AP English Literature : Passage Content

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for AP English Literature

varsity tutors app store varsity tutors android store

Example Questions

Example Question #11 : Motives, Goals, And Actions Of Characters

Passage adapted from The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850).

“Is the world, then, so narrow?” exclaimed Hester Prynne, fixing her deep eyes on the minister’s, and instinctively exercising a magnetic power over a spirit so shattered and subdued that it could hardly hold itself erect. “Doth the universe lie within the compass of yonder town, which only a little time ago was but a leaf–strewn desert, as lonely as this around us? Whither leads yonder forest–track? Backward to the settlement, thou sayest! Yes; but, onward, too! …Is there not shade enough in all this boundless forest to hide thy heart from the gaze of Roger Chillingworth?”

“Yes, Hester; but only under the fallen leaves!” replied the minister, with a sad smile.

“Then there is the broad pathway of the sea!” continued Hester. “It brought thee hither. If thou so choose, it will bear thee back again. In our native land, whether in some remote rural village, or in vast London—or, surely, in Germany, in France, in pleasant Italy—thou wouldst be beyond his power and knowledge! And what hast thou to do with all these iron men, and their opinions? They have kept thy better part in bondage too long already!”

“It cannot be!” answered the minister, listening as if he were called upon to realise a dream. “I am powerless to go. Wretched and sinful as I am, I have had no other thought than to drag on my earthly existence in the sphere where Providence hath placed me. Lost as my own soul is, I would still do what I may for other human souls! I dare not quit my post, though an unfaithful sentinel, whose sure reward is death and dishonour, when his dreary watch shall come to an end!”

“Thou art crushed under this seven years’ weight of misery,” replied Hester, fervently resolved to buoy him up with her own energy. “But thou shalt leave it all behind thee! It shall not cumber thy steps, as thou treadest along the forest–path: neither shalt thou freight the ship with it, if thou prefer to cross the sea. Leave this wreck and ruin here where it hath happened. Meddle no more with it! Begin all anew! Hast thou exhausted possibility in the failure of this one trial? Not so! The future is yet full of trial and success. There is happiness to be enjoyed! There is good to be done! Exchange this false life of thine for a true one…. Do anything, save to lie down and die! Give up this name of Arthur Dimmesdale, and make thyself another, and a high one, such as thou canst wear without fear or shame. Why shouldst thou tarry so much as one other day in the torments that have so gnawed into thy life? that have made thee feeble to will and to do? that will leave thee powerless even to repent? Up, and away!”

“Oh, Hester!” cried Arthur Dimmesdale, in whose eyes a fitful light, kindled by her enthusiasm, flashed up and died away, “thou tellest of running a race to a man whose knees are tottering beneath him! I must die here! There is not the strength or courage left me to venture into the wide, strange, difficult world alone!”

It was the last expression of the despondency of a broken spirit. He lacked energy to grasp the better fortune that seemed within his reach.

What is the best explanation for Arthur Dimmesdale's reaction in this passage to Hester's advice?

Possible Answers:

His past misfortunes and unhappiness have left him incapable of taking her advice

He rejects her suggestion entirely because he considers it to be immoral

He is willing to take her suggestion, but unsure whether it will solve the problem at hand.

He is unwilling to take her suggestion, because he is aware that it will not solve the problem at hand

Correct answer:

His past misfortunes and unhappiness have left him incapable of taking her advice

Explanation:

This question asks you to interpret Arthur Dimmesdale's reaction to Hester's advice in this passage. The last sentence states that "He lacked energy to grasp the better fortune that seemed within his reach." Along with the mention of his "broken spirit," this suggests that the "seven years’ weight of misery" he has suffered has made it physically and mentally impossible for him to embark on the journey Hester is suggesting.

Example Question #21 : Motives, Goals, And Actions Of Characters

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.

In what way is the match to Arabella advantageous for the speaker's son?

Possible Answers:

He would be marrying into wealth

He is a rich man and it would befit him to be charitable

He would be marrying the only woman he has ever felt romantic affection toward

He would be obeying a stipulation of his father's will

He would gain a good occupation with the marriage

Correct answer:

He would be marrying into wealth

Explanation:

We know that the speaker already has fortune and that his son would be provided for, as the speaker states, “Mr Wilmot knew that I could make a very handsome settlement on my son.” We also know that Arabella was “ in circumstances to give her a large fortune,” so the advantage of the pairing for the speaker's son would be her wealth. We know the son has “attached his affections” to Arabella, but we do not know if she is “the love of his life”; likewise, we cannot say there is any “will” or “occupation” to aim for.

Example Question #2 : Analyzing Cause And Effect In Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from "A Scandal in Bohemia" in Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1892 ed.)

To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex. It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler. All emotions, and that one particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise, but admirably balanced mind. He was, I take it, the most perfect reasoning and observing machine that the world has seen, but as a lover he would have placed himself in a false position. He never spoke of the softer passions, save with a gibe and a sneer. They were admirable things for the observer—excellent for drawing the veil from men’s motives and actions. But for the trained reasoner to admit such intrusions into his own delicate and finely adjusted temperament was to introduce a distracting factor which might throw a doubt upon all his mental results. Grit in a sensitive instrument, or a crack in one of his own high-power lenses, would not be more disturbing than a strong emotion in a nature such as his. And yet there was but one woman to him, and that woman was the late Irene Adler, of dubious and questionable memory.

I had seen little of Holmes lately. My marriage had drifted us away from each other. My own complete happiness, and the home-centred interests which rise up around the man who first finds himself master of his own establishment, were sufficient to absorb all my attention, while Holmes, who loathed every form of society with his whole Bohemian soul, remained in our lodgings in Baker Street, buried among his old books, and alternating from week to week between drugs and ambition, the drowsiness of drugs, and the fierce energy of his own keen nature. He was still, as ever, deeply attracted by the study of crime, and occupied his immense faculties and extraordinary powers of observation in following out those clues, and clearing up those mysteries which had been abandoned as hopeless by the official police. From time to time I heard some vague account of his doings: of his summons to Odessa in the case of the Trepoff murder, of his clearing up of the singular tragedy of the Atkinson brothers at Trincomalee, and finally of the mission which he had accomplished so delicately and successfully for the reigning family of Holland. Beyond these signs of his activity, however, which I merely shared with all the readers of the daily press, I knew little of my former friend and companion.

One night—it was on the twentieth of March, 1888—I was returning from a journey to a patient (for I had now returned to civil practice), when my way led me through Baker Street. As I passed the well-remembered door, which must always be associated in my mind with my wooing, and with the dark incidents of the mystery that was solved there, I was seized with a keen desire to see Holmes again, and to know how he was employing his extraordinary powers. His rooms were brilliantly lit, and, even as I looked up, I saw his tall, spare figure pass twice in a dark silhouette against the blind. He was pacing the room swiftly, eagerly, with his head sunk upon his chest and his hands clasped behind him. To me, who knew his every mood and habit, his attitude and manner told their own story. He was at work again. He had risen out of his drug-created dreams and was hot upon the scent of some new problem. I rang the bell and was shown up to the chamber which had formerly been in part my own.

His manner was not effusive. It seldom was; but he was glad, I think, to see me. With hardly a word spoken, but with a kindly eye, he waved me to an armchair, threw across his case of cigars. Then he stood before the fire and looked me over in his singular introspective fashion.

According to the passage, why does Sherlock Holmes call Irene Adler "the woman"?

Possible Answers:

She is on the run, so Sherlock is keeping her identity a secret by not using her actual name.

She outshines all other women in some way in Sherlock Holmes' perspective.

She helped Sherlock Holmes solve a mystery and he uses the term to connote his respect.

She is the only woman that Sherlock Holmes has ever fallen in love with.

Sherlock Holmes is angry with her about something and refuses to call her by her actual name.

Correct answer:

She outshines all other women in some way in Sherlock Holmes' perspective.

Explanation:

The passage begins, "To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex." This suggests that the correct answer is "She outshines all other women in some way in Sherlock Holmes' perspective," but let's look at the other answers to be sure. The passage continues, "It was not that [Sherlock Holmes] felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler," so this eliminates the answer choice that says she is the only woman Sherlock Holmes has ever fallen in love with. As for the choices that state that Sherlock Holmes is angry at Irene Adler, she helped him solve a mystery, or is on the run, no information suggesting any of these ideas is found in the passage, so we cannot say for sure that any of them are the case. So, the best answer is the one that paraphrases the beginning of the passage: that Irene Adler "outshines all other women in some way in Sherlock Holmes' perspective."

Example Question #21 : Motives, Goals, And Actions Of Characters

Passage adapted from Heart of Darkness (1899) by Joseph Conrad

I left in a French steamer, and she called in every blamed port they have out there, for, as far as I could see, the sole purpose of landing soldiers and custom-house officers. I watched the coast. Watching a coast as it slips by the ship is like thinking about an enigma. There it is before you-- smiling, frowning, inviting, grand, mean, insipid, or savage, and always mute with an air of whispering, Come and find out. This one was almost featureless, as if still in the making, with an aspect of monotonous grimness. The edge of a colossal jungle, so dark-green as to be almost black, fringed with white surf, ran straight, like a ruled line, far, far away along a blue sea whose glitter was blurred by a creeping mist. The sun was fierce, the land seemed to glisten and drip with steam. Here and there grayish-whitish specks showed up clustered inside the white surf, with a flag flying above them perhaps. Settlements some centuries old, and still no bigger than pinheads on the untouched expanse of their background. We pounded along, stopped, landed soldiers; went on, landed custom-house clerks to levy toll in what looked like a God-forsaken wilderness, with a tin shed and a flagpole lost in it; landed more soldiers--to take care of the custom-house clerks, presumably. Some, I heard, got drowned in the surf; but whether they did or not, nobody seemed particularly to care. They were just flung out there, and on we went. Every day the coast looked the same, as though we had not moved; but we passed various places--trading places--with names like Gran' Bassam, Little Popo; names that seemed to belong to some sordid farce acted in front of a sinister back-cloth. The idleness of a passenger, my isolation amongst all these men with whom I had no point of contact, the oily and languid sea, the uniform somberness of the coast, seemed to keep me away from the truth of things, within the toil of a mournful and senseless delusion. The voice of the surf heard now and then was a positive pleasure, like the speech of a brother. It was something natural, that had its reason, that had a meaning. Now and then a boat from the shore gave one a momentary contact with reality. It was paddled by black fellows. You could see from afar the white of their eyeballs glistening. They shouted, sang; their bodies streamed with perspiration; they had faces like grotesque masks--these chaps; but they had bone, muscle, a wild vitality, an intense energy of movement, that was as natural and true as the surf along their coast. They wanted no excuse for being there. They were a great comfort to look at. For a time I would feel I belonged still to a world of straightforward facts; but the feeling would not last long. Something would turn up to scare it away. Once, I remember, we came upon a man-of-war anchored off the coast. There wasn't even a shed there, and she was shelling the bush. It appears the French had one of their wars going on thereabouts. Her ensign dropped limp like a rag; the muzzles of the long six-inch guns stuck out all over the low hull; the greasy, slimy swell swung her up lazily and let her down, swaying her thin masts. In the empty immensity of earth, sky, and water, there she was, incomprehensible, firing into a continent. Pop, would go one of the six-inch guns; a small flame would dart and vanish, a little white smoke would disappear, a tiny projectile would give a feeble screech--and nothing happened. Nothing could happen. There was a touch of insanity in the proceeding, a sense of lugubrious drollery in the sight; and it was not dissipated by somebody on board assuring me earnestly there was a camp of natives--he called them enemies!--hidden out of sight somewhere.

"We gave her her letters (I heard the men in that lonely ship were dying of fever at the rate of three a day) and went on. We called at some more places with farcical names, where the merry dance of death and trade goes on in a still and earthy atmosphere as of an overheated catacomb; all along the formless coast bordered by dangerous surf, as if Nature herself had tried to ward off intruders; in and out of rivers, streams of death in life, whose banks were rotting into mud, whose waters, thickened into slime, invaded the contorted mangroves that seemed to writhe at us in the extremity of an impotent despair. Nowhere did we stop long enough to get a particularized impression, but the general sense of vague and oppressive wonder grew upon me. It was like a weary pilgrimage amongst hints for nightmares.

In the passage, the narrator is most concerned with ________________.

Possible Answers:

providing a rationale for the French shelling of the coastline

using the details of the physical setting to establish the mood of his narrative

explaining why he agreed to travel up the coastline

arguing that only European influence can tame the savage African land

contrasting the wild African jungle with his relatively sedate homeland

Correct answer:

using the details of the physical setting to establish the mood of his narrative

Explanation:

The narrator describes the physical setting by using images that connect with emotions: "somberness," "grimness," "languid," "insanity," and "despair."

The narrator openly disapproves of the French shelling.

The narrator has not yet explained the reason for his journey.

The narrator has only described the natives in positive terms, offering no explanation for the French shelling.

The narrator has made no mention of his homeland.

Example Question #1 : Comparisons And Contrasts

Adapted from “God’s Grandeur” by Gerard Manley Hopkins (1877) in Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins (1918, ed. Bridges) 

 

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.

     It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;

     It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil

Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?

Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;

     And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;

     And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil

Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

 

And for all this, nature is never spent;

     There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;

And though the last lights off the black West went

     Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—

Because the Holy Ghost over the bent

     World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

What is the relationship between the two sentences whose beginnings are underlined?

Possible Answers:

To contrast human corroding of nature with the endless fecundity of the latter

To condemn industrial work and praise the bucolic life of the farmer

To be amazed at the combination of human labor and nature in day to day life

To force the reader to envision the world in a hardscrabble manner in order to acknowledge the true sources of beauty in life

To prepare the reader to overcome a bias against nature and then provide a striking remark regarding natural beauty

Correct answer:

To contrast human corroding of nature with the endless fecundity of the latter

Explanation:

The two sentences effectively contrast two situations. On the one hand, there are human persons, who toil and "smudge" nature with their work, seemingly wearing it down over time; however, in contrast to this, nature is "never spent"—it never loses its vitality and power.

Example Question #1 : Comparisons And Contrasts

Adapted from “God’s Grandeur” by Gerard Manley Hopkins (1877) in Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins (1918, ed. Bridges) 

 

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.

     It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;

     It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil

Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?

Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;

     And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;

     And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil

Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

 

And for all this, nature is never spent;

     There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;

And though the last lights off the black West went

     Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—

Because the Holy Ghost over the bent

     World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

To what is nature compared in this passage?

Possible Answers:

The story of God's salvation of the Hebrews in Egypt

The dawning sky

God's providential guidance of the growth of plants

The forgetful and beautiful lillies of the field

The waxing of new love

Correct answer:

The dawning sky

Explanation:

The third and fourth lines of the second stanza of the poem give us the image we are looking for:

"And though the last lights off the black West went / Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—"

Nature is like the morning dawn that arises in the sky, which earlier had experienced the sunset. Although much of this passage is focused upon God (if only implicitly and indirectly at times), the key image here is that of the sunrise.

Example Question #1 : Author, Tone, And Intent

From “Essay on Liberty” by John Stuart Mill

Mankind can hardly be too often reminded, that there was once a man named Socrates, between whom and the legal authorities and public opinion of his time, there took place a memorable collision. Born in an age and country abounding in individual greatness, this man has been handed down to us by those who best knew both him and the age, as the most virtuous man in it; while we know him as the head and prototype of all subsequent teachers of virtue, the source equally of the lofty inspiration of Plato and the judicious utilitarianism of Aristotle, "i maëstri di color che sanno," the two headsprings of ethical as of all other philosophy. This acknowledged master of all the eminent thinkers who have since lived—whose fame, still growing after more than two thousand years, all but outweighs the whole remainder of the names which make his native city illustrious—was put to death by his countrymen, after a judicial conviction, for impiety and immorality. Impiety, in denying the gods recognized by the State; indeed his accuser asserted (see the Apologia) that he believed in no gods at all. Immorality, in being, by his doctrines and instructions, a "corrupter of youth." Of these charges the tribunal, there is every ground for believing, honestly found him guilty, and condemned the man who probably of all then born had deserved best of mankind, to be put to death as a criminal.

To pass from this to the only other instance of judicial iniquity, the mention of which, after the condemnation of Socrates, would not be an anti-climax: the event which took place on Calvary rather more than eighteen hundred years ago. The man who left on the memory of those who witnessed his life and conversation, such an impression of his moral grandeur, that eighteen subsequent centuries have done homage to him as the Almighty in person, was ignominiously put to death, as what? As a blasphemer. Men did not merely mistake their benefactor; they mistook him for the exact contrary of what he was, and treated him as that prodigy of impiety, which they themselves are now held to be, for their treatment of him. The feelings with which mankind now regard these lamentable transactions, especially the later of the two, render them extremely unjust in their judgment of the unhappy actors. These were, to all appearance, not bad men—not worse than men most commonly are, but rather the contrary; men who possessed in a full, or somewhat more than a full measure, the religious, moral, and patriotic feelings of their time and people: the very kind of men who, in all times, our own included, have every chance of passing through life blameless and respected. The high-priest who rent his garments when the words were pronounced, which, according to all the ideas of his country, constituted the blackest guilt, was in all probability quite as sincere in his horror and indignation, as the generality of respectable and pious men now are in the religious and moral sentiments they profess; and most of those who now shudder at his conduct, if they had lived in his time, and been born Jews, would have acted precisely as he did. Orthodox Christians who are tempted to think that those who stoned to death the first martyrs must have been worse men than they themselves are, ought to remember that one of those persecutors was Saint Paul.

How are the accusers of Socrates and Jesus compared or contrasted?

Possible Answers:

They were both, in a way, groups of honest men.

They were both equally corrupt, haters of moral virtue.

Their biases clouded their ability to render an adequate sentence for the crimes of Socrates and Jesus alike.

They both rejected their own context as well as the new message offered by Jesus and Socrates.

They both were thralls of patriarchal imagery and society.

Correct answer:

They were both, in a way, groups of honest men.

Explanation:

Strangely enough, the comparison that Mill wishes to make is that these two groups of men were not bad men, per se. In many ways, they were good men for their time, just very clouded in their judgments of reality because of their biases.

Example Question #1 : Comparisons And Contrasts

Adapted from "The Book of the Grotesque" in Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson (1919)

In his bed the writer rolled over on his side and lay quite still. For years he had been beset with notions concerning his heart. He was a hard smoker and his heart fluttered. The idea had got into his mind that he would some time die unexpectedly and always when he got into bed he thought of that. It did not alarm him. The effect in fact was quite a special thing and not easily explained. It made him more alive, there in bed, than at any other time. Perfectly still he lay and his body was old and not of much use any more, but something inside him was altogether young. He was like a pregnant woman, only that the thing inside him was not a baby but a youth. No, it wasn’t a youth, it was a woman, young, and wearing a coat of mail like a knight. It is absurd, you see, to try to tell what was inside the old writer as he lay on his high bed and listened to the fluttering of his heart. The thing to get at is what the writer, or the young thing within the writer, was thinking about.

. . .

In the bed the writer had a dream that was not a dream. As he grew somewhat sleepy but was still conscious, figures began to appear before his eyes. He imagined the young indescribable thing within himself was driving a long procession of figures before his eyes.

You see the interest in all this lies in the figures that went before the eyes of the writer. They were all grotesques. All of the men and women the writer had ever known had become grotesques.

The grotesques were not all horrible. Some were amusing, some almost beautiful, and one, a woman all drawn out of shape, hurt the old man by her grotesqueness. When she passed he made a noise like a small dog whimpering. Had you come into the room you might have supposed the old man had unpleasant dreams or perhaps indigestion.

For an hour the procession of grotesques passed before the eyes of the old man, and then, although it was a painful thing to do, he crept out of bed and began to write. Some one of the grotesques had made a deep impression on his mind and he wanted to describe it.

At his desk the writer worked for an hour. In the end he wrote a book which he called “The Book of the Grotesque.” It was never published, but I saw it once and it made an indelible impression on my mind. The book had one central thought that is very strange and has always remained with me. By remembering it I have been able to understand many people and things that I was never able to understand before. The thought was involved but a simple statement of it would be something like this:

That in the beginning when the world was young there were a great many thoughts but no such thing as a truth. Man made the truths himself and each truth was a composite of a great many vague thoughts. All about in the world were the truths and they were all beautiful.

The old man had listed hundreds of the truths in his book. I will not try to tell you of all of them. There was the truth of virginity and the truth of passion, the truth of wealth and of poverty, of thrift and profligacy, of carelessness and abandon. Hundreds and hundreds were the truths and they were all beautiful.

And then the people came along. Each as he appeared snatched up one of the truths and some who were quite strong snatched up a dozen of them.

It was the truths that made the people grotesques. The old man had quite an elaborate theory concerning the matter. It was his notion that the moment one of the people took one of the truths to himself, called it his truth, and tried to live his life by it, he became a grotesque and the truth he embraced became a falsehood.

In paragraph eight, the author makes use of __________ to demonstrate the multi-faceted nature of truth.

Possible Answers:

Contrast

Comparison

Extrapolation

Imagery

Circumolocution

Correct answer:

Contrast

Explanation:

Contrast is a comparison meant to show the difference between two things. In this case, the author lists opposites (wealth/poverty, carlessness/abandon) in order to demonstrate the many sides of truth. The things listed contradict each other, but the writer considers them all truths.

Example Question #1 : Comparisons And Contrasts

Adapted from Act 1, Scene 1, ln. 78-119 of The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus by Christopher Marlowe (1604) in Vol. XIX, Part 2 of The Harvard Classics (1909-1914)

 

FAUSTUS: How am I glutted with conceit of this!

Shall I make spirits fetch me what I please,

Resolve me of all ambiguities,

Perform what desperate enterprise I will?

I’ll have them fly to India for gold,

Ransack the ocean for orient pearl,

And search all corners of the new-found world

For pleasant fruits and princely delicates;

I’ll have them read me strange philosophy

And tell the secrets of all foreign kings;

I’ll have them wall all Germany with brass,

And make swift Rhine circle fair Wittenberg;

I’ll have them fill the public schools with silk,

Wherewith the students shall be bravely clad;

I’ll levy soldiers with the coin they bring,

And chase the Prince of Parma from our land,

And reign sole king of all the provinces;

Yea, stranger engines for the brunt of war

Than was the fiery keel at Antwerp’s bridge,

I’ll make my servile spirits to invent.

[Enter VALDES and CORNELIUS]

Come, German Valdes and Cornelius,

And make me blest with your sage conference.

Valdes, sweet Valdes, and Cornelius,

Know that your words have won me at the last

To practice magic and concealed arts:

Yet not your words only, but mine own fantasy

That will receive no object, for my head

But ruminates on necromantic skill.

Philosophy is odious and obscure,

Both law and physic are for petty wits;

Divinity is basest of the three,

Unpleasant, harsh, contemptible, and vile:

’Tis magic, magic, that hath ravish’d me.

Then, gentle friends, aid me in this attempt;

And I that have with concise syllogisms

Gravell’d the pastors of the German church,

And made the flowering pride of Wittenberg

Swarm to my problems, as the infernal spirits

On sweet Musaeigus, when he came to hell,

Will be as cunning as Agrippa was,

Whose shadows made all Europe honor him.

Which of the following contrasts is most relevant to the passage?

Possible Answers:

Past and present

Light and darkness

Conventional knowledge and magic

Activity and passivity

Illusion and reality

Correct answer:

Conventional knowledge and magic

Explanation:

The most relevant contrast in the passage is the contrast between conventional knowledge and magic. While Faustus describes magic as being fascinating, he frames conventional knowledge as "odious," "petty," and "base."

While illusion and reality are extremely important themes in the overall play, they are not the most relevant contrast seen in this passage. Light and darkness, as a contrast for this passage, is an overly vague answer, and is not discussed directly in this excerpt.

Example Question #2 : Comparisons And Contrasts

Adapted from Act 1, Scene 1, ln. 78-119 of The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus by Christopher Marlowe (1604) in Vol. XIX, Part 2 of The Harvard Classics (1909-1914)

 

FAUSTUS: How am I glutted with conceit of this!

Shall I make spirits fetch me what I please,

Resolve me of all ambiguities,

Perform what desperate enterprise I will?

I’ll have them fly to India for gold,

Ransack the ocean for orient pearl,

And search all corners of the new-found world

For pleasant fruits and princely delicates;

I’ll have them read me strange philosophy

And tell the secrets of all foreign kings;

I’ll have them wall all Germany with brass,

And make swift Rhine circle fair Wittenberg;

I’ll have them fill the public schools with silk,

Wherewith the students shall be bravely clad;

I’ll levy soldiers with the coin they bring,

And chase the Prince of Parma from our land,

And reign sole king of all the provinces;

Yea, stranger engines for the brunt of war

Than was the fiery keel at Antwerp’s bridge,

I’ll make my servile spirits to invent.

[Enter VALDES and CORNELIUS]

Come, German Valdes and Cornelius,

And make me blest with your sage conference.

Valdes, sweet Valdes, and Cornelius,

Know that your words have won me at the last

To practice magic and concealed arts:

Yet not your words only, but mine own fantasy

That will receive no object, for my head

But ruminates on necromantic skill.

Philosophy is odious and obscure,

Both law and physic are for petty wits;

Divinity is basest of the three,

Unpleasant, harsh, contemptible, and vile:

’Tis magic, magic, that hath ravish’d me.

Then, gentle friends, aid me in this attempt;

And I that have with concise syllogisms

Gravell’d the pastors of the German church,

And made the flowering pride of Wittenberg

Swarm to my problems, as the infernal spirits

On sweet Musaeigus, when he came to hell,

Will be as cunning as Agrippa was,

Whose shadows made all Europe honor him.

What is main difference in content between the first half of the passage, before the arrival of Valdes and Cornelius, and the second, after their arrival?

Possible Answers:

Before their arrival, Faustus justifies his decision to himself in academic terms; after their arrival, he explains it in more practical, financially oriented terms.

Before their arrival, Faustus dreams about what occult powers might allow him to do; after their arrival, he complains about his current station in life, and begs for their help in escaping Wittenberg.

Before their arrival, Faustus fantasizes about the earthly pleasures he will gain from his occult powers; after their arrival, he justifies his fascination with the occult in intellectual terms.

Before their arrival, Faustus considers a trip to a foreign land; after their arrival, he decides to stay and use his powers for the good of science.

Before their arrival, Faustus weighs the consequences of his decision; after their arrival, he asks Valdes and Cornelius for their help in gaining occult powers.

Correct answer:

Before their arrival, Faustus fantasizes about the earthly pleasures he will gain from his occult powers; after their arrival, he justifies his fascination with the occult in intellectual terms.

Explanation:

Before Valdes and Cornelius' arrival, Faustus fantasizes about the earthly pleasures he will gain from his occult powers; after their arrival, he justifies his fascination with the occult in intellectual terms. The first section of the speech is focused almost exclusively on "pleasant fruits and princely delicates," and other luxuries like "silk." It is only after the arrival of Valdes and Cornelius that Faustus begins to discuss his dissatisfaction with conventional academics in favor of the "concealed arts."

It is difficult to characterize Faustus' tone as "begging" at any point. While he fantasizes about traveling, he never makes a plan and thus does not reverse it and decide to stay in Wittenberg.

Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors