AP English Literature : Interpreting Excerpts

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for AP English Literature

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Example Questions

Example Question #13 : Syntax And Structure Of Excerpts

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

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

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

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

What is the effect of the enjambment of the underlined text?

Possible Answers:

It can be interpreted as portraying the action of being tossed

All of these answers are correct

It allows the author to keep the stanzas at six lines whilst keeping the same subject as the first paragraph

It emphasizes the nothingness

It causes confusion for the reader

Correct answer:

All of these answers are correct

Explanation:

We can say that the sentence that spans from the end of the first stanza to the start of the second stanza allows the author to keep the same idea while adhering to the form of six-line stanzas. We can also say that it emphasizes both the nothingness of the first line of the stanza and the action of being “tossed into the nothingness.” We can also say it causes confusion for the reader, as it is attempting to draw the reader into the confusion portrayed in the first two stanzas; therefore, we can say all of these answers are correct.

Example Question #14 : Syntax And Structure Of Excerpts

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.

Lines 6-8 are developed through __________.

Possible Answers:

allegory

allusion

imagery

hyperbole

euphemism

Correct answer:

imagery

Explanation:

Lines 6-8 are developed through imagery. Imagery allows the reader to better envision a scene or setting in a piece of literature by providing descriptions that draw on the five senses (sight, smell, taste, touch, or hearing.) For example, the poet describes the smell of the earth and the warmth of the sun.

An allusion is an indirect reference to a person, place or thing of historical, cultural or literary importance. An allegory is a story that uses symbolic characters and events to convey a religious meaning. Hyperbole is the use of exaggeration for the sake of emphasis. A euphemism is a polite, subtle expression used to replace a word or phrase that is considered impolite or inappropriate. There are no examples of allusion, allegory, hyperbole, or euphemism in these lines.

Example Question #15 : Syntax And Structure Of Excerpts

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 final three lines are primarily developed through __________.

Possible Answers:

simile

consonance

personification

anecdote

idiom

Correct answer:

personification

Explanation:

These lines are developed primarily through personification because the month of April (a time of the year, something not human) is being described with human attributes, such as the ability to run and throw flowers. 

An "anecdote" is a short, amusing story told for the purpose of demonstrating a point or for entertainment. An "idiom" is an expression that is not interpreted literally but has a commonly accepted meaning that is different from what the individual words in the phrase would imply. A "simile" is a figure of speech that makes a compares two different things using the words "like" or "as." "Consonance" is the use of the same consonant sound throughout a sentence or phrase.  

Example Question #16 : Syntax And Structure Of Excerpts

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.

This poem is an example of __________.

Possible Answers:

iambic tetrameter

blank verse

free verse

a ballad

a villanelle

Correct answer:

free verse

Explanation:

This poem is written in free verse because it does not use a consistent meter or rhyme scheme. "Blank verse" refers to unrhymed lines of iambic pentameter. "A ballad" is a poem set to music, often narrative in its content. "A villanelle" consists of nineteen lines (five tercets and a quatrain) with a repeating rhyme structure. "Iambic tetrameter" refers to a form of meter that consists of four beats ("tetra") in the iambic foot.

Example Question #32 : Literary Devices

Adapted from A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift (1729)

The number of souls in this kingdom being usually reckoned one million and a half, of these I calculate there may be about two hundred thousand couple whose wives are breeders; from which number I subtract thirty thousand couples who are able to maintain their own children, although I apprehend there cannot be so many, under the present distresses of the kingdom; but this being granted, there will remain an hundred and seventy thousand breeders. I again subtract fifty thousand for those women who miscarry, or whose children die by accident or disease within the year. There only remains one hundred and twenty thousand children of poor parents annually born. The question therefore is, how this number shall be reared and provided for, which, as I have already said, under the present situation of affairs, is utterly impossible by all the methods hitherto proposed. For we can neither employ them in handicraft or agriculture; we neither build houses (I mean in the country) nor cultivate land: they can very seldom pick up a livelihood by stealing, till they arrive at six years old, except where they are of towardly parts, although I confess they learn the rudiments much earlier, during which time, they can however be properly looked upon only as probationers, as I have been informed by a principal gentleman in the county of Cavan, who protested to me that he never knew above one or two instances under the age of six, even in a part of the kingdom so renowned for the quickest proficiency in that art.

I am assured by our merchants, that a boy or a girl before twelve years old is no salable commodity; and even when they come to this age they will not yield above three pounds, or three pounds and half-a-crown at most on the exchange; which cannot turn to account either to the parents or kingdom, the charge of nutriment and rags having been at least four times that value.

I shall now therefore humbly propose my own thoughts, which I hope will not be liable to the least objection.

I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee or a ragout.

I do therefore humbly offer it to public consideration that of the hundred and twenty thousand children already computed, twenty thousand may be reserved for breed, whereof only one-fourth part to be males; which is more than we allow to sheep, black cattle or swine; and my reason is, that these children are seldom the fruits of marriage, a circumstance not much regarded by our savages, therefore one male will be sufficient to serve four females. That the remaining hundred thousand may, at a year old, be offered in the sale to the persons of quality and fortune through the kingdom; always advising the mother to let them suck plentifully in the last month, so as to render them plump and fat for a good table. A child will make two dishes at an entertainment for friends; and when the family dines alone, the fore or hind quarter will make a reasonable dish, and seasoned with a little pepper or salt will be very good boiled on the fourth day, especially in winter.

I have reckoned upon a medium that a child just born will weigh 12 pounds, and in a solar year, if tolerably nursed, increaseth to 28 pounds.

I grant this food will be somewhat dear, and therefore very proper for landlords, who, as they have already devoured most of the parents, seem to have the best title to the children.

The following sentence exemplifies which rhetorical device?

Possible Answers:

Allusion

Aphorism

Metonymy

Anecdote

Hyperbole 

Correct answer:

Hyperbole 

Explanation:

A hyperbole is an exaggeration of facts or claims, not meant to be interpreted literally. Here, the hyperbole is the "devouring" of parents of children. The parents are not "devoured" in the literal sense of eaten in a ravenous or quick manner, but are treated very poorly and denied basic human rights.

Example Question #18 : Syntax And Structure Of Excerpts

1 Yes, long as children feel affright
2 In darkness, men shall fear a God;
3 And long as daisies yield delight
4 Shall see His footprints in the sod.
5 Is't ignorance? This ignorant state
6 Science doth but elucidate --
7 Deepen, enlarge. But though 'twere made
8 Demonstrable that God is not --
9 What then? It would not change this lot:
10 The ghost would haunt, nor could be laid.

11 Yea, ape and angel, strife and old debate --
12 The harps of heaven and the dreary gongs of hell;
13 Science the feud can only aggravate --
14 No umpire she betwixt the chimes and knell:
15 The running battle of the star and clod
16 Shall run for ever -- if there be no God.

(1876)

Lines 1-10 exhibit _________________.

Possible Answers:

tetrameter

tercets

free verse

pentameter

dimeter

Correct answer:

tetrameter

Explanation:

"Meter" refers to the rhythm of poetry. "Tetrameter" is a meter in which lines consist of four metrical "feet." A metrical "foot" is a unit usually containing two and sometimes three syllables, and usually containing only one stressed syllable. Lines 1-10 of this passage are written in tetrameter. For example, in line 3, "And long as daisies yield delight," there are four metrical feet (all iambs, in this case). Here is that same line of tetrameter divided out into its four metrical feet: "And long / as dai- / -sies yeild / delight."

Passage excerpted from the epic poem Clarel by Herman Melville (1876).

Example Question #11 : Grammar And Syntax: Poetry

1 Yes, long as children feel affright
2 In darkness, men shall fear a God;
3 And long as daisies yield delight
4 Shall see His footprints in the sod.
5 Is't ignorance? This ignorant state
6 Science doth but elucidate --
7 Deepen, enlarge. But though 'twere made
8 Demonstrable that God is not --
9 What then? It would not change this lot:
10 The ghost would haunt, nor could be laid.

11 Yea, ape and angel, strife and old debate --
12 The harps of heaven and the dreary gongs of hell;
13 Science the feud can only aggravate --
14 No umpire she betwixt the chimes and knell:
15 The running battle of the star and clod
16 Shall run for ever -- if there be no God.

(1876)

What is the subject of the verb "enlarge" (line 7)?

Possible Answers:

God

the speaker (implied)

"Science" (line 6)

"This ignorant state" (line 5)

The addressee, because the verb is an imperative.

Correct answer:

"Science" (line 6)

Explanation:

The subject of a verb is the thing which performs the action of that verb. For instance, in the sentence, "The dog barks," the "dog" is the subject of the verb "barks" because the dog is the thing which does the barking.

In lines 5-7, the poem reads: "This ignorant state / Science doth but elucidate-- / Deepen, enlarge..." In other words, science elucidates, deepens, and enlarges "this ignorant state." Science is the thing performing the action of all three of those verbs, "enlarge" included, and therefore "science" (line 6) is the subject of the verb "enlarge."

Passage excerpted from the epic poem Clarel by Herman Melville (1876).

Example Question #20 : Syntax And Structure Of Excerpts

1 Yes, long as children feel affright
2 In darkness, men shall fear a God;
3 And long as daisies yield delight
4 Shall see His footprints in the sod.
5 Is't ignorance? This ignorant state
6 Science doth but elucidate --
7 Deepen, enlarge. But though 'twere made
8 Demonstrable that God is not --
9 What then? It would not change this lot:
10 The ghost would haunt, nor could be laid.

11 Yea, ape and angel, strife and old debate --
12 The harps of heaven and the dreary gongs of hell;
13 Science the feud can only aggravate --
14 No umpire she betwixt the chimes and knell:
15 The running battle of the star and clod
16 Shall run for ever -- if there be no God.

(1876)

What is the direct object of the verb "aggravate" (line 13)?

Possible Answers:

"ape and angel" (line 11)

"science" (line 13)

"only" (line 13)

"the feud" (line 13)

"umpire" (line 14)

Correct answer:

"the feud" (line 13)

Explanation:

The direct object of a verb is the thing that receives the action of that verb. For instance, in the sentence, "The cat eats the food," the "food" is the direct object of the verb "eats" because it is the thing being eaten.

That said, in line 13, "Science the feud can only aggravate," the "feud" is the thing being aggravated. Therefore, "the feud" is the direct object of the verb "aggravate" in this line.

Passage excerpted from the epic poem Clarel by Herman Melville (1876).

Example Question #21 : Syntax And Structure Of Excerpts

1 Two households, both alike in dignity,
  In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
  From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
  Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
5 From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
  A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life;
  Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
  Do with their death bury their parents' strife.
9 The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love,
  And the continuance of their parents' rage,
  Which, but their children's end, nought could remove,
  Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage;
13 The which if you with patient ears attend,
     What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.

(1595)

What is the subject of the verb "bury" in line 8?

Possible Answers:

"misadventured piteous overthrows" (line 7)

"their parents' strife" (line 8)

"Two households" (line 1)

"A pair of star-cross'd lovers" (line 6)

"these two foes" (line 5)

Correct answer:

"misadventured piteous overthrows" (line 7)

Explanation:

The subject of a verb is the thing that performs the action of the verb. For instance, in the sentence, "The dog barks," the verb is "barks" and the subject is "the dog." The thing performing the action of the verb "bury" (line 8) is the "misadventured piteous overthrows" (line 7). The "overthrows" are what "bury" the parents' strife.  

Passage adapted from William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (1595).

Example Question #71 : Interpreting Excerpts

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 underlined and bolded portion of the passage, the narrator uses all of the following EXCEPT _____________________.

Possible Answers:

Analogy

Onomatpoeoia

Hyperbole

Personification

Simile

Correct answer:

Analogy

Explanation:

"Like a rag" is a simile.

"Greasy, slimy swell" is onomatopoeia.

"Swung her up lazily" is personification.

"In the empty immensity of earth, sky, and water" is hyperbole.

No analogy appears in the highlighted selection.

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