SSAT Upper Level Reading : Recognizing the Main Idea in Poetry Passages

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

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Recognizing The Main Idea In Poetry Passages

Adapted from "Invictus" by William Ernest Henley in Book of Verses (1888)
Out of the night that covers me,
      Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
      For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
      I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
      My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
      Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
      Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
      How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
      I am the captain of my soul.

The primary purpose of the poem is best described by which of the following answers?

Possible Answers:

To describe the author's perspective on the divine

To demonstrate the narrator's fear of death

To demonstrate that strength can be derived from weakness

To exemplify there is inherent weakness in humanity

To urge the reader to live his or her life to the fullest

Correct answer:

To demonstrate that strength can be derived from weakness


The best answer choice is "to demonstrate the strength that can be derived from weakness." After experiencing hardships, the narrator of the poem still has strength to carry on.

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