ACT Reading : Drawing Inferences from Prose Fiction Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT Reading

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Example Questions

Example Question #33 : Making Inferences In Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (1811)

For a moment or two she could say no more; but when this emotion had passed away, she added, in a firmer tone, "Elinor, I have been cruelly used; but not by Willoughby."

"Dearest Marianne, who but himself? By whom can he have been instigated?"

"By all the world, rather than by his own heart. I could rather believe every creature of my acquaintance leagued together to ruin me in his opinion, than believe his nature capable of such cruelty. This woman of whom he writes—whoever she be—or any one, in short, but your own dear self, mama, and Edward, may have been so barbarous to bely me. Beyond you three, is there a creature in the world whom I would not rather suspect of evil than Willoughby, whose heart I know so well?"

Elinor would not contend, and only replied, "Whoever may have been so detestably your enemy, let them be cheated of their malignant triumph, my dear sister, by seeing how nobly the consciousness of your own innocence and good intentions supports your spirits. It is a reasonable and laudable pride which resists such malevolence."

"No, no," cried Marianne, "misery such as mine has no pride. I care not who knows that I am wretched. The triumph of seeing me so may be open to all the world. Elinor, Elinor, they who suffer little may be proud and independent as they like—may resist insult, or return mortification—but I cannot. I must feel—I must be wretched—and they are welcome to enjoy the consciousness of it that can."

"But for my mother's sake and mine—"

"I would do more than for my own. But to appear happy when I am so miserable—Oh! who can require it?"

Again they were both silent. 

It can be reasonably inferred from the passage that which of the following occurred between Marianne and Willoughby?

Possible Answers:

He left her to be with another woman.

The two just got married.

Her mother refused to let them get married.

Elinor stole him from her.

They just became happily engaged.

Correct answer:

He left her to be with another woman.

Explanation:

In this passage, Elinor is commiserating with Marianne over Willoughby's betrayal. It is apparent that she didn't play a role in it. Since Marianne admits that she has been "cruelly used", it is unlikely that she is happily engaged. The trust she expresses in her mother makes it unlikely that her mother was the source of their split. Marianne mentions "this woman of whom he writes," so it is plausible that Willoughby left Marianne for her.

Example Question #34 : Making Inferences In Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (1811)

For a moment or two she could say no more; but when this emotion had passed away, she added, in a firmer tone, "Elinor, I have been cruelly used; but not by Willoughby."

"Dearest Marianne, who but himself? By whom can he have been instigated?"

"By all the world, rather than by his own heart. I could rather believe every creature of my acquaintance leagued together to ruin me in his opinion, than believe his nature capable of such cruelty. This woman of whom he writes—whoever she be—or any one, in short, but your own dear self, mama, and Edward, may have been so barbarous to bely me. Beyond you three, is there a creature in the world whom I would not rather suspect of evil than Willoughby, whose heart I know so well?"

Elinor would not contend, and only replied, "Whoever may have been so detestably your enemy, let them be cheated of their malignant triumph, my dear sister, by seeing how nobly the consciousness of your own innocence and good intentions supports your spirits. It is a reasonable and laudable pride which resists such malevolence."

"No, no," cried Marianne, "misery such as mine has no pride. I care not who knows that I am wretched. The triumph of seeing me so may be open to all the world. Elinor, Elinor, they who suffer little may be proud and independent as they like—may resist insult, or return mortification—but I cannot. I must feel—I must be wretched—and they are welcome to enjoy the consciousness of it that can."

"But for my mother's sake and mine—"

"I would do more than for my own. But to appear happy when I am so miserable—Oh! who can require it?"

Again they were both silent. 

It can be reasonably inferred from the passage that Marianne would agree with which of the following viewpoints?

Possible Answers:

A friend's secrets should never be disclosed without his or her permission.

Anybody can be unfaithful.

Never trust a man who has betrayed you once.

True emotions cannot and should not be suppressed.

Self-control is more important than enthusiasm.

Correct answer:

True emotions cannot and should not be suppressed.

Explanation:

Marianne states that "they who suffer little may be proud and independent as they like—may resist insult, or return mortification—but I cannot. I must feel—I must be wretched..." This implies that she suffers too much to hide her feelings, so one can reasonably infer that she would agree that true emotions cannot and should not be suppressed.

Example Question #31 : Making Inferences In Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (1811)

For a moment or two she could say no more; but when this emotion had passed away, she added, in a firmer tone, "Elinor, I have been cruelly used; but not by Willoughby."

"Dearest Marianne, who but himself? By whom can he have been instigated?"

"By all the world, rather than by his own heart. I could rather believe every creature of my acquaintance leagued together to ruin me in his opinion, than believe his nature capable of such cruelty. This woman of whom he writes—whoever she be—or any one, in short, but your own dear self, mama, and Edward, may have been so barbarous to bely me. Beyond you three, is there a creature in the world whom I would not rather suspect of evil than Willoughby, whose heart I know so well?"

Elinor would not contend, and only replied, "Whoever may have been so detestably your enemy, let them be cheated of their malignant triumph, my dear sister, by seeing how nobly the consciousness of your own innocence and good intentions supports your spirits. It is a reasonable and laudable pride which resists such malevolence."

"No, no," cried Marianne, "misery such as mine has no pride. I care not who knows that I am wretched. The triumph of seeing me so may be open to all the world. Elinor, Elinor, they who suffer little may be proud and independent as they like—may resist insult, or return mortification—but I cannot. I must feel—I must be wretched—and they are welcome to enjoy the consciousness of it that can."

"But for my mother's sake and mine—"

"I would do more than for my own. But to appear happy when I am so miserable—Oh! who can require it?"

Again they were both silent. 

It can be reasonably assumed from the passage that if Elinor were in Marianne's position, she would respond by __________.

Possible Answers:

crying to Marianne and her mother about her pain and the loss of the love of the man she esteemed so well

begging Willoughby to take her back

trying to appear calm and unaffected to preserve her pride and avoid hurting her loved ones with her pain

running away from the entire situation

devising an elaborate plan to achieve revenge on the man who hurt her

Correct answer:

trying to appear calm and unaffected to preserve her pride and avoid hurting her loved ones with her pain

Explanation:

Some insight into Elinor's probable behavior can be gained from her advice to Marianne. She advises her that "a reasonable and laudable pride...resists such malevolence," and urges her to try to keep herself composed "for my mother's sake and mine."

Example Question #7 : Extrapolating From The Text 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 can infer from the passage and the title of the work from which it is adapted that Dorian Gray __________.

Possible Answers:

is married

is Lord Henry’s brother

is likely to show up later in the story

is dead

is not real

Correct answer:

is likely to show up later in the story

Explanation:

The title of the work this passage is drawn from is provided: The Picture of Dorian Gray. From this, we know that the portrait is going to play a large role in the story that follows. All that the passage tells us about Dorian Gray is that Basil Hallward painted his portrait, he is good-looking, and the portrait turned out well. Nothing suggests that he is dead, married, not real, or Lord Henry’s brother. (This last one is perhaps the most unlikely, as Lord Henry explicitly states that he does not know Dorian Gray’s name.) The inference we can make from the passage and its source is that Dorian Gray “is likely to show up later in the story.” This is a fair inference to make, given that the entire work is titled after the portrait of him and one character has already said he does not know him.

Example Question #8 : Extrapolating From The Text 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 Arno is most likely __________.

Possible Answers:

a statue housed in a nearby museum

a famous fountain in the courtyard

a river

a specific district of London

a specific suite in the pension

Correct answer:

a river

Explanation:

Throughout the passage, we are told few things about the Arno. We know that Lucy wants to see the Arno, as she says so in the fourth paragraph. The same paragraph tells us that "The rooms the Signora promised [them] in her letter would have looked over the Arno," so the Arno is something that can be "looked over." Based on these details, we can tell that the Arno isn't a suite in the pension, as rooms in the pension "look over" it. Similarly, the Arno cannot be "a statue in a nearby museum," because it would not be able to be seen from a room if it were in a museum. It makes no sense that the Arno would be "a specific district of London," as the two women are not in London in the passage. The Arno similarly cannot be "a famous fountain in the courtyard," as in the passage, the two women have rooms overlooking the courtyard yet are upset about not being able to see the Arno. The only remaining answer choice is the correct one: "a river." This makes sense, as a room might "look over" a river, and a river might be something one might want to see when traveling around in a foreign country.

Example Question #31 : Extrapolating From The Text 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!”

Which of the following can we infer from the passage?

Possible Answers:

Lucy and Miss Bartlett are sisters.

Lucy is a novelist.

Lucy and Miss Bartlett are currently visiting London.

Lucy and Miss Bartlett are attending a wedding in a foreign country.

Lucy and Miss Bartlett have been to London.

Correct answer:

Lucy and Miss Bartlett have been to London.

Explanation:

In the second paragraph, Lucy recognizes the Signora's accent as a Cockney one and comments, "It might be London." After observing the English details of and people in the room, she adds, ""Charlotte, don't you feel, too, that we might be in London?" In order to compare their current surroundings with London, both Lucy and Miss Bartlett would have had to have visited London before, so this is the correct answer. None of the other answers can be supported by the passage: since "Lucy's mother" paid for part of Miss Bartlett's traveling expenses, we can assume that the two women are not sisters, or Lucy's mother would also be Miss Bartlett's mother. We can infer that the women are not currently visiting London because Lucy compares the pension to London. No mention is made of Lucy's being a novelist or of the two women attending a wedding.

Example Question #36 : Making Inferences In Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from "The Three Musketeers" in Volume Sixteen of The Romances of Alexandre Dumas (1844; 1893 ed.)

As they rode along, the duke endeavored to draw from d'Artagnan not all that had happened, but what d'Artagnan himself knew. By adding all that he heard from the mouth of the young man to his own remembrances, he was enabled to form a pretty exact idea of a position of the seriousness of which, for the rest, the queen's letter, short but explicit, gave him the clue. But that which astonished him most was that the cardinal, so deeply interested in preventing this young man from setting his foot in England, had not succeeded in arresting him on the road. It was then, upon the manifestation of this astonishment, that d'Artagnan related to him the precaution taken, and how, thanks to the devotion of his three friends, whom he had left scattered and bleeding on the road, he had succeeded in coming off with a single sword thrust, which had pierced the queen's letter and for which he had repaid Monsieur de Wardes with such terrible coin. While he was listening to this recital, delivered with the greatest simplicity, the duke looked from time to time at the young man with astonishment, as if he could not comprehend how so much prudence, courage, and devotedness could be allied with a countenance which indicated not more than twenty years.

The horses went like the wind, and in a few minutes they were at the gates of London. D'Artagnan imagined that on arriving in town the duke would slacken his pace, but it was not so. He kept on his way at the same rate, heedless about upsetting those whom he met on the road. In fact, in crossing the city two or three accidents of this kind happened; but Buckingham did not even turn his head to see what became of those he had knocked down. D'Artagnan followed him amid cries which strongly resembled curses.

On entering the court of his hotel, Buckingham sprang from his horse, and without thinking what became of the animal, threw the bridle on his neck, and sprang toward the vestibule. D'Artagnan did the same, with a little more concern, however, for the noble creatures, whose merits he fully appreciated; but he had the satisfaction of seeing three or four grooms run from the kitchens and the stables, and busy themselves with the steeds.

Was the cardinal successful in preventing d’Artagnan from entering England, and how can we tell?

Possible Answers:

Yes, because d'Artagnan tells the duke this in the first paragraph.

No, because the duke helped d'Artagnan hide from the cardinal.

No, because d'Artagnan has a letter from the queen.

We cannot tell whether the cardinal was successful in keeping d'Artagnan out of England based on the information presented in the passage.

No, because d'Artagnan and the duke ride to London in the passage.

Correct answer:

No, because d'Artagnan and the duke ride to London in the passage.

Explanation:

The duke does not help d'Artagnan hide from the cardinal, and nowhere in the first paragraph or the entire passage does d'Artagnan tell the duke that the cardinal succeeded in keeping him out of England, so those answer choices are incorrect. The passage does demonstrate that the cardinal was not successful in keeping d'Artagnan out of England, so "We cannot tell whether the cardinal was successful in keeping d'Artagnan out of England based on the information presented in the passage" cannot be correct either. This leaves us with two remaining answer choices: "No, because d'Artagnan has a letter from the queen" and "No, because d'Artagnan and the duke ride to London in the passage." At this point we must consider the logic of each statement. While it is true that "d'Artagnan has a letter from the queen," this does not help us realize that he was able to get into England. We can tell that d'Artagnan was successful in entering England because he and the duke ride to London in the passage, and London is a city in England. This is the correct answer.

Example Question #1361 : Sat Critical Reading

Adapted from "The Three Musketeers" in Volume Sixteen of The Romances of Alexandre Dumas (1844; 1893 ed.)

As they rode along, the duke endeavored to draw from d'Artagnan not all that had happened, but what d'Artagnan himself knew. By adding all that he heard from the mouth of the young man to his own remembrances, he was enabled to form a pretty exact idea of a position of the seriousness of which, for the rest, the queen's letter, short but explicit, gave him the clue. But that which astonished him most was that the cardinal, so deeply interested in preventing this young man from setting his foot in England, had not succeeded in arresting him on the road. It was then, upon the manifestation of this astonishment, that d'Artagnan related to him the precaution taken, and how, thanks to the devotion of his three friends, whom he had left scattered and bleeding on the road, he had succeeded in coming off with a single sword thrust, which had pierced the queen's letter and for which he had repaid Monsieur de Wardes with such terrible coin. While he was listening to this recital, delivered with the greatest simplicity, the duke looked from time to time at the young man with astonishment, as if he could not comprehend how so much prudence, courage, and devotedness could be allied with a countenance which indicated not more than twenty years.

The horses went like the wind, and in a few minutes they were at the gates of London. D'Artagnan imagined that on arriving in town the duke would slacken his pace, but it was not so. He kept on his way at the same rate, heedless about upsetting those whom he met on the road. In fact, in crossing the city two or three accidents of this kind happened; but Buckingham did not even turn his head to see what became of those he had knocked down. D'Artagnan followed him amid cries which strongly resembled curses.

On entering the court of his hotel, Buckingham sprang from his horse, and without thinking what became of the animal, threw the bridle on his neck, and sprang toward the vestibule. D'Artagnan did the same, with a little more concern, however, for the noble creatures, whose merits he fully appreciated; but he had the satisfaction of seeing three or four grooms run from the kitchens and the stables, and busy themselves with the steeds.

Which of the following pairs of characters are most likely NOT enemies?

Possible Answers:

D'Artagnan's three friends and Monsieur de Wardes

The queen and the cardinal

Monsieur de Wardes and the cardinal

Buckingham and the cardinal

D'Artagnan and Monsieur de Wardes

Correct answer:

Monsieur de Wardes and the cardinal

Explanation:

This question requires you to consider subtle details conveyed throughout the entire passage. Let's consider each answer choice individually:

"D'Artagnan's three friends and Monsieur de Wardes" -  We can infer these characters are enemies because d'Artagnan's three friends fight with him and are injured, whereas Monsieur de Wardes fights against d'Artagnan in this same skirmish.

"Buckingham and the cardinal" - We can infer that these characters are enemies because while Buckingham knows that the cardinal tried to stop d'Artagnan from entering England, he does nothing to expel d'Artagnan from England, and instead travels to London with him.

"D'Artagnan and Monsieur de Wardes" - We can tell these characters are enemies because d'Artagnan describes his fight with Monsieur de Wardes in the first paragraph.

"The queen and the cardinal" - This one is tricky. We can tell that the queen and the cardinal are likely enemies because d'Artagnan is carrying a letter from the queen, yet the cardinal aimed to stop him from traveling freely.

"Monsieur de Wardes and the cardinal" - This is the correct answer choice, as these characters are likely to be working together from what we are told in the passage. The cardinal wanted to prevent d'Artagnan from entering England, and after d'Artagnan managed to get into England, Monsieur de Wardes attacked him. We can infer that the cardinal and Monsieur de Wardes are thus both working to stop d'Artagnan from carrying the queen's letter to its recipient.

Example Question #1302 : Passage Based Questions

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.”

The second paragraph allows us to infer that the other passengers likely __________.

Possible Answers:

are traveling as a large group

booked their tickets for the steamboat well in advance

only travel by steamboat because it is inexpensive

did not bring their own meals with them for the journey

had luggage and were accompanied by friends to the dock

Correct answer:

had luggage and were accompanied by friends to the dock

Explanation:

At the beginning of the second paragraph, the man in cream-colors is described by what he lacks: 

“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.” 

The crowd identifies the man as a “stranger” (an unknown person and an unusual person), and because this is preceded by the information that the man does not have any luggage and was not accompanied by anyone to the dock, we can assume that the lack of these details is part of what makes him strange to the crowd. From this, we can infer that the other passengers likely differed from the man in cream-colors in this regard, meaning that the other passengers likely “had luggage and were accompanied by friends to the dock.

Example Question #45 : Interpreting Excerpts

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.”

Which of the following best describes what the author implies in the underlined selection "in the extremest sense of the word" in the second paragraph?

Possible Answers:

The man is unknown to each and every one of his fellow passengers.

The man is dressed for the wrong climate, which is especially notable when comparing his garb with the garb of the other passengers.

The man is both strange and unknown to the other passengers.

The man has been cut off from contacting his family for an unknown reason.

The man speaks a different language and so cannot understand what the other passengers are saying or be verbally understood by them.

Correct answer:

The man is both strange and unknown to the other passengers.

Explanation:

In answering this question, it is important to pick up on the author’s use of the double meaning of “stranger.” “Stranger” can mean person one has not met and does not know, but “strange” can also mean weird and unusual. The author is using it both capacities, emphasizing that the man is both strange and unknown to the other passengers. One can pick up on the weird and unusual meaning by considering the sentence before the one containing the phrase, where the author details ways in which the man is different from a typical passenger: he arrives without any baggage or friends. 

As for the other answer choices, “The man has been cut off from contacting his family for an unknown reason” plays off of the meaning of “estranged,” not “stranger”; it is important to keep to the word being used. “The man is unknown to each and every one of his fellow passengers” merely emphasizes the meaning of “stranger” as unknown person, and misses the double meaning at work; similarly, “The man is dressed for the wrong climate, which is especially notable when comparing his garb with the garb of the other passengers” emphasizes the other weird and unusual definition but misses the unknown person one. “The man speaks a different language and so cannot understand what the other passengers are saying or be verbally understood by them” may sound plausible as the man in cream-colors doesn’t say anything in the passage, but he does end up writing in English “Charity thinketh no evil” on a slate he carries at the end of the passage, confirming that he knows how to write in English, making it unlikely that he also cannot speak it. Furthermore, at this point in the paragraph, we are given nothing to go on to infer that this is the case.

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