AP English Literature : Interpreting Excerpts

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for AP English Literature

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Example Questions

Example Question #3 : Syntax And Structure Of Excerpts

Adapted from Othello by William Shakespeare (1604)

Her father loved me; oft invited me;
Still question'd me the story of my life,
From year to year, the battles, sieges, fortunes, 
That I have passed.
I ran it through, even from my boyish days,
To the very moment that he bade me tell it;
Wherein I spake of most disastrous chances,
Of moving accidents by flood and field 
Of hair-breadth scapes i' the imminent deadly breach,
Of being taken by the insolent foe
And sold to slavery, of my redemption thence
And portance in my travels' history:
Wherein of antres vast and deserts idle,
Rough quarries, rocks and hills whose heads touch heaven
It was my hint to speak,—such was the process;
And of the Cannibals that each other eat,
The Anthropophagi and men whose heads
Do grow beneath their shoulders. This to hear 
Would Desdemona seriously incline:
But still the house-affairs would draw her thence:
Which ever as she could with haste dispatch,
She'ld come again, and with a greedy ear
Devour up my discourse: which I observing, 
Took once a pliant hour, and found good means
To draw from her a prayer of earnest heart
That I would all my pilgrimage dilate,
Whereof by parcels she had something heard,
But not intentively: I did consent, 
And often did beguile her of her tears,
When I did speak of some distressful stroke
That my youth suffer'd. My story being done,
She gave me for my pains a world of sighs:
She swore, in faith, ‘twas strange, 'twas passing strange, 
'Twas pitiful, 'twas wondrous pitiful:
She wish'd she had not heard it, yet she wish'd 
That heaven had made her such a man: she thank'd me,
And bade me, if I had a friend that loved her,
I should but teach him how to tell my story. 
And that would woo her. Upon this hint I spake:
She loved me for the dangers I had pass'd,
And I loved her that she did pity them.
This only is the witchcraft I have used:
Here comes the lady; let her witness it. 

In the bolded and underlined sentence, the speaker employs all of the following EXCEPT __________.

Possible Answers:

hyperbole

alliteration

anaphora

self-deprecation

exaggeration

Correct answer:

self-deprecation

Explanation:

The correct answer is “self-deprecation.” Not once does the speaker try to diminish his own stature or accomplishments. Instead, he likely distorts the truth to make a more compelling story, employing both hyperbole and exaggeration (which are nearly synonyms).

Similarly, he uses several alliterative phrases, repeating sounds at the beginning of closely connected words: “flood and field,” “heads touch heaven,” and “sold to slavery.”

 The speaker also uses anaphora, beginning three successive clauses with the word “Of”: “Of moving accidents… Of hair-breadth scapes… Of being taken.” 

Example Question #4 : Syntax And Structure Of Excerpts

Adapted from Othello by William Shakespeare (1604)

Her father loved me; oft invited me;
Still question'd me the story of my life,
From year to year, the battles, sieges, fortunes, 
That I have passed.
I ran it through, even from my boyish days,
To the very moment that he bade me tell it;
Wherein I spake of most disastrous chances,
Of moving accidents by flood and field 
Of hair-breadth scapes i' the imminent deadly breach,
Of being taken by the insolent foe
And sold to slavery, of my redemption thence
And portance in my travels' history:
Wherein of antres vast and deserts idle,
Rough quarries, rocks and hills whose heads touch heaven
It was my hint to speak,—such was the process;
And of the Cannibals that each other eat,
The Anthropophagi and men whose heads
Do grow beneath their shoulders. This to hear 
Would Desdemona seriously incline:
But still the house-affairs would draw her thence:
Which ever as she could with haste dispatch,
She'ld come again, and with a greedy ear
Devour up my discourse: which I observing, 
Took once a pliant hour, and found good means
To draw from her a prayer of earnest heart
That I would all my pilgrimage dilate,
Whereof by parcels she had something heard,
But not intentively: I did consent, 
And often did beguile her of her tears,
When I did speak of some distressful stroke
That my youth suffer'd. My story being done,
She gave me for my pains a world of sighs:
She swore, in faith, ‘twas strange, 'twas passing strange, 
'Twas pitiful, 'twas wondrous pitiful:
She wish'd she had not heard it, yet she wish'd 
That heaven had made her such a man: she thank'd me,
And bade me, if I had a friend that loved her,
I should but teach him how to tell my story. 
And that would woo her. Upon this hint I spake:
She loved me for the dangers I had pass'd,
And I loved her that she did pity them.
This only is the witchcraft I have used:
Here comes the lady; let her witness it. 

Which of the following is grammatically and thematically parallel to “accidents” (line 8)?

Possible Answers:

“breach” (line 9)

“travels” (line 12)

“foe” (line 10)

“scapes” (line 9)

“disastrous” (line 7)

Correct answer:

“scapes” (line 9)

Explanation:

The correct answer is “scapes.” In the list enumerated by the speaker, “accidents,” “scapes,” and “chances” are all grammatically and thematically parallel; however, “chances” is not among the options listed, so “scapes” must be the correct answer. “Scapes” and “accidents” are grammatically linked in that they are both nouns and both part of the same list. They both refer to the speaker’s exploits; specifically, they describe situations in which the speaker has found himself.

Example Question #61 : Interpreting Excerpts

Adapted from Richard III by William Shakespeare, I.i.1-42

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour'd upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;
Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;
Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.
Grim-visaged war hath smooth'd his wrinkled front;
And now, instead of mounting barded steeds
To fright the souls of fearful adversaries,
He capers nimbly in a lady's chamber
To the lascivious pleasing of a lute.
But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks,
Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass;
I, that am rudely stamp'd, and want love's majesty
To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;
I, that am curtail'd of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Deformed, unfinish'd, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them;
Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time,
Unless to spy my shadow in the sun
And descant on mine own deformity:
And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villain
And hate the idle pleasures of these days.
Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous,
By drunken prophecies, libels and dreams,
To set my brother Clarence and the king
In deadly hate the one against the other:
And if King Edward be as true and just
As I am subtle, false and treacherous,
This day should Clarence closely be mew'd up,
About a prophecy, which says that 'G'
Of Edward's heirs the murderer shall be.
Dive, thoughts, down to my soul: here
Clarence comes.

The syntax of the first two lines __________.

Possible Answers:

emphasizes the timing of the events described

underscores the regular passing of the seasons

makes it seem as if the speaker is the only one suffering from the “discontent” he describes

suggests that the “sun of York” is to blame for “the winter of our discontent”

suggests that the speaker is an unreliable narrator

Correct answer:

emphasizes the timing of the events described

Explanation:

The first two lines of the passage are “Now is the winter of our discontent / Made glorious summer by this sun of York.” What do you notice about the syntax, or the order in which words and phrases are presented? Whereas one might have phrased the line “The winter of our discontent is now made glorious summer by the sun of York” or “The sun of York has now made glorious summer of the winter of our discontent,” or in numerous other ways, Shakespeare has made the first word “Now.” This emphasizes the timing of the events described.

Example Question #31 : Grammar And Syntax

Adapted from Richard III by William Shakespeare, I.i.1-42

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour'd upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;
Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;
Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.
Grim-visaged war hath smooth'd his wrinkled front;
And now, instead of mounting barded steeds
To fright the souls of fearful adversaries,
He capers nimbly in a lady's chamber
To the lascivious pleasing of a lute.
But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks,
Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass;
I, that am rudely stamp'd, and want love's majesty
To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;
I, that am curtail'd of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Deformed, unfinish'd, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them;
Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time,
Unless to spy my shadow in the sun
And descant on mine own deformity:
And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villain
And hate the idle pleasures of these days.
Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous,
By drunken prophecies, libels and dreams,
To set my brother Clarence and the king
In deadly hate the one against the other:
And if King Edward be as true and just
As I am subtle, false and treacherous,
This day should Clarence closely be mew'd up,
About a prophecy, which says that 'G'
Of Edward's heirs the murderer shall be.
Dive, thoughts, down to my soul: here
Clarence comes.

Consider the underlined selection. Which of the following is NOT true?

Possible Answers:

“Fair” and “well-spoken” are associated with the villain’s perspective, whereas “idle” is associated with the lover’s perspective.

The repetition of the words “prove” and “days” helps contrast the two roles being discussed.

The syntax of the first two lines loosely mirrors the syntax of the latter two lines.

The lover’s action is to “entertain,” whereas the villain’s action is to “hate.”

The location of “lover” and “villain” at the end of their respective lines places them in contrast to one another.

Correct answer:

“Fair” and “well-spoken” are associated with the villain’s perspective, whereas “idle” is associated with the lover’s perspective.

Explanation:

The syntax of the first two lines does indeed mirror that of the last two lines; they are similarly constructed in that they both follow the form of “I (cannot) prove a (noun) / to (verb) (descriptors) days.” The lover’s action in this sequence is to “entertain,” and the villain’s is to “hate.” The repetition of the words “prove” and “days” do contrast the two roles being discussed, as it places them in parallel to one another; similarly, the location of “lover” and “villain” at the ends of their respective lines place them in parallel with one another and contrast them. This leaves us with the correct answer, “‘Fair’ and ‘well-spoken’ are associated with the villain’s perspective, whereas ‘idle’ is associated with the lover’s perspective.” This is not true, as “fair” and “well-spoken” appear in the second line, which describes the action of the “lover,” whereas “idle” appears in the fourth line, which describes the action of the “villain.”

Example Question #1 : Syntax And Structure Of Excerpts

Adapted from Walt Whitman's "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" in Leaves of Grass (1855)

1

Flood-tide below me! I see you face to face!
Clouds of the west—sun there half an hour high—I see you also face to face.

Crowds of men and women attired in the usual costumes, how curious you are to me!
On the ferry-boats the hundreds and hundreds that cross, returning home, are more curious to me than you suppose,
And you that shall cross from shore to shore years hence are more to me, and more in my meditations, than you might suppose.



2

The impalpable sustenance of me from all things at all hours of the day,
The simple, compact, well-join’d scheme, myself disintegrated, every one disintegrated yet part of the scheme,
The similitudes of the past and those of the future,
The glories strung like beads on my smallest sights and hearings, on the walk in the street and the passage over the river,
The current rushing so swiftly and swimming with me far away,
The others that are to follow me, the ties between me and them,
The certainty of others, the life, love, sight, hearing of others. 

Others will enter the gates of the ferry and cross from shore to shore,
Others will watch the run of the flood-tide,
Others will see the shipping of Manhattan north and west, and the heights of Brooklyn to the south and east,
Others will see the islands large and small;
Fifty years hence, others will see them as they cross, the sun half an hour high,
A hundred years hence, or ever so many hundred years hence, others will see them,
Will enjoy the sunset, the pouring-in of the flood-tide, the falling-back to the sea of the ebb-tide.
 

3

It avails not, time nor place—distance avails not,
I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever so many generations hence,
Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt,
Just as any of you is one of a living crowd, I was one of a crowd,
Just as you are refresh’d by the gladness of the river and the bright flow, I was refresh’d,
Just as you stand and lean on the rail, yet hurry with the swift current, I stood yet was hurried,
Just as you look on the numberless masts of ships and the thick-stemm’d pipes of steamboats, I look’d.

I too many and many a time cross’d the river of old,
Watched the Twelfth-month sea-gulls, saw them high in the air floating with motionless wings, oscillating their bodies,
Saw how the glistening yellow lit up parts of their bodies and left the rest in strong shadow,
Saw the slow-wheeling circles and the gradual edging toward the south,
Saw the reflection of the summer sky in the water,
Had my eyes dazzled by the shimmering track of beams . . .

Which of the following is grammatically parellel to the underlined word "lit" in line 29?

Possible Answers:

"Saw" (line 29)

"glistening" (line 29)

"left" (line 29)

"floating" (line 28)

"slow-wheeling" (line 30)

Correct answer:

"left" (line 29)

Explanation:

"Lit" and "left" are both past-tense; the grammatical structure is the same.

Example Question #181 : Interpreting Words And Excerpts

Adapted from Walt Whitman's "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" in Leaves of Grass (1855)

1

Flood-tide below me! I see you face to face!
Clouds of the west—sun there half an hour high—I see you also face to face.

Crowds of men and women attired in the usual costumes, how curious you are to me!
On the ferry-boats the hundreds and hundreds that cross, returning home, are more curious to me than you suppose,
And you that shall cross from shore to shore years hence are more to me, and more in my meditations, than you might suppose.



2

The impalpable sustenance of me from all things at all hours of the day,
The simple, compact, well-join’d scheme, myself disintegrated, every one disintegrated yet part of the scheme,
The similitudes of the past and those of the future,
The glories strung like beads on my smallest sights and hearings, on the walk in the street and the passage over the river,
The current rushing so swiftly and swimming with me far away,
The others that are to follow me, the ties between me and them,
The certainty of others, the life, love, sight, hearing of others. 

Others will enter the gates of the ferry and cross from shore to shore,
Others will watch the run of the flood-tide,
Others will see the shipping of Manhattan north and west, and the heights of Brooklyn to the south and east,
Others will see the islands large and small;
Fifty years hence, others will see them as they cross, the sun half an hour high,
A hundred years hence, or ever so many hundred years hence, others will see them,
Will enjoy the sunset, the pouring-in of the flood-tide, the falling-back to the sea of the ebb-tide.
 

3

It avails not, time nor place—distance avails not,
I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever so many generations hence,
Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt,
Just as any of you is one of a living crowd, I was one of a crowd,
Just as you are refresh’d by the gladness of the river and the bright flow, I was refresh’d,
Just as you stand and lean on the rail, yet hurry with the swift current, I stood yet was hurried,
Just as you look on the numberless masts of ships and the thick-stemm’d pipes of steamboats, I look’d.

I too many and many a time cross’d the river of old,
Watched the Twelfth-month sea-gulls, saw them high in the air floating with motionless wings, oscillating their bodies,
Saw how the glistening yellow lit up parts of their bodies and left the rest in strong shadow,
Saw the slow-wheeling circles and the gradual edging toward the south,
Saw the reflection of the summer sky in the water,
Had my eyes dazzled by the shimmering track of beams . . .

In the underlined second stanza of section two (lines 13-19), which of the following rhetorical devices is most in use?

Possible Answers:

A massing of parallel assertions

Anecdotal evidence

A series of generalizations rooted in specific pieces of evidence

An appeal to authority

A logical appeal to reason

Correct answer:

A massing of parallel assertions

Explanation:

Each of the lines in stanza two of section two contains a declaration. None of these declarations are further supported in this stanza.

Example Question #1 : Syntax And Structure Of Excerpts

Adapted from "The Mouse’s Petition" in Poems by Anna Letitia Barbauld (1773)


Found in the trap where he had been confined all night by Dr. Priestley, for the sake of making experiments with different kinds of air

“To spare the humbled, and to tame in war the proud.” - Virgil

 

OH! hear a pensive captive's prayer,
For liberty that sighs;
And never let thine heart be shut
Against the prisoner's cries.

For here forlorn and sad I sit,

Within the wiry grate;
And tremble at th' approaching morn,

Which brings impending fate.

If e'er thy breast with freedom glow'd,
And spurn'd a tyrant's chain,
Let not thy strong oppressive force
A free-born mouse detain.

Oh! do not stain with guiltless blood
Thy hospitable hearth;
Nor triumph that thy wiles betray'd
A prize so little worth.

The scatter'd gleanings of a feast
My scanty meals supply;
But if thine unrelenting heart
That slender boon deny,

The cheerful light, the vital air,
Are blessings widely given;
Let nature's commoners enjoy
The common gifts of heaven.

The well-taught philosophic mind
To all compassion gives;
Casts round the world an equal eye,
And feels for all that lives.

If mind, as ancient sages taught,
A never dying flame,
Still shifts thro' matter's varying forms,
In every form the same,

Beware, lest in the worm you crush
A brother's soul you find;
And tremble lest thy luckless hand
Dislodge a kindred mind.

Or, if this transient gleam of day
Be all of life we share,
Let pity plead within thy breast,
That little all to spare.

So may thy hospitable board
With health and peace be crown'd;
And every charm of heartfelt ease
Beneath thy roof be found.

So when unseen destruction lurks,
Which men like mice may share,
May some kind angel clear thy path,
And break the hidden snare.

The underlined excerpt is framed as a conditional for what rhetorical purpose?

Possible Answers:

The conditional is used to frame the excerpt as an ultimatum: if the speaker wishes to remain free, he must free the speaker.

The conditional is used to suggest that the speaker has never valued freedom and has always behaved in an oppressive and tyrannical manner.

The conditional is used to relate the addressee's personal sense of freedom and justice to the condition of human prisoners.

The conditional is used to relate the addressee's personal sense of freedom and justice to the conditions he is imposing on the speaker.

The conditional is used to contrast the addressee's physical comfort and security with the physical conditions of the speaker.

Correct answer:

The conditional is used to relate the addressee's personal sense of freedom and justice to the conditions he is imposing on the speaker.

Explanation:

The highlighted excerpt is framed as a conditional (accomplished through the use of "if" at the beginning of the stanza) in order to relate the addressee's personal sense of freedom ("thy breast with freedom glowed") and justice ("spurn'd a tyrant's chain") to the conditions he is imposing ("thy strong oppressive force") on the speaker by "detain[ing]" him.

The excerpt is concerned with the speaker's sense of justice, not his physical circumstances. The use of "if" actually hints that the addressee has, in fact, felt the glow of freedom in his breast and has "spurn'd a tyrant's chain." If the addressee had never been concerned with these issues, the entreaty would bear no rhetorical weight. Human prisoners are not mentioned. Throughout the poem, the speaker is "petitioning" for justice and ethical consideration, not imposing ultimatums on his addressee.

Example Question #10 : Syntax And Structure Of Excerpts

Adapted from Gulliver’s Travels, by Jonathan Swift (1726)

This academy is not an entire single building, but a continuation of several houses on both sides of a street, which growing waste, was purchased and applied to that use.

I was received very kindly by the warden, and went for many days to the academy. Every room has in it one or more projectors, and I believe I could not be in fewer than five hundred rooms.

The first man I saw was of a meager aspect, with sooty hands and face, his hair and beard long, ragged, and singed in several places. His clothes, shirt, and skin, were all of the same color. He has been eight years upon a project for extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers, which were to be put in phials hermetically sealed, and let out to warm the air in raw inclement summers. He told me, he did not doubt, that, in eight years more, he should be able to supply the governor’s gardens with sunshine, at a reasonable rate: but he complained that his stock was low, and entreated me “to give him something as an encouragement to ingenuity, especially since this had been a very dear season for cucumbers.” I made him a small present, for my lord had furnished me with money on purpose, because he knew their practice of begging from all who go to see them.

I went into another chamber, but was ready to hasten back, being almost overcome with a horrible stink. My conductor pressed me forward, conjuring me in a whisper “to give no offense, which would be highly resented”; and therefore I durst not so much as stop my nose. The projector of this cell was the most ancient student of the academy; his face and beard were of a pale yellow, his hands and clothes daubed over with filth. When I was presented to him, he gave me a close embrace, a compliment I could well have excused. His employment, from his first coming into the academy, was an operation to reduce human excrement to its original food, by separating the several parts, removing the tincture which it receives from the gall, making the odor exhale, and scumming off the saliva. He had a weekly allowance, from the society, of a vessel filled with human ordure, about the bigness of a Bristol barrel.

I saw another at work to calcine ice into gunpowder, who likewise showed me a treatise he had written concerning the malleability of fire, which he intended to publish.

There was a most ingenious architect, who had contrived a new method for building houses, by beginning at the roof, and working downward to the foundation, which he justified to me, by the like practice of those two prudent insects, the bee and the spider.

There was a man born blind, who had several apprentices in his own condition: their employment was to mix colors for painters, which their master taught them to distinguish by feeling and smelling. It was indeed my misfortune to find them at that time not very perfect in their lessons, and the professor himself happened to be generally mistaken. This artist is much encouraged and esteemed by the whole fraternity.

In another apartment I was highly pleased with a projector who had found a device of ploughing the ground with hogs, to save the charges of ploughs, cattle, and labour. The method is this: in an acre of ground you bury, at six inches distance and eight deep, a quantity of acorns, dates, chestnuts, and other mast or vegetables, whereof these animals are fondest; then you drive six hundred or more of them into the field, where, in a few days, they will root up the whole ground in search of their food, and make it fit for sowing, at the same time manuring it with their dung: it is true, upon experiment, they found the charge and trouble very great, and they had little or no crop. However it is not doubted, that this invention may be capable of great improvement.

Based on the excerpt, we can infer its primary purpose is to show which of the following?

Possible Answers:

The narrator was only impressed by the last experiment described in the passage.

Thinking "outside of the box" is important.

Even the most ingenious experiment can be improved.

Innovation for innovation's sake can lead to absurd results.

Academies should cover many different disciplines and subjects.

Correct answer:

Innovation for innovation's sake can lead to absurd results.

Explanation:

The correct answer is "innovation for innovation's sake can lead to absurd results." The author wishes to convey to the reader the absurdity of trying to develop unnecessary innovations. The academy tries to help society through their experiments but ultimately wastes its resources and destroys the countryside.

Example Question #11 : Syntax And Structure Of Excerpts

Adapted from My Antonia by Willa Cather (1918)

Between the acts we had no time to forget. The orchestra kept sawing away at the 'Traviata' music, so joyous and sad, so thin and far-away, so clap-trap and yet so heart-breaking. After the second act I left Lena in tearful contemplation of the ceiling, and went out into the lobby to smoke. As I walked about there I congratulated myself that I had not brought some Lincoln girl who would talk during the waits about the junior dances, or whether the cadets would camp at Plattsmouth. Lena was at least a woman, and I was a man.

Through the scene between Marguerite and the elder Duval, Lena wept unceasingly, and I sat helpless to prevent the closing of that chapter of idyllic love, dreading the return of the young man whose ineffable happiness was only to be the measure of his fall.

I suppose no woman could have been further in person, voice, and temperament from Dumas' appealing heroine than the veteran actress who first acquainted me with her. Her conception of the character was as heavy and uncompromising as her diction; she bore hard on the idea and on the consonants. At all times she was highly tragic, devoured by remorse. Lightness of stress or behaviour was far from her. Her voice was heavy and deep: 'Ar-r-r-mond!' she would begin, as if she were summoning him to the bar of Judgment. But the lines were enough. She had only to utter them. They created the character in spite of her.

The heartless world which Marguerite re-entered with Varville had never been so glittering and reckless as on the night when it gathered in Olympe's salon for the fourth act. There were chandeliers hung from the ceiling, I remember, many servants in livery, gaming-tables where the men played with piles of gold, and a staircase down which the guests made their entrance. After all the others had gathered round the card-tables and young Duval had been warned by Prudence, Marguerite descended the staircase with Varville; such a cloak, such a fan, such jewels—and her face! One knew at a glance how it was with her. When Armand, with the terrible words, 'Look, all of you, I owe this woman nothing!' flung the gold and bank-notes at the half-swooning Marguerite, Lena cowered beside me and covered her face with her hands.

The curtain rose on the bedroom scene. By this time there wasn't a nerve in me that hadn't been twisted. Nanine alone could have made me cry. I loved Nanine tenderly; and Gaston, how one clung to that good fellow! The New Year's presents were not too much; nothing could be too much now. I wept unrestrainedly. Even the handkerchief in my breast-pocket, worn for elegance and not at all for use, was wet through by the time that moribund woman sank for the last time into the arms of her lover.

When we reached the door of the theatre, the streets were shining with rain. I had prudently brought along Mrs. Harling's useful Commencement present, and I took Lena home under its shelter. After leaving her, I walked slowly out into the country part of the town where I lived. The lilacs were all blooming in the yards, and the smell of them after the rain, of the new leaves and the blossoms together, blew into my face with a sort of bitter sweetness. I tramped through the puddles and under the showery trees, mourning for Marguerite Gauthier as if she had died only yesterday, sighing with the spirit of 1840, which had sighed so much, and which had reached me only that night, across long years and several languages, through the person of an infirm old actress. The idea is one that no circumstances can frustrate. Wherever and whenever that piece is put on, it is April.

The last sentence of the passage is most accurately described as an example of __________.

Possible Answers:

Dramatic irony 

Mixed metaphor 

Paradoxical hyperbole 

Oxymoron 

Symbolic imagery 

Correct answer:

Paradoxical hyperbole 

Explanation:

The correct answer is “paradoxical hyperbole.”  A paradox is a statement with a seemingly contradictory premise that can ultimately be truthful, or vice versa. Hyperbole is an exaggerated statement meant to elicit an emotional response. Thus, when the author writes, “Wherever and whenever that piece is put on, it is April,” she is utilizing paradoxical hyperbole, as this apparently contradictory and exaggerated statement is truthful in that it moves the reader to feel how the qualities of spring truly live where the beauty of art blooms.

Example Question #64 : Interpreting Excerpts

Adapted from A Room With a View by  E. M. Forster (1908)

They passed into the sunlight. Cecil watched them cross the terrace, and descend out of sight by the steps. They would descend—he knew their ways—past the shrubbery, and past the tennis-lawn and the dahlia-bed, until they reached the kitchen garden, and there, in the presence of the potatoes and the peas, the great event would be discussed.

Smiling indulgently, he lit a cigarette, and rehearsed the events that had led to such a happy conclusion.

He had known Lucy for several years, but only as a commonplace girl who happened to be musical. He could still remember his depression that afternoon at Rome, when she and her terrible cousin fell on him out of the blue, and demanded to be taken to St. Peter's. That day she had seemed a typical tourist—shrill, crude, and gaunt with travel. But Italy worked some marvel in her. It gave her light, and—which he held more precious—it gave her shadow. Soon he detected in her a wonderful reticence. She was like a woman of Leonardo da Vinci's, whom we love not so much for herself as for the things that she will not tell us, The things are assuredly not of this life; no woman of Leonardo's could have anything so vulgar as a "story." She did develop most wonderfully day by day.

So it happened that from patronizing civility he had slowly passed if not to passion, at least to a profound uneasiness. Already at Rome he had hinted to her that they might be suitable for each other. It had touched him greatly that she had not broken away at the suggestion. Her refusal had been clear and gentle; after it—as the horrid phrase went—she had been exactly the same to him as before. Three months later, on the margin of Italy, among the flower-clad Alps, he had asked her again in bald, traditional language. She reminded him of a Leonardo more than ever; her sunburnt features were shadowed by fantastic rock; at his words she had turned and stood between him and the light with immeasurable plains behind her. He walked home with her unashamed, feeling not at all like a rejected suitor. The things that really mattered were unshaken.

So now he had asked her once more, and, clear and gentle as ever, she had accepted him, giving no coy reasons for her delay, but simply saying that she loved him and would do her best to make him happy. His mother, too, would be pleased; she had counselled the step; he must write her a long account.

Glancing at his hand, in case any of Freddy's chemicals had come off on it, he moved to the writing table. There he saw "Dear Mrs. Vyse," followed by many erasures. He recoiled without reading any more, and after a little hesitation sat down elsewhere, and pencilled a note on his knee.

Then he lit another cigarette, which did not seem quite as divine as the first, and considered what might be done to make Windy Corner drawing-room more distinctive. With that outlook it should have been a successful room, but the trail of Tottenham Court Road was upon it; he could almost visualize the motor-vans of Messrs. Shoolbred and Messrs. Maple arriving at the door and depositing this chair, those varnished book-cases, that writing-table. The table recalled Mrs. Honeychurch's letter. He did not want to read that letter—his temptations never lay in that direction; but he worried about it none the less. It was his own fault that she was discussing him with his mother; he had wanted her support in his third attempt to win Lucy; he wanted to feel that others, no matter who they were, agreed with him, and so he had asked their permission. Mrs. Honeychurch had been civil, but obtuse in essentials, while as for Freddy—"He is only a boy," he reflected. "I represent all that he despises. Why should he want me for a brother-in-law?"

The Honeychurches were a worthy family, but he began to realize that Lucy was of another clay; and perhaps—he did not put it very definitely—he ought to introduce her into more congenial circles as soon as possible.

Cecil’s attitude can best be described as __________.

Possible Answers:

haughty    

optimistic 

contemplative  

self-aware

sympathetic

Correct answer:

haughty    

Explanation:

The correct answer is “haughty.” Cecil’s tone throughout the passage is haughty and pompous. His critical view towards others, including Lucy’s family, is meant to depict him as an egoist who wishes to mold Lucy into someone he deems worthy of his affections.

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