ACT Reading : Drawing Inferences from Prose Fiction Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT Reading

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Example Questions

Example Question #1283 : Passage Based Questions

Adapted from Tom Brown's Schooldays (1857) by Thomas Hughes

The small boys rushed in again. Closing, they saw, was their best chance, and Flashman was wilder and more flurried than ever. He caught East by the throat and tried to force him back on the iron-bound table. Tom grasped his waist and, remembering the old throw he had learned in the Vale from Harry Winburn, crooked his leg inside Flashman's and threw his whole weight forward. The three tottered for a moment and then over they went on to the floor, Flashman striking his head against a form in the hall.

The two youngsters sprang to their legs, but he lay there still. They began to be frightened. Tom stooped down and then cried out, scared out of his wits, "He's bleeding awfully. Come here, East! Diggs, he's dying!"

"Not he," said Diggs, getting leisurely off the table. "It's all sham; he's only afraid to fight it out."

East was as frightened as Tom. Diggs lifted Flashman's head and he groaned.

"What's the matter?" shouted Diggs.

"My skull's fractured," sobbed Flashman.

"Oh, let me run for the housekeeper!" cried Tom. "What shall we do?"

"Fiddlesticks! It's nothing but the skin broken," said the relentless Diggs, feeling his head. "Cold water and a bit of rag's all he'll want."

"Let me go," said Flashman surlily, sitting up. "I don't want your help."

"We're really very sorry—" began East.

"Hang your sorrow!" answered Flashman, holding his handkerchief to the place. "You shall pay for this, I can tell you, both of you." And he walked out of the hall.

"He can't be very bad," said Tom, with a deep sigh, much relieved to see his enemy march so well.

"Not he," said Diggs, "and you'll see you won't be troubled with him anymore, but, I say, your head's broken too; your collar is covered with blood."

"Is it though?" said Tom, putting up his hand. "I didn't know it."

"Well, mop it up or you'll have your jacket spoilt. And you have got a nasty eye, scud. You'd better go and bathe it well in cold water."

"Cheap enough too, if we're done with our old friend Flashey," said East, as they made off upstairs to bathe their wounds.

They had done with Flashman in one sense, for he never laid finger on either of them again, but whatever harm a spiteful heart and venomous tongue could do them, he took care should be done. Only throw dirt enough and some of it is sure to stick, and so it was with the fifth form and the bigger boys in general, with whom he associated more or less, and they not at all. Flashman managed to get Tom and East into disfavor, which did not wear off for some time after the author of it had disappeared from the school world. This event, much prayed for by the small fry in general, took place a few months after the above encounter. One fine summer evening, Flashman had been regaling himself on gin punch at Brownsover and, having exceeded his usual limits, started home uproarious. He fell in with a friend or two coming back from bathing, proposed a glass of beer, to which they assented, the weather being hot and they thirsty souls, unaware of the quantity of drink which Flashman had already on board. The short result was that Flashey became beastly drunk. They tried to get him along, but couldn't, so they chartered a hurdle and two men to carry him. One of the masters came upon them and they fled, naturally enough. The flight of the rest raised the master's suspicions and the good angel of the attendants incited him to examine the freight and, after examination, to convoy the hurdle himself up to the schoolhouse. The doctor, who had long had his eye on Flashman, arranged for his withdrawal the next morning.

It can reasonably be inferred from the passage that __________.

Possible Answers:

Flashman leaves the fight unhurt

only Flashman was hurt in the fight

Flashman forgives the boys

Diggs is impartial in the fight

East and Tom are remorseful

Correct answer:

East and Tom are remorseful

Explanation:

“Remorse” is a feeling or expression of sadness, guilt, and regret after having committed an affront. Whilst Diggs shows no signs of remorse or regret for hurting Flashman, both Tom and East show signs of concern about his well being and express their apologies for hurting him. We know from the passage that Flashman wasn't the only one hurt and that he does not forgive the other boys.

Example Question #7 : Drawing Evidence From Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from Tom Brown's Schooldays (1857) by Thomas Hughes

The small boys rushed in again. Closing, they saw, was their best chance, and Flashman was wilder and more flurried than ever. He caught East by the throat and tried to force him back on the iron-bound table. Tom grasped his waist and, remembering the old throw he had learned in the Vale from Harry Winburn, crooked his leg inside Flashman's and threw his whole weight forward. The three tottered for a moment and then over they went on to the floor, Flashman striking his head against a form in the hall.

The two youngsters sprang to their legs, but he lay there still. They began to be frightened. Tom stooped down and then cried out, scared out of his wits, "He's bleeding awfully. Come here, East! Diggs, he's dying!"

"Not he," said Diggs, getting leisurely off the table. "It's all sham; he's only afraid to fight it out."

East was as frightened as Tom. Diggs lifted Flashman's head and he groaned.

"What's the matter?" shouted Diggs.

"My skull's fractured," sobbed Flashman.

"Oh, let me run for the housekeeper!" cried Tom. "What shall we do?"

"Fiddlesticks! It's nothing but the skin broken," said the relentless Diggs, feeling his head. "Cold water and a bit of rag's all he'll want."

"Let me go," said Flashman surlily, sitting up. "I don't want your help."

"We're really very sorry—" began East.

"Hang your sorrow!" answered Flashman, holding his handkerchief to the place. "You shall pay for this, I can tell you, both of you." And he walked out of the hall.

"He can't be very bad," said Tom, with a deep sigh, much relieved to see his enemy march so well.

"Not he," said Diggs, "and you'll see you won't be troubled with him anymore, but, I say, your head's broken too; your collar is covered with blood."

"Is it though?" said Tom, putting up his hand. "I didn't know it."

"Well, mop it up or you'll have your jacket spoilt. And you have got a nasty eye, scud. You'd better go and bathe it well in cold water."

"Cheap enough too, if we're done with our old friend Flashey," said East, as they made off upstairs to bathe their wounds.

They had done with Flashman in one sense, for he never laid finger on either of them again, but whatever harm a spiteful heart and venomous tongue could do them, he took care should be done. Only throw dirt enough and some of it is sure to stick, and so it was with the fifth form and the bigger boys in general, with whom he associated more or less, and they not at all. Flashman managed to get Tom and East into disfavor, which did not wear off for some time after the author of it had disappeared from the school world. This event, much prayed for by the small fry in general, took place a few months after the above encounter. One fine summer evening, Flashman had been regaling himself on gin punch at Brownsover and, having exceeded his usual limits, started home uproarious. He fell in with a friend or two coming back from bathing, proposed a glass of beer, to which they assented, the weather being hot and they thirsty souls, unaware of the quantity of drink which Flashman had already on board. The short result was that Flashey became beastly drunk. They tried to get him along, but couldn't, so they chartered a hurdle and two men to carry him. One of the masters came upon them and they fled, naturally enough. The flight of the rest raised the master's suspicions and the good angel of the attendants incited him to examine the freight and, after examination, to convoy the hurdle himself up to the schoolhouse. The doctor, who had long had his eye on Flashman, arranged for his withdrawal the next morning.

Which of the following statements about Flashman's friends is supported by the passage?

Possible Answers:

They were easily influenced by Flashman. 

They were unbiased in their opinions of Tom and East.

They were aware of how intoxicated Flashman was.

They said hateful things about Flashman.

They did not attempt to help Flashman back to the school.

Correct answer:

They were easily influenced by Flashman. 

Explanation:

We can tell from the last paragraph that Flashman's friends were easily influenced by Flashman, as they readily accept his attitude towards Tom and East (“ Flashman managed to get Tom and East into disfavor”) and they agree to go drinking with him, even though it could get them into trouble.

Example Question #51 : Drawing Inferences From Prose Fiction Passages

Adapted from Moby-Dick; or, The Whale by Herman Melville (1851)

The fact is, that among his hunters at least, the whale would, by all hands, be considered a noble dish were there not so much of him; but when you come to sit down before a meat-pie nearly one hundred feet long, it takes away your appetite. Only the most unprejudiced of men, like Stubb, nowadays partake of cooked whales; but the Esquimaux are not so fastidious. We all know how they live upon whales and have rare old vintages of prime old train oil. Zogranda, one of their most famous doctors, recommends strips of blubber for infants as being exceedingly juicy and nourishing. And this reminds me that certain Englishmen, who long ago were accidentally left in Greenland by a whaling vessel—that these men actually lived for several months on the moldy scraps of whales which had been left ashore after trying out the blubber. Among the Dutch whalemen, these scraps are called “fritters,” which, indeed, they greatly resemble, being brown and crisp, and smelling something like old Amsterdam housewives’ dough-nuts or oly-cooks when fresh. They have such an eatable look that the most self-denying stranger can hardly keep his hands off.

But what further depreciates the whale as a civilized dish is his exceeding richness. He is the great prize ox of the sea, too fat to be delicately good. Look at his hump, which would be as fine eating as the buffalo’s (which is esteemed a rare dish), were it not such a solid pyramid of fat. But the spermaceti itself, how bland and creamy that is, like the transparent, half-jellied, white meat of a coconut in the third month of its growth, yet far too rich to supply a substitute for butter. Nevertheless, many whale men have a method of absorbing it into some other substance and then partaking of it. In the long try watches of the night, it is a common thing for the seamen to dip their ship-biscuit into the huge oil-pots and let them fry there awhile. Many a good supper have I thus made.

Gauging from the tone of the passage, what would the narrator suggest will happen to whale consumption in the future?

Possible Answers:

It will decrease, since everyone finds whale unappetizing.

It will decrease, since only the richest people will be able to afford whale.

It will increase, as one whale provides a great deal of food, making it relatively inexpensive. 

It will increase, because we are finding more and more ways to eat whale.

It will remain about the same, since some people will eat whale while others will perceive it as unappetizing.

Correct answer:

It will remain about the same, since some people will eat whale while others will perceive it as unappetizing.

Explanation:

The narrator points out in the passage that less discerning people enjoy eating whale while others do not find it appetizing. He gives no indication that he believes this trend is going to change in the future.

Example Question #9 : Analyzing Main Idea, Theme, And Purpose In Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from "The Sisters" in Dubliners by James Joyce (1914)

There was no hope for him this time: it was the third stroke. Night after night I had passed the house (it was vacation time) and studied the lighted square of window, and night after night I had found it lighted in the same way, faintly and evenly. If he was dead, I thought, I would see the reflection of candles on the darkened blind, for I knew that two candles must be set at the head of a corpse. He had often said to me, "I am not long for this world," and I had thought his words idle. Now I knew they were true. Every night as I gazed up at the window I said softly to myself the word “paralysis.” It had always sounded strangely in my ears, like the word “gnomon” in the Euclid and the word “simony” in the Catechism. But now it sounded to me like the name of some maleficent and sinful being. It filled me with fear, and yet I longed to be nearer to it and to look upon its deadly work.

Old Cotter was sitting at the fire, smoking, when I came downstairs to supper. While my aunt was ladling out my stirabout he said, as if returning to some former remark of his:

"No, I wouldn't say he was exactly . . . but there was something queer . . . there was something uncanny about him. I'll tell you my opinion . . ."

He began to puff at his pipe, no doubt arranging his opinion in his mind. Tiresome old fool! When we knew him first he used to be rather interesting, talking of faints and worms, but I soon grew tired of him and his endless stories about the distillery.

"I have my own theory about it," he said. "I think it was one of those . . . peculiar cases . . . But it's hard to say . . ."

He began to puff again at his pipe without giving us his theory. My uncle saw me staring and said to me:

"Well, so your old friend is gone, you'll be sorry to hear."

"Who?" said I.

"Father Flynn."

"Is he dead?"

"Mr. Cotter here has just told us. He was passing by the house."

I knew that I was under observation, so I continued eating as if the news had not interested me. My uncle explained to old Cotter.

"The youngster and he were great friends. The old chap taught him a great deal, mind you; and they say he had a great wish for him."

"God have mercy on his soul," said my aunt piously.

Old Cotter looked at me for a while. I felt that his little beady black eyes were examining me, but I would not satisfy him by looking up from my plate. He returned to his pipe and finally spat rudely into the grate.

What effect has the third stroke had on the dying man described in the first paragraph?

Possible Answers:

It has made him deaf.

It has blinded him.

It has made him unable to keep food down without being sick.

It has resulted in him being partially or completely unable to move.

It has given him amnesia.

Correct answer:

It has resulted in him being partially or completely unable to move.

Explanation:

We can infer that the dying man is paralyzed because of the narrator's discussion of paralysis at the end of the first paragraph. Since paralysis is defined as the condition in which one is partially or completely unable to move, "It has resulted in him being partially or completely unable to move" is the correct answer. None of the other answer choices are mentioned in the passage.

Example Question #101 : Content Of Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from "The Sisters" in Dubliners by James Joyce (1914)

There was no hope for him this time: it was the third stroke. Night after night I had passed the house (it was vacation time) and studied the lighted square of window, and night after night I had found it lighted in the same way, faintly and evenly. If he was dead, I thought, I would see the reflection of candles on the darkened blind, for I knew that two candles must be set at the head of a corpse. He had often said to me, "I am not long for this world," and I had thought his words idle. Now I knew they were true. Every night as I gazed up at the window I said softly to myself the word “paralysis.” It had always sounded strangely in my ears, like the word “gnomon” in the Euclid and the word “simony” in the Catechism. But now it sounded to me like the name of some maleficent and sinful being. It filled me with fear, and yet I longed to be nearer to it and to look upon its deadly work.

Old Cotter was sitting at the fire, smoking, when I came downstairs to supper. While my aunt was ladling out my stirabout he said, as if returning to some former remark of his:

"No, I wouldn't say he was exactly . . . but there was something queer . . . there was something uncanny about him. I'll tell you my opinion . . ."

He began to puff at his pipe, no doubt arranging his opinion in his mind. Tiresome old fool! When we knew him first he used to be rather interesting, talking of faints and worms, but I soon grew tired of him and his endless stories about the distillery.

"I have my own theory about it," he said. "I think it was one of those . . . peculiar cases . . . But it's hard to say . . ."

He began to puff again at his pipe without giving us his theory. My uncle saw me staring and said to me:

"Well, so your old friend is gone, you'll be sorry to hear."

"Who?" said I.

"Father Flynn."

"Is he dead?"

"Mr. Cotter here has just told us. He was passing by the house."

I knew that I was under observation, so I continued eating as if the news had not interested me. My uncle explained to old Cotter.

"The youngster and he were great friends. The old chap taught him a great deal, mind you; and they say he had a great wish for him."

"God have mercy on his soul," said my aunt piously.

Old Cotter looked at me for a while. I felt that his little beady black eyes were examining me, but I would not satisfy him by looking up from my plate. He returned to his pipe and finally spat rudely into the grate.

How would the narrator know were the man described in the first paragraph to die?

Possible Answers:

Unlit candles would be placed at the man's head.

The lighting seen through the window of the man's house would be uneven.

He would hear sobbing from the house next door.

A large funeral parade would pass by the narrator's residence.

An obituary would appear in the newspaper.

Correct answer:

The lighting seen through the window of the man's house would be uneven.

Explanation:

Put in different language, this question is asking, if the dying man passes away, how will the narrator know? The passage mentions nothing about sobbing, a funeral parade, or an obituary as the sign that the dying man has passed away, so none of those answers can be correct. This leaves us with "Unlit candles would be placed at the man's head" and "The lighting seen through the window of the man's house would be uneven." While "Unlit candles would be placed at the man's head" may seem like the correct answer, especially if one is reading very quickly, it's important to realize that the narrator thinks that lit candles would be the sign that the man has passed away, not unlit ones. We know this from the first paragraph, where the narrator states, "If he was dead, I thought, I would see the reflection of candles on the darkened blind, for I knew that two candles must be set at the head of a corpse." We can tell that the candles mentioned in this sentence must be lit, because the narrator is describing their "reflection . . . on the darkened blind." We can also infer that lit candles would cause the lighting seen through the window of the man's house to be uneven, because the narrator says, "night after night I had found it lighted in the same way, faintly and evenly," describing his action of passing the house and assuming the man is still living. So, the correct answer is "The lighting seen through the window of the man's house would be uneven." It's important to consider the whole of the first paragraph and put several details together instead of relying solely on the one sentence about the candles, which may lead you to the incorrect answer about unlit candles.

Example Question #181 : Content Of Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from "The Sisters" in Dubliners by James Joyce (1914)

There was no hope for him this time: it was the third stroke. Night after night I had passed the house (it was vacation time) and studied the lighted square of window, and night after night I had found it lighted in the same way, faintly and evenly. If he was dead, I thought, I would see the reflection of candles on the darkened blind, for I knew that two candles must be set at the head of a corpse. He had often said to me, "I am not long for this world," and I had thought his words idle. Now I knew they were true. Every night as I gazed up at the window I said softly to myself the word “paralysis.” It had always sounded strangely in my ears, like the word “gnomon” in the Euclid and the word “simony” in the Catechism. But now it sounded to me like the name of some maleficent and sinful being. It filled me with fear, and yet I longed to be nearer to it and to look upon its deadly work.

Old Cotter was sitting at the fire, smoking, when I came downstairs to supper. While my aunt was ladling out my stirabout he said, as if returning to some former remark of his:

"No, I wouldn't say he was exactly . . . but there was something queer . . . there was something uncanny about him. I'll tell you my opinion . . ."

He began to puff at his pipe, no doubt arranging his opinion in his mind. Tiresome old fool! When we knew him first he used to be rather interesting, talking of faints and worms, but I soon grew tired of him and his endless stories about the distillery.

"I have my own theory about it," he said. "I think it was one of those . . . peculiar cases . . . But it's hard to say . . ."

He began to puff again at his pipe without giving us his theory. My uncle saw me staring and said to me:

"Well, so your old friend is gone, you'll be sorry to hear."

"Who?" said I.

"Father Flynn."

"Is he dead?"

"Mr. Cotter here has just told us. He was passing by the house."

I knew that I was under observation, so I continued eating as if the news had not interested me. My uncle explained to old Cotter.

"The youngster and he were great friends. The old chap taught him a great deal, mind you; and they say he had a great wish for him."

"God have mercy on his soul," said my aunt piously.

Old Cotter looked at me for a while. I felt that his little beady black eyes were examining me, but I would not satisfy him by looking up from my plate. He returned to his pipe and finally spat rudely into the grate.

Which of the following inferences is supported by the passage?

Possible Answers:

The narrator has female siblings.

Father Flynn died by drowning.

The man who had a stroke is the narrator's father.

Old Cotter murdered Father Flynn.

Were the narrator working or in school as usual, he would not have time to pass the house in which the man who had a stroke is dying.

Correct answer:

Were the narrator working or in school as usual, he would not have time to pass the house in which the man who had a stroke is dying.

Explanation:

Let's examine each answer choice individually to find the correct one.

"Old Cotter murdered Father Flynn." - While Old Cotter brought the news of Father Flynn's death to the narrator's aunt and uncle, we are not given any definitive reason to suspect that he murdered Father Flynn.

"The man who had a stroke is the narrator's father." - We are not told why the narrator is living with his aunt and uncle, but the assumption that the dying man is the narrator's father is too great of a leap to make without any evidence suggesting this. The narrator never refers to the man as his father or implies that he is his son.

"Father Flynn died by drowning." - We are only told that Father Flynn has died; we learn nothing about the manner of his death, so this answer choice cannot be correct.

"The narrator has female siblings." - The title of this story, "The Sisters," may seem to suggest this, but we don't know whose sisters the title is referring to at this point; it may even be figurative or symbolic, with no actual sisters involved in the story. We cannot assume that the narrator has sisters based on the passage, as we are not told anything about any sisters.

"Were the narrator working or in school as usual, he would not have time to pass the house in which the man who had a stroke is dying." - This is the correct answer, as it is supported by the first paragraph when the narrator states, "Night after night I had passed the house (it was vacation time)." From this statement, we can imply that the narrator is using the parenthetical to explain why he could pass the house night after night. Thus, if it were not vacation time, he would not have time to pass the house night after night.

Example Question #11 : Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from a book by Sui Sin Far (Edith Maude Eaton) (1909)

In this excerpt from an autobiographical essay, the author describes her experiences as growing up in Victorian England.

When I look back over the years I see myself, a little child of scarcely four years of age, walking in front of my nurse, in a green English lane, and listening to her tell another of her kind that my mother is Chinese. “Oh Lord!” exclaims the informed. She turns around and scans me curiously from head to foot. Then the two women whisper together. Though the word “Chinese” conveys very little meaning to my mind, I feel that they are talking about my father and mother and my heart swells with indignation. When we reach home I rush to my mother and try to tell her what I have heard. I am a young child. I fail to make myself intelligible. My mother does not understand, and when the nurse declares to her, “Little Miss Sui is a story-teller,” my mother slaps me. 

Many a long year has passed over my head since that day—the day on which I first learned I was something different and apart from other children, but though my mother has forgotten it, I have not. I see myself again, a few years older. I am playing with another child in a garden. A girl passes by outside the gate. “Mamie,” she cries to my companion. “I wouldn’t speak to Sui if I were you. Her mamma is Chinese.”

“I don’t care,” answers the little one beside me. And then to me, “Even if your mamma is Chinese, I like you better than I like Annie.”

“But I don’t like you,” I answer, turning my back on her. It is my first conscious lie.

I am at a children’s party, given by the wife of an Indian officer whose children were schoolfellows of mine. I am only six years of age, but have attended a private school for over a year, and have already learned that China is a heathen country, being civilized by England. However, for the time being, I am a merry romping child. There are quite a number of grown people present. One, a white-haired old man, has his attention called to me by the hostess. He adjusts his eyeglasses and surveys me critically. “Ah, indeed!” he exclaims. “Who would have thought it at first glance? Yet now I see the difference between her and other children. What a peculiar coloring! Her mother’s eyes and hair and her father’s features, I presume. Very interesting little creature!”

I had been called from play for the purpose of inspection. I do not return to it. For the rest of the evening I hide myself behind a hall door and refuse to show myself until it is time to go home.

By referring to Sui as a “story-teller” at the end of the first paragraph, the nurse suggests that Sui __________.

Possible Answers:

has a talent for narrative

is delusional

has an overactive imagination

is a liar

is exaggerating

Correct answer:

is a liar

Explanation:

"Story-teller" can either mean liar or person who tells stories. Since the nurses's accusation leads to Sui's mother slapping her, the word must be negative here, and therefore mean liar.

Example Question #1 : Making Inferences About The Author Or Literary Fiction Passage Content

Adapted from a book by Sui Sin Far (Edith Maude Eaton) (1909)

In this excerpt from an autobiographical essay, the author describes her experiences as growing up in Victorian England.

When I look back over the years I see myself, a little child of scarcely four years of age, walking in front of my nurse, in a green English lane, and listening to her tell another of her kind that my mother is Chinese. “Oh Lord!” exclaims the informed. She turns around and scans me curiously from head to foot. Then the two women whisper together. Though the word “Chinese” conveys very little meaning to my mind, I feel that they are talking about my father and mother and my heart swells with indignation. When we reach home I rush to my mother and try to tell her what I have heard. I am a young child. I fail to make myself intelligible. My mother does not understand, and when the nurse declares to her, “Little Miss Sui is a story-teller,” my mother slaps me. 

Many a long year has passed over my head since that day—the day on which I first learned I was something different and apart from other children, but though my mother has forgotten it, I have not. I see myself again, a few years older. I am playing with another child in a garden. A girl passes by outside the gate. “Mamie,” she cries to my companion. “I wouldn’t speak to Sui if I were you. Her mamma is Chinese.”

“I don’t care,” answers the little one beside me. And then to me, “Even if your mamma is Chinese, I like you better than I like Annie.”

“But I don’t like you,” I answer, turning my back on her. It is my first conscious lie.

I am at a children’s party, given by the wife of an Indian officer whose children were schoolfellows of mine. I am only six years of age, but have attended a private school for over a year, and have already learned that China is a heathen country, being civilized by England. However, for the time being, I am a merry romping child. There are quite a number of grown people present. One, a white-haired old man, has his attention called to me by the hostess. He adjusts his eyeglasses and surveys me critically. “Ah, indeed!” he exclaims. “Who would have thought it at first glance? Yet now I see the difference between her and other children. What a peculiar coloring! Her mother’s eyes and hair and her father’s features, I presume. Very interesting little creature!”

I had been called from play for the purpose of inspection. I do not return to it. For the rest of the evening I hide myself behind a hall door and refuse to show myself until it is time to go home.

Sui most likely rejects Mamie because __________.

Possible Answers:

she dislikes English girls

she is upset because her mother slapped her

Mamie has rejected her

she feels like an outsider

she doesn't enjoy Mamie's company

Correct answer:

she feels like an outsider

Explanation:

There is no indication in the passage that Sui dislikes English girls. Mamie does not reject her, and Sui states plainly that when she told Mamie "I don't like you," it was a lie, suggesting that she does enjoy Mamie's company. The incident with Mamie occurs several years after the incident in which her mother slapped her. From the other two stories in the passage, it is clear that Sui feels like an outsider, and it is reasonable to suppose that she does so in this case as well.

Example Question #122 : Literary Fiction

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.

It can reasonably be inferred from the passage that __________.

Possible Answers:

Mr. Farquhar likes to gossip.

Mr. Farquhar dislikes politics.

Mr. Farquhar does not love his wife.

Mr. Farquhar wants to destroy the bridge. 

Mr. Farquhar is not a soldier at heart.

Correct answer:

Mr. Farquhar wants to destroy the bridge. 

Explanation:

We can infer that Farquhar is intending on destroying the bridge firstly because the passage states that “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 secondly because his “hypothetical” question to the soldier is obviously illustrative of his intentions: "'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?'"

Example Question #10 : Extrapolating From The Text 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.

Based on the passage, the primary purpose for the picket post was to __________.

Possible Answers:

represent the main force of the Federal army

watch out for a Southern force

act as a temporary railway station

defend against the Yanks

help to gather supplies for the Federal camp

Correct answer:

watch out for a Southern force

Explanation:

We can infer that Yanks are the same as the Federal side mentioned in the last line. We know that the Yanks are on the north side of the river. Farquhar asks the soldier about the “force” on “this side” (the southern side) of the river, the soldier replies that there is “Only a picket post half a mile out, on the rail road, and a single sentinel at this end of the bridge.” We can infer from the context of this sentence that a "picket post" is a post at which a soldier for any vandals or Southern force.

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