TOEFL : Identifying rhetorical devices

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for TOEFL

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Identifying Rhetorical Devices

Passage adapted from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave by Frederick Douglass (1845).

        The slaves selected to go to the Great House Farm, for the monthly allowance for themselves and their fellow-slaves, were peculiarly enthusiastic. While on their way, they would make the dense old woods, for miles around, reverberate with their wild songs, revealing at once the highest joy and the deepest sadness. [...]

     I did not, when a slave, understand the deep meaning of those rude and apparently incoherent songs. I was myself within the circle; so that I neither saw nor heard as those without might see and hear. They told a tale of woe which was then altogether beyond my feeble comprehension; they were tones loud, long, and deep; they breathed the prayer and complaint of souls boiling over with the bitterest anguish. Every tone was a testimony against slavery, and a prayer to God for deliverance from chains. The hearing of those wild notes always depressed my spirit, and filled me with ineffable sadness. I have frequently found myself in tears while hearing them. The mere recurrence to those songs, even now, afflicts me; and while I am writing these lines, an expression of feeling has already found its way down my cheek. To those songs I trace my first glimmering conception of the dehumanizing character of slavery. I can never get rid of that conception. Those songs still follow me, to deepen my hatred of slavery, and quicken my sympathies for my brethren in bonds. If any one wishes to be impressed with the soul-killing effects of slavery, let him go to Colonel Lloyd's plantation, and, on allowance-day, place himself in the deep pine woods, and there let him, in silence, analyze the sounds that shall pass through the chambers of his soul,--and if he is not thus impressed, it will only be because "there is no flesh in his obdurate heart."

        I have often been utterly astonished, since I came to the north, to find persons who could speak of the singing, among slaves, as evidence of their contentment and happiness. It is impossible to conceive of a greater mistake. Slaves sing most when they are most unhappy. The songs of the slave represent the sorrows of his heart; and he is relieved by them, only as an aching heart is relieved by its tears. At least, such is my experience. I have often sung to drown my sorrow, but seldom to express my happiness. Crying for joy, and singing for joy, were alike uncommon to me while in the jaws of slavery. The singing of a man cast away upon a desolate island might be as appropriately considered as evidence of contentment and happiness, as the singing of a slave; the songs of the one and of the other are prompted by the same emotion.

The term in bold in the passage is an example of _______________.

Possible Answers:

an anecdote about a grimace

an ironic reference to a shout

a metaphor for an emotional letter

a metaphor for a tear

Correct answer:

a metaphor for a tear

Explanation:

In this context, the phrase "expression of feeling" is a metaphor for a tear. We know this because he says that it is rolling down his cheek--something a grimace, shout, or letter could not do.

Example Question #2 : Identifying Rhetorical Devices

Adapted from Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818)

Everyone loved Elizabeth. The passionate and almost reverential attachment with which all regarded her became, while I shared it, my pride and my delight. On the evening previous to her being brought to my home, my mother had said playfully, “I have a pretty present for my Victor–tomorrow he shall have it.” And when, on the morrow, she presented Elizabeth to me as her promised gift, I, with childish seriousness, interpreted her words literally and looked upon Elizabeth as mine–mine to protect, love, and cherish. All praises bestowed on her I received as made to a possession of my own. We called each other familiarly by the name of cousin. No word, no expression could body forth the kind of relation in which she stood to me–my more than sister, since till death she was to be mine only.

We were brought up together; there was not quite a year difference in our ages. I need not say that we were strangers to any species of disunion or dispute. Harmony was the soul of our companionship, and the diversity and contrast that subsisted in our characters drew us nearer together. Elizabeth was of a calmer and more concentrated disposition; but, with all my ardor, I was capable of a more intense application and was more deeply smitten with the thirst for knowledge. She busied herself with following the aerial creations of the poets; and in the majestic and wondrous scenes which surrounded our Swiss home –the sublime shapes of the mountains, the changes of the seasons, tempest and calm, the silence of winter, and the life and turbulence of our Alpine summers–she found ample scope for admiration and delight. While my companion contemplated with a serious and satisfied spirit the magnificent appearances of things, I delighted in investigating their causes. The world was to me a secret which I desired to divine. Curiosity, earnest research to learn the hidden laws of nature, gladness akin to rapture, as they were unfolded to me, are among the earliest sensations I can remember.

The bolded term in the passage above is an example of ____________.

Possible Answers:

A metaphor for the narrator's mother

A hyperbole describing the physical appearance of Elizabeth

A metaphor for the narrator's beloved companion

An ironic description of the narrator's sister

A euphemism for the narrator's hidden romance

Correct answer:

A metaphor for the narrator's beloved companion

Explanation:

The narrator's mother describes Elizabeth, his cousin and close companion, as "a pretty present." Because the narrator cherishes Elizabeth so greatly that he considers her arrival a gift, "pretty present" is an example of a metaphor for his beloved companion.

Example Question #3 : Identifying Rhetorical Devices

Adapted from Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818)

Everyone loved Elizabeth. The passionate and almost reverential attachment with which all regarded her became, while I shared it, my pride and my delight. On the evening previous to her being brought to my home, my mother had said playfully, “I have a pretty present for my Victor–tomorrow he shall have it.” And when, on the morrow, she presented Elizabeth to me as her promised gift, I, with childish seriousness, interpreted her words literally and looked upon Elizabeth as mine–mine to protect, love, and cherish. All praises bestowed on her I received as made to a possession of my own. We called each other familiarly by the name of cousin. No word, no expression could body forth the kind of relation in which she stood to me–my more than sister, since till death she was to be mine only.

We were brought up together; there was not quite a year difference in our ages. I need not say that we were strangers to any species of disunion or dispute. Harmony was the soul of our companionship, and the diversity and contrast that subsisted in our characters drew us nearer together. Elizabeth was of a calmer and more concentrated disposition; but, with all my ardor, I was capable of a more intense application and was more deeply smitten with the thirst for knowledge. She busied herself with following the aerial creations of the poets; and in the majestic and wondrous scenes which surrounded our Swiss home –the sublime shapes of the mountains, the changes of the seasons, tempest and calm, the silence of winter, and the life and turbulence of our Alpine summers–she found ample scope for admiration and delight. While my companion contemplated with a serious and satisfied spirit the magnificent appearances of things, I delighted in investigating their causes. The world was to me a secret which I desired to divine. Curiosity, earnest research to learn the hidden laws of nature, gladness akin to rapture, as they were unfolded to me, are among the earliest sensations I can remember.

The bolded sentence above is an example of ______.

Possible Answers:

A hyperbole about the beauty of nature

A symbol of the characters' love for poetry

Syncrisis between the personal interests of the two characters

An allusion to a fond memory of the narrator

A metaphor for the two characters' similar personalities

Correct answer:

Syncrisis between the personal interests of the two characters

Explanation:

A syncrisis is a rhetorical device that directly compares two contrasting or opposite figures. The bolded passage contrasts the interests and personalities of the two characters; while the narrator prefers to investigate the scientific functions of natural world, Elizabeth prefers to muse over nature's poetic beauty.

Example Question #4 : Identifying Rhetorical Devices

Adapted from Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818)

After days and nights of incredible labor and fatigue, I succeeded in discovering the cause of generation and life; nay, more, I became myself capable of bestowing animation upon lifeless matter.

The astonishment which I had at first experienced on this discovery soon gave place to delight and rapture. After so much time spent in painful labor, to arrive at once at the summit of my desires was the most gratifying consummation of my toils. But this discovery was so great and overwhelming that all the steps by which I had been progressively led to it were obliterated, and I beheld only the result. What had been the study and desire of the wisest men since the creation of the world was now within my grasp. Not that, like a magic scene, it all opened upon me at once: the information I had obtained was of a nature rather to direct my endeavors so soon as I should point them towards the object of my search than to exhibit that object already accomplished. I was like the Arabian who had been buried with the dead and found a passage to life, aided only by one glimmering and seemingly ineffectual light.

I see by your eagerness and the wonder and hope which your eyes express, my friend, that you expect to be informed of the secret with which I am acquainted; that cannot be; listen patiently until the end of my story, and you will easily perceive why I am reserved upon that subject. I will not lead you on, unguarded and ardent as I then was, to your destruction and infallible misery. Learn from me, if not by my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow.

The bolded term is an example of _________________.

Possible Answers:

An allusion to the narrator's past scientific misfortunes

A symbol of the narrator's connection to nature

A metaphor for the narrator's great discovery

A metaphor for the scientist's passion for his work

A simile for the scientist's labor intensive research

Correct answer:

A metaphor for the narrator's great discovery

Explanation:

The "summit of [his] desires" represents the successful achievement of the scientist's research. It is a metaphor for the narrator's successful discovery of the secret of life, his most prized question, because it compares it to the very top of the mountain of his desires.

Example Question #5 : Identifying Rhetorical Devices

Adapted from Women and Economics by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1898)

All our virtues can be traced and accounted for. The great main stem of them all, what we call "love," is merely the first condition of social existence. It is cohesion, working among us at the constituent particles of society. Without some attraction to hold us together, we should not be able to hold together; and this attraction, as perceived by our consciousness, we call love.

The virtue of obedience consists in the surrender of the individual will, so often necessary to the common good; and it stands highest in military organization, wherein great numbers of men must act together against their personal interests, even to the sacrifice of life, in the service of the community. As we have grown into fuller social life, we have slowly and experimentally, painfully and expensively, discovered what kind of man was the best social factor. The type of a satisfactory member of society today is a man self-controlled, kind, gentle, strong, wise, brave, courteous, cheerful, true. In the Middle Ages, strong, brave, and true would have satisfied the demands of the time. We now require for our common good a larger range of qualities, a more elaborate moral organization. All this is a simple, evolutionary process of social life, and should have involved no more confusion, effort, and pain than any other natural process.

The bolded passage utilizes which rhetorical device?

Possible Answers:

Anaphora in order to repeat the author's argument

Alliteration to emphasize the list of qualities

Asyndeton used to emphasize the list of qualities

Metaphor to poetically describe the listed qualities

Hyperbole used to exaggerate the list of qualities

Correct answer:

Asyndeton used to emphasize the list of qualities

Explanation:

The bolded sentence is an example of asyndeton, which is a when a list purposefully excludes the use of the "and" conjunction for dramatic effect. The author leaves out the "and" at the end of the list to emphasize the number of qualities that characterize the ideal modern man.

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