AP English Language : Literary Devices

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for AP English Language

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Literary Devices

Adapted from the First Inaugural Address of Thomas Jefferson (March 4th, 1801)

During the contest of opinion through which we have passed, the animation of discussions and of exertions has sometimes worn an aspect which might impose on strangers unused to think freely and to speak and to write what they think; but this being now decided by the voice of the nation, announced according to the rules of the Constitution, all will, of course, arrange themselves under the will of the law, and unite in common efforts for the common good. All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.

Let us, then, fellow-citizens, unite with one heart and one mind. Let us restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty and even life itself are but dreary things. And let us reflect that, having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions. During the throes and convulsions of the ancient world, during the agonizing spasms of infuriated man, seeking through blood and slaughter his long-lost liberty, it was not wonderful that the agitation of the billows should reach even this distant and peaceful shore; that this should be more felt and feared by some and less by others, and should divide opinions as to measures of safety.

But every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists. If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it. I know, indeed, that some honest men fear that a republican government can not be strong, that this government is not strong enough; but would the honest patriot, in the full tide of successful experiment, abandon a government which has so far kept us free and firm on the theoretic and visionary fear that this government, the world's best hope, may by possibility want energy to preserve itself? I trust not. I believe this, on the contrary, the strongest government on earth. I believe it the only one where every man, at the call of the law, would fly to the standard of the law, and would meet invasions of the public order as his own personal concern. Sometimes it is said that man can not be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.

To what does Jefferson draw an analogy for the current political strife?

Possible Answers:

The wars of religion in Europe

The recent war for independence

The peace of antiquity

The disagreements of medieval men

Religious disagreements over theological matters

Correct answer:

The wars of religion in Europe

Explanation:

The key section for this question is "And let us reflect that, having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions." Here, Jefferson draws a parallel to the religious intolerance and wars that occurred in Europe. He parallels the wars and bloodshed of this period to the current political squabbling. They are at least analogous in his mind.

Example Question #2 : Allegory And Analogy

Adapted from "What is Noble?" in Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche (1886):

To be sure, one must not resign oneself to any humanitarian illusions about the history of the origin of an aristocratic society (that is to say, of the preliminary condition for the elevation of the type "man"): the truth is hard. Let us acknowledge unprejudicedly how every higher civilization hitherto has ORIGINATED! Men with a still natural nature, barbarians in every terrible sense of the word, men of prey, still in possession of unbroken strength of will and desire for power, threw themselves upon weaker, more moral, more peaceful races (perhaps trading or cattle-rearing communities), or upon old mellow civilizations in which the final vital force was flickering out in brilliant fireworks of wit and depravity. At the commencement, the noble caste was always the barbarian caste: their superiority did not consist first of all in their physical, but in their psychical power—they were more COMPLETE men (which at every point also implies the same as "more complete beasts").

258. Corruption—as the indication that anarchy threatens to break out among the instincts, and that the foundation of the emotions, called "life," is convulsed—is something radically different according to the organization in which it manifests itself. When, for instance, an aristocracy like that of France at the beginning of the Revolution, flung away its privileges with sublime disgust and sacrificed itself to an excess of its moral sentiments, it was corruption:—it was really only the closing act of the corruption which had existed for centuries, by virtue of which that aristocracy had abdicated step by step its lordly prerogatives and lowered itself to a FUNCTION of royalty (in the end even to its decoration and parade-dress). The essential thing, however, in a good and healthy aristocracy is that it should not regard itself as a function either of the kingship or the commonwealth, but as the SIGNIFICANCE and highest justification thereof—that it should therefore accept with a good conscience the sacrifice of a legion of individuals, who, FOR ITS SAKE, must be suppressed and reduced to imperfect men, to slaves and instruments. Its fundamental belief must be precisely that society is NOT allowed to exist for its own sake, but only as a foundation and scaffolding, by means of which a select class of beings may be able to elevate themselves to their higher duties, and in general to a higher EXISTENCE: like those sun-seeking climbing plants in Java—they are called Sipo Matador,—which encircle an oak so long and so often with their arms, until at last, high above it, but supported by it, they can unfold their tops in the open light, and exhibit their happiness.

259. To refrain mutually from injury, from violence, from exploitation, and put one's will on a par with that of others: this may result in a certain rough sense in good conduct among individuals when the necessary conditions are given (namely, the actual similarity of the individuals in amount of force and degree of worth, and their co-relation within one organization). As soon, however, as one wished to take this principle more generally, and if possible even as the FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLE OF SOCIETY, it would immediately disclose what it really is—namely, a Will to the DENIAL of life, a principle of dissolution and decay. Here one must think profoundly to the very basis and resist all sentimental weakness: life itself is ESSENTIALLY appropriation, injury, conquest of the strange and weak, suppression, severity, obtrusion of peculiar forms, incorporation, and at the least, putting it mildest, exploitation;—but why should one for ever use precisely these words on which for ages a disparaging purpose has been stamped? Even the organization within which, as was previously supposed, the individuals treat each other as equal—it takes place in every healthy aristocracy—must itself, if it be a living and not a dying organization, do all that towards other bodies, which the individuals within it refrain from doing to each other it will have to be the incarnated Will to Power, it will endeavour to grow, to gain ground, attract to itself and acquire ascendancy—not owing to any morality or immorality, but because it LIVES, and because life IS precisely Will to Power. On no point, however, is the ordinary consciousness of Europeans more unwilling to be corrected than on this matter, people now rave everywhere, even under the guise of science, about coming conditions of society in which "the exploiting character" is to be absent—that sounds to my ears as if they promised to invent a mode of life which should refrain from all organic functions. "Exploitation" does not belong to a depraved, or imperfect and primitive society it belongs to the nature of the living being as a primary organic function, it is a consequence of the intrinsic Will to Power, which is precisely the Will to Life.

The author mentions the sun-seeking plants of Java that grow around oak trees in order to depict __________.

Possible Answers:

The difference between the Will to Life in nature and in humans.

That the common class and aristocrats are as different as oak and vines.

The aristocrats form a parasitic relationship with the common classes of society.

That aristocrats must believe society exists so they can exhibit their happiness, not that society exists for itself.

The idea of social climbing and class mobility.

Correct answer:

That aristocrats must believe society exists so they can exhibit their happiness, not that society exists for itself.

Explanation:

The author is creating an analogy, comparing the sun-seeking plant supported by the oak to the aristocratic class, whose "fundamental belief must be precisely that society is NOT allowed to exist for its own sake, but only as a foundation and scaffolding, by means of which a select class of beings may be able to elevate themselves to their higher duties."

The author does not suggest that there is an innate physical difference between the common class and the aristocratic class, as there is between vines and oak trees.

Based on the passage, the author believes that the Will to Life or Will to Power is an inherent quality of all life, and exists in both nature and humans.

The sun-seeking plant does not represent social mobility, in fact it represents the opposite, as the oak tree (the common people) can never become the vine (the aristocrats).

The author does not suggest that the aristocrats form a parasitic relationship with the common classes.

Example Question #2 : Literary Devices

Passage adapted from “Camping Out” by Ernest Hemingway (1920)

Thousands of people will go into the bush this summer to cut the high cost of living. A man who gets his two weeks’ salary while he is on vacation should be able to put those two weeks in fishing and camping and be able to save one week’s salary clear. He ought to be able to sleep comfortably every night, to eat well every day and to return to the city rested and in good condition.

But if he goes into the woods with a frying pan, an ignorance of black flies and mosquitoes, and a great and abiding lack of knowledge about cookery, the chances are that his return will be very different. He will come back with enough mosquito bites to make the back of his neck look like a relief map of the Caucasus. His digestion will be wrecked after a valiant battle to assimilate half-cooked or charred grub.

And he won’t have had a decent night’s sleep while he has been gone.

He will solemnly raise his right hand and inform you that he has joined the grand army of never-agains. The call of the wild may be all right, but it’s a dog’s life. He’s heard the call of the tame with both ears. Waiter, bring him an order of milk toast.

In the first place he overlooked the insects. Black flies, no-see-ums, deer flies, gnats and mosquitoes were instituted by the devil to force people to live in cities where he could get at them better. If it weren’t for them everybody would live in the bush and he would be out of work. It was a rather successful invention.

But there are lots of dopes that will counteract the pests. The simplest perhaps is oil of citronella. Two bits’ worth of this purchased at any pharmacist’s will be enough to last for two weeks in the worst fly and mosquito-ridden country.

Rub a little on the back of your neck, your forehead and your wrists before you start fishing, and the blacks and skeeters will shun you. The odor of citronella is not offensive to people. It smells like gun oil. But the bugs do hate it.

Oil of pennyroyal and eucalyptol are also much hated by mosquitoes, and with citronella they form the basis for many proprietary preparations. But it is cheaper and better to buy the straight citronella. Put a little on the mosquito netting that covers the front of your pup tent or canoe tent at night, and you won’t be bothered.

To be really rested and get any benefit out of a vacation a man must get a good night’s sleep every night. The first requisite for this is to have plenty of cover. It is twice as cold as you expect it will be in the bush four nights out of five, and a good plan is to take just double the bedding that you think you will need. An old quilt that you can wrap up in is as warm as two blankets.

Nearly all outdoor writers rhapsodize over the browse bed. It is all right for the man who knows how to make one and has plenty of time. But in a succession of one-night camps on a canoe trip all you need is level ground for your tent floor and you will sleep all right if you have plenty of covers under you. Take twice as much cover as you think that you will need, and then put two-thirds of it under you. You will sleep warm and get your rest.

When it is clear weather you don’t need to pitch your tent if you are only stopping for the night. Drive four stakes at the head of your made-up bed and drape your mosquito bar over that, then you can sleep like a log and laugh at the mosquitoes.

Which sentence is an example of the rhetorical device of apostrophe?

Possible Answers:

"But in a succession of one-night camps on a canoe trip all you need is level ground for your tent floor and you will sleep all right if you have plenty of covers under you."

"Black flies, no-see-ums, deer flies, gnats and mosquitoes were instituted by the devil to force people to live in cities where he could get at them better."

"It smells like gun oil."

"Waiter, bring him an order of milk toast."

"He will solemnly raise his right hand and inform you that he has joined the grand army of never-agains."

Correct answer:

"Waiter, bring him an order of milk toast."

Explanation:

Apostrophe is the address by the author of a person who is not present. In the correct answer, the author addresses the waiter. The waiter is not the audience of the essay, and the waiter is not present.

Example Question #4 : Literary Devices

Passage adapted from Henry David Thoreau's Walden (1854).

The shore is irregular enough not to be monotonous. I have in my mind's eye the western, indented with deep bays, the bolder northern, and the beautifully scalloped southern shore, where successive capes overlap each other and suggest unexplored coves between. The forest has never so good a setting, nor is so distinctly beautiful, as when seen from the middle of a small lake amid hills which rise from the water's edge; for the water in which it is reflected not only makes the best foreground in such a case, but, with its winding shore, the most natural and agreeable boundary to it. There is no rawness or imperfection in its edge there, as where the axe has cleared a part, or a cultivated field abuts on it. The trees have ample room to expand on the water side, and each sends forth its most vigorous branch in that direction. There Nature has woven a natural selvage, and the eye rises by just gradations from the low shrubs of the shore to the highest trees. There are few traces of man's hand to be seen. The water laves the shore as it did a thousand years ago.

A lake is the landscape's most beautiful and expressive feature. It is earth's eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature. The fluviatile trees next to the shore are the slender eyelashes which fringe it, and the wooded hills and cliffs around are its overhanging brows. 

Standing on the smooth sandy beach at the east end of the pond, in a calm September afternoon, when a slight haze makes the opposite shore-line indistinct, I have seen whence came the expression, "the glassy surface of a lake." When you invert your head, it looks like a thread of finest gossamer stretched across the valley, and gleaming against the distant pine woods, separating one stratum of the atmosphere from another. You would think that you could walk dry under it to the opposite hills, and that the swallows which skim over might perch on it. Indeed, they sometimes dive below the line, as it were by mistake, and are undeceived. As you look over the pond westward you are obliged to employ both your hands to defend your eyes against the reflected as well as the true sun, for they are equally bright; and if, between the two, you survey its surface critically, it is literally as smooth as glass, except where the skater insects, at equal intervals scattered over its whole extent, by their motions in the sun produce the finest imaginable sparkle on it, or, perchance, a duck plumes itself, or, as I have said, a swallow skims so low as to touch it. It may be that in the distance a fish describes an arc of three or four feet in the air, and there is one bright flash where it emerges, and another where it strikes the water; sometimes the whole silvery arc is revealed; or here and there, perhaps, is a thistle-down floating on its surface, which the fishes dart at and so dimple it again. It is like molten glass cooled but not congealed, and the few motes in it are pure and beautiful like the imperfections in glass. You may often detect a yet smoother and darker water, seperated from the rest as if by an invisible cobweb, boom of the water nymphs, resting on it. From a hilltop you can see a fish leap in almost any part; for not a pickerel or shiner picks an insect from this smooth surface but it manifestly disturbs the equilibrium of the whole lake. It is wonderful with what elaborateness this simple fact is advertised--this piscine murder will out--and from my distant perch I distinguish the circling undulations when they are half a dozen rods in diameter. You can even detect a water-bug ceaselessly progressing over the smooth surface a quarter of a mile off; for they furrow the water slightly, making a conspicuous ripple bounded by two diverging lines, but the skaters glide over it without rippling it perceptibly. When the surface is considerably agitated there are no skaters nor water-bugs on it, but apparently, in calm days, they leave their havens and adventurously glide forth from the shore by short impulses till they completely cover it. It is a soothing employment, on one of those fine days in the fall when all the warmth of the sun is fully appreciated, to sit on a stump on such a height as this, overlooking the pond, and study the dimpling circles which are incessantly inscribed on its otherwise invisible surface amid the reflected skies and trees.

In the passage, what image does the author use to describe the features of a lake surrounded by trees, hills and cliffs?

Possible Answers:

A fingernail

A fish's belly

An ember

An eye

The moon

Correct answer:

An eye

Explanation:

The author describes a lake surrounded by trees, hills and cliffs as "earth's eye." The trees are lashes and the cliffs and hills are overhanging brows.

The passage contains no references to the lake as an ember, a fish's belly, the moon, or a fingernail.

Example Question #2 : Literary Devices

Adapted from Are the Planets Inhabited? by E. Walter Maunder (1913)

What is a living organism? A living organism is such that, though it is continually changing its substance, its identity, as a whole, remains essentially the same. This definition is incomplete, but it gives us a first essential approximation, it indicates the continuance of the whole, with the unceasing change of the details. Were this definition complete, a river would furnish us with a perfect example of a living organism, because, while the river remains, the individual drops of water are continually changing. There is then something more in the living organism than the continuity of the whole, with the change of the details.

An analogy, given by Max Verworn, carries us a step further. He likens life to a flame, and takes a gas flame with its butterfly shape as a particularly appropriate illustration. Here the shape of the flame remains constant, even in its details. Immediately above the burner, at the base of the flame, there is a completely dark space; surrounding this, a bluish zone that is faintly luminous; and beyond this again, the broad spread of the two wings that are brightly luminous. The flame, like the river, preserves its identity of form, while its constituent details—the gases that feed it—are in continual change. But there is not only a change of material in the flame; there is a change of condition. Everywhere the gas from the burner is entering into energetic combination with the oxygen of the air, with evolution of light and heat. There is change in the constituent particles as well as change of the constituent particles; there is more than the mere flux of material through the form; there is change of the material, and in the process of that change energy is developed.

A steam-engine may afford us a third illustration. Here fresh material is continually being introduced into the engine there to suffer change. Part is supplied as fuel to the fire there to maintain the temperature of the engine; so far the illustration is analogous to that of the gas flame. But the engine carries us a step further, for part of the material supplied to it is water, which is converted into steam by the heat of the fire, and from the expansion of the steam the energy sought from the machine is derived. Here again we have change in the material with development of energy; but there is not only work done in the subject, there is work done by it.

But the living organism differs from artificial machines in that, of itself and by itself, it is continuously drawing into itself non-living matter, converting it into an integral part of the organism, and so endowing it with the qualities of life. And from this non-living matter it derives fresh energy for the carrying on of the life of the organism.

The author uses three different metaphors to explain what a living organism is in order to __________.

Possible Answers:

adequately explain how a living organism operates

directly compare a living organism with a river rather than a flame or steam engine

demonstrate his knowledge of the world

fully convey the complexity of a living organism

illustrate the differences between a river, a gas flame, and a steam engine

Correct answer:

fully convey the complexity of a living organism

Explanation:

The three metaphors which make up the bulk of the passage all illustrate some aspect of how a living organism works; however, each one is somehow incomplete, as the river is not complex enough, the flame is essentially only change, and the steam engine is not self-sufficient. Together, these provide a fairly strong example of how a living organism functions.

Example Question #1 : Metaphor And Simile

Adapted from "Margaret Fuller and Mary Wollstonecraft" by George Eliot (1855)

There is a notion commonly entertained among men that an instructed woman, capable of having opinions, is likely to prove an unpractical yoke-fellow, always pulling one way when her husband wants to go the other, oracular in tone, and prone to give lectures. But surely, so far as obstinacy is concerned, your unreasoning animal is the most difficult of your creatures. For our own parts, we see no reason why women should be better kept under control rather than educated to be mans rational equal.  

If you ask me what offices women may fill, I reply—any. I do not care what case you put; let them be sea-captains, if you will. I do not doubt there are women well fitted for such an office, and, if so, I should be glad to welcome the Maid of Saragossa. I think women need, especially at this juncture, a much greater range of occupation than they have, to rouse their latent powers. In families that I know, some little girls like to saw wood, and others to use carpenters' tools. Where these tastes are indulged, cheerfulness and good-humor are promoted. Where they are forbidden, because "such things are not proper for girls," they grow sullen and mischievous.

Men pay a heavy price for their reluctance to encourage self-help and independent resources in women. The precious meridian years of many a man of genius have to be spent in the toil of routine, that an "establishment" may be kept up for a woman who can understand none of his secret yearnings, who is fit for nothing but to sit in her drawing-room like a doll-Madonna in her shrine. No matter. Anything is more endurable than to change our established formulae about women, or to run the risk of looking up to our wives instead of looking down on them. So men say of women, let them be idols, useless absorbents of previous things, provided we are not obliged to admit them to be strictly fellow-beings, to be treated, one and all, with justice and sober reverence.

Which of these arguments is reinforced by the author’s use of the stylistic device comparing women to a “doll-Madonna”?

Possible Answers:

Female stubbornness prevents a gendered revolution of our patriarchal society.

Female identity is strengthened and reinforced by gendered stereotypes.

Women’s natural talents are neglected when men make them into images and idols.

Men and women are brought closer together by the enforcement of gendered identity.

Men have imagined women as powerful goddesses.

Correct answer:

Women’s natural talents are neglected when men make them into images and idols.

Explanation:

To answer this question, it is first necessary to identify which of the arguments offered as answer choices have been made in the essay. The idea that female identity has been strengthened by gendered stereotypes sounds like an argument opposite of the one made by the author. Similarly, the author believes that men and women are made more distant, not brought together, by the enforcement of gendered stereotypes, which is made apparent in the sentence that begins, “Men pay a heavy price . . .” So, you can rule out those two answer choices. The author makes no mention of female stubbornness as an obstacle to change, so that answer choice must be incorrect. The author makes some mention of the male imaginings of women, but never references an image to do with power or godliness. That leaves only “Women’s natural talents are neglected when men make them into images and idols.” If you read the context surrounding the reference to woman as a “doll-Madonna,” the author expresses how such an affectation is wasteful for men and women. The comparison to a “doll-Madonna” reflects male imaginings of women that the author is trying to convey. Firstly, the doll aspect refers to making women idle and objectifying them. The Madonna aspect refers to making women into a figure of beauty and perfection. The author uses the comparison in the context of an argument meant to disparage male constructions.

Example Question #3 : Literary Devices

Passage adapted from “An Essay on Friendship” (1841) by Ralph Waldo Emerson

I do not wish to treat friendships daintily, but with roughest courage. When they are real, they are not glass threads or frost-work, but the solidest thing we know. For now, after so many ages of experience, what do we know of nature, or of ourselves? Not one step has man taken toward the solution of the problem of his destiny. In one condemnation of folly stand the whole universe of men. But the sweet sincerity of joy and peace, which I draw from this alliance with my brother's soul, is the nut itself whereof all nature and all thought is but the husk and shell.

Happy is the house that shelters a friend! It might well be built, like a festal bower or arch, to entertain him a single day. Happier, if he know the solemnity of that relation, and honor its law! He who offers himself a candidate for that covenant comes up, like an Olympian, to the great games, where the first-born of the world are the competitors. He proposes himself for contest where Time, Want, Danger are in the lists, and he alone is victor who has truth enough in his constitution to preserve the delicacy of his beauty from the wear and tear of all these. The gifts of fortune may be present or absent, but all the hap in that contest depends on intrinsic nobleness, and the contempt of trifles. There are two elements that go to the composition of friendship, each so sovereign, that I can detect no superiority in either, no reason why either should be first named. One is Truth.

A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere. Before him, I may think aloud.  I am arrived at last in the presence of a man so real and equal that I may drop even those undermost garments of dissimulation, courtesy, and second thought, which men never put off, and may deal with him with the simplicity and wholeness, with which one chemical atom meets another. . . .

Every man alone is sincere. At the entrance of a second person, hypocrisy begins. We parry and fend the approach of our fellow-man by compliments, by gossip, by amusements, by affairs. We cover up our thought from him under a hundred folds. I knew a man who, under a certain religious frenzy, cast off this drapery, and omitting all compliments and commonplace, spoke to the conscience of every person he encountered, and that with great insight and beauty. At first he was resisted, and all men agreed he was mad. But persisting, as indeed he could not help doing, for some time in this course, he attained to the advantage of bringing every man of his acquaintance into true relations with him.

What is the purpose of Emerson’s use of “glass threads” and “frost-work” in the first paragraph?

Possible Answers:

To convince the reader of the strength of his claim

To explain the strength of a true friendship

To provide a contrasting image

To provide an argument for the strength of friendship

To provide a concrete image

Correct answer:

To provide a contrasting image

Explanation:

Consider the complete sentence in which these two words are used:

When they are real, they are not glass threads or frost-work, but the solidest thing we know.

The glass and frost-work are being placed in contrast to being "the solidest thing we know." The image is certainly metaphorical, but it serves a direct purpose, namely to provide something in contrast to the solidity that Emerson argues is an essential component of true friendship.

Example Question #1 : Metaphor And Simile

Passage adapted from “An Essay on Friendship” (1841) by Ralph Waldo Emerson

I do not wish to treat friendships daintily, but with roughest courage. When they are real, they are not glass threads or frost-work, but the solidest thing we know. For now, after so many ages of experience, what do we know of nature, or of ourselves? Not one step has man taken toward the solution of the problem of his destiny. In one condemnation of folly stand the whole universe of men. But the sweet sincerity of joy and peace, which I draw from this alliance with my brother's soul, is the nut itself whereof all nature and all thought is but the husk and shell.

Happy is the house that shelters a friend! It might well be built, like a festal bower or arch, to entertain him a single day. Happier, if he know the solemnity of that relation, and honor its law! He who offers himself a candidate for that covenant comes up, like an Olympian, to the great games, where the first-born of the world are the competitors. He proposes himself for contest where Time, Want, Danger are in the lists, and he alone is victor who has truth enough in his constitution to preserve the delicacy of his beauty from the wear and tear of all these. The gifts of fortune may be present or absent, but all the hap in that contest depends on intrinsic nobleness, and the contempt of trifles. There are two elements that go to the composition of friendship, each so sovereign, that I can detect no superiority in either, no reason why either should be first named. One is Truth.

A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere. Before him, I may think aloud.  I am arrived at last in the presence of a man so real and equal that I may drop even those undermost garments of dissimulation, courtesy, and second thought, which men never put off, and may deal with him with the simplicity and wholeness, with which one chemical atom meets another. . . .

Every man alone is sincere. At the entrance of a second person, hypocrisy begins. We parry and fend the approach of our fellow-man by compliments, by gossip, by amusements, by affairs. We cover up our thought from him under a hundred folds. I knew a man who, under a certain religious frenzy, cast off this drapery, and omitting all compliments and commonplace, spoke to the conscience of every person he encountered, and that with great insight and beauty. At first he was resisted, and all men agreed he was mad. But persisting, as indeed he could not help doing, for some time in this course, he attained to the advantage of bringing every man of his acquaintance into true relations with him.

What is the meaning of the metaphor of the nut at the end of the first paragraph?

Possible Answers:

Friendship is much more fulfilling than all of our knowledge of nature.

So much of life is vain, and only one or two friends will really fulfill our destiny.

Friends are quite difficult to understand and must be opened up with force, like a nut being cracked.

All natural knowledge is directed to the knowledge that we can have of those whom we love.

Most knowledge is unimportant, leaving only a few scraps of worthwhile data.

Correct answer:

Friendship is much more fulfilling than all of our knowledge of nature.

Explanation:

In the first paragraph, Emerson speaks of our knowledge of nature and of ourselves. He claims that we have very little knowledge of these matters. When we experience union with a friend—"alliance with my brother's soul"—we experience something much more profound than our knowledge of nature and even the knowledge that we can have of ourselves. It is like all of that other knowledge is an unimportant shell, with the "nut" that we really want to have being the experience and activity of friendship. All of the incorrect options are likely quite tempting. They all, however, add some sort of detail that is superfluous. In this paragraph, he is merely contrasting our knowledge of nature and our human destiny to the very experience of friendship.

Example Question #1 : Metaphor And Simile

Passage adapted from “An Essay on Friendship” (1841) by Ralph Waldo Emerson

I do not wish to treat friendships daintily, but with roughest courage. When they are real, they are not glass threads or frost-work, but the solidest thing we know. For now, after so many ages of experience, what do we know of nature, or of ourselves? Not one step has man taken toward the solution of the problem of his destiny. In one condemnation of folly stand the whole universe of men. But the sweet sincerity of joy and peace, which I draw from this alliance with my brother's soul, is the nut itself whereof all nature and all thought is but the husk and shell.

Happy is the house that shelters a friend! It might well be built, like a festal bower or arch, to entertain him a single day. Happier, if he know the solemnity of that relation, and honor its law! He who offers himself a candidate for that covenant comes up, like an Olympian, to the great games, where the first-born of the world are the competitors. He proposes himself for contest where Time, Want, Danger are in the lists, and he alone is victor who has truth enough in his constitution to preserve the delicacy of his beauty from the wear and tear of all these. The gifts of fortune may be present or absent, but all the hap in that contest depends on intrinsic nobleness, and the contempt of trifles. There are two elements that go to the composition of friendship, each so sovereign, that I can detect no superiority in either, no reason why either should be first named. One is Truth.

A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere. Before him, I may think aloud.  I am arrived at last in the presence of a man so real and equal that I may drop even those undermost garments of dissimulation, courtesy, and second thought, which men never put off, and may deal with him with the simplicity and wholeness, with which one chemical atom meets another. . . .

Every man alone is sincere. At the entrance of a second person, hypocrisy begins. We parry and fend the approach of our fellow-man by compliments, by gossip, by amusements, by affairs. We cover up our thought from him under a hundred folds. I knew a man who, under a certain religious frenzy, cast off this drapery, and omitting all compliments and commonplace, spoke to the conscience of every person he encountered, and that with great insight and beauty. At first he was resisted, and all men agreed he was mad. But persisting, as indeed he could not help doing, for some time in this course, he attained to the advantage of bringing every man of his acquaintance into true relations with him.

What is meant by Emerson’s image of the Olympian in the second paragraph?

Possible Answers:

To stress the courage required for undertaking friendship

To indicate a judgment regarding modern theories of friendship

To express the mythological component of friendship

To personify the eternal notion of friendship

To allude to the ancient sources of the idea of friendship

Correct answer:

To stress the courage required for undertaking friendship

Explanation:

Consider the whole sentence containing this simile:

He who offers himself a candidate for that covenant comes up, like an Olympian, to the great games, where the first-born of the world are the competitors.

The image that this evokes is that of conquering in a competition. From the beginning of the essay, Emerson has wanted to stress the courageous and strong character of friendship. The Olympian of ancient Greece competed in games that required much skill and strength. Hence, the "Olympian" nature of friendship is one that is courageous and vigorous.

Example Question #1 : Metaphor And Simile

Passage adapted from “An Essay on Friendship” (1841) by Ralph Waldo Emerson

I do not wish to treat friendships daintily, but with roughest courage. When they are real, they are not glass threads or frost-work, but the solidest thing we know. For now, after so many ages of experience, what do we know of nature, or of ourselves? Not one step has man taken toward the solution of the problem of his destiny. In one condemnation of folly stand the whole universe of men. But the sweet sincerity of joy and peace, which I draw from this alliance with my brother's soul, is the nut itself whereof all nature and all thought is but the husk and shell.

Happy is the house that shelters a friend! It might well be built, like a festal bower or arch, to entertain him a single day. Happier, if he know the solemnity of that relation, and honor its law! He who offers himself a candidate for that covenant comes up, like an Olympian, to the great games, where the first-born of the world are the competitors. He proposes himself for contest where Time, Want, Danger are in the lists, and he alone is victor who has truth enough in his constitution to preserve the delicacy of his beauty from the wear and tear of all these. The gifts of fortune may be present or absent, but all the hap in that contest depends on intrinsic nobleness, and the contempt of trifles. There are two elements that go to the composition of friendship, each so sovereign, that I can detect no superiority in either, no reason why either should be first named. One is Truth.

A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere. Before him, I may think aloud.  I am arrived at last in the presence of a man so real and equal that I may drop even those undermost garments of dissimulation, courtesy, and second thought, which men never put off, and may deal with him with the simplicity and wholeness, with which one chemical atom meets another. . . .

Every man alone is sincere. At the entrance of a second person, hypocrisy begins. We parry and fend the approach of our fellow-man by compliments, by gossip, by amusements, by affairs. We cover up our thought from him under a hundred folds. I knew a man who, under a certain religious frenzy, cast off this drapery, and omitting all compliments and commonplace, spoke to the conscience of every person he encountered, and that with great insight and beauty. At first he was resisted, and all men agreed he was mad. But persisting, as indeed he could not help doing, for some time in this course, he attained to the advantage of bringing every man of his acquaintance into true relations with him.

In the third paragraph, to what does Emerson compare chemical atoms?

Possible Answers:

The boisterous and angry types of discussions that characterize some friendships.

The ability of friends to bond when found in groups of other people.

The unaffected character of true friendship.

The non-technological aspects of friendship.

The kind and serene aspects of friendship.

Correct answer:

The unaffected character of true friendship.

Explanation:

The key clue for this question is Emerson's remark that friends are like atoms in that they can...

drop even those undermost garments of dissimulation, courtesy, and second thought, which men never put off, and may deal with him with the simplicity and wholeness.

He is saying that friends can "be themselves" without any kind of artificial affectation meant to impress others or to help one remain "civil" in appearance. Just as atoms can meet each other and "react naturally", so too friends are hinted to have such a natural demeanor with each other.

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