TACHS Reading : Finding context-dependent meaning of phrases

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for TACHS Reading

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Finding Context Dependent Meaning Of Phrases

Adapted from Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads by John A. Lomax (1910)

 The big ranches of the West are now being cut up into small farms. The nester has come, and come to stay. Gone is the buffalo, the Indian warwhoop, the free grass of the open plain;—even the stinging lizard, the horned frog, the centipede, the prairie dog, the rattlesnake, are fast disappearing. Save in some of the secluded valleys of southern New Mexico, the old-time round-up is no more; the trails to Kansas and to Montana have become grass-grown or lost in fields of waving grain; the maverick steer, the regal longhorn, has been supplanted by his unpoetic but more beefy and profitable Polled Angus, Durham, and Hereford cousins from across the seas. The changing and romantic West of the early days lives mainly in story and in song. The last figure to vanish is the cowboy, the animating spirit of the vanishing era. He sits his horse easily as he rides through a wide valley, enclosed by mountains, clad in the hazy purple of coming night,—with his face turned steadily down the long, long road, "the road that the sun goes down." Dauntless, reckless, without the unearthly purity of Sir Galahad though as gentle to a woman as King Arthur, he is truly a knight of the twentieth century. A vagrant puff of wind shakes a corner of the crimson handkerchief knotted loosely at his throat; the thud of his pony's feet mingling with the jingle of his spurs is borne back; and as the careless, gracious, lovable figure disappears over the divide, the breeze brings to the ears, faint and far yet cheery still, the refrain of a cowboy song.

Which of the following options best expresses the meaning of the underlined and bolded section of the passage?

Possible Answers:

None of these

While their behavior is similar, cowboys are more venal and greedy than Arthurian knights

While cowboys might not be spoken about in as lofty terms, their behavior is as praiseworthy as that of Arthurian knights

Arthurian knights and cowboys are exactly the same

Correct answer:

While cowboys might not be spoken about in as lofty terms, their behavior is as praiseworthy as that of Arthurian knights

Explanation:

This sentence makes a comparison between Arthurian heroes and cowboys. The key distinction here is one of class, while the knights are high class, and thus ascribed in legend a level of "purity" the cowboys are working class people. They are not valorized as pure or virtuous in the same way, but according to the author his behavior would justify such a comparison.

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