SSAT Upper Level Reading : Understanding and Evaluating Opinions and Arguments in Narrative Humanities Passages

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

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Understanding And Evaluating Opinions And Arguments In Narrative Humanities Passages

Adapted from "Nature" by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1836)

Whoever considers the final cause of the world, will discern a multitude of uses that result. They all admit of being thrown into one of the following classes: Commodity; Beauty; Language; and Discipline.

Under the general name of Commodity, I rank all those advantages which our senses owe to nature. This, of course, is a benefit which is temporary and mediate, not ultimate, like its service to the soul. Yet although low, it is perfect in its kind, and is the only use of nature which all men apprehend. The misery of man appears like childish petulance, when we explore the steady and prodigal provision that has been made for his support and delight on this green ball which floats him through the heavens. What angels invented these splendid ornaments, these rich conveniences, this ocean of air above, this ocean of water beneath, this firmament of earth between? This zodiac of lights, this tent of dropping clouds, this striped coat of climates, this fourfold year? Beasts, fire, water, stones, and corn serve him. The field is at once his floor, his work-yard, his play-ground, his garden, and his bed.

Nature, in its ministry to man, is not only the material, but is also the process and the result. All the parts incessantly work into each other's hands for the profit of man. The wind sows the seed; the sun evaporates the sea; the wind blows the vapor to the field; the ice, on the other side of the planet, condenses rain on this; the rain feeds the plant; the plant feeds the animal; and thus the endless circulations of the divine charity nourish man.

In the final paragraph, Emerson says that all of the following are examples of how nature is useful to man EXCEPT __________.

Possible Answers:

the tendency of wind to blow seeds to fertile fields

the ability of man to plow the fields

the condensation of water in the atmosphere into rain

the evaporation of sea water by the sun

Correct answer:

the ability of man to plow the fields


While Emerson states that "the wind sows the seed; the sun evaporates the sea; the wind blows the vapor to the field," and "the ice, on the other side of the planet, condenses rain on this," he does not mention any of man's actions (like plowing fields) in the final paragraph as examples of how nature serves man.

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