get this question correct. At the end of the first passage, we are told, “Often enough when the first of the month came round and I applied to him for my wage, he would only blow through his nose at me and stare me down, but before the week was out he was sure to think better of it, bring me my four-penny piece, and repeat his orders to look out for "the seafaring man with one leg.” Then, the second paragraph begins, “How that personage haunted my dreams, I need scarcely tell you.” The past person mentioned in the first paragraph was “the seafaring man with one leg,” so that is the correct answer.

Example Question #5 : Analyzing The Text In Literature Passages

Adapted from Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (1883)

He was a very silent man by custom. All day he hung round the cove or upon the cliffs with a brass telescope; all evening he sat in a corner of the parlor next the fire and drank rum and water very strong. Mostly he would not speak when spoken to, only look up sudden and fierce and blow through his nose like a fog-horn; and we and the people who came about our house soon learned to let him be. Every day when he came back from his stroll he would ask if any seafaring men had gone by along the road. At first we thought it was the want of company of his own kind that made him ask this question, but at last we began to see he was desirous to avoid them. When a seaman did put up at the Admiral Benbow (as now and then some did, making by the coast road for Bristol) he would look in at him through the curtained door before he entered the parlor; and he was always sure to be as silent as a mouse when any such was present. For me, at least, there was no secret about the matter, for I was, in a way, a sharer in his alarms. He had taken me aside one day and promised me a silver fourpenny on the first of every month if I would only keep my "weather-eye open for a seafaring man with one leg" and let him know the moment he appeared. Often enough when the first of the month came round and I applied to him for my wage, he would only blow through his nose at me and stare me down, but before the week was out he was sure to think better of it, bring me my four-penny piece, and repeat his orders to look out for "the seafaring man with one leg.”

How that personage haunted my dreams, I need scarcely tell you. I would see him in a thousand forms, and with a thousand diabolical expressions. Now the leg would be cut off at the knee, now at the hip; now he was a monstrous kind of a creature who had never had but the one leg, and that in the middle of his body. To see him leap and run and pursue me over hedge and ditch was the worst of nightmares. And altogether I paid pretty dear for my monthly fourpenny piece, in the shape of these abominable fancies.

The underlined sentence tells us that the man being described __________.

Possible Answers:

knows how to operate a fog-horn

looks like a fog-horn

is talkative

blows his nose loudly

owns a fog-horn

Correct answer:

blows his nose loudly

Explanation:

This question focuses a great deal on the phrase “blow through his nose like a fog-horn.” There is no literal fog-horn in the story; this description is a simile saying that the man blowing his nose is comparable to a fog-horn. So, the answer choice “owns a fog-horn” can be eliminated. The comparison is being made between the sound the man makes when he blows his nose and the sound a fog-horn makes, not anything to do with their appearances being similar, so “looks like a fog-horn” can be eliminated as well. “Knows how to operate a fog-horn” isn’t correct either, as “like a fog-horn” isn’t suggesting that the man blew his nose in the same manner as he might operate a fog horn; instead, “like a fog horn” is a use of figurative language making a comparison. This leaves us with “is talkative” and “blows his nose loudly.” We can tell that the man is not talkative because the sentence specifically says that “Mostly he would not speak when spoken to.” So, the correct answer is “blows his nose loudly.” This is the main point the comparison to a fog-horn is making.

Example Question #3 : Finding Context Dependent Meanings Of Phrases In Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from "The Three Musketeers" in Volume Sixteen of The Romances of Alexandre Dumas (1844; 1893 ed.)

As they rode along, the duke endeavored to draw from d'Artagnan not all that had happened, but what d'Artagnan himself knew. By adding all that he heard from the mouth of the young man to his own remembrances, he was enabled to form a pretty exact idea of a position of the seriousness of which, for the rest, the queen's letter, short but explicit, gave him the clue. But that which astonished him most was that the cardinal, so deeply interested in preventing this young man from setting his foot in England, had not succeeded in arresting him on the road. It was then, upon the manifestation of this astonishment, that d'Artagnan related to him the precaution taken, and how, thanks to the devotion of his three friends, whom he had left scattered and bleeding on the road, he had succeeded in coming off with a single sword thrust, which had pierced the queen's letter and for which he had repaid Monsieur de Wardes with such terrible coin. While he was listening to this recital, delivered with the greatest simplicity, the duke looked from time to time at the young man with astonishment, as if he could not comprehend how so much prudence, courage, and devotedness could be allied with a countenance which indicated not more than twenty years.

The horses went like the wind, and in a few minutes they were at the gates of London. D'Artagnan imagined that on arriving in town the duke would slacken his pace, but it was not so. He kept on his way at the same rate, heedless about upsetting those whom he met on the road. In fact, in crossing the city two or three accidents of this kind happened; but Buckingham did not even turn his head to see what became of those he had knocked down. D'Artagnan followed him amid cries which strongly resembled curses.

On entering the court of his hotel, Buckingham sprang from his horse, and without thinking what became of the animal, threw the bridle on his neck, and sprang toward the vestibule. D'Artagnan did the same, with a little more concern, however, for the noble creatures, whose merits he fully appreciated; but he had the satisfaction of seeing three or four grooms run from the kitchens and the stables, and busy themselves with the steeds.

What can we infer from the underlined phrase in the first paragraph, “and for which he had repaid Monsieur de Wardes with such terrible coin”?

Possible Answers:

D'Artagnan greatly injured or killed his attacker.

D'Artagnan cursed his attacker vehemently.

Monsieur de Wardes wanted to help d'Artagnan, but d'Artagnan injured him.

D'Artagnan snuck away before Monsieur de Wardes could demand he keep his end of a promise the two men had made.

D'Artagnan repaid Monsieur de Wardes the money he owed him, but d'Artagnan stole that money.

Correct answer:

D'Artagnan greatly injured or killed his attacker.

Explanation:

Interpreting the sentence literally might lead you to select as the correct answer "D'Artagnan repaid Monsieur de Wardes the money he owed him, but d'Artagnan stole that money." However, figurative speech is being used; recognizing this, and considering how the "sword thrust" that injured d'Artagnan is mentioned immediately before the underlined phrase, you can come to the conclusion that "D'Artagnan greatly injured or killed his attacker." While the answer choice "Monsieur de Wardes wanted to help d'Artagnan, but d'Artagnan injured him" may look potentially correct because it does involve D'Artagnan injuring Monsieur de Wardes, we can tell that Monsieur de Wardes did not want to help d'Artagnan, because we can infer that he is the one who injured d'Artagnan from the use of the verb "repaid."

Example Question #1022 : Passage Based Questions

Adapted from Emma by Jane Austen (1815)

Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.

She was the youngest of the two daughters of a most affectionate, indulgent father; and had, in consequence of her sister's marriage, been mistress of his house from a very early period. Her mother had died too long ago for her to have more than an indistinct remembrance of her caresses; and her place had been supplied by an excellent woman as governess, who had fallen little short of a mother in affection.

Sixteen years had Miss Taylor been in Mr. Woodhouse's family, less as a governess than a friend, very fond of both daughters, but particularly of Emma. Between them it was more the intimacy of sisters. Even before Miss Taylor had ceased to hold the nominal office of governess, the mildness of her temper had hardly allowed her to impose any restraint; and the shadow of authority being now long passed away, they had been living together as friend and friend very mutually attached, and Emma doing just what she liked; highly esteeming Miss Taylor's judgment, but directed chiefly by her own.

The real evils, indeed, of Emma's situation were the power of having rather too much her own way, and a disposition to think a little too well of herself; these were the disadvantages which threatened alloy to her many enjoyments. The danger, however, was at present so unperceived, that they did not by any means rank as misfortunes with her.

Sorrow came—a gentle sorrow—but not at all in the shape of any disagreeable consciousness. Miss Taylor married. It was Miss Taylor's loss which first brought grief. It was on the wedding-day of this beloved friend that Emma first sat in mournful thought of any continuance. The wedding over, and the bride-people gone, her father and herself were left to dine together, with no prospect of a third to cheer a long evening. Her father composed himself to sleep after dinner, as usual, and she had then only to sit and think of what she had lost.

The event had every promise of happiness for her friend. Mr. Weston was a man of unexceptionable character, easy fortune, suitable age, and pleasant manners; and there was some satisfaction in considering with what self-denying, generous friendship she had always wished and promoted the match; but it was a black morning's work for her. 

How was she to bear the change?—It was true that her friend was going only half a mile from them; but Emma was aware that great must be the difference between a Mrs. Weston, only half a mile from them, and a Miss Taylor in the house; and with all her advantages, natural and domestic, she was now in great danger of suffering from intellectual solitude. She dearly loved her father, but he was no companion for her. He could not meet her in conversation, rational or playful.

In stating in the sixth paragraph that “there was some satisfaction in considering with what self-denying, generous friendship she had always wished and promoted the match,” Emma is consoling herself in that __________.

Possible Answers:

Mr. Weston asked Emma for permission to marry Miss Taylor

she didn’t deign to talk to Mr. Weston at all

she discouraged Miss Taylor from accepting Mr. Weston’s offer of marriage

she warned Miss Taylor about Mr. Weston’s sordid past

she approved of Miss Taylor and Mr. Weston seeing each other

Correct answer:

she approved of Miss Taylor and Mr. Weston seeing each other

Explanation:

We are told that Emma “had always wished and promoted the match” between Miss Taylor and Mr. Weston; this tells us that she approved of their seeing each other. Nothing in the passage supports any of the other answer choices; Emma does not dislike Mr. Weston, but goes out of her way to praise his qualities in paragraph six, and nothing suggests he has a sordid past or that Mr. Weston asked Emma for permission to marry Miss Taylor.

Example Question #24 : Analyzing The Text In Literature Passages

Adapted from “The Tell-Tale Heart” in The Pioneer by Edgar Allan Poe (1843)

True!—nervous—very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am, but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses—not destroyed—not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily—how calmly I can tell you the whole story.

It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain, but once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! Yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture—a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees—very gradually—I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.

Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded—with what caution—with what foresight—with what dissimulation I went to work! I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him. And every night, about midnight, I turned the latch of his door and opened it—oh so gently! And then, when I had made an opening sufficient for my head, I put in a dark lantern, all closed, closed, that no light shone out, and then I thrust in my head. Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust it in! I moved it slowly—very, very slowly, so that I might not disturb the old man's sleep. It took me an hour to place my whole head within the opening so far that I could see him as he lay upon his bed. Ha! Would a madman have been so wise as this? And then, when my head was well in the room, I undid the lantern cautiously—oh, so cautiously—cautiously (for the hinges creaked)—I undid it just so much that a single thin ray fell upon the vulture eye. And this I did for seven long nights—every night just at midnight—but I found the eye always closed; and so it was impossible to do the work, for it was not the old man who vexed me, but his Evil Eye. And every morning, when the day broke, I went boldly into the chamber, and spoke courageously to him, calling him by name in a hearty tone, and inquiring how he has passed the night. So you see he would have been a very profound old man, indeed, to suspect that every night, just at twelve, I looked in upon him while he slept.

Upon the eighth night I was more than usually cautious in opening the door. A watch's minute hand moves more quickly than did mine. Never before that night had I felt the extent of my own powers—of my sagacity. I could scarcely contain my feelings of triumph. To think that there I was, opening the door, little by little, and he not even to dream of my secret deeds or thoughts. I fairly chuckled at the idea; and perhaps he heard me, for he moved on the bed suddenly, as if startled. Now you may think that I drew back—but no. His room was as black as pitch with the thick darkness, (for the shutters were close fastened, through fear of robbers) and so I knew that he could not see the opening of the door, and I kept pushing it on steadily, steadily.

I had my head in, and was about to open the lantern, when my thumb slipped upon the tin fastening, and the old man sprang up in bed, crying out—“Who's there?"

When the narrator states “Passion there was none” in the second paragraph, he means __________.

Possible Answers:

the old man was depressed

he and the old man had had an argument that destroyed their friendship

he recognizes that he is incapable of feeling emotion of any kind

emotions did not contribute to his decision to kill the old man

the narrator was sent to kill the old man by the old man’s wife, who was dissatisfied with their marriage

Correct answer:

emotions did not contribute to his decision to kill the old man

Explanation:

In the second paragraph, the narrator details the reason why he killed the old man. For the first part of the paragraph, he lists reasons that were not his motivation, before finally declaring that he killed the old man because of his “vulture eye.” The line “Passion there was none” appears near the beginning of the paragraph in this context: 

“It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain, but once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye!”

Based on the way in which the line is used, we can conclude that the narrator means that “emotions did not contribute to his decision to kill the old man.” None of the other answer choices are supported by the passage.

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