ACT Reading : Drawing Inferences from Prose Fiction Passages

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Example Questions

Example Question #221 : Content Of Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life by George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans) (1874)

And how should Dorothea not marry? A girl so handsome and with such prospects? Nothing could hinder it but her love of extremes, and her insistence on regulating life according to notions which might cause a wary man to hesitate before he made her an offer, or even might lead her at last to refuse all offers. A young lady of some birth and fortune, who knelt suddenly down on a brick floor by the side of a sick laborer and prayed fervidly as if she thought herself living in the time of the apostles, who had strange whims of fasting and of sitting up at night to read old theological books! Such a wife might awaken you some fine morning with a new scheme for the application of her income which would interfere with political economy and the keeping of saddle-horses; a man would naturally think twice before he risked himself in such fellowship. Women were expected to have weak opinions, but the great safeguard of society and of domestic life was that opinions were not acted on. Sane people did what their neighbors did, so that if any lunatics were at large, one might know and avoid them.

The rural opinion about the new young ladies, even among the cottagers, was generally in favor of Celia, as being so amiable and innocent-looking, while Miss Brooke's large eyes seemed, like her religion, too unusual and striking. Poor Dorothea! Compared with her, the innocent-looking Celia was knowing and worldly-wise; so much subtler is a human mind than the outside tissues which make a sort of blazonry or clock-face for it.

Yet those who approached Dorothea, though prejudiced against her by this alarming hearsay, found that she had a charm unaccountably reconcilable with it. Most men thought her bewitching when she was on horseback. She loved the fresh air and the various aspects of the country, and when her eyes and cheeks glowed with mingled pleasure she looked very little like a devotee. Riding was an indulgence which she allowed herself in spite of conscientious qualms; she always looked forward to renouncing it.

She was open, ardent, and not in the least self-admiring; indeed, it was pretty to see how her imagination adorned her sister Celia with attractions altogether superior to her own, and if any gentleman appeared to come to the Grange from some other motive than that of seeing Mr. Brooke, she concluded that he must be in love with Celia. Sir James Chettam, for example, whom she constantly considered from Celia's point of view, inwardly debating whether it would be good for Celia to accept him. That he should be regarded as a suitor to herself would have seemed to her a ridiculous irrelevance. Dorothea, with all her eagerness to know the truths of life, retained very childlike ideas about marriage.

Which of the following can be inferred from the passage?

Possible Answers:

Celia and Dorothea are not related.

Sir James Chettam is courting neither Dorothea nor Celia.

Dorothea and Celia do not live in a big city.

Dorothea is a nun.

Dorothea is particularly interested in the keeping of saddle-horses.

Correct answer:

Dorothea and Celia do not live in a big city.

Explanation:

This question can be answered by considering the first sentence of the passage’s second paragraph: “The rural opinion about the new young ladies, even among the cottagers, was generally in favor of Celia, as being so amiable and innocent-looking, while Miss Brooke's large eyes seemed, like her religion, too unusual and striking.” Notice how the community judging Miss Brooke (a name that signifies Dorothea; you can figure this out by considering its context) and Celia is described as “rural” in “the rural opinion” and consisting in part of “cottagers” (“even among the cottagers”). This allows readers to infer that Dorothea and Celia do not live in a big city.

While Dorothea is portrayed as having unusual religious tendencies, no evidence is presented suggesting that she is specifically a nun. Celia and Dorothea are related; they are sisters, as we are told in the passage’s last paragraph when the narrator says, “indeed, it was pretty to see how [Dorothea’s] imagination adorned her sister Celia with attractions altogether superior to her own.” Sir James Chettam is introduced in the context of being a suitor, though Dorothea considers him to be courting Celia and not herself. Finally, Dorothea is not particularly interested in the keeping of saddle-horses; this point is introduced as a hypothetical in the first paragraph, not as describing her directly: notice the use of the general phrase “such a wife” and the word “might” when it states, “Such a wife might awaken you some fine morning with a new scheme for the application of her income which would interfere with . . . the keeping of saddle-horses.”

Example Question #102 : Drawing Inferences From Prose Fiction Passages

Adapted from “The McWilliamses and the Burglar Alarm” in The Mysterious Stranger and Other Stories by Mark Twain (1898; 1916)

The conversation drifted along from weather to crops, from crops to literature, from literature to scandal, from scandal to religion; then took a random jump, and landed on the subject of burglar alarms. And now for the first time Mr. McWilliams showed feeling. Whenever I perceive this sign on this man's dial, I comprehend it, and lapse into silence, and give him opportunity to unload his heart. Said he, with but ill-controlled emotion:

"I do not go one single cent on burglar alarms, Mr. Twain—not a single cent—and I will tell you why. When we were finishing our house, we found we had a little cash left over. I was for donating it to charity; but Mrs. McWilliams said no, let's have a burglar alarm. I agreed to this compromise. Whenever I want a thing, and Mrs. McWilliams wants another thing, and we decide upon the thing that Mrs. McWilliams wants—as we always do—she calls that a compromise. Very well: the man came up from New York and put in the alarm, and charged three hundred and twenty-five dollars for it, and said we could sleep without uneasiness now. So we did for awhile—say a month. Then one night we smelled smoke. I lit a candle, and started toward the stairs, and met a burglar coming out of a room with a basket of tinware, which he had mistaken for solid silver in the dark. He was smoking a pipe. I said, 'My friend, we do not allow smoking in this room.' He said he was a stranger, and could not be expected to know the rules of the house: said he had been in many houses just as good as this one, and it had never been objected to before.

"I said: 'Smoke along, then. But what business have you to be entering this house in this furtive and clandestine way, without ringing the burglar alarm?’

He looked confused and ashamed, and said, with embarrassment: 'I beg a thousand pardons. I did not know you had a burglar alarm, else I would have rung it. I beg you will not mention it where my parents may hear of it, for they are old and feeble, and such a seemingly wanton breach of the hallowed conventionalities of our civilization might all too rudely sunder the frail bridge which hangs darkling between the pale and evanescent present and the solemn great deeps of the eternities. May I trouble you for a match?’

"I said: 'Your sentiments do you honor, but metaphor is not your best hold. Spare your thigh; this kind light only on the box. But to return to business: how did you get in here?’”

Which of the following does the first paragraph allow us to infer?

Possible Answers:

Mr. McWilliams didn’t have particularly strong opinions about the topics of conversation that preceded that of burglar alarms.

The conversation that Mr. McWilliams had with Mr. Twain focused on only a couple of topics.

The discussion of topics in the conversation described led logically to that of burglar alarms.

If the person to which the narrator is talking shows feeling in a conversation, the narrator always makes a point to interrupt the speaker before he gets too agitated.

Mr. McWilliams feels neutral about burglar alarms.

Correct answer:

Mr. McWilliams didn’t have particularly strong opinions about the topics of conversation that preceded that of burglar alarms.

Explanation:

Let’s consider each of the answer choices and find out which one the first paragraph supports.

“The conversation that Mr. McWilliams had with Mr. Twain focused on only a couple of topics.” - The first sentence doesn’t support this inference, as it tells us that the conversation covered at least six topics: “The conversation drifted along from weather to crops, from crops to literature, from literature to scandal, from scandal to religion; then took a random jump, and landed on the subject of burglar alarms.”

“Mr. McWilliams feels neutral about burglar alarms.” - The last three sentences of the first paragraph don’t support this inference: “And now for the first time Mr. McWilliams showed feeling. Whenever I perceive this sign on this man's dial, I comprehend it, and lapse into silence, and give him opportunity to unload his heart. Said he, with but ill-controlled emotion . . . “ At the mention of burglar alarms, Mr. McWilliams “now for the first time . . . showed feeling,” and speaks “with but ill-controlled emotion” about the subject. From this, we can infer that Mr. McWilliams does not feel neutral about burglar alarms; he is emotional about the subject and has some sort of distinct opinion, which he begins explaining in paragraph two.

“If the person to which the narrator is talking shows feeling in a conversation, the narrator always makes a point to interrupt the speaker before he gets too agitated.” - This answer choice relates to the second-to-last sentence in the first paragraph, where the narrator comments, “Whenever I perceive this sign on this man's dial, I comprehend it, and lapse into silence, and give him opportunity to unload his heart.” Paraphrasing, the narrator is saying that when he sees that someone he is having a conversation with “shows feeling” about a subject, he lets that person talk and vent his or her emotions. He does not say that he interrupts the speaker at this point.

“The discussion of topics in the conversation described led logically to that of burglar alarms.” - This answer isn’t supported by the first paragraph, as the narrator says that the conversation he was having with Mr. McWilliams “took a random jump, and landed on the subject of burglar alarms.” Thus, the discussion of topics did not logically lead to the subject of burglar alarms.

The correct answer is “Mr. McWilliams didn’t have particularly strong opinions about the topics of conversation that preceded that of burglar alarms.” We can infer this based on how the narrator says that when burglar alarms were mentioned, “And now for the first time Mr. McWilliams showed feeling.” The use of the phrase “for the first time” tells us that Mr. McWilliams did not “show feeling” about the previous topics that he discussed with the narrator; from this we can infer that he did not have any particularly strong opinions about these topics.

Example Question #103 : Drawing Inferences From Prose Fiction Passages

Adapted from “The McWilliamses and the Burglar Alarm” in The Mysterious Stranger and Other Stories by Mark Twain (1898; 1916)

The conversation drifted along from weather to crops, from crops to literature, from literature to scandal, from scandal to religion; then took a random jump, and landed on the subject of burglar alarms. And now for the first time Mr. McWilliams showed feeling. Whenever I perceive this sign on this man's dial, I comprehend it, and lapse into silence, and give him opportunity to unload his heart. Said he, with but ill-controlled emotion:

"I do not go one single cent on burglar alarms, Mr. Twain—not a single cent—and I will tell you why. When we were finishing our house, we found we had a little cash left over. I was for donating it to charity; but Mrs. McWilliams said no, let's have a burglar alarm. I agreed to this compromise. Whenever I want a thing, and Mrs. McWilliams wants another thing, and we decide upon the thing that Mrs. McWilliams wants—as we always do—she calls that a compromise. Very well: the man came up from New York and put in the alarm, and charged three hundred and twenty-five dollars for it, and said we could sleep without uneasiness now. So we did for awhile—say a month. Then one night we smelled smoke. I lit a candle, and started toward the stairs, and met a burglar coming out of a room with a basket of tinware, which he had mistaken for solid silver in the dark. He was smoking a pipe. I said, 'My friend, we do not allow smoking in this room.' He said he was a stranger, and could not be expected to know the rules of the house: said he had been in many houses just as good as this one, and it had never been objected to before.

"I said: 'Smoke along, then. But what business have you to be entering this house in this furtive and clandestine way, without ringing the burglar alarm?’

He looked confused and ashamed, and said, with embarrassment: 'I beg a thousand pardons. I did not know you had a burglar alarm, else I would have rung it. I beg you will not mention it where my parents may hear of it, for they are old and feeble, and such a seemingly wanton breach of the hallowed conventionalities of our civilization might all too rudely sunder the frail bridge which hangs darkling between the pale and evanescent present and the solemn great deeps of the eternities. May I trouble you for a match?’

"I said: 'Your sentiments do you honor, but metaphor is not your best hold. Spare your thigh; this kind light only on the box. But to return to business: how did you get in here?’”

What is the implied reason that the thief’s smoking a pipe had “never been objected to before,” underlined at the end of the third paragraph?

Possible Answers:

The owners of the other houses were embarrassed to object to the thief’s smoking.

The thief had extinguished his pipe before stealing anything.

The thief’s pipe filters out most of the smell of the smoke he generates.

The thief had never before been caught.

The thief only recently started smoking a pipe.

Correct answer:

The thief had never before been caught.

Explanation:

The passage mentions nothing to encourage the reader to assume that the thief previously extinguished his pipe before stealing anything or that he had only recently started smoking a pipe; it doesn’t include any information that suggests that the thief’s pipe filters out most of the smell of the smoke he generates, or that the owners of the other houses he refers to were embarrassed to object to his smoking. The only answer choice that is supported by the passage is that the thief had never before been caught; this is in line with the implication of his other statements preceding the underlined one—that he “was a stranger, and could not be expected to know the rules of the house,” and that “he had been in many houses just as good as this one.”

Example Question #371 : Literary Fiction Passages

Passage adapted from The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade by Herman Melville (1857)

At sunrise on a first of April, there appeared suddenly a man in cream-colors at the water-side in the city of St. Louis.

His cheek was fair, his chin downy, his hair flaxen, his hat a white fur one, with a long fleecy nap. He had neither trunk, valise, carpet-bag, nor parcel. No porter followed him. He was unaccompanied by friends. From the shrugged shoulders, titters, whispers, wonderings of the crowd, it was plain that he was, in the extremest sense of the word, a stranger.

In the same moment with his advent, he stepped aboard the favorite steamer Fidèle, on the point of starting for New Orleans. Stared at, but unsaluted, with the air of one neither courting nor shunning regard, but evenly pursuing the path of duty, lead it through solitudes or cities, he held on his way along the lower deck until he chanced to come to a placard nigh the captain's office, offering a reward for the capture of a mysterious impostor, supposed to have recently arrived from the East; quite an original genius in his vocation, as would appear, though wherein his originality consisted was not clearly given; but what purported to be a careful description of his person followed.

As if it had been a theatre-bill, crowds were gathered about the announcement, and among them certain chevaliers, whose eyes, it was plain, were on the capitals, or, at least, earnestly seeking sight of them from behind intervening coats; but as for their fingers, they were enveloped in some myth; though, during a chance interval, one of these chevaliers somewhat showed his hand in purchasing from another chevalier, ex-officio a peddler of money-belts, one of his popular safe-guards, while another peddler, who was still another versatile chevalier, hawked, in the thick of the throng, the lives of Measan, the bandit of Ohio, Murrel, the pirate of the Mississippi, and the brothers Harpe, the Thugs of the Green River country, in Kentucky—creatures, with others of the sort, one and all exterminated at the time, and for the most part, like the hunted generations of wolves in the same regions, leaving comparatively few successors; which would seem cause for unalloyed gratulation, and is such to all except those who think that in new countries, where the wolves are killed off, the foxes increase.

Pausing at this spot, the stranger so far succeeded in threading his way, as at last to plant himself just beside the placard, when, producing a small slate and tracing some words upon if, he held it up before him on a level with the placard, so that they who read the one might read the other. The words were these:—

"Charity thinketh no evil.”

What is the author implying in his discussion of wolves and foxes at the end of the third paragraph?

Possible Answers:

Con men are like wolves, whereas citizens of the general public are like foxes.

Adjusting the balance of a natural ecosystem can have numerous unintended effects on the environment.

Some believe that once the con men and criminals are removed from an area, others take their place.

Wolves are typically only killed off well after humans have settled in an area.

If wolves are found in an area, con men are likely also to be found there.

Correct answer:

Some believe that once the con men and criminals are removed from an area, others take their place.

Explanation:

The wolves-and-foxes discussion is perhaps the most difficult part of the passage to understand, because the author steps out of telling the story for a moment to make an abstract comparison about events that have already happened. Specifically, the author writes:

“another peddler . . . hawked, in the thick of the throng, the lives of Measan, the bandit of Ohio, Murrel, the pirate of the Mississippi, and the brothers Harpe, the Thugs of the Green River country, in Kentucky—creatures, with others of the sort, one and all exterminated at the time, and for the most part, like the hunted generations of wolves in the same regions, leaving comparatively few successors; which would seem cause for unalloyed gratulation, and is such to all except those who think that in new countries, where the wolves are killed off, the foxes increase.”

The wolves are clearly compared to the criminals in that each were “exterminated” in certain areas, but some people think that “where the wolves are killed off, the foxes increase.” The foxes take the place of the wolves (comparatively, the criminals), so we can infer that the “foxes” must represent some type of criminal too. We can ignore the answer choice “Adjusting the balance of a natural ecosystem can have numerous unintended effects on the environment” as wolves and foxes are mentioned to be compared to criminals, not to discuss the environment. Foxes are not being compared to citizens of the general public since they take the place of the wolves after the wolves are killed off, so “Con men are like wolves, whereas citizens of the general public are like foxes” cannot be correct either. While wolves are compared to con men, “If wolves are found in an area, con men are likely also to be found there” makes an association that goes beyond the author’s comparison. “Wolves are typically only killed off well after humans have settled in an area” is contradicted by the author’s use of the adjective “new” in describing “those who think that in new countries, where the wolves are killed off, the foxes increase.” This suggests that the wolves are killed off relatively quickly after humans settle in an area. This leaves us with the correct answer, “Some believe that once the con men and criminals are removed from an area, others take their place.” This accurately captures the author’s comparison and infers the role of foxes as another type of criminal taking the place of the “wolves.”

Example Question #104 : Drawing Inferences From Prose Fiction Passages

Passage adapted from Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad (1899). 

He was the only man of us who still "followed the sea." The worst that could be said of him was that he did not represent his class. He was a seaman, but he was a wanderer, too, while most seamen lead, if one may so express it, a sedentary life. Their minds are of the stay-at-home order, and their home is always with them—the ship; and so is their country—the sea. One ship is very much like another, and the sea is always the same.

In the immutability of their surroundings the foreign shores, the foreign faces, the changing immensity of life, glide past, veiled not by a sense of mystery but by a slightly disdainful ignorance; for there is nothing mysterious to a seaman unless it be the sea itself, which is the mistress of his existence and as inscrutable as Destiny.

For the rest, after his hours of work, a casual stroll or a casual spree on shore suffices to unfold for him the secret of a whole continent, and generally he finds the secret not worth knowing. The yarns of seamen have a direct simplicity, the whole meaning of which lies within the shell of a cracked nut.

But Marlow was not typical (if his propensity to spin yarns be excepted), and to him the meaning of an episode was not inside like a kernel but outside, enveloping the tale which brought it out only as a glow brings out a haze, in the likeness of one of these misty halos that sometimes are made visible by the spectral illumination of moonshine.

Based on the underlined sentences ("The yarns of seamen...the spectral illumination of moonshine") which of the following describes how the narrator views Marlow's stories as compared to other seamen?

Possible Answers:

The seamen tell better stories than Marlow because they see events simplistically.

Marlow and the seamen tell the same stories of life on the ocean.

Marlow's stories are more difficult to understand than the seamen's stories.

Only sailors can understand the seamen's stories, but anyone can listen to Marlow.

Marlow sees events in a more complex way than the other seamen, and therefore his stories are more developed.

Correct answer:

Marlow sees events in a more complex way than the other seamen, and therefore his stories are more developed.

Explanation:

In these lines, the narrator is explaining that Marlow sees events with more complexity and nuance than the other sailors do and that his tales have more depth than those of the other seamen.

Example Question #105 : Drawing Inferences From Prose Fiction Passages

Passage adapted from Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad (1899). 

He was the only man of us who still "followed the sea." The worst that could be said of him was that he did not represent his class. He was a seaman, but he was a wanderer, too, while most seamen lead, if one may so express it, a sedentary life. Their minds are of the stay-at-home order, and their home is always with them—the ship; and so is their country—the sea. One ship is very much like another, and the sea is always the same.

In the immutability of their surroundings the foreign shores, the foreign faces, the changing immensity of life, glide past, veiled not by a sense of mystery but by a slightly disdainful ignorance; for there is nothing mysterious to a seaman unless it be the sea itself, which is the mistress of his existence and as inscrutable as Destiny.

For the rest, after his hours of work, a casual stroll or a casual spree on shore suffices to unfold for him the secret of a whole continent, and generally he finds the secret not worth knowing. The yarns of seamen have a direct simplicity, the whole meaning of which lies within the shell of a cracked nut.

But Marlow was not typical (if his propensity to spin yarns be excepted), and to him the meaning of an episode was not inside like a kernel but outside, enveloping the tale which brought it out only as a glow brings out a haze, in the likeness of one of these misty halos that sometimes are made visible by the spectral illumination of moonshine.

In can most reasonably be inferred from the passage that the narrator and the seamen are located __________.

Possible Answers:

on a river running through an uninhabited rainforest 

on the Atlantic Ocean

in the middle of the Pacific Ocean

on a foreign country's shore

The characters' location is not specified conclusively in this passage.

Correct answer:

The characters' location is not specified conclusively in this passage.

Explanation:

The narrator alludes to the frustration of the crew not being at sea in the second paragraph when he speaks their "slightly disdainful ignorance" for their surroundings, as they prefer the open ocean. The author speaks about the "foreign shores" this discussion is general, and not local to the situation. The passage does not provide conclusive evidence as to the characters' location.

Example Question #106 : Drawing Inferences From Prose Fiction Passages

Passage adapted from Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad (1899). 

He was the only man of us who still "followed the sea." The worst that could be said of him was that he did not represent his class. He was a seaman, but he was a wanderer, too, while most seamen lead, if one may so express it, a sedentary life. Their minds are of the stay-at-home order, and their home is always with them—the ship; and so is their country—the sea. One ship is very much like another, and the sea is always the same.

In the immutability of their surroundings the foreign shores, the foreign faces, the changing immensity of life, glide past, veiled not by a sense of mystery but by a slightly disdainful ignorance; for there is nothing mysterious to a seaman unless it be the sea itself, which is the mistress of his existence and as inscrutable as Destiny.

For the rest, after his hours of work, a casual stroll or a casual spree on shore suffices to unfold for him the secret of a whole continent, and generally he finds the secret not worth knowing. The yarns of seamen have a direct simplicity, the whole meaning of which lies within the shell of a cracked nut.

But Marlow was not typical (if his propensity to spin yarns be excepted), and to him the meaning of an episode was not inside like a kernel but outside, enveloping the tale which brought it out only as a glow brings out a haze, in the likeness of one of these misty halos that sometimes are made visible by the spectral illumination of moonshine.

According to the passage, most seamen dislike all of the following except __________.

Possible Answers:

visiting foreign beaches 

time spent on dry land 

long stretches on the open ocean

extensive periods off their ships

interacting with unfamiliar types of people

Correct answer:

long stretches on the open ocean

Explanation:

Based on the passage, it is reasonable to infer that seamen do not like interacting with most events or people on dry land. There is no indication however that they resent large stretches of time at sea. On the contrary, the narrator indicates that the sailors actually feel at home on the sea.

Example Question #107 : Drawing Inferences From Prose Fiction Passages

Passage adapted from Arthur Conan Doyle's "A Scandal in Bohemia" (1891)

To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex. It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler. All emotions, and that one particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise but admirably balanced mind. He was, I take it, the most perfect reasoning and observing machine that the world has seen, but as a lover he would have placed himself in a false position. He never spoke of the softer passions, save with a gibe and a sneer. They were admirable things for the observer—excellent for drawing the veil from men’s motives and actions. But for the trained reasoner to admit such intrusions into his own delicate and finely adjusted temperament was to introduce a distracting factor which might throw a doubt upon all his mental results. Grit in a sensitive instrument, or a crack in one of his own high-power lenses, would not be more disturbing than a strong emotion in a nature such as his. And yet there was but one woman to him, and that woman was the late Irene Adler, of dubious and questionable memory.

I had seen little of Holmes lately. My marriage had drifted us away from each other. My own complete happiness, and the home-centred interests which rise up around the man who first finds himself master of his own establishment, were sufficient to absorb all my attention, while Holmes, who loathed every form of society with his whole Bohemian soul, remained in our lodgings in Baker Street, buried among his old books, and alternating from week to week between cocaine and ambition, the drowsiness of the drug, and the fierce energy of his own keen nature. He was still, as ever, deeply attracted by the study of crime, and occupied his immense faculties and extraordinary powers of observation in following out those clues, and clearing up those mysteries which had been abandoned as hopeless by the official police. From time to time I heard some vague account of his doings: of his summons to Odessa in the case of the Trepoff murder, of his clearing up of the singular tragedy of the Atkinson brothers at Trincomalee, and finally of the mission which he had accomplished so delicately and successfully for the reigning family of Holland. Beyond these signs of his activity, however, which I merely shared with all the readers of the daily press, I knew little of my former friend and companion.

One night—it was on the twentieth of March, 1888—I was returning from a journey to a patient (for I had now returned to civil practice), when my way led me through Baker Street. As I passed the well-remembered door, which must always be associated in my mind with my wooing, and with the dark incidents of the Study in Scarlet, I was seized with a keen desire to see Holmes again, and to know how he was employing his extraordinary powers. His rooms were brilliantly lit, and, even as I looked up, I saw his tall, spare figure pass twice in a dark silhouette against the blind. He was pacing the room swiftly, eagerly, with his head sunk upon his chest and his hands clasped behind him. To me, who knew his every mood and habit, his attitude and manner told their own story. He was at work again. He had risen out of his drug-created dreams and was hot upon the scent of some new problem. I rang the bell and was shown up to the chamber which had formerly been in part my own.

His manner was not effusive. It seldom was; but he was glad, I think, to see me. With hardly a word spoken, but with a kindly eye, he waved me to an armchair, threw across his case of cigars, and indicated a spirit case and a gasogene in the corner. Then he stood before the fire and looked me over in his singular introspective fashion.

“Wedlock suits you,” he remarked. “I think, Watson, that you have put on seven and a half pounds since I saw you.”

“Seven!” I answered.

“Indeed, I should have thought a little more. Just a trifle more, I fancy, Watson. And in practice again, I observe. You did not tell me that you intended to go into harness.”

“Then, how do you know?”

“I see it, I deduce it. How do I know that you have been getting yourself very wet lately, and that you have a most clumsy and careless servant girl?”

“My dear Holmes,” said I, “this is too much. You would certainly have been burned, had you lived a few centuries ago. It is true that I had a country walk on Thursday and came home in a dreadful mess, but as I have changed my clothes I can’t imagine how you deduce it. As to Mary Jane, she is incorrigible, and my wife has given her notice, but there, again, I fail to see how you work it out.”

It can reasonably be inferred that Sherlock Holmes would most agree with which of the following statements about emotions?

Possible Answers:

Emotions are silly, and the world would be better without them. 

Emotions are important to have, but are impossible to interpret. 

None of the other answers are supported by the text. 

Emotions are useful to observe, but having emotions clouds judgement. 

Emotions are healthy and a necessary part of detective work. 

Correct answer:

Emotions are useful to observe, but having emotions clouds judgement. 

Explanation:

In the first paragraph, the narrator writes about how Sherlock Holmes' gift is dependent on both his lack of emotion and his ability to read others' emotions. Therefore, the correct answer is "Emotions are useful to observe, but having emotions clouds judgement."

Example Question #108 : Drawing Inferences From Prose Fiction Passages

Passage adapted from The Iron Woman by Margaret Deland (1911). 

Elizabeth's long braids had been always attractive to the masculine eye; they had suggested jokes about pigtails, and much of that peculiar humor so pleasing to the young male; but the summer that she "put up her hair," the puppies, so to speak, got their eyes open. When the boys saw those soft plaits, no longer hanging within easy reach of a rude and teasing hand, but folded around her head behind her little ears; when they saw the small curls breaking over and through the brown braids that were flecked with gilt, and the stray locks, like feathers of spun silk, clustering in the nape of her neck; when David and Blair saw these things—it was about the time their voices were showing amazing and ludicrous register—something below the artless brutalities of the boys' sense of humor was touched. They took abruptly their first perilous step out of boyhood. Of course they did not know it…. The significant moment came one afternoon when they all  (10)went out to the toll-house for ice-cream.

There was a little delay at the gate, while the boys wrangled as to who should stand treat. "I'll pull straws with you," said Blair; Blair's pleasant, indolent mind found the appeal to chance the easiest way to settle things, but he was always good-natured when, as now, the verdict was against him. "Come on," he commanded, gayly, "I'll shell out!" Mrs. Todd, who had begun to dispense pink and brown ice-cream, for them when they were very little children, winked and nodded as they all came in together, and made a jocose remark about "handsome couples"; then she trundled off to get the ice-cream, leaving them in the saloon. This "saloon" was an ell of the toll-house; it opened on a little garden, from which a flight of rickety steps led down to a float where half a dozen skiffs were tied up, waiting to be hired. In warm weather, when the garden was blazing with fragrant color, Mrs. Todd would permit favored patrons to put their small tables out among the  (20)marigolds and zinnias and sit and eat and talk.

The saloon itself had Nottingham-lace window-curtains, and crewel texts enjoining remembrance of the Creator, and calling upon Him to "bless our home." The tables, with marble tops translucent from years of spilled ice cream, had each a worsted mat, on which was a glass vase full of blue paper roses; on the ceiling there was a wonderful star of scalloped blue tissue-paper—ostensibly to allure flies, but hanging there winter and summer, year in and year out. Between the windows that looked out on the river stood a piano, draped with a festooning scarf of bandanna handkerchiefs. These things seemed to Blair, at this stage of his esthetic development, very satisfying, and part of his pleasure in "treating" came from his surroundings; he used to look about him enviously, thinking of the terrible dining-room at home; and on sunny days he used to look, with even keener pleasure, at the reflected ripple of light, striking up from the river below, and moving  (30)endlessly across the fly-specked ceiling.

Watching the play of moving light, he would put his tin spoon into his tumbler of ice-cream and taste the snowy mixture with a slow prolongation of pleasure, while the two girls chattered like sparrows, and David listened, saying very little and always ready to let Elizabeth finish his ice-cream after she had devoured her own.

Which of the following CANNOT be inferred from the information in the passage?

Possible Answers:

Elizabeth is a closer friend to David than to Blair 

Blair and David are entering their pubescent years

Blair and David have been coming to the ice cream parlor since childhood

Blair and David have known Elizabeth since she was a young girl 

Blair and David have a friendly relationship 

Correct answer:

Elizabeth is a closer friend to David than to Blair 

Explanation:

There is no information given in the passage about Elizabeth's personal connection to either Blair or David. All the other answers have support throughout the passage.

Example Question #109 : Drawing Inferences From Prose Fiction Passages

This is an excerpt from Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street by Herman Melville (1853)

I am a rather elderly man. The nature of my avocations for the last thirty years has brought me into more than ordinary contact with what would seem an interesting and somewhat singular set of men, of whom as yet nothing that I know of has ever been written—I mean the law-copyists or scriveners. I have known very many of them, professionally and privately, and if I pleased, could relate divers histories, at which good-natured gentlemen might smile, and sentimental souls might weep. But I waive the biographies of all other scriveners for a few passages in the life of Bartleby, who was a scrivener of the strangest I ever saw or heard of. While of other law-copyists I might write the complete life, of Bartleby nothing of that sort can be done. I believe that no materials exist for a full and satisfactory biography of this man. It is an irreparable loss to literature. Bartleby was one of those beings of whom nothing is ascertainable, except from the original sources, and in his case those are very small. What my own astonished eyes saw of Bartleby, that is all I know of him, except, indeed, one vague report which will appear in the sequel.

Ere introducing the scrivener, as he first appeared to me, it is fit I make some mention of myself, my employees, my business, my chambers, and general surroundings; because some such description is indispensable to an adequate understanding of the chief character about to be presented. 

Imprimis: I am a man who, from his youth upwards, has been filled with a profound conviction that the easiest way of life is the best. Hence, though I belong to a profession proverbially energetic and nervous, even to turbulence, at times, yet nothing of that sort have I ever suffered to invade my peace. I am one of those unambitious lawyers who never addresses a jury, or in any way draws down public applause; but in the cool tranquility of a snug retreat, do a snug business among rich men's bonds and mortgages and title-deeds. All who know me, consider me an eminently safe man. The late John Jacob Astor, a personage little given to poetic enthusiasm, had no hesitation in pronouncing my first grand point to be prudence; my next, method. I do not speak it in vanity, but simply record the fact, that I was not unemployed in my profession by the late John Jacob Astor; a name which, I admit, I love to repeat, for it hath a rounded and orbicular sound to it, and rings like unto bullion. I will freely add, that I was not insensible to the late John Jacob Astor's good opinion.

From the passage, it can be inferred that Bartleby is __________.

Possible Answers:

a historical figure.

a novelist.

none of the other answers.

a young man.

Correct answer:

none of the other answers.

Explanation:

The passage provides no additional information about Bartleby, except that he was an odd scrivener who we know little about beyond what the narrator implies. This information corresponds only to that answer.

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