ACT Reading : Analyzing Authorial Tone and Method in Prose Fiction Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT Reading

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Example Questions

Example Question #14 : Making Inferences In Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" by Ambrose Bierce (1890)

Peyton Farquhar was a well to do planter, of an old and highly respected Alabama family. Being a planter and like other planters a politician, he was naturally an original secessionist and ardently devoted to the Southern cause. Circumstances of an imperious nature, which it is unnecessary to relate here, had prevented him from taking service with that gallant army which had fought the disastrous campaigns ending with the fall of Corinth, and he chafed under the inglorious restraint, longing for the release of his energies, the larger life of the soldier, the opportunity for distinction. That opportunity, he felt, would come, as it comes to all in wartime. Meanwhile he did what he could. No service was too humble for him to perform in the aid of the South, no adventure too perilous for him to undertake if consistent with the character of a civilian who was at heart a soldier, and who in good faith and without too much qualification assented to at least a part of the frankly villainous dictum that all is fair in love and war.

One evening while Farquhar and his wife were sitting on a rustic bench near the entrance to his grounds, a gray-clad soldier rode up to the gate and asked for a drink of water. Mrs. Farquhar was only too happy to serve him with her own white hands. While she was fetching the water her husband approached the dusty horseman and inquired eagerly for news from the front.

"The Yanks are repairing the railroads," said the man, "and are getting ready for another advance. They have reached the Owl Creek bridge, put it in order and built a stockade on the north bank. The commandant has issued an order, which is posted everywhere, declaring that any civilian caught interfering with the railroad, its bridges, tunnels, or trains will be summarily hanged. I saw the order."

"How far is it to the Owl Creek bridge?" Farquhar asked.

"About thirty miles."

"Is there no force on this side of the creek?"

"Only a picket post half a mile out, on the railroad, and a single sentinel at this end of the bridge."

"Suppose a man—a civilian and student of hanging—should elude the picket post and perhaps get the better of the sentinel," said Farquhar, smiling, "what could he accomplish?"

The soldier reflected. "I was there a month ago," he replied. "I observed that the flood of last winter had lodged a great quantity of driftwood against the wooden pier at this end of the bridge. It is now dry and would burn like tinder."

The lady had now brought the water, which the soldier drank. He thanked her ceremoniously, bowed to her husband and rode away. An hour later, after nightfall, he repassed the plantation, going northward in the direction from which he had come. He was a Federal scout.

The point of view from which the passage is told can best be described as that of __________.

Possible Answers:

the scout 

Farquhar

none of the other answers 

Farquhar's wife 

Lincoln

Correct answer:

none of the other answers 

Explanation:

The author is writing in the third person and, as such, sees every event which occurs. We cannot, then, confidently say that the story is written from the point of view of any of the characters.

Example Question #3 : Determining Authorial Attitude In Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy (1895)

He sounded the clacker till his arm ached, and at length his heart grew sympathetic with the birds' thwarted desires. They seemed, like himself, to be living in a world which did not want them. Why should he frighten them away? They took upon more and more the aspect of gentle friends and pensioners—the only friends he could claim as being in the least degree interested in him, for his aunt had often told him that she was not. He ceased his rattling, and they alighted anew.

"Poor little dears!" said Jude, aloud. "You shall have some dinner—you shall. There is enough for us all. Farmer Troutham can afford to let you have some. Eat, then my dear little birdies, and make a good meal!"

They stayed and ate, inky spots on the nut-brown soil, and Jude enjoyed their appetite. A magic thread of fellow-feeling united his own life with theirs. Puny and sorry as those lives were, they much resembled his own.

His clacker he had by this time thrown away from him, as being a mean and sordid instrument, offensive both to the birds and to himself as their friend. All at once he became conscious of a smart blow upon his buttocks, followed by a loud clack, which announced to his surprised senses that the clacker had been the instrument of offense used. The birds and Jude started up simultaneously, and the dazed eyes of the latter beheld the farmer in person, the great Troutham himself, his red face glaring down upon Jude's cowering frame, the clacker swinging in his hand.

"So it's 'Eat my dear birdies,' is it, young man? 'Eat, dear birdies,' indeed! I'll tickle your breeches, and see if you say, 'Eat, dear birdies' again in a hurry! And you've been idling at the schoolmaster's too, instead of coming here, ha'n't ye, hey? That's how you earn your sixpence a day for keeping the rooks off my corn!"

The point of view from which the passage is told can best be described as that of __________.

Possible Answers:

a friend of Jude who witnessed the event

Jude at the time

Farmer Troutham

Jude as an old man

the third-person perspective

Correct answer:

the third-person perspective

Explanation:

We cannot say from the passage that the narrator is a friend of Jude's, so the only safe answer is “the third-person perspective,” as the passage is written in the third person. The easiest way to ascertain this is that there is no use of the personal pronoun “I.”

Example Question #11 : Analyzing Authorial Tone And Method In Prose Fiction Passages

Adapted from The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu (1021)

In the reign of a certain Emperor, whose name is unknown to us, there was, among the Niogo and Kôyi of the Imperial Court, one who, though she was not of high birth, enjoyed the full tide of Royal favor. Hence her superiors, each one of whom had always been thinking—"I shall be the one," gazed upon her disdainfully with malignant eyes, and her equals and inferiors were more indignant still.

Such being the state of affairs, the anxiety which she had to endure was great and constant, and this was probably the reason why her health was at last so much affected, that she was often compelled to absent herself from Court, and to retire to the residence of her mother.

Her father, who was a Dainagon, was dead; but her mother, being a woman of good sense, gave her every possible guidance in the due performance of Court ceremony, so that in this respect she seemed but little different from those whose fathers and mothers were still alive to bring them before public notice, yet, nevertheless, her friendliness made her oftentimes feel very diffident from the want of any patron of influence.

These circumstances, however, only tended to make the favor shown to her by the Emperor wax warmer and warmer, and it was even shown to such an extent as to become a warning to after-generations. There had been instances in China in which favoritism such as this had caused national disturbance and disaster; and thus the matter became a subject of public animadversion, and it seemed not improbable that people would begin to allude even to the example of Yô-ki-hi. 

In due course, and in consequence, we may suppose, of the Divine blessing on the sincerity of their affection, a jewel of a little prince was born to her. The first prince who had been born to the Emperor was the child of Koki-den-Niogo, the daughter of the Udaijin (a great officer of State). Not only was he first in point of age, but his influence on his mother's side was so great that public opinion had almost unanimously fixed upon him as heir-apparent. Of this the Emperor was fully conscious, and he only regarded the new-born child with that affection which one lavishes on a domestic favorite.

What is the overall tone of this passage?

Possible Answers:

None of the other answers

Faith in God

Beauty and sadness

Excitement and optimism

Faith in the emperor and his court

Correct answer:

Beauty and sadness

Explanation:

The passage points to a tone of beauty and sadness. The events that occur are nicely described, but the content is somewhat melancholy.

Example Question #3 : Language In Literature Passages

Adapted from Candide by Voltaire (1918 trans.)

"Grandeur," said Pangloss, "is extremely dangerous according to the testimony of philosophers. For, in short, Eglon, King of Moab, was assassinated by Ehud; Absalom was hung by his hair, and pierced with three darts; King Nadab, the son of Jeroboam, was killed by Baasa; King Ela by Zimri; Ahaziah by Jehu; Athaliah by Jehoiada; the Kings Jehoiakim, Jeconiah, and Zedekiah, were led into captivity. You know how perished Croesus, Astyages, Darius, Dionysius of Syracuse, Pyrrhus, Perseus, Hannibal, Jugurtha, Ariovistus, Cæsar, Pompey, Nero, Otho, Vitellius, Domitian, Richard II of England, Edward II, Henry VI, Richard III, Mary Stuart, Charles I, the three Henrys of France, the Emperor Henry IV! You know—" 

"I know also," said Candide, "that we must cultivate our garden." 

"You are right," said Pangloss, "for when man was first placed in the Garden of Eden, he was put there ut operaretur eum, that he might cultivate it; which shows that man was not born to be idle." 

"Let us work," said Martin, "without disputing; it is the only way to render life tolerable.”

The whole little society entered into this laudable design, according to their different abilities. Their little plot of land produced plentiful crops. Cunegonde was, indeed, very ugly, but she became an excellent pastry cook; Paquette worked at embroidery; the old woman looked after the linen. They were all, not excepting Friar Giroflée, of some service or other; for he made a good joiner, and became a very honest man.

Pangloss sometimes said to Candide: "There is a concatenation of events in this best of all possible worlds; for if you had not been kicked out of a magnificent castle for love of Miss Cunegonde, if you had not been put into the Inquisition, if you had not walked over America, if you had not stabbed the Baron, if you had not lost all your sheep from the fine country of El Dorado, you would not be here eating preserved citrons and pistachio-nuts."

"All that is very well," answered Candide, "but let us cultivate our garden."

Why does Candide answer, “But let us cultivate our garden” at the end of the passage?

Possible Answers:

To iterate the point that they should not be discussing long theories but should quietly work

To remind himself of the importance of gardening in the life of the "little society"

To overcome Pangloss' arguments with a direct counterargument

To remind Pangloss of the importance of preparing for the harvest

None of the other answers

Correct answer:

To iterate the point that they should not be discussing long theories but should quietly work

Explanation:

Pangloss' character seems to be distracting to Candide—always going off on long-winded disquisitions. Even Martin says that they should not argue but instead should work "without disputing." It is to this sentiment that Candide is appealing as he closes the passage with his remarks to Pangloss.

Example Question #4 : Language In Literature Passages

Adapted from Candide by Voltaire (1918 trans.)

"Grandeur," said Pangloss, "is extremely dangerous according to the testimony of philosophers. For, in short, Eglon, King of Moab, was assassinated by Ehud; Absalom was hung by his hair, and pierced with three darts; King Nadab, the son of Jeroboam, was killed by Baasa; King Ela by Zimri; Ahaziah by Jehu; Athaliah by Jehoiada; the Kings Jehoiakim, Jeconiah, and Zedekiah, were led into captivity. You know how perished Croesus, Astyages, Darius, Dionysius of Syracuse, Pyrrhus, Perseus, Hannibal, Jugurtha, Ariovistus, Cæsar, Pompey, Nero, Otho, Vitellius, Domitian, Richard II of England, Edward II, Henry VI, Richard III, Mary Stuart, Charles I, the three Henrys of France, the Emperor Henry IV! You know—" 

"I know also," said Candide, "that we must cultivate our garden." 

"You are right," said Pangloss, "for when man was first placed in the Garden of Eden, he was put there ut operaretur eum, that he might cultivate it; which shows that man was not born to be idle." 

"Let us work," said Martin, "without disputing; it is the only way to render life tolerable.”

The whole little society entered into this laudable design, according to their different abilities. Their little plot of land produced plentiful crops. Cunegonde was, indeed, very ugly, but she became an excellent pastry cook; Paquette worked at embroidery; the old woman looked after the linen. They were all, not excepting Friar Giroflée, of some service or other; for he made a good joiner, and became a very honest man.

Pangloss sometimes said to Candide: "There is a concatenation of events in this best of all possible worlds; for if you had not been kicked out of a magnificent castle for love of Miss Cunegonde, if you had not been put into the Inquisition, if you had not walked over America, if you had not stabbed the Baron, if you had not lost all your sheep from the fine country of El Dorado, you would not be here eating preserved citrons and pistachio-nuts."

"All that is very well," answered Candide, "but let us cultivate our garden."

For what purpose does Pangloss say, “Which shows that . . . ”?

Possible Answers:

To set the stage for another long list like that found at the beginning of the passage

To ridicule the biblical passage implied in the rest of his remarks

To explain the Latin phrase used in the remarks

To express a conclusion to an argument, agreeing with the conclusions of his friends

To convince the others that work is not completely necessary to the human condition

Correct answer:

To express a conclusion to an argument, agreeing with the conclusions of his friends

Explanation:

If you read Pangloss' words in an organized manner, you will see that he is making an argument that states that since human beings were placed in the Garden of Eden to cultivate it, they were not created to be idle. (That is, they were created to care for the garden.) He is making this argument in order to agree with the others' reasoning regarding the work that they should be doing. (At least he thinks that his method is helping to support it, though the others seem to have little patience for it.)

Example Question #1 : Purpose And Effect Of Phrases Or Sentences In Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from Candide by Voltaire (1918 trans.)

"Grandeur," said Pangloss, "is extremely dangerous according to the testimony of philosophers. For, in short, Eglon, King of Moab, was assassinated by Ehud; Absalom was hung by his hair, and pierced with three darts; King Nadab, the son of Jeroboam, was killed by Baasa; King Ela by Zimri; Ahaziah by Jehu; Athaliah by Jehoiada; the Kings Jehoiakim, Jeconiah, and Zedekiah, were led into captivity. You know how perished Croesus, Astyages, Darius, Dionysius of Syracuse, Pyrrhus, Perseus, Hannibal, Jugurtha, Ariovistus, Cæsar, Pompey, Nero, Otho, Vitellius, Domitian, Richard II of England, Edward II, Henry VI, Richard III, Mary Stuart, Charles I, the three Henrys of France, the Emperor Henry IV! You know—" 

"I know also," said Candide, "that we must cultivate our garden." 

"You are right," said Pangloss, "for when man was first placed in the Garden of Eden, he was put there ut operaretur eum, that he might cultivate it; which shows that man was not born to be idle." 

"Let us work," said Martin, "without disputing; it is the only way to render life tolerable.”

The whole little society entered into this laudable design, according to their different abilities. Their little plot of land produced plentiful crops. Cunegonde was, indeed, very ugly, but she became an excellent pastry cook; Paquette worked at embroidery; the old woman looked after the linen. They were all, not excepting Friar Giroflée, of some service or other; for he made a good joiner, and became a very honest man.

Pangloss sometimes said to Candide: "There is a concatenation of events in this best of all possible worlds; for if you had not been kicked out of a magnificent castle for love of Miss Cunegonde, if you had not been put into the Inquisition, if you had not walked over America, if you had not stabbed the Baron, if you had not lost all your sheep from the fine country of El Dorado, you would not be here eating preserved citrons and pistachio-nuts."

"All that is very well," answered Candide, "but let us cultivate our garden."

What is the purpose of the long catalogue of names in the first paragraph?

Possible Answers:

To connect this passage to the history of the actual world

To catalogue the philosophical reasons for Pangloss' argument

To show the pedantic character of Pangloss

To recount historical facts for the reader

To detail the ills of grandeur

Correct answer:

To show the pedantic character of Pangloss

Explanation:

You will note that later in the passage, Pangloss again starts to launch into a long list, detailing the steps in the "concatenation" of events in the world. He is cut off by Candide in both cases. The general portrayal of his character in this passage is that of someone concerned with stating many little details on a topic. A "pedant" describes such a person, and "pedantic" is the adjective form.

Example Question #3 : Tone, Audience, And Point Of View In Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from A Room with a View by E. M. Forster (1908)

Mr. Beebe was right. Lucy never knew her desires so clearly as after music. She had not really appreciated the clergyman's wit, nor the suggestive twitterings of Miss Alan. Conversation was tedious; she wanted something big, and she believed that it would have come to her on the wind-swept platform of an electric tram. This she might not attempt. It was unladylike. Why? Why were most big things unladylike? Charlotte had once explained to her why. It was not that ladies were inferior to men; it was that they were different. Their mission was to inspire others to achievement rather than to achieve themselves. Indirectly, by means of tact and a spotless name, a lady could accomplish much. But if she rushed into the fray herself she would be first censured, then despised, and finally ignored. Poems had been written to illustrate this point.

There is much that is immortal in this medieval lady. The dragons have gone, and so have the knights, but still she lingers in our midst. She reigned in many an early Victorian castle, and was Queen of much early Victorian song. It is sweet to protect her in the intervals of business, sweet to pay her honor when she has cooked our dinner well. But alas! the creature grows degenerate. In her heart also there are springing up strange desires. She too is enamored of heavy winds, and vast panoramas, and green expanses of the sea. She has marked the kingdom of this world, how full it is of wealth, and beauty, and war—a radiant crust, built around the central fires, spinning towards the receding heavens. Men, declaring that she inspires them to it, move joyfully over the surface, having the most delightful meetings with other men, happy, not because they are masculine, but because they are alive. Before the show breaks up she would like to drop the august title of the Eternal Woman, and go there as her transitory self.

Lucy does not stand for the medieval lady, who was rather an ideal to which she was bidden to lift her eyes when feeling serious. Nor has she any system of revolt. Here and there a restriction annoyed her particularly, and she would transgress it, and perhaps be sorry that she had done so. This afternoon she was peculiarly restive. She would really like to do something of which her well-wishers disapproved. As she might not go on the electric tram, she went to Alinari's shop.

Lucy’s decision to visit Alinari’s shop may best be described as __________.

Possible Answers:

decisive

imprudent

eccentric

insipid

anticlimactic

Correct answer:

anticlimactic

Explanation:

Lucy's decision to rebel by going into a shop is a very small rebellion, much smaller than the ones that have been suggested previously in the passage, and is thus "anticlimactic." There is nothing to suggest that going to the shop would be "imprudent;" it is not at all "eccentric" but mundane; and since Lucy's primary feeling is discontent, but she does not take the step she really wants to take (riding the electric tram); her decision to go to the shop cannot be considered "decisive," which implies firmness and a sense of purpose; since she is rebelling, however minor the rebellion, she can't really be described as "insipid."

Example Question #4 : Tone, Audience, And Point Of View In Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1890)

The studio was filled with the rich odour of roses, and when the light summer wind stirred amidst the trees of the garden, there came through the open door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the more delicate perfume of the pink-flowering thorn.

From the corner of the divan of Persian saddle-bags on which he was lying, smoking, as usual, innumerable cigarettes, Lord Henry Wotton could just catch the gleam of the honey-sweet and honey-colored blossoms of the laburnum, whose tremulous branches seemed hardly able to bear the burden of a beauty so flame-like as theirs.

In the center of the room, clamped to an upright easel, stood the full-length portrait of a young man of extraordinary personal beauty, and in front of it, some little distance away, was sitting the artist himself, Basil Hallward, whose sudden disappearance some years ago caused, at the time, such public excitement, and gave rise to so many strange conjectures. 

As he looked at the gracious and comely form he had so skilfully mirrored in his art, a smile of pleasure passed across his face, and seemed about to linger there. But he suddenly started up, and, closing his eyes, placed his fingers upon the lids, as though he sought to imprison within his brain some curious dream from which he feared he might awake.

"It is your best work, Basil, the best thing you have ever done," said Lord Henry, languidly. "You must certainly send it next year to the Grosvenor. The Academy is too large and too vulgar. The Grosvenor is the only place."

"I don't think I will send it anywhere," he answered, tossing his head back in that odd way that used to make his friends laugh at him at Oxford. "No: I won't send it anywhere."

Lord Henry elevated his eyebrows, and looked at him in amazement through the thin blue wreaths of smoke that curled up in such fanciful whorls from his heavy cigarette. "Not send it anywhere? My dear fellow, why? Have you any reason? What odd chaps you painters are! You do anything in the world to gain a reputation. As soon as you have one, you seem to want to throw it away. It is silly of you, for there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about. A portrait like this would set you far above all the young men in England, and make the old men quite jealous, if old men are ever capable of any emotion." 

"I know you will laugh at me," he replied, "but I really can't exhibit it. I have put too much of myself into it." 

Lord Henry stretched his long legs out on the divan and shook with laughter.

"Yes, I knew you would laugh; but it is quite true, all the same."

"Too much of yourself in it! Upon my word, Basil, I didn't know you were so vain; and I really can't see any resemblance between you, with your rugged strong face and your coal-black hair, and this young Adonis, who looks as if he was made of ivory and rose-leaves. Why, my dear Basil, he is a Narcissus, and you—well, of course you have an intellectual expression, and all that. But beauty, real beauty, ends where an intellectual expression begins. Intellect is in itself an exaggeration, and destroys the harmony of any face. The moment one sits down to think, one becomes all nose, or all forehead, or something horrid. Look at the successful men in any of the learned professions. How perfectly hideous they are! Except, of course, in the church. But then in the church they don't think. A bishop keeps on saying at the age of eighty what he was told to say when he was a boy of eighteen, and consequently he always looks absolutely delightful. Your mysterious young friend, whose name you have never told me, but whose picture really fascinates me, never thinks. I feel quite sure of that. He is a brainless, beautiful thing, who should be always here in winter when we have no flowers to look at, and always here in summer when we want something to chill our intelligence. Don't flatter yourself, Basil: you are not in the least like him.”

One might accurately describe the tone of Lord Henry’s dialogue as __________.

Possible Answers:

irreverent and witty

impatient and demanding

penitent and serious

vexed and sarcastic

confused and frustrated

Correct answer:

irreverent and witty

Explanation:

Lord Henry’s dialogue is full of clever quips and barbs regarding fame, beauty, intelligence, and the church. This can be seen in statements like “It is silly of you, for there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about,” “A portrait like this would set you far above all the young men in England, and make the old men quite jealous, if old men are ever capable of any emotion,” and “But then in the church they don't think. A bishop keeps on saying at the age of eighty what he was told to say when he was a boy of eighteen, and consequently he always looks absolutely delightful.” Based on the sarcastic and witty quality of these statements, we can accurately call the tone of Lord Henry’s dialogue “irreverent and witty.” He is clearly not “penitent and serious, and nothing in the passage suggests that he is particularly “impatient and demanding” or “confused and frustrated”; furthermore, while he is “sarcastic,” he is not “vexed” (annoyed).

Example Question #1 : Tone, Audience, And Point Of View In Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from A Room With a View by E.M. Forster (1908)

"The Signora had no business to do it," said Miss Bartlett, "no business at all. She promised us south rooms with a view close together, instead of which here are north rooms, looking into a courtyard, and a long way apart. Oh, Lucy!"

"And a Cockney, besides!" said Lucy, who had been further saddened by the Signora's unexpected accent. "It might be London." She looked at the two rows of English people who were sitting at the table; at the row of white bottles of water and red bottles of wine that ran between the English people; at the portraits of the late Queen and the late Poet Laureate that hung behind the English people, heavily framed; at the notice of the English church (Rev. Cuthbert Eager, M. A. Oxon.), that was the only other decoration of the wall. "Charlotte, don't you feel, too, that we might be in London? I can hardly believe that all kinds of other things are just outside. I suppose it is one's being so tired."

"This meat has surely been used for soup," said Miss Bartlett, laying down her fork.

"I want so to see the Arno. The rooms the Signora promised us in her letter would have looked over the Arno. The Signora had no business to do it at all. Oh, it is a shame!"

"Any nook does for me," Miss Bartlett continued, "but it does seem hard that you shouldn't have a view."

Lucy felt that she had been selfish. "Charlotte, you mustn't spoil me; of course, you must look over the Arno, too. I meant that. The first vacant room in the front—" "You must have it," said Miss Bartlett, part of whose traveling expenses were paid by Lucy's mother—a piece of generosity to which she made many a tactful allusion.

"No, no. You must have it."

"I insist on it. Your mother would never forgive me, Lucy."

"She would never forgive me."

The ladies' voices grew animated, and—if the sad truth be owned—a little peevish. They were tired, and under the guise of unselfishness they wrangled. Some of their neighbors interchanged glances, and one of them—one of the ill-bred people whom one does meet abroad—leant forward over the table and actually intruded into their argument. He said:

"I have a view, I have a view."

Miss Bartlett was startled. Generally at a pension people looked them over for a day or two before speaking, and often did not find out that they would "do" till they had gone. She knew that the intruder was ill-bred, even before she glanced at him. He was an old man, of heavy build, with a fair, shaven face and large eyes. There was something childish in those eyes, though it was not the childishness of senility. What exactly it was Miss Bartlett did not stop to consider, for her glance passed on to his clothes. These did not attract her. He was probably trying to become acquainted with them before they got into the swim. So she assumed a dazed expression when he spoke to her, and then said: "A view? Oh, a view! How delightful a view is!”

Miss Bartlett says “Oh, Lucy!” at the end of the first paragraph because __________.

Possible Answers:

she pities Lucy’s situation

she has just been embarrassed by Lucy

she is frustrated with their situation

she has something important to tell Lucy

she is identifying and beginning to introduce Lucy in response to someone asking who her traveling companion is

Correct answer:

she is frustrated with their situation

Explanation:

Answering this question correctly requires you to understand the author's use of tone. Taken out of context, Miss Bartlett's statement of "Oh, Lucy!" could have been inspired by the sources covered in many of the incorrect answer choices. However, we need to focus on the context in which the statement appears in the passage. What precedes it? ""The Signora had no business to do it," said Miss Bartlett, "no business at all. She promised us south rooms with a view close together, instead of which here are north rooms, looking into a courtyard, and a long way apart." The only answer choice that makes sense is that Miss Bartlett is frustrated with their situation. The idea that she pities Lucy's situation may look reasonable, but since neither of them have received the rooms they were promised, they are in the situation together, and it's not just Lucy who is in a frustrating situation.

Example Question #2 : Passage Wide Features In Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from A Room With a View by E.M. Forster (1908)

"The Signora had no business to do it," said Miss Bartlett, "no business at all. She promised us south rooms with a view close together, instead of which here are north rooms, looking into a courtyard, and a long way apart. Oh, Lucy!"

"And a Cockney, besides!" said Lucy, who had been further saddened by the Signora's unexpected accent. "It might be London." She looked at the two rows of English people who were sitting at the table; at the row of white bottles of water and red bottles of wine that ran between the English people; at the portraits of the late Queen and the late Poet Laureate that hung behind the English people, heavily framed; at the notice of the English church (Rev. Cuthbert Eager, M. A. Oxon.), that was the only other decoration of the wall. "Charlotte, don't you feel, too, that we might be in London? I can hardly believe that all kinds of other things are just outside. I suppose it is one's being so tired."

"This meat has surely been used for soup," said Miss Bartlett, laying down her fork.

"I want so to see the Arno. The rooms the Signora promised us in her letter would have looked over the Arno. The Signora had no business to do it at all. Oh, it is a shame!"

"Any nook does for me," Miss Bartlett continued, "but it does seem hard that you shouldn't have a view."

Lucy felt that she had been selfish. "Charlotte, you mustn't spoil me; of course, you must look over the Arno, too. I meant that. The first vacant room in the front—" "You must have it," said Miss Bartlett, part of whose traveling expenses were paid by Lucy's mother—a piece of generosity to which she made many a tactful allusion.

"No, no. You must have it."

"I insist on it. Your mother would never forgive me, Lucy."

"She would never forgive me."

The ladies' voices grew animated, and—if the sad truth be owned—a little peevish. They were tired, and under the guise of unselfishness they wrangled. Some of their neighbors interchanged glances, and one of them—one of the ill-bred people whom one does meet abroad—leant forward over the table and actually intruded into their argument. He said:

"I have a view, I have a view."

Miss Bartlett was startled. Generally at a pension people looked them over for a day or two before speaking, and often did not find out that they would "do" till they had gone. She knew that the intruder was ill-bred, even before she glanced at him. He was an old man, of heavy build, with a fair, shaven face and large eyes. There was something childish in those eyes, though it was not the childishness of senility. What exactly it was Miss Bartlett did not stop to consider, for her glance passed on to his clothes. These did not attract her. He was probably trying to become acquainted with them before they got into the swim. So she assumed a dazed expression when he spoke to her, and then said: "A view? Oh, a view! How delightful a view is!”

The author’s repetition of the word “English” in the second paragraph emphasizes __________.

Possible Answers:

the fact that the Signora supports the English in the ongoing war

the fact that the pension is one that caters specifically to English guests

the unexpected presence of so many familiar details in country foreign to the women

the fact that the country in which the women are staying is an English colony

the new and unexpected details of the women's surroundings

Correct answer:

the unexpected presence of so many familiar details in country foreign to the women

Explanation:

The word "English" appears four times in the second paragraph, and numerous other details about the pension and its inhabitants are portrayed as distinctly British. This repetition and portrayal comes immediately after Lucy expresses her sadness that the Signora has a Cockney accent. From this set-up, we can infer that the author is repeating the word "English" in order to emphasize how familiar the pension's qualities are to the women when they were expecting something quite different from what they were used to. Nothing about English colonies or wars is mentioned, and while "the fact that the pension is one that caters specifically to English guests" may seem like a likely answer, we are not specifically told this, and the repetition of the word "English" is emphasizing the disparity between the women's expectations and reality more so than the fact that there are numerous English guests at the pension.

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