AP English Literature : Inferences and Implied Ideas

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for AP English Literature

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Example Questions

Example Question #71 : Interpreting The Passage

Adapted from "On Doors" in Mince Pie: Adventures on the Sunny Side of Grub Street by Christopher Moreley (1919)

Doors are the symbol of privacy, of retreat, of the mind's escape into blissful quietude or sad secret struggle. A room without doors is not a room, but a hallway. No matter where he is, a man can make himself at home behind a closed door. The mind works best behind closed doors. Men are not horses to be herded together. Dogs know the meaning and anguish of doors. Have you ever noticed a puppy yearning at a shut portal? It is a symbol of human life.

The opening of doors is a mystic act: it has in it some flavor of the unknown, some sense of moving into a new moment, a new pattern of the human rigmarole. It includes the highest glimpses of mortal gladness: reunions, reconciliations, the bliss of lovers long parted. Even in sadness, the opening of a door may bring relief: it changes and redistributes human forces. But the closing of doors is far more terrible. It is a confession of finality. Every door closed brings something to an end. And there are degrees of sadness in the closing of doors. A door slammed is a confession of weakness. A door gently shut is often the most tragic gesture in life. Everyone knows the seizure of anguish that comes just after the closing of a door, when the loved one is still near, within sound of voice, and yet already far away.

The opening and closing of doors is a part of the stern fluency of life. Life will not stay still and let us alone. We are continually opening doors with hope, closing them with despair. Life lasts not much longer than a pipe of tobacco, and destiny knocks us out like the ashes.

The closing of a door is irrevocable. It snaps the packthread of the heart. It is no avail to reopen, to go back. Pinero spoke nonsense when he made Paula Tanqueray say, "The future is only the past entered through another gate." Alas, there is no other gate. When the door is shut, it is shut forever. There is no other entrance to that vanished pulse of time. "The moving finger writes, and having writ"—

There is a certain kind of door-shutting that will come to us all. The kind of door-shutting that is done very quietly, with the sharp click of the latch to break the stillness. They will think then, one hopes, of our unfulfilled decencies rather than of our pluperfected misdemeanors. Then they will go out and close the door.

One can infer from this passage that doors do what?

Possible Answers:

Illustrate opportunities disguised as tragedies

Represent the vicissitudes of life and the separation that these can bring

Symbolize the importance of doing good deeds, rather than bad ones

Are common objects that help us deal with loss

Generally represent sad life events more than happy ones

Correct answer:

Represent the vicissitudes of life and the separation that these can bring

Explanation:

Here Moreley uses door-shutting to symbolize the transition from one phase of life to another, or from life to death; literal door-shutting and the figurative door-shutting of death both separate the individual from other humans.

Example Question #21 : Inferences And Implied Ideas

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:

booked their tickets for the steamboat well in advance

are traveling as a large group

did not bring their own meals with them for the journey

only travel by steamboat because it is inexpensive

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 #72 : Interpreting The Passage

Adapted from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (1876)

In the fullness of time the interesting occasion arrived. At eight in the evening the schoolhouse was brilliantly lighted, and adorned with wreaths and festoons of foliage and flowers. The master sat throned in his great chair upon a raised platform, with his blackboard behind him. He was looking tolerably mellow. Three rows of benches on each side and six rows in front of him were occupied by the dignitaries of the town and by the parents of the pupils. To his left, back of the rows of citizens, was a spacious temporary platform upon which were seated the scholars who were to take part in the exercises of the evening; rows of small boys, washed and dressed to an intolerable state of discomfort; rows of gawky big boys; snowbanks of girls and young ladies clad in lawn and muslin and conspicuously conscious of their bare arms, their grandmothers' ancient trinkets, their bits of pink and blue ribbon and the flowers in their hair. All the rest of the house was filled with non-participating scholars.

The exercises began. A very little boy stood up and sheepishly recited, "You'd scarce expect one of my age to speak in public on the stage," etc.—accompanying himself with the painfully exact and spasmodic gestures that a machine might have used—supposing the machine to be a trifle out of order. But he got through safely, though cruelly scared, and got a fine round of applause when he made his manufactured bow and retired.

A little shamefaced girl lisped, "Mary had a little lamb," etc., performed a compassion-inspiring curtsy, got her meed of applause, and sat down flushed and happy.

Tom Sawyer stepped forward with conceited confidence and soared into the unquenchable and indestructible "Give me liberty or give me death" speech, with fine fury and frantic gesticulation, and broke down in the middle of it. A ghastly stage-fright seized him, his legs quaked under him and he was like to choke. True, he had the manifest sympathy of the house, but he had the house's silence, too, which was even worse than its sympathy. The master frowned, and this completed the disaster. Tom struggled a while and then retired, utterly defeated. There was a weak attempt at applause, but it died early.

"The Boy Stood on the Burning Deck" followed; also "The Assyrian Came Down," and other declamatory gems. Then there were reading exercises, and a spelling fight. The meager Latin class recited with honor. The prime feature of the evening was in order, now—original "compositions" by the young ladies. Each in her turn stepped forward to the edge of the platform, cleared her throat, held up her manuscript (tied with dainty ribbon), and proceeded to read, with labored attention to "expression" and punctuation. The themes were the same that had been illuminated upon similar occasions by their mothers before them, their grandmothers, and doubtless all their ancestors in the female line clear back to the Crusades. "Friendship" was one; "Memories of Other Days"; "Religion in History"; "Dream Land"; "The Advantages of Culture"; "Forms of Political Government Compared and Contrasted"; "Melancholy"; "Filial Love"; "Heart Longings," etc., etc.

A prevalent feature in these compositions was a nursed and petted melancholy; another was a wasteful and opulent gush of "fine language"; another was a tendency to lug in by the ears particularly prized words and phrases until they were worn entirely out; and a peculiarity that conspicuously marked and marred them was the inveterate and intolerable sermon that wagged its crippled tail at the end of each and every one of them. No matter what the subject might be, a brainracking effort was made to squirm it into some aspect or other that the moral and religious mind could contemplate with edification. The glaring insincerity of these sermons was not sufficient to compass the banishment of the fashion from the schools, and it is not sufficient today; it never will be sufficient while the world stands, perhaps. There is no school in all our land where the young ladies do not feel obliged to close their compositions with a sermon; and you will find that the sermon of the most frivolous and the least religious girl in the school is always the longest and the most relentlessly pious. But enough of this. Homely truth is unpalatable.

What best describes the author's statement underlined at the end of the passage?  

Possible Answers:

an ironic interjection, as homely truths are the most important truths

a serious admonishment to the reader to avoid homely truths

a humorous aside, as the author has spent most of the passage discussing homely truths 

a melancholy commentary on frivolous and irreligious girls

an insightful critique of the aesthetics of truth

Correct answer:

a humorous aside, as the author has spent most of the passage discussing homely truths 

Explanation:

The correct answer is "a humorous aside, as the author has spent most of the passage discussing homely truths." The author's statement is meant to amuse the reader, and echoes his comedic use of dramatic elevated language to describe the banal and unflattering.

Example Question #24 : Inferences And Implied Ideas

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.

Which of the following best describes Lady Markby's opinion of contemporary men's hats?

Possible Answers:

They are far too expensive.

They are very becoming.

They are ridiculous.

She wishes that women could wear them in public as well without being ridiculed.

They are irreligious.

Correct answer:

They are ridiculous.

Explanation:

When Mrs. Cheveley remarks, "Oh, no! I think men are the only authorities on dress," Lady Markby replies, "Really? One wouldn’t say so from the sort of hats they wear? Would one?" From this, we can infer that Lady Markby thinks men's hats are ridiculous, as she uses the point to undermine Mrs. Cheveley's position that "men are the only authorities on dress."

Example Question #21 : Inferences And Implied Ideas

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.

Based on the passage, Sir John is likely a __________.

Possible Answers:

a member of the clergy

a philanthropist 

member of the Upper House or House of Lords

a tax collector 

member of the Lower House or House of Commons

Correct answer:

member of the Lower House or House of Commons

Explanation:

The correct answer is "Member of the House of Commons." Lady Markby describes in the passage how she wishes that Sir John would be sent to the House of Lords (or Upper House), which she describes as an "assembly of gentleman." The reader should infer from Lady Markby's extensive discussion of her husband's political career that he is a member of the Lower House or House of Commons.

Example Question #81 : Extrapolating From The Passage

Adapted from "Old Man Traveling" by William Wordsworth in Lyrical Ballads by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1798 ed.)

          The little hedge-row birds,
That peck along the road, regard him not.
He travels on, and in his face, his step,
His gait, is one expression; every limb,
His look and bending figure, all bespeak
A man who does not move with pain, but moves
With thought—He is insensibly subdued
To settled quiet: he is one by whom
All effort seems forgotten, one to whom
Long patience has such mild composure given,
That patience now doth seem a thing, of which
He hath no need. He is by nature led
To peace so perfect, that the young behold
With envy, what the old man hardly feels.
—I asked him whither he was bound, and what
The object of his journey; he replied
"Sir! I am going many miles to take
"A last leave of my son, a mariner,
"Who from a sea-fight has been brought to Falmouth,
And there is dying in an hospital."

What can be inferred from the underlined text?

Possible Answers:

The man is extremely poor

Walking as a primary mode of transport is contemporary in the poem

The speaker is unused to engaging fellow travelers on the road but here makes an exception

The speaker is of a lower socioeconomic class than the man

Both men are traveling in opposite directions

Correct answer:

Walking as a primary mode of transport is contemporary in the poem

Explanation:

Of the five possible answers, the only one which we can say for certainty is that walking is “a contemporary mode of transport.” We can infer that there is no usage of cars, meaning that the poem is set in the past. As the man says he is traveling “many miles” and we know he is on foot from the rest of the poem, we can safely say that walking is “of the time” or “contemporary.” We could say the man is poor, but to infer that, we would have to have more details. Likewise, we could make a judgment on the man's class if more information was given.

Example Question #1 : Tone, Style, And Mood: Poetry

Passage adapted from Edna St. Vincent Millay's "Spring" (1921).

To what purpose, April, do you return again?

Beauty is not enough.

You can no longer quiet me with the redness 

Of leaves opening stickily.

I know what I know.  5

The sun is hot on my neck as I observe

The spikes of the crocus.

The smell of the earth is good.

It is apparent that there is no death.

But what does that signify?  10

Not only under the ground are the brains of men

Eaten by maggots.

Life in itself

Is nothing,

An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.  15

It is not enough that yearly, down this hill, 

April

Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.

The tone of the poem can be described as __________.

Possible Answers:

wistful and nostalgic

remorseful and ashamed

didactic and objective

scathing and dissatisfied

sentimental and naive

Correct answer:

scathing and dissatisfied

Explanation:

The tone can be described as scathing and dissatisfied because of the harsh, critical language the poet uses to describe springtime and existence. When analyzing tone, it is important to look for key, notable words or phrases that stand out, in this case "idiot" in the last line, "an empty cup" in line 15, are clear indicators of a generally negative tone. Phrases and lines such as "it is not enough" and "But what does that signify?" suggest a sense of dissatisfaction.

Example Question #81 : Extrapolating From The Passage

Adapted from Hamlet by William Shakespeare, III.i.56-89 (1874 ed., Clark and Wright)

Hamlet: "To be, or not to be: that is the question:

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,

And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;

No more; and by a sleep to say we end

The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks

That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;

To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,

Must give us pause: there's the respect 

That makes calamity of so long life;

For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,

The oppressor's wrongs, the proud mans' contumely,

The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,

The insolence of office, and the spurns 

That patient merit of the unowrthy takes,

When he himself might his quietus make

With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,

To grunt and sweat under a weary life,

But that the dread of something after death,

The undiscover'd country from whose bourn 

No traveller returns, puzzles the will,

And makes us rather bear those ills we have 

Than fly to others that we know not of?

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;

And thus the native hue of resolution

Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,

And enterprises of great pith and moment

With this regard their currents turn awry,

And lose the name of action. Soft you now!

The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons

Be all my sins remember'd."

One can infer all of the following from this passage except that __________.

Possible Answers:

"Fardels" are cumbersome

Hamlet's calling Ophelia a "nymph" characterizes her in terms of her physical beauty

one can paraphrase "ay, there's the rub" as "ah, that's the problem"

"Soft you now" refers to the fact that Ophelia has "softened" and become less angry since her last conversation with Hamlet.

A "bodkin" is a type of weapon

Correct answer:

"Soft you now" refers to the fact that Ophelia has "softened" and become less angry since her last conversation with Hamlet.

Explanation:

"Soft you now" does not imply that Ophelia has "softened" since her last conversation with Hamlet; "Soft," when used this way, means "wait" or "stop." All of the other answer choices are correct; one can paraphrase "ay, there's the rub" as "ah, that's the problem," and Hamlet's calling Ophelia a "nymph" characterizes her in terms of her physical beauty as a nymph is a beautiful female nature spirit from classical mythology. The word "fardels" appears in the context of "who would fardels bear, / To grunt and sweat under a weary life"; from the fact that "fardels" must be "bourne" and cause one "to grunt and sweat," and that the life in question is described as "weary," one can correctly infer that "fardels" are, in fact, cumbersome. ("Fardels" are bundles of things.) Finally, the word "bodkin" appears in the line, "For who would bear the whips and scorns of time / . . . When he himself might his quietus make / With a bare bodkin?" Given that the context of the whole soliloquy involves Hamlet debating suicide, "he himself might his quietus make" can be read as meaning he might kill himself, meaning that "a bare bodkin" is a weapon—more specifically, it is a blunt needle used to make holes in heavy fabrics. One could also figure out the correct answer by confirming that four of the answer choices are true, meaning that the last one—the one concerning the phrase "soft you now"—is an incorrect inference.

Example Question #81 : Interpreting The Passage

Passage adapted from Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (1861)

…Daylight never entered the house as to my thoughts and remembrances of it, any more than as to the actual fact. It bewildered me, and under its influence I continued at heart to hate my trade and to be ashamed of home.

Imperceptibly I became conscious of a change in Biddy, however. Her shoes came up at the heel, her hair grew bright and neat, her hands were always clean. She was not beautiful—she was common, and could not be like Estella—but she was pleasant and wholesome and sweet-tempered. She had not been with us more than a year (I remember her being newly out of mourning at the time it struck me), when I observed to myself one evening that she had curiously thoughtful and attentive eyes; eyes that were very pretty and very good.

It came of my lifting up my own eyes from a task I was poring at—writing some passages from a book, to improve myself in two ways at once by a sort of stratagem—and seeing Biddy observant of what I was about. I laid down my pen, and Biddy stopped in her needlework without laying it down.

“Biddy,” said I, “how do you manage it? Either I am very stupid, or you are very clever.”

“What is it that I manage? I don't know,” returned Biddy, smiling.

She managed our whole domestic life, and wonderfully too; but I did not mean that, though that made what I did mean, more surprising.

“How do you manage, Biddy,” said I, “to learn everything that I learn, and always to keep up with me?” I was beginning to be rather vain of my knowledge, for I spent my birthday guineas on it, and set aside the greater part of my pocket-money for similar investment; though I have no doubt, now, that the little I knew was extremely dear at the price.

“I might as well ask you,” said Biddy, “how you manage?”

“No; because when I come in from the forge of a night, anyone can see me turning to at it. But you never turn to at it, Biddy.”

“I suppose I must catch it—like a cough,” said Biddy, quietly; and went on with her sewing.

Pursuing my idea as I leaned back in my wooden chair and looked at Biddy sewing away with her head on one side, I began to think her rather an extraordinary girl. For, I called to mind now, that she was equally accomplished in the terms of our trade, and the names of our different sorts of work, and our various tools. In short, whatever I knew, Biddy knew. Theoretically, she was already as good a blacksmith as I, or better.

“You are one of those, Biddy,” said I, “who make the most of every chance. You never had a chance before you came here, and see how improved you are!”

What does the passage imply about the narrator's goals in life?

Possible Answers:

He wishes to improve himself to achieve a higher position in life

He believes the best part of his life is behind him

He connects marriage with self-improvement, and considers Biddy to be an appropriate spouse

He wishes to improve himself so that Biddy will think better of him

He aims to improve himself to become a more highly skilled blacksmith

Correct answer:

He wishes to improve himself to achieve a higher position in life

Explanation:

This question asks you to interpret the inferences you can make based on a passage. We can find several pieces of evidence in this passage to help us choose the best answer. In the first paragraph, the narrator states that "I continued at heart to hate my trade and to be ashamed of home," which implies that he does not enjoy his blacksmith trade. He goes on to describe "writing some passages from a book, to improve myself" and describes spending his money on education. This suggests a desire to move out of the blacksmith trade into something else, and by his use of the word "improve," we can infer that he would like to achieve what he considers a higher position.

Example Question #22 : Inferences And Implied Ideas

Passage adapted from Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (1861)

…Daylight never entered the house as to my thoughts and remembrances of it, any more than as to the actual fact. It bewildered me, and under its influence I continued at heart to hate my trade and to be ashamed of home.

Imperceptibly I became conscious of a change in Biddy, however. Her shoes came up at the heel, her hair grew bright and neat, her hands were always clean. She was not beautiful—she was common, and could not be like Estella—but she was pleasant and wholesome and sweet-tempered. She had not been with us more than a year (I remember her being newly out of mourning at the time it struck me), when I observed to myself one evening that she had curiously thoughtful and attentive eyes; eyes that were very pretty and very good.

It came of my lifting up my own eyes from a task I was poring at—writing some passages from a book, to improve myself in two ways at once by a sort of stratagem—and seeing Biddy observant of what I was about. I laid down my pen, and Biddy stopped in her needlework without laying it down.

“Biddy,” said I, “how do you manage it? Either I am very stupid, or you are very clever.”

“What is it that I manage? I don't know,” returned Biddy, smiling.

She managed our whole domestic life, and wonderfully too; but I did not mean that, though that made what I did mean, more surprising.

“How do you manage, Biddy,” said I, “to learn everything that I learn, and always to keep up with me?” I was beginning to be rather vain of my knowledge, for I spent my birthday guineas on it, and set aside the greater part of my pocket-money for similar investment; though I have no doubt, now, that the little I knew was extremely dear at the price.

“I might as well ask you,” said Biddy, “how you manage?”

“No; because when I come in from the forge of a night, anyone can see me turning to at it. But you never turn to at it, Biddy.”

“I suppose I must catch it—like a cough,” said Biddy, quietly; and went on with her sewing.

Pursuing my idea as I leaned back in my wooden chair and looked at Biddy sewing away with her head on one side, I began to think her rather an extraordinary girl. For, I called to mind now, that she was equally accomplished in the terms of our trade, and the names of our different sorts of work, and our various tools. In short, whatever I knew, Biddy knew. Theoretically, she was already as good a blacksmith as I, or better.

“You are one of those, Biddy,” said I, “who make the most of every chance. You never had a chance before you came here, and see how improved you are!”

Which of the following is not a reasonable inference to draw about the narrator’s view of Biddy?

Possible Answers:

He feels she has the same skills, knowledge, and potential that he has

He finds her housekeeping skills adequate

He does not hold her to the same standards as Estella

He has always respected her talents and abilities.

Correct answer:

He has always respected her talents and abilities.

Explanation:

This questions asks you to make inferences about the narrator's view of Biddy. The passage provides evidence that the narrator does not have the same standards for Biddy and Estella: "she was common, and could not be like Estella." We also see evidence that the narrator finds Biddy's housekeeping skills adequate; he states that "She managed our whole domestic life, and wonderfully too." The text also supports the inference that the narrator considers Biddy's skills and potential to be equal to his; he states, "In short, whatever I knew, Biddy knew." The only inference that cannot be supported by evidence in the passage is that the narrator has always respected Biddy's talents and abilities. In fact, the passage suggests that he has not appreciated these qualities in the past. He describes "a change" and states that at this time he "began to think her rather an extraordinary girl," implying that he did not feel this way in the past. 

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