AP English Literature : Excerpt Connotation and Implication in Context

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for AP English Literature

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Example Questions

Example Question #41 : Interpreting Excerpts

Adapted from The Merchant of Venice, IV.i.2199-2280, by William Shakespeare (1600)

 

PORTIA: It is so. Are there balance here to weigh

    The flesh?

  SHYLOCK: I have them ready.

  PORTIA: Have by some surgeon, Shylock, on your charge,

    To stop his wounds, lest he do bleed to death.

  SHYLOCK: Is it so nominated in the bond?

  PORTIA: It is not so express'd, but what of that?

    'Twere good you do so much for charity.

  SHYLOCK: I cannot find it; 'tis not in the bond.

  PORTIA. You, merchant, have you anything to say?

  ANTONIO: But little: I am arm'd and well prepar'd.

    Give me your hand, Bassanio; fare you well.

    Grieve not that I am fall'n to this for you,

    For herein Fortune shows herself more kind

    Than is her custom. It is still her use

    To let the wretched man outlive his wealth,

    To view with hollow eye and wrinkled brow

    An age of poverty; from which ling'ring penance

    Of such misery doth she cut me off.

    Commend me to your honorable wife;

    Tell her the process of Antonio's end;

    Say how I lov'd you; speak me fair in death;

    And, when the tale is told, bid her be judge

    Whether Bassanio had not once a love.

    Repent but you that you shall lose your friend,

    And he repents not that he pays your debt;

    For if the Jew do cut but deep enough,

    I'll pay it instantly with all my heart.

  BASSANIO: Antonio, I am married to a wife

    Which is as dear to me as life itself;

    But life itself, my wife, and all the world,

    Are not with me esteem'd above thy life;

    I would lose all, ay, sacrifice them all

    Here to this devil, to deliver you.

  PORTIA: Your wife would give you little thanks for that,

    If she were by to hear you make the offer.

  GRATIANO: I have a wife who I protest I love;

    I would she were in heaven, so she could

    Entreat some power to change this currish Jew.

  NERISSA: 'Tis well you offer it behind her back;

    The wish would make else an unquiet house.

  SHYLOCK:  [Aside]  These be the Christian husbands! I have a

    daughter—

    Would any of the stock of Barrabas

    Had been her husband, rather than a Christian!—

    We trifle time; I pray thee pursue sentence.

  PORTIA: A pound of that same merchant's flesh is thine.

    The court awards it and the law doth give it.

  SHYLOCK: Most rightful judge!

  PORTIA: And you must cut this flesh from off his breast.

    The law allows it and the court awards it.

  SHYLOCK: Most learned judge! A sentence! Come, prepare.

  PORTIA: Tarry a little; there is something else.

    This bond doth give thee here no jot of blood:

    The words expressly are 'a pound of flesh.'

    Take then thy bond, take thou thy pound of flesh;

    But, in the cutting it, if thou dost shed

    One drop of Christian blood, thy lands and goods

    Are, by the laws of Venice, confiscate

    Unto the state of Venice.

  GRATIANO: O upright judge! Mark, Jew. O learned judge!

  SHYLOCK: Is that the law?

  PORTIA: Thyself shalt see the act;

    For, as thou urgest justice, be assur'd

    Thou shalt have justice, more than thou desir'st.

  GRATIANO: O learned judge! Mark, Jew. A learned judge!

  SHYLOCK: I take this offer then: pay the bond thrice,

    And let the Christian go.

  BASSANIO: Here is the money.

  PORTIA: Soft!

    The Jew shall have all justice. Soft! No haste.

    He shall have nothing but the penalty.

  GRATIANO: O Jew! an upright judge, a learned judge!

  PORTIA: Therefore, prepare thee to cut off the flesh.

    Shed thou no blood, nor cut thou less nor more

    But just a pound of flesh; if thou tak'st more

    Or less than a just pound—be it but so much

    As makes it light or heavy in the substance,

    Or the division of the twentieth part

    Of one poor scruple; nay, if the scale do turn

    But in the estimation of a hair—

    Thou diest, and all thy goods are confiscate.

What is implied by Antonio's words in the underlined selection?

Possible Answers:

He is in this situation because of something done for Bassanio.

He has grieved enough for this situation; Bassanio need shed no tears.

Antonio knows that he will be able to remove himself from the imminent danger.

He has done this all for love of Portia.

Bassanio is at fault for all that has happened and should feel guilty, not sad.

Correct answer:

He is in this situation because of something done for Bassanio.

Explanation:

The implication of this remark is that Antonio has "fallen" into this situation because of something that he did for Bassanio; however, he does not want his friend to feel guilty or to grieve. In fact, what has happened is that Antonio has made the contract with Shylock in order to help Bassanio. Now that things have fallen ill, he must repay—with the promised pound of flesh, as we see below in the passage.

Example Question #41 : Interpreting Excerpts

Adapted from The Merchant of Venice, IV.i.2199-2280, by William Shakespeare (1600)

 

PORTIA: It is so. Are there balance here to weigh

    The flesh?

  SHYLOCK: I have them ready.

  PORTIA: Have by some surgeon, Shylock, on your charge,

    To stop his wounds, lest he do bleed to death.

  SHYLOCK: Is it so nominated in the bond?

  PORTIA: It is not so express'd, but what of that?

    'Twere good you do so much for charity.

  SHYLOCK: I cannot find it; 'tis not in the bond.

  PORTIA. You, merchant, have you anything to say?

  ANTONIO: But little: I am arm'd and well prepar'd.

    Give me your hand, Bassanio; fare you well.

    Grieve not that I am fall'n to this for you,

    For herein Fortune shows herself more kind

    Than is her custom. It is still her use

    To let the wretched man outlive his wealth,

    To view with hollow eye and wrinkled brow

    An age of poverty; from which ling'ring penance

    Of such misery doth she cut me off.

    Commend me to your honorable wife;

    Tell her the process of Antonio's end;

    Say how I lov'd you; speak me fair in death;

    And, when the tale is told, bid her be judge

    Whether Bassanio had not once a love.

    Repent but you that you shall lose your friend,

    And he repents not that he pays your debt;

    For if the Jew do cut but deep enough,

    I'll pay it instantly with all my heart.

  BASSANIO: Antonio, I am married to a wife

    Which is as dear to me as life itself;

    But life itself, my wife, and all the world,

    Are not with me esteem'd above thy life;

    I would lose all, ay, sacrifice them all

    Here to this devil, to deliver you.

  PORTIA: Your wife would give you little thanks for that,

    If she were by to hear you make the offer.

  GRATIANO: I have a wife who I protest I love;

    I would she were in heaven, so she could

    Entreat some power to change this currish Jew.

  NERISSA: 'Tis well you offer it behind her back;

    The wish would make else an unquiet house.

  SHYLOCK:  [Aside]  These be the Christian husbands! I have a

    daughter—

    Would any of the stock of Barrabas

    Had been her husband, rather than a Christian!—

    We trifle time; I pray thee pursue sentence.

  PORTIA: A pound of that same merchant's flesh is thine.

    The court awards it and the law doth give it.

  SHYLOCK: Most rightful judge!

  PORTIA: And you must cut this flesh from off his breast.

    The law allows it and the court awards it.

  SHYLOCK: Most learned judge! A sentence! Come, prepare.

  PORTIA: Tarry a little; there is something else.

    This bond doth give thee here no jot of blood:

    The words expressly are 'a pound of flesh.'

    Take then thy bond, take thou thy pound of flesh;

    But, in the cutting it, if thou dost shed

    One drop of Christian blood, thy lands and goods

    Are, by the laws of Venice, confiscate

    Unto the state of Venice.

  GRATIANO: O upright judge! Mark, Jew. O learned judge!

  SHYLOCK: Is that the law?

  PORTIA: Thyself shalt see the act;

    For, as thou urgest justice, be assur'd

    Thou shalt have justice, more than thou desir'st.

  GRATIANO: O learned judge! Mark, Jew. A learned judge!

  SHYLOCK: I take this offer then: pay the bond thrice,

    And let the Christian go.

  BASSANIO: Here is the money.

  PORTIA: Soft!

    The Jew shall have all justice. Soft! No haste.

    He shall have nothing but the penalty.

  GRATIANO: O Jew! an upright judge, a learned judge!

  PORTIA: Therefore, prepare thee to cut off the flesh.

    Shed thou no blood, nor cut thou less nor more

    But just a pound of flesh; if thou tak'st more

    Or less than a just pound—be it but so much

    As makes it light or heavy in the substance,

    Or the division of the twentieth part

    Of one poor scruple; nay, if the scale do turn

    But in the estimation of a hair—

    Thou diest, and all thy goods are confiscate.

What is implied about Shylock's character from the underlined remark?

Possible Answers:

He will allow for nothing extra beyond the legal agreement.

He is quite hateful about the status of Antonio's will.

He will judge Antonio guilty no matter what.

He is not squeamish at all regarding the cutting of flesh.

He will have a doctor only if it is paid for by the bond.

Correct answer:

He will allow for nothing extra beyond the legal agreement.

Explanation:

By asking this question, Shylock shows that he wishes to have no flexibility beyond the exact stated terms of the bond agreement. To this, Portia responds that one should at least consider getting a doctor out of charity or kindness. This further indicates that Shylock is being portrayed as being inflexible and unkind.

Example Question #11 : Excerpt Connotation And Implication In Context

Adapted from Emma by Jane Austen (1815)

Mrs. Bates, the widow of a former vicar of Highbury, was a very old lady, almost past every thing but tea and quadrille. She lived with her single daughter in a very small way, and was considered with all the regard and respect which a harmless old lady, under such untoward circumstances, can excite. Her daughter enjoyed a most uncommon degree of popularity for a woman neither young, handsome, rich, nor married. Miss Bates stood in the very worst predicament in the world for having much of the public favor; and she had no intellectual superiority to make atonement to herself, or frighten those who might hate her into outward respect. She had never boasted either beauty or cleverness. Her youth had passed without distinction, and her middle of life was devoted to the care of a failing mother, and the endeavor to make a small income go as far as possible. And yet she was a happy woman, and a woman whom no one named without good-will. It was her own universal good-will and contented temper which worked such wonders. She loved every body, was interested in every body's happiness, quick-sighted to every body's merits; thought herself a most fortunate creature, and surrounded with blessings in such an excellent mother, and so many good neighbors and friends, and a home that wanted for nothing. The simplicity and cheerfulness of her nature, her contented and grateful spirit, were a recommendation to every body, and a mine of felicity to herself. She was a great talker upon little matters, which exactly suited Mr. Woodhouse, full of trivial communications and harmless gossip.

Mrs. Goddard was the mistress of a School—not of a seminary, or an establishment, or any thing which professed, in long sentences of refined nonsense, to combine liberal acquirements with elegant morality, upon new principles and new systems—and where young ladies for enormous pay might be screwed out of health and into vanity—but a real, honest, old-fashioned Boarding-school, where a reasonable quantity of accomplishments were sold at a reasonable price, and where girls might be sent to be out of the way, and scramble themselves into a little education, without any danger of coming back prodigies. Mrs. Goddard's school was in high repute—and very deservedly; for Highbury was reckoned a particularly healthy spot: she had an ample house and garden, gave the children plenty of wholesome food, let them run about a great deal in the summer, and in winter dressed their chilblains with her own hands. It was no wonder that a train of twenty young couple now walked after her to church. She was a plain, motherly kind of woman, who had worked hard in her youth, and now thought herself entitled to the occasional holiday of a tea-visit; and having formerly owed much to Mr. Woodhouse's kindness, felt his particular claim on her to leave her neat parlor, hung round with fancy-work, whenever she could, and win or lose a few sixpences by his fireside.

These were the ladies whom Emma found herself very frequently able to collect; and happy was she, for her father's sake, in the power; though, as far as she was herself concerned, it was no remedy for the absence of Mrs. Weston. She was delighted to see her father look comfortable, and very much pleased with herself for contriving things so well; but the quiet prosings of three such women made her feel that every evening so spent was indeed one of the long evenings she had fearfully anticipated.

In paragraph two, the underlined phrase "long sentences of refined nonsense" suggests what about the narrator's opinion of most schools?

Possible Answers:

The advertisements for seminaries and other schools are purposefully misleading and false.

Mrs. Goddard's establishment is a prime example of what is wrong with the education system.

Mrs. Goddard's boarding school is inferior because its lack of emphasis on morality.

These schools are to be praised for their development of girls' decorum and style.

Seminaries and other schools express pretentious goals that result in student vanity.

Correct answer:

Seminaries and other schools express pretentious goals that result in student vanity.

Explanation:

The narrator's tone is satirical as she describes the eloquent but empty phrases celebrated by fashionable schools. This characterization is set up as a contrast to Mrs. Goddard's school, which is less ambitious and more down-to-earth. The term "refined nonsense," in this context, suggests pretension that can lead to vanity.

Example Question #31 : Making Inferences About The Author Or Literary Fiction Passage Content

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Example Question #41 : Interpreting Excerpts

Adapted from An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde (1894)

Mrs. Cheveley: Except their husbands. That is the one thing the modern woman never understands.

Lady Markby: And a very good thing too, dear, I dare say. It might break up many a happy home if they did. Not yours, I need hardly say, Gertrude. You have married a pattern husband. I wish I could say as much for myself. But since Sir John has taken to attending the debates regularly, which he never used to do in the good old days, his language has become quite impossible. He always seems to think that he is addressing the House, and consequently whenever he discusses the state of the agricultural laborer, or the Welsh Church, or something quite improper of that kind, I am obliged to send all the servants out of the room. It is not pleasant to see one’s own butler, who has been with one for twenty-three years, actually blushing at the side-board, and the footmen making contortions in corners like persons in circuses. I assure you my life will be quite ruined unless they send John at once to the Upper House. He won’t take any interest in politics then, will he? The House of Lords is so sensible. An assembly of gentlemen. But in his present state, Sir John is really a great trial. Why, this morning before breakfast was half over, he stood up on the hearthrug, put his hands in his pockets, and appealed to the country at the top of his voice. I left the table as soon as I had my second cup of tea, I need hardly say. But his violent language could be heard all over the house! I trust, Gertrude, that Sir Robert is not like that?

Lady Chiltern: But I am very much interested in politics, Lady Markby. I love to hear Robert talk about them.

Lady Markby: Well, I hope he is not as devoted to Blue Books as Sir John is. I don’t think they can be quite improving reading for any one.

Mrs. Cheveley: [Languidly.] I have never read a Blue Book. I prefer books . . . in yellow covers.

Lady Markby: [Genially unconscious.] Yellow is a gayer color, is it not? I used to wear yellow a good deal in my early days, and would do so now if Sir John was not so painfully personal in his observations, and a man on the question of dress is always ridiculous, is he not?

Mrs. Cheveley: Oh, no! I think men are the only authorities on dress.

Lady Markby: Really? One wouldn’t say so from the sort of hats they wear? Would one?

[The butler enters, followed by the footman. Tea is set on a small table close to Lady Chiltern.]

Lady Chiltern: May I give you some tea, Mrs. Cheveley?

Mrs. Cheveley: Thanks. [The butler hands Mrs. Cheveley a cup of tea on a salver.]

Lady Chiltern: Some tea, Lady Markby?

Lady Markby: No thanks, dear. [The servants go out.] The fact is, I have promised to go round for ten minutes to see poor Lady Brancaster, who is in very great trouble. Her daughter, quite a well-brought-up girl, too, has actually become engaged to be married to a curate in Shropshire. It is very sad, very sad indeed. I can’t understand this modern mania for curates. In my time we girls saw them, of course, running about the place like rabbits. But we never took any notice of them, I need hardly say. But I am told that nowadays country society is quite honeycombed with them. I think it most irreligious. And then the eldest son has quarreled with his father, and it is said that when they meet at the club Lord Brancaster always hides himself behind the money article in The Times. However, I believe that is quite a common occurrence nowadays and that they have to take in extra copies of The Times at all the clubs in St. James’s Street; there are so many sons who won’t have anything to do with their fathers, and so many fathers who won’t speak to their sons. I think myself, it is very much to be regretted.

Mrs. Cheveley: So do I. Fathers have so much to learn from their sons nowadays.

Lady Markby: Really, dear? What? 

Mrs. Cheveley: The art of living. The only really Fine Art we have produced in modern times.

When Lady Markby describes Lady Cheveley's husband as "a pattern husband," she means that he is __________.

Possible Answers:

accomplished

conventional 

tedious

enigmatic 

well respected 

Correct answer:

conventional 

Explanation:

The correct answer is "conventional." When Lady Markby describes Lady Cheveley's husband as "a pattern husband," she likely means that he behaves in a way that is typical or conventional. She goes on to complain about her own husband's strange behavior in contrast to this observation.

Example Question #42 : Interpreting Excerpts

Adapted from An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde (1894)

Mrs. Cheveley: Except their husbands. That is the one thing the modern woman never understands.

Lady Markby: And a very good thing too, dear, I dare say. It might break up many a happy home if they did. Not yours, I need hardly say, Gertrude. You have married a pattern husband. I wish I could say as much for myself. But since Sir John has taken to attending the debates regularly, which he never used to do in the good old days, his language has become quite impossible. He always seems to think that he is addressing the House, and consequently whenever he discusses the state of the agricultural laborer, or the Welsh Church, or something quite improper of that kind, I am obliged to send all the servants out of the room. It is not pleasant to see one’s own butler, who has been with one for twenty-three years, actually blushing at the side-board, and the footmen making contortions in corners like persons in circuses. I assure you my life will be quite ruined unless they send John at once to the Upper House. He won’t take any interest in politics then, will he? The House of Lords is so sensible. An assembly of gentlemen. But in his present state, Sir John is really a great trial. Why, this morning before breakfast was half over, he stood up on the hearthrug, put his hands in his pockets, and appealed to the country at the top of his voice. I left the table as soon as I had my second cup of tea, I need hardly say. But his violent language could be heard all over the house! I trust, Gertrude, that Sir Robert is not like that?

Lady Chiltern: But I am very much interested in politics, Lady Markby. I love to hear Robert talk about them.

Lady Markby: Well, I hope he is not as devoted to Blue Books as Sir John is. I don’t think they can be quite improving reading for any one.

Mrs. Cheveley: [Languidly.] I have never read a Blue Book. I prefer books . . . in yellow covers.

Lady Markby: [Genially unconscious.] Yellow is a gayer color, is it not? I used to wear yellow a good deal in my early days, and would do so now if Sir John was not so painfully personal in his observations, and a man on the question of dress is always ridiculous, is he not?

Mrs. Cheveley: Oh, no! I think men are the only authorities on dress.

Lady Markby: Really? One wouldn’t say so from the sort of hats they wear? Would one?

[The butler enters, followed by the footman. Tea is set on a small table close to Lady Chiltern.]

Lady Chiltern: May I give you some tea, Mrs. Cheveley?

Mrs. Cheveley: Thanks. [The butler hands Mrs. Cheveley a cup of tea on a salver.]

Lady Chiltern: Some tea, Lady Markby?

Lady Markby: No thanks, dear. [The servants go out.] The fact is, I have promised to go round for ten minutes to see poor Lady Brancaster, who is in very great trouble. Her daughter, quite a well-brought-up girl, too, has actually become engaged to be married to a curate in Shropshire. It is very sad, very sad indeed. I can’t understand this modern mania for curates. In my time we girls saw them, of course, running about the place like rabbits. But we never took any notice of them, I need hardly say. But I am told that nowadays country society is quite honeycombed with them. I think it most irreligious. And then the eldest son has quarreled with his father, and it is said that when they meet at the club Lord Brancaster always hides himself behind the money article in The Times. However, I believe that is quite a common occurrence nowadays and that they have to take in extra copies of The Times at all the clubs in St. James’s Street; there are so many sons who won’t have anything to do with their fathers, and so many fathers who won’t speak to their sons. I think myself, it is very much to be regretted.

Mrs. Cheveley: So do I. Fathers have so much to learn from their sons nowadays.

Lady Markby: Really, dear? What? 

Mrs. Cheveley: The art of living. The only really Fine Art we have produced in modern times.

When Lady Markby says that Sir John is "painfully personal in his observations," she means that __________.

Possible Answers:

he doesn't pay enough attention to her dress because he is too concerned with politics

he confines his observations to those personally close to him

he can make hurtful comments about her appearance

he personally never wears the color yellow because he dislikes it

he is an expert on fashionable dress

Correct answer:

he can make hurtful comments about her appearance

Explanation:

The correct answer is "he can make hurtful comments about her appearance." Lady Markby describes her husband's observations as "painfully personal" to express that he makes cutting remarks if she wears colors or clothes he considers inappropriate, which is why she eventually stopped wearing yellow.

Example Question #41 : Interpreting Excerpts

Adapted from The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane (1895)

After a time the sound of musketry grew faint and the cannon boomed in the distance. The sun, suddenly apparent, blazed among the trees. The insects were making rhythmical noises. They seemed to be grinding their teeth in unison. A woodpecker stuck his impudent head around the side of a tree. A bird flew on lighthearted wing.

Off was the rumble of death. It seemed now that Nature had no ears.

This landscape gave him assurance. A fair field holding life. It was the religion of peace. It would die if its timid eyes were compelled to see blood. He conceived Nature to be a woman with a deep aversion to tragedy.

He threw a pine cone at a jovial squirrel, and he ran with chattering fear. High in a treetop he stopped, and, poking his head cautiously from behind a branch, looked down with an air of trepidation.

The youth felt triumphant at this exhibition. There was the law, he said. Nature had given him a sign. The squirrel, immediately upon recognizing danger, had taken to his legs without ado. He did not stand stolidly baring his furry belly to the missile, and die with an upward glance at the sympathetic heavens. On the contrary, he had fled as fast as his legs could carry him; and he was but an ordinary squirrel, too--doubtless no philosopher of his race. The youth wended, feeling that Nature was of his mind. She re-enforced his argument with proofs that lived where the sun shone.

Once he found himself almost into a swamp. He was obliged to walk upon bog tufts and watch his feet to keep from the oily mire. Pausing at one time to look about him he saw, out at some black water, a small animal pounce in and emerge directly with a gleaming fish.

The youth went again into the deep thickets. The brushed branches made a noise that drowned the sounds of cannon. He walked on, going from obscurity into promises of a greater obscurity.

At length he reached a place where the high, arching boughs made a chapel. He softly pushed the green doors aside and entered. Pine needles were a gentle brown carpet. There was a religious half light.

Near the threshold he stopped, horror-stricken at the sight of a thing.

He was being looked at by a dead man who was seated with his back against a column-like tree. The corpse was dressed in a uniform that had once been blue, but was now faded to a melancholy shade of green. The eyes, staring at the youth, had changed to the dull hue to be seen on the side of a dead fish. The mouth was open. Its red had changed to an appalling yellow. Over the gray skin of the face ran little ants. One was trundling some sort of bundle along the upper lip.

The youth gave a shriek as he confronted the thing. He was for moments turned to stone before it. He remained staring into the liquid-looking eyes. The dead man and the living man exchanged a long look. Then the youth cautiously put one hand behind him and brought it against a tree. Leaning upon this he retreated, step by step, with his face still toward the thing. He feared that if he turned his back the body might spring up and stealthily pursue him.

The branches, pushing against him, threatened to throw him over upon it. His unguided feet, too, caught aggravatingly in brambles; and with it all he received a subtle suggestion to touch the corpse. As he thought of his hand upon it he shuddered profoundly.

At last he burst the bonds which had fastened him to the spot and fled, unheeding the underbrush. He was pursued by the sight of black ants swarming greedily upon the gray face and venturing horribly near to the eyes.

After a time he paused, and, breathless and panting, listened. He imagined some strange voice would come from the dead throat and squawk after him in horrible menaces.

The trees about the portal of the chapel moved soughingly in a soft wind. A sad silence was upon the little guarding edifice.

The religious imagery throughout the passage __________.

Possible Answers:

implies that self-preservation can never be sinful  

contrasts the horror of war with the serenity of nature

illustrates the solemnity of the youth’s discovery of the corpse

shows how the beauty of nature is always comforting 

symbolizes the pious attitude of the unnamed youth 

Correct answer:

contrasts the horror of war with the serenity of nature

Explanation:

The correct answer is “contrasts the horror of war with the serenity of nature.” The author describes the forest enclosing the corpse of the dead soldier as a "chapel" and uses religious imagery in order to contrast the peace and serenity of the forest with the brutal and horrific results of war and death.    

Example Question #47 : Interpreting Excerpts

Adapted from Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (1860)

It is a most miserable thing to feel ashamed of home. There may be black ingratitude in the thing, and the punishment may be retributive and well deserved; but that it is a miserable thing, I can testify.

Home had never been a very pleasant place to me, because of my sister's temper. But, Joe had sanctified it, and I had believed in it. I had believed in the best parlor as a most elegant saloon; I had believed in the front door, as a mysterious portal of the Temple of State whose solemn opening was attended with a sacrifice of roast fowls; I had believed in the kitchen as a chaste though not magnificent apartment; I had believed in the forge as the glowing road to manhood and independence. Within a single year all this was changed. Now it was all coarse and common, and I would not have had Miss Havisham and Estella see it on any account.

How much of my ungracious condition of mind may have been my own fault, how much Miss Havisham's, how much my sister's, is now of no moment to me or to any one. The change was made in me; the thing was done. Well or ill done, excusably or inexcusably, it was done.

Once, it had seemed to me that when I should at last roll up my shirt-sleeves and go into the forge, Joe's 'prentice, I should be distinguished and happy. Now the reality was in my hold, I only felt that I was dusty with the dust of small-coal, and that I had a weight upon my daily remembrance to which the anvil was a feather. There have been occasions in my later life (I suppose as in most lives) when I have felt for a time as if a thick curtain had fallen on all its interest and romance, to shut me out from anything save dull endurance any more. Never has that curtain dropped so heavy and blank, as when my way in life lay stretched out straight before me through the newly entered road of apprenticeship to Joe.

I remember that at a later period of my "time," I used to stand about the churchyard on Sunday evenings when night was falling, comparing my own perspective with the windy marsh view, and making out some likeness between them by thinking how flat and low both were, and how on both there came an unknown way and a dark mist and then the sea. I was quite as dejected on the first working-day of my apprenticeship as in that after-time; but I am glad to know that I never breathed a murmur to Joe while my indentures lasted. It is about the only thing I am glad to know of myself in that connection.

For, though it includes what I proceed to add, all the merit of what I proceed to add was Joe's. It was not because I was faithful, but because Joe was faithful, that I never ran away and went for a soldier or a sailor. It was not because I had a strong sense of the virtue of industry, but because Joe had a strong sense of the virtue of industry, that I worked with tolerable zeal against the grain. It is not possible to know how far the influence of any amiable honest-hearted duty-doing man flies out into the world; but it is very possible to know how it has touched one's self in going by, and I know right well that any good that intermixed itself with my apprenticeship came of plain contented Joe, and not of restlessly aspiring discontented me.

From the context of the passage, the reader can infer that Joe is a __________.

Possible Answers:

merchant

lawyer

printer 

blacksmith

carpenter 

Correct answer:

blacksmith

Explanation:

The correct answer is “blacksmith.” Based on the passage’s description of the narrator’s apprenticeship under Joe, the reader should infer that he is a blacksmith. Clues include the author’s references to a glowing forge, coal dust, and an anvil.

Example Question #13 : Excerpt Connotation And Implication In Context

Adapted from Life and Remains of John Clare "The Northamptonshire Peasant Poet"  by John Clare (1872, ed. J. L. Cherry)

I am! Yet what I am who cares, or knows?
My friends forsake me, like a memory lost.
I am the self-consumer of my woes,
They rise and vanish, an oblivious host,
Shadows of life, whose very soul is lost.
And yet I am—I live—though I am toss'd

Into the nothingness of scorn and noise.
Into the living sea of waking dream,
Where there is neither sense of life, nor joys,
But the huge shipwreck of my own esteem
And all that's dear. Even those I loved the best
Are strange—nay, they are stranger than the rest.

I long for scenes where man has never trod
For scenes where woman never smiled or wept—
There to abide with my Creator, God,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept,
Full of high thoughts, unborn. So let me lie,
The grass below; above, the vaulted sky.

What is implied by the underlined line?

Possible Answers:

None of the other answers is correct

There are no unexplored places

The author is an adventurer

The narrator enjoys plays

The author of this poem feels inspired by plays

Correct answer:

None of the other answers is correct

Explanation:

We might be able to say “the author feels imprisoned” or “there are no unexplored places” if more information was given, but firstly, we must establish that there is a distinction between the author and the voice given in the poem, which should be identified as the “narrator.” We must not confuse “scene” for that of a play in this instance, as it is clear from the last line that the author means an instance rather than a dramatic scene. We also have no basis to call the author an adventurer. Therefore, we must say that none of these are correct answers.

Example Question #171 : Interpreting Words And Excerpts

Adapted from The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith (1766)

The temporal concerns of our family were chiefly committed to my wife's management; as to the spiritual, I took them entirely under my own direction. The profits of my living, which amounted to but thirty-five pounds a year, I made over to the orphans and widows of the clergy of our diocese; for having a sufficient fortune of my own, I was careless of temporalities, and felt a secret pleasure in doing my duty without reward. I also set a resolution of keeping no curate, and of being acquainted with every man in the parish, exhorting the married men to temperance and the bachelors to matrimony, so that in a few years it was a common saying, that there were three strange wants at Wakefield, a parson wanting pride, young men wanting wives, and ale-houses wanting customers. Matrimony was always one of my favorite topics, and I wrote several sermons to prove its happiness; but there was a peculiar tenet that I made a point of supporting; for I maintained with Whiston, that it was unlawful for a priest of the church of England, after the death of his first wife, to take a second, or to express it in one word, I valued myself upon being a strict monogamist. I was early initiated into this important dispute, on which so many laborious volumes have been written. I published some tracts upon the subject myself, which, as they never sold, I have the consolation of thinking are read only by the happy Few. Some of my friends called this my weak side; but alas! they had not like me made it the subject of long contemplation. The more I reflected upon it, the more important it appeared. I even went a step beyond Whiston in displaying my principles: as he had engraved upon his wife's tomb that she was the only wife of William Whiston; so I wrote a similar epitaph for my wife, though still living, in which I extolled her prudence, economy, and obedience till death; and having got it copied fair, with an elegant frame, it was placed over the chimney-piece, where it answered several very useful purposes. It admonished my wife of her duty to me, and my fidelity to her; it inspired her with a passion for fame, and constantly put her in mind of her end.

It was thus, perhaps, from hearing marriage so often recommended, that my eldest son, just upon leaving college, fixed his affections upon the daughter of a neighboring clergyman, who was a dignitary in the church, and in circumstances to give her a large fortune: but fortune was her smallest accomplishment. Miss Arabella Wilmot was allowed by all, except my two daughters, to be completely pretty. Her youth, health, and innocence, were still heightened by a complexion so transparent, and such an happy sensibility of look, as even age could not gaze on with indifference. As Mr Wilmot knew that I could make a very handsome settlement on my son, he was not averse to the match; so both families lived together in all that harmony which generally precedes an expected alliance. Being convinced by experience that the days of courtship are the most happy of our lives, I was willing enough to lengthen the period; and the various amusements that the young couple every day shared in each other's company, seemed to increase their passion. We were generally awaked in the morning by music, and on fine days rode a hunting. The hours between breakfast and dinner the ladies devoted to dress and study: they usually read a page, and then gazed at themselves in the glass, which even philosophers might own often presented the page of greatest beauty. At dinner my wife took the lead; for as she always insisted upon carving everything herself, it being her mother's way, she gave us upon these occasions the history of every dish. When we had dined, to prevent the ladies leaving us, I generally ordered the table to be removed; and sometimes, with the music master's assistance, the girls would give us a very agreeable concert. Walking out, drinking tea, country dances, and forfeits, shortened the rest of the day, without the assistance of cards, as I hated all manner of gaming, except backgammon, at which my old friend and I sometimes took a two-penny hit. Nor can I here pass over an ominous circumstance that happened the last time we played together: I only wanted to fling a quatre, and yet I threw deuce ace five times running. Some months were elapsed in this manner, till at last it was thought convenient to fix a day for the nuptials of the young couple, who seemed earnestly to desire it.

What is implied by the underlined text?

Possible Answers:

The speaker is happier with others than with his family.

The speaker's actions seem to have had an effect.

The speaker is not an active member of society.

The speaker is nosey.

The speaker makes his presence known when he enters a new town.

Correct answer:

The speaker's actions seem to have had an effect.

Explanation:

The only thing we can truly say the underlined text is that the speaker's actions in attempting to care for his parish by preaching temperance to the married and encouraging bachelors to marry is having an effect as “in a few years it was a common saying, that there were three strange wants at Wakefield, a parson wanting pride, young men wanting wives, and ale-houses wanting customers.” We could say that the speaker is nosey, but as he sees it his duty to interfere in the lives of others, this is not strictly the best answer. We might also say he makes his presence known on entering a new town, but this would be an overstatement, as we do not know how he would act (or has acted) in other towns.

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